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Students return home from Canada

  • Elbow shake: Karen Marino greets her mum Isabel Villacres after she touched down in Bermuda (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Touching gesture: a returning student is welcomed home (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A group of students stranded in Canada touched down on the rock last night.

Karen Marino, who arrived wearing a surgical facemask, said it “felt great” to be home after being stranded in Toronto since Sunday.

The 23-year-old student at Dalhousie University in Halifax added: “I’m so happy. I’m on cloud nine.

“I came out of the airport and I saw my mom tearing up and crying.

“I went to go to hug her but then I remembered ‘wait, I can’t’.”

Ms Marino, from St George’s, was speaking after she and five other students were stuck at Pearson airport in Toronto after their emergency WestJet weekend flight was cancelled at the last minute.

The students returned on another WestJet plane, along with a dozen other Bermudians.

Her mother, Isabel Villacres, said: “I’m just so happy and glad. Thanks to everyone that was involved with getting this flight in to rescue our students. I am so thankful.”

Ms Marino said that after her hopes of getting home on Sunday were dashed, she did not want to get her hopes up that yesterday’s flight would go ahead.

She explained: “Nothing really could’ve disappointed me after a certain point, so I wasn’t going to believe we were going home until I was on the plane and it was backing out.

“Once that happened, I thought ‘OK, we’re finally leaving’.”

Ms Marino added: “While I was on the plane, I really thought we were going to come outside and everyone would tell us ‘you have to go back’.

“But I knew that was just fear and uncertainty ... everyone was actually really nice.”

Ms Marino said that she was able to arrange to stay with a friend in Toronto and kept herself up to date with news from home and caring for pet rabbit Django.

She admitted that she was frightened that Canada would be locked down before she had a chance to leave and she would be trapped.

She said: “I was thinking ‘I just want to go home. I don’t want to be stuck here in Canada’.

“All the surrounding provinces were closing their borders down before I was supposed to leave and I knew Halifax would be next, so I knew I couldn’t go back.”

Ms Marino will now have to stick to a strict two-week quarantine with no physical contact with her family. But she is prepared.

Ms Marino said: “I didn’t really have contact with anybody in university, anyway.

“Sometimes, I forget that I’m allowed to leave the house in Halifax, whether there’s a pandemic or not, so I’m not worried.

Ms Marino added: “I’ll just be keeping myself busy with inside workouts and online school.

“But right now I’m looking forward to quarantining and getting a shower.”

Mikaela Kawaley-Lathan, 21, who travelled from university in Vancouver, was not looking forward to a quarantine period.

She said: “I still have assignments to finish and I have to be able to focus while also not being able to leave my house.”

Ms Kawaley-Lathan, a student at the University of British Columbia, said that she spent much of her time in Toronto asking her professors for extensions on coursework.

She was worried about whether or not she would be able to come back home, as well as how she would manage to keep herself afloat if she had to move back to Vancouver.

Ms Kawaley Lathan, from Sandys, coped with the stress in Toronto by playing solitaire and making videos on the social-media app TikTok.

She said: “I made a few videos where I was dancing and then one of me sharing my story.

“I was really just looking for anything to get my mind off my situation.”

Ms Kawaley-Lathan, who also arrived masked, said: “I think, overall, I was pretty relaxed, but everyone else was pretty highly stressed.”

She added that the one bright spot in the gloom of the crisis was that the students had a chance to get to know one another and offered each other support.

Ms Kawaley-Lathan said: “One person had a one-year-old with them and another person had a rabbit with them.”

“Everybody was saying ‘how do we not only take care of ourselves but also take care of these little beings that we have with us?’”

She added: “We got pretty close because we were together for hours watching the government press conferences and tweeting at the Premier.

“Now I’m just glad to be back home.”

Her sister Katrina said: “The family is incredibly relieved.

“The stress of not knowing whether she would make it or not, where she would stay and if she would have the support that she needed was overwhelming.

“Even if she’s stuck inside, at least we know where she is and we’re together as a family.”