Sam Retz of rural Boyceville who grew up with five older sisters always wished he had a brother. Well this year that wish was granted when he and his family decided to host a foreign exchange student, Urs Kahmann from Germany. Meanwhile down the road a ways in rural Downing, Corey Klatt who is an only child wasn’t quite sure how it would feel to have a brother or a sister. But Corey too has had a brother this past year with Ludwig Canonge from France living with him and his family.
Frank and Julie Retz, Sam’s parents have actually hosted foreign exchange students twice before but in both cases they hosted girls. For Missy and Don Klatt, Corey’s parents this is the first year that they have hosted an exchange student. However this is something Missy has always wanted to do since doing a couple of work exchanges, herself to Australia and New Zealand.
The Retzes and the Klatts have been friends for a number of years so it was the Retzes who got the Klatts connected with the local coordinator of the Aspect Exchange Foundation, Dixie Klemish.
Both Urs and Ludwig have been here since the end of August and will soon be leaving as the exchange program and their visas only allow them to stay one week after the end of the school year. Urs has been attending Boyceville High school while Ludwig is a sophomore at Glenwood City. Both Ludwig and Urs have thoroughly enjoyed their time here and have been very active in their schools. Urs was a member of the cross country team, played basketball, is currently running track and was part of the Science Olympiad team.
Ludwig joined the cross country team with Corey, one of the best things he did as the team really looked out for him at school and helped him adjust especially since Ludwig struggled some at the beginning with his English. Some of these team mates have become Ludwig’s best friends. Besides cross country, Ludwig tried wrestling for the first time and is currently a member of the track team. Ludwig is also a member of the art club and the history club.
Both boys note that there are differences between school here and at home. One of the biggest differences are the sports teams at the school. In most of Europe all the sports teams are club teams, not school sponsored. Urs goes on to say that here all the teachers have their own rooms while at his school teachers move from room to room and there is a lot of graffiti on the desks and gum stuck to the underside. He thinks teachers here care more since they have their own rooms. Also in Germany Urs has classes with the same 30 or so kids and doesn’t get to know a lot of kids in his school. He’s enjoyed school here having kids from all different grades in different classes. He said maybe it’s because Boyceville is a small school so he’s gotten to know most of the kids at school.
For Ludwig some of the differences in school are that his teachers in France are strict and school in general is stricter. He states that teachers here are easier to talk to and more fun. In France they have two hours for lunch but then don’t finish school for the day until 5 p.m. During those two hours they can go into town for lunch or go home. Sometimes they can take an extra class during the second hour of lunch.
While this has been a new experience for Sam and Corey having brothers, for Ludwig and Urs it’s nothing new. Urs has a brother, two years younger and Ludwig comes from a large family; he has four older brothers, one older sister, one younger brother and a twin brother. As a matter of fact, Ludwig’s twin, Dieter is also on the exchange program and going to school in New Ulm, Minnesota. When Sam was asked how it was having a brother he replied that “it’s been really different, it’s been a lot of fun”. Corey concurs that it’s been different having a brother and goes on to say that it’s been an interesting experience.
As for missing their brothers when they go back home, Corey said that he probably would but he hasn’t really thought about it. As for Sam, he’s says they aren’t allowed to talk about Urs leaving. When asked if and when he would visit Urs, Sam said yup, on the thirteenth (Urs leaves on the 12th).
Urs, who is about a year older than Sam, has been a great “older” brother, making sure Sam gets up in the morning for school. Seems Sam’s alarm clock isn’t doing its job getting Sam out of bed in the morning. Sam and Urs enjoy playing video games and being on the same sports’ teams. Julie states that “it’s helpful having another son. It’s nice and different after always having girls. It’s nice for Sam to have someone to talk to.” She goes on to say it’s been nice having Urs always willing to do things with the family. So much so that Urs even helps with farm chores because he really wants to be part of the family. When asked what he’ll miss the most when he leaves here, Urs replied: “my family here, my friends, the school and doing chores.”
It should also be noted that Urs is from the city of Berlin and likes the country life and the fresh air here.
Some of the things Urs has liked best, is the farm life, school sports and Foods class.
For Corey he likes hanging out with his brother and playing sports with him. Missy states that this has been a wonderful experience for Corey to have a brother 24-7. It made Corey step up and be the helpful “older brother” till Ludwig got used to everything. And she agrees with Julie that it’s been nice for Corey to have someone to talk to.
When asked what his favorite things here have been, Ludwig replied: friends, family, sports teams and art classes. When asked what his favorite places that he visited while here were, Ludwig said “Glenwood City, it’s an awesome little town and most of my friends live there and the high school is there and the church.” As for what he will miss the most when he goes back home, Ludwig’s answer-Everything!
The Retzes and the Klatts will agree that hosting a foreign exchange student is an interesting and educational experience. Not only do you learn things about a foreign country, you also get to see your own town and country through a different set of eyes.
Besides your typical orientation meetings, Dixie also arranges monthly get-togethers for the exchange students and their host families. Some of the get-togethers are overnight trips to such places as Duluth, the Twin Cities and Madison while other get togethers may be as simple as an afternoon of bowling.
For anyone interested (you don’t need to have children in high school to host) in hosting an exchange student you can check out the Aspect Foundation website: www.aspectfoundation.org, where you can view profiles and read student letters of those student wishing to come to America. For further information you can contact Dixie Klemish at 715-642-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.