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Student acquainted with host family before coming to BE

By Staff | Nov 15, 2010

Aside from school and sports, Denys spends his time watching movies, playing chess and shooting pool, among other activities, with his host family.

A lot of foreign exchange students get placed with a host family, and the day they meet is the day the student comes to America. For Denys Mantel, however, the first meeting was a bit different.

Eugene and Vicki Boeckman, of Elmore, had actually traveled to Germany to get acquainted with Denys before it was time for him to come to the U.S., something they’ve done with almost all of their 10 foreign exchange students in the past.

“We take the time to meet the new student’s family,” Vicki says. “We love to travel.”

Coming from Berlin, home to more than 3 million people, Denys has found that being in a small community like Elmore and Blue Earth is one of his favorite things about Minnesota.

“You see, everyday, new faces,” the 18-year-old says of Berlin. “And here you can recognize the people.”

Eighteen-year-old Denys Mantel is staying with Eugene (left) and Vicki Boeckman, of Elmore, during his time attending Blue Earth Area High School.

Born in Ukraine, Denys moved to Germany when he was 8 years old, and has lived there since.

He had never been to the United States previously, but knew he was interested in coming after attending a class trip to London about four years ago. He ended up making new friends and had such a great time that he hoped to repeat the experience, this time in the U.S.

Getting to know the American culture was another big reason being a foreign exchange student interested him. And, as moving day drew closer, he had nearly no nerves about the situation.

“I didn’t know how to expect my host family would be like,” he says about how he felt before meeting the Boeckmans in Germany. “But from then, everything was good.”

Now that he’s in Elmore, Denys has gone from being an older brother (to an 8-year-old brother and 13-year-old sister) to being an only child, since the Boeckmans don’t have any children living at home.

Denys, pictured with his father, stepmother and two younger siblings, left his home in Berlin, Germany, to learn about the American culture firsthand.

“It’s more relaxing,” he says of his temporary life without younger siblings. “Quieter in the morning.”

As an active student athlete and a senior at Blue Earth Area High School, Denys has found the days here are much longer than what he’s used to.

“At the beginning, I had difficulty adjusting to the school time,” Denys says.

Being accustomed to finishing school at 2:15 p.m., and not having sports afterward, he wasn’t familiar with waking up at 7 a.m. for school and being there the entire day until activities were finished around 7 p.m.

Being a defensive end on the Bucs’ football team is the main activity that kept Denys’ time filled so much this fall. But things won’t necessarily slow down, because he plans to go out for basketball in the winter and is interested in track for this spring.

When Denys does get a little bit of free time after practice is over or homework is done, he finds a lot to entertain him at the Boeckmans’ home, including playing Nintendo Wii, watching movies, shooting pool or taking on Eugene in chess.

“It’s always so tough to beat him,” Denys says.

The three have also gone on vacations up to Duluth and all the way out to Denver. Although he says both of those trips were pretty neat, Denys is most interested in one day seeing Los Angeles and New York City.

“I want them to find out as much as possible about the United States,” Vicki says about her current and former foreign exchange students.

Still on the agenda while Denys is in the U.S. is a trip to Florida, which several area exchange students will be taking part in, giving them a brief break away from ice and snow.

Denys says Minnesota weather is definitely colder than what he’s used to, but it’s nothing he’s dreading.

“I like having hot summer after winter, and I like having winter after hot summer.”

Although his plans after high school aren’t completely decided, Denys thinks he would like to attend university for something that has to do with physics, his favorite subject.

“It always was fascinating to me,” he says, explaining he likes it so much because he’s “able to learn and explain why things are like they are.”

He may be a senior in Blue Earth, but that doesn’t mean Denys has reached the end of his high school road in German terms. His school in Germany extends 13 years instead of 12, and when he heads back Denys will prepare to experience the 12th grade all over again.