Foreign exchange students give insight to Wakonda youth

Foreign exchange students give insight to Wakonda youth
Wakonda High School gained two new foreign exchange students in late August. Alex Trutmen, from Switzerland, is being hosted by Ron and Renae Skjonsberg and daughter Cassie. The other is Leonardo Sardina, from Brazil. His host family is Cheryl Knudson, along with son Tyler Knudson.

Alex will be in Wakonda for 10 months. When asked what the differences are between his home and Wakonda, Alex said, "It's a bit too small, but the people are nice."

In Switzerland they have different schedules and subjects every day in school, so coming to Wakonda was a change, but they still go five days a week.

"Americans don't know much about other countries or the world outside of them," he said.

Trutmen had to learn every big river of America and other specific information about other countries.

"You think that Switzerland is next to Sweden and you don't know who gave you the Statue of Liberty," he said.

Another difference is the number of people in the area and the unsettled land here. Switzerland is smaller than the state of South Dakota, however, 7.2 million people inhabit the country.

Alex misses his friends, family and fast Internet. Alex has visited many places while here, but his favorites are the Empire Mall and the Mall of America. He is a bit scared of the snow that is talked about so much. He'll let us know his feelings come January.

Leonardo, known as "Leo," has never seen snow or felt cold, except in air conditioning. He came here from his home in Brazil, where the climate is much different than that of South Dakota.

Leo is staying in Wakonda for four more months and then heading back for home. Leo is impressed with how clean and respectful the people are toward their towns and schools.

"Many Brazilians just throw their trash on the ground and don't care. Here, you care about appearances," he said.

One day in English class Leo filled us with information about Brazil; he told how his country is going through a crisis involving leadership. He said all citizens are required to vote and sometimes that brings uninformed voters to the polls.

One year they elected a president that had only a sixth-grade education.

Sardina also says his people are more affectionate in public than we are here. It isn't odd to see people kissing and hugging, even non-lovers, in public buildings and streets.

"Americans are afraid to show differences and are conformists by nature," said Leo.

Leo is participating in Eagle football and is enjoying it to the fullest. It is American football, not real football. Real football is soccer in Brazil.

Leo will be in Wakonda for four more months and in that time hopes to learn from our country and to embrace the differences of the people.

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