Exchange Students Arrive Despite COVID Restrictions: Jonna Plate

Plate+skis+on+the+slopes+of+Austria+during+a+vacation+with+her+older+sister%2C+Smilla.

Courtesy of Jonna Plate

Plate skis on the slopes of Austria during a vacation with her older sister, Smilla.

SARAH ZEHNDER, STAFF WRITER

   Moving across the world during a global pandemic is a big leap of faith. After months of applying and going through the ASSIST exchange student process, sophomore Jonna (Yaw-nah) Plate finally arrived in Orlando to be greeted by her Trinity host family, the Martins, family of eighth-grader Tori Martin. For the next 10 months, Trinity Prep, as well as the Martin’s house in Oviedo, will be her new American home. Plate was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany, and this is the first time she has ever been away from her family for a long period of time.

   Having visited the U.S. many times before, she said that she mostly knew what to expect in Florida.

   “I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve been [to the U.S.], but probably ten or more times, Plate said. “So I have been here a lot. And Florida too. I’ve been to Orlando and around the coast.”

   Plate was hoping to attend a private school instead of a public school because she thought she would have a more positive experience.

   “I feel like normal high schools have just so many people,” Plate said. “I think at Trinity there are a lot of activities, you can participate in more, and a lot of people know each other.”

   Even though Plate feels homesick at times, especially for her older sister Smilla, the Martins have made her feel like a welcome addition to the family.

   “I Facetimed them once in July and then I met them at the airport,” Plate said. “They are really fun.”

   Plate has already become close to her host sister, eighth-grader Tori Martin. Plate said she and Tori share a love for “Harry Potter” and have started watching popular TV shows like “Stranger Things” together.

   Plate and her older sister Smilla have been close since they were born. What binds them most of their shared love of swimming.

   This year at Trinity, she joined the varsity swimming team. Plate said joining the team has definitely given her a glimpse into how different school life is compared to in Hamburg.

   “We don’t have sports in school, so swimming and other sports are separate, and I haven’t been swimming as intensely as here,” Plate said. “In Germany, I have been practicing three to four times a week. At Trinity, they train like six times a week, even on Saturdays.”

   The sophomore has also joined Trinity’s Vocal Society. Even though she doesn’t think Vocal Society will travel or compete, she said is excited to be a part of the group while doing something she loves.

   Plate is excited for all these new challenges, but of course, there is the issue of the pandemic. According to the World Health Organization confirmed cases of COVID-19, since the pandemic began, Germany has had 246,116, while the U.S. has had 6,011,042. Plate’s hometown of Hamburg’s COVID-19 laws regarding safety regulations during the pandemic are very different than Florida’s.

   “I didn’t really think about the differences [between Germany and the U.S.], but when I came, it was really different,” Plate said. “In my city, we had almost no cases and when I got here, I had to wear a mask everywhere.”

   COVID-19 aside, Plate hopes to travel around Florida and the U.S. this year.

   “In the United States, I’d love to go to Hawai’i and travel more to nearby countries,” Plate said.