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Exchange Student Returns Home After COVID Cancellation To Learn Impact Of Social Upheaval

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Paris Soares is still smarting after her recent trip home from South Africa as her study abroad program was abruptly cut short by COVID-19. She received the news by email.

"It was really life-changing," recalled Soares. "So upset. I was so upset"

After one failed attempt to fly home, the 22-year-old ended up taking a government repatriation flight back to the Bay Area as her host county went into lockdown.

Online classes soon followed taught by instructors half a world away. Then Soares would experience another new reality as social upheaval gripped her community with protestors bringing the Black Lives Matter movement to the world.

"People are fed up," Soares observed of the BLM movement. "People want to see some sort of justice, some sort of change."

LEARN MORE: Students Rising Above

All these changes would be quite a bit for anyone to unpack, let alone a college student. But it's obvious when you meet Soares, she is wise beyond her years, and her brief few months in South Africa clearly make a lifetime's impact.

"[My trip] actually just reminded me that racism is an issue," said Soares. "It's an issue everywhere actually ... our experiences with slavery and the apartheid in South Africa are very similar."

Now Soares is focusing on social justice here at home. She is writing, singing and producing her own album. Its title, "A Four-Year Affair," is reflective of Soares' own journey through challenging times.

"We... have a lot of things that we need to work on... and one of those things is believing that Black Lives Matter," said Soares. "So I've been writing a lot about that and because I think it's been a little overwhelming what's been going on right now. It has really helped me to understand how I'm feeling about it and, um, the message I want to give to the world."

Soares' message is simple and powerful.

"I want BLM to continue," said Soares. "Black Lives Matter to continue to do what they're doing, and I want to continue to educate myself on everything I can educate myself on. I'm going to continue making music centered around my experience centered around black experiences."




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