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Rotary introduces this year’s exchange students

November 22, 2019 by Delaney FitzPatrick

The Lakeland area welcomed four new exchange students from Germany, Japan, Ecuador, and Kazakhstan at the 5th annual Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) International dinner on Saturday, Oct. 26. This was the first year the event was open to the public in addition to the students and their host families.

As a member of the of the RYE program, students travel to the Lakeland area from around the world. They stay for a full academic year, living with two or three host families to gain a wider understanding of the United States and the Northwoods, specifically.

All four of the students are currently attending Lakeland Union High School. Three of this year’s students are through the RYE program, while the fourth, Sultan Sadvakasov from Kazakhstan, is through a separate exchange program called Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). 

Dinner guests dined on traditional dishes and desserts from the RYE exchange students’ countries including Sauerbraten with spaetzle (Germany), seaweed salad (Japan), and seco de pollo (Ecuador).  

The three students gave short presentations about their host countries. 

Hina Furubuchi from Japan discussed traditions of her country such as origami, sumo wrestling and Japanese New Year. Furubuchi also explained the Japanese tea ceremony or sado. 

“The green tea used for sado is matcha, and it is a beautiful green powder,” Furubuchi said. “Usually the host invites their guest to a small room and serves matcha.” Green tea was one of the beverages served at the dinner. 

Kylie Overmann from Germany shared about her friends and family. Overmann explained that her step-sister had inspired her to join RYE.

“She did an exchange year with Rotary two years ago in Colorado, which is why I’m here,” she said. 

Overmann’s hometown of Ellerau is similar in size to Minocqua with a population of around 5,600 people. Unlike Minocqua, however, Ellerau is only 20 minutes from a major city: Hamburg. 

“I love Hamburg so much,” she said. “It’s the prettiest city in Germany.” In closing she thanked Rotary. “This is the biggest opportunity and we are so happy to be here.” 

Lastly, Esteban Lopez spoke about his home country Ecuador. He presented on Ecuador’s traditional architecture style, diverse plant life, and bold cuisine, including the Ecuadorian custom of eating guinea pig. 

Lopez mentioned noticing a difference in how people in the United States greet one another. 

“The way to say hi to people here (is) everyone just shakes hands,” he said. “We are more kind and we just kiss cheeks.” 

He said navigating introductions on the first day of school was awkward, but that he didn’t kiss everyone he met, which got a laugh from the crowd.

Outbound students

Following the presentations, the party Skyped with Sam Twelmeyer, an LUHS student, who is currently two months into her exchange in Chile. 

“I chose to come to Chile because of the mountains and the ocean,” Twelmeyer said. “It was all very interesting to me.”

Twelmeyer gave a brief tour of her host Chilean home and introduced her host parents. She has been attending a private school and though she is the only exchange student at her school, there are a few other exchange students in her Rotary club.

Twelmeyer said she has enjoyed her exchange tremendously. 

“I love the food, the people, everything — the Spanish is amazing,” she said.

When Twelmeyer first got to Chile, she and the other members of her club took a Spanish test. Twelmeyer scored well and based on her high marks could potentially have an opportunity to study on Easter Island for two weeks or longer toward the end of her exchange.

As for other travel, she recently joined her Rotary host district on a trip to the Atacama Desert, which is one of the driest regions in the world.

LUHS has one other student, Callie Johnson, studying abroad this year. Johnson’s exchange is in Mexico.

Other RYE students

In addition to current outbounds and inbounds, the dinner celebrated past and future RYE students.

LUHS sent three girls abroad last year: Kari Mrotek (Germany), Katy Mueth (Columbia) and Kloe Berg (Poland). Each student and her family was invited to the dinner.

Three future Lakeland area outbound students were also in attendance. Max Thompson, Alysse Teichmiller and Brooklyn Anderson have yet to receive their country assignments as they prepare for their programs next fall.

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