ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. -- What was supposed to be a ten day exchange trip to the western United States has turned into something far different for 43 fifth graders from Paris.
The students from Francs-Bourgeois elementary school were just supposed to change planes when they landed at MSP International Airport last Thursday on their way home to France from Portland, Oregon.
Those plans were laid to ash, when a volcano eruption in Iceland sent a plume 30,000 feet in the air, forcing the closure of airspace in 13 countries.
While some travelers at some airports have resorted to sleeping on cots, the Francs-Bourgeois students have been to the Minnesota Zoo, a barbeque at Minnehaha Park, and to school at the French Academy of Minnesota.
"Being away from family can be a tough situation," said Veronique Liebmann, the school's director, who got the call when the students and four chaperones were stranded at the airport.
Days have been spent with students and parents from the school, while nights have been spent downtown, four to a room, at the Minneapolis Hilton.
"Parents have been sending e-mails to each other's students. We have been printing emails and students have been emailing their parents as well," said Liebmann.
The students, most of whom speak little English, seem to be taking their detour in stride. "Yes!" several shouted in unison when asked if they were having a good time. Yet they responded similarly when asked if they were missing their families.
The students hope to be back in the air later this week, but will remain grounded until flight restrictions are lifted.
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