By Lorrie Ham
For 11 teenagers from around the globe, the Westonka community will be home for the next several months. The exchange students came to Westonka through the Youth for Understanding (YFU) program.
Irmak Asikoglu of Turkey is staying with the Melanie and Dave Gough family. She enjoys cheerleading and Lifetime class, where she is trying activities such as yoga and kickboxing. She hopes her experience at MWHS will give her confidence, open mindedness and fluency in the English language. She is proud of her host parents for adopting their young sons from Ethiopia.
For Marisa Boeckler of Germany, the best part of her experience so far had been getting to know so many nice people and to try new things every day. She enjoys playing volleyball and watching all the other games, and she is a big cookie fan. She hopes to gain self-confidence and to make life-long friends here. She is living with the Brenda and Dennis Geffre family.
Tianyu (Phillip) Chen of China hopes to improve his ability to bear the cold while he is in Minnesota. He enjoys football here and golf and basketball back at home. He is living with the James Schroer family, who he says includes a “super hyper” host brother and a “superman” host father.
Anton Harms of Germany is staying with the Teresa and Timothy Boser family. He likes Announcements and American History in school, and enjoys Chipotle. So far the best parts of his experience include running cross country and being part of his host family and his school.
Pauliina Hartonen of Finland is enjoying getting to know new people and doing all kinds of different things. She likes all kinds of sports and has found new favorites in wakeboarding and cross country. She is looking forward to an amazing year with the Pamela and Douglas Dahm family.
Rodolfo Lugo of Mexico is staying with the Linda Cordie family. He enjoys his American History class and hanging out with new people. His family in Mexico includes a sister and brother, his stay-at-home mom and his dad, who is a farmer and a lawyer. He is looking forward to learning about a new culture.
Mramba (Stephen) Masha of Kenya enjoys his Strengthening and American History classes, as well as Intro to Theater. He has enjoyed meeting nice and beautiful people and looks forward to taking the best ideas home to help him become the person he wants to be. He is staying with the Denise Bader family, who, he says, treat him as one of their own.
Jennifer Stute of Germany is living with the Penny Anderson-Ortiz family. She is enjoying having siblings, since she doesn’t have any at home. Her favorite foods here so far are s’mores and peanut butter. She loves the school spirit at Westonka, such as wearing MWHS gear and cheering at the football games.
Damian Urwyler of Switzerland is enjoying sports and hanging out with new friends. He likes having so much free time and says the food, the sports and almost everything else is “awesome” here. He is staying with the Sheila and Michael Seats family.
Lucas Valota of Brazil says everything at Westonka is different than his school at home. He loves chemistry and enjoys eating at McDonald’s. He plays tennis and says he loves everything about being an exchange student. He is living with the Robert Brose family.Noel Vermaten of the Netherlands is living with the Marissa and Zachary Clark family. Her favorite foods so far are root beer floats and Pop-Tarts. She played soccer this fall and loves being a part of American high school life. She hopes to make lots of new friends and expects this to be an experience she will never forget.
The students have settled in with their host families, met many new friends and have begun learning about a new culture. As a group, the students took part in a hayride and bonfire earlier this month.
“The hayride and bonfire were very fun, despite the cold weather.," said MWHS counselor Meg Kozar. "We rode around the farm for about an hour. Then we had a campfire and had dinner and made s’mores. The kids said they had a lot of fun and seemed to really enjoy getting to know each other.”
Some other activities will also be planned as a group, including possible visits to a water park, the arboretum, the Sky Zone and the Mall of America. For some of the students, a Minnesota winter will also provide a number of “firsts” like snowboarding, tubing and skiing.