Not the American Experience She Hoped For
Writer Sheila Grant profiles Dayita Durachman, a junior at Foxcroft Academy.
DOVER-FOXCROFT -- Students travel to the U.S.A. from around the globe to experience high school in America and to prepare to attend our colleges. Now, because of COVID-19 and its associated safety guidelines, many students are unable to return to their homes and families while also missing out on that American high school experience.
Dayita Durachman, a junior at Foxcroft Academy, said she is one of the lucky ones because she has been attending the school since her freshman year. Students only here for one year have missed out on the end of winter sports, all of spring sports, prom, and may not get to experience graduation.
“I was born in Indonesia, but we moved to Singapore when I was really young,” said Durachman. “I came to FA mostly because I want to go to college here. I thought coming here through high school would make it easier to apply to colleges, to understand the curriculum and how the system works.”
FA was specifically chosen because of the good student/teacher ratio and the small town setting, she said. “There are no distractions to studying, like there would be in a big city. The teachers are very focused on us, which is very helpful to me because English is not my first language.”
Another thing that made Dover-Foxcroft a good pick was the Center Theatre. Durachman, who plans to study theater in college, has been performing in local productions for the past three years.
“I was going to be in ‘Oliver.’ I already auditioned and I got a really good part, but they had to cancel. It’s really sad,” she said. Durachman has had roles in Center Theatre productions of “Little Women,” “Seussical II” and “Lion King.” “The school is doing a really good job with productions, too. I was a main character in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ last fall.”
Durachman said she will likely attend a college in New England because, “I call this home, and I don’t want to be far from home.”
Still, it is hard to be away from family during a worldwide crisis. “My parents live in an apartment, and apparently someone in that apartment block has it,” said Durachman. “But they’ve been doing work at home. My baby sister is only five months old now, so I’m really worried about her – but I think they are fine. They are just staying home.”
Many of FA’s foreign students went home as the pandemic spread. That wasn’t an option in her case. “I was going to go home, but that Monday it hit. Singapore closed its borders, so I can’t go home. And I would have to go through Germany because it takes two days to go home and Germany is in a really bad situation…so I just couldn’t get home. I don’t know when I’m going home. It’s a day-by-day situation,” she said.
Having her in a small, rural community is some comfort to her family, Durachman said. “But they are still worried. There’s going to be a risk anywhere.”
There are other challenges. Some classes, like music and chorus, cannot be offered online or students may lack the instruments to participate from home, she said. “Or like chemistry. I’m kind of sad we can’t do the labs anymore. Labs are very helpful because you actually see a reaction and how it works.”
Some teachers are better at teaching online and responding promptly to email than others, said Durachman. And preparing for the SATs has also become a challenge. “I paid for it already and got the books, but the tests got cancelled and it is harder for us to study in the summer.”
FA is trying to make the best of the experience for students still living in the dorms. “The school is trying to keep us physically active,” Durachman said. “They open the gym for us, and we can walk on the track when the weather is nice.
“It’s mostly the social interaction that I miss,” she continued. Dorms are not allowed any visitors. Residents, because they are already cohabitating, do not have to social distance, but students have all been given their own room. Activities are organized to try to keep them entertained and cheerful. “We do painting, indoor soccer, and we had an Easter egg hunt around the dorms – I got M&Ms.”
The school is keeping the dorms open and providing meals. “The school is doing a good job,” said Durachman. “I’m glad I’m stuck here, compared to all the kids stuck in their own homes, especially an only child. I’ve been living with these people for a whole year. We are all safe. Here, I have friends and some social interaction.”
Durachman does a lot of reading, online entertainment, and “I’m trying to get some new hobbies. I’m trying to learn to knit, but I’m very impatient,” she said with a laugh.
Her parents call her daily. “I am a little sad I haven’t seen my parents for eight months now, but I kind of want to spend one of my summers here because everyone says Maine is the best in the summer. This might be my chance to do so,” Durachman said. “But the world is sick and everyone is struggling and it’s just really sad.”