Friendship of 26 years sparks opportunity for exchange student
It is assumed that most foreign exchange students have yet to see the United States of America when they travel to our country. However, for 17-year-old Ville Remsu, of Finland, this is actually his second time in the U.S.
Remsu, who is staying with Brad and Misty Wolf of Winnebago, says he came to visit just two years ago to meet the family he would be staying with. And, the Wolfs actually recently visited Finland as well.
Now the question is, how did Remsu know the Wolfs before he was even assigned to them as his host family? The answer is not how, but when.
That was the year Lawrence?and Bea?Wolf decided to host a foreign exchange student by the name of Katya Remsu. Their son, Brad, was a junior in high school while Katya was a senior. Katya kept in touch with the Wolf family, and a forever friendship developed between the two families.
Now, Remsu, a junior at Blue Earth Area High School, and his host family’s daughter, Jerica Wolf, are in the same boat as Katya and Brad just 26 years ago. Remsu and Wolf are both juniors at BEAHS.
This is not the Wolfs’ first foreign exchange student, either. Marie Jevnesveen, an exchange student from Norway, stayed with the Wolfs last year. She actually plans to return to visit the Wolfs this summer.
“It went really well for us, so we knew we wanted to do it again,” says Misty Wolf. “And since we knew what we were getting ourselves into with Ville, we invited him back to stay for this year.”
Besides his mother Katya, Remsu’s family back home consists of his step-father, Miika, his 13-year-old brother, Antti, and his 10-year-old sister, Ilona.
The Wolfs are familiar with Remsu’s family as well. They were able to spend some time with the Remsu family overseas on a cruise ship last summer.
“It was a lot of fun. Katya and Miika are very wonderful, fun people,” says Brad Wolf on his exchange-student sister and her family.
Remsu admits that some transition points have been more difficult than others when it comes to living in the United States. There are many obvious differences for Remsu between living in Winnebago and living in his hometown of Lappeenranta, Finland. One of them is public transportation.
In Finland, Remsu says not many citizens have to use their own cars because most things are within walking or biking distance, and when that is not the case, there are plenty of public buses available. While he is in the U.S., however, Remsu is learning how to drive.
“I am taking driver’s education classes right now,” says Remsu. “Bob Hanson is my instructor and he is very knowledgeable.” Remsu admits that since he has yet to get behind the wheel, it is a lot of information to absorb before hitting the road.
Another fairly obvious difference between here and home for Remsu is the schooling. In Finland, teachers switch classes instead of students, and instead of having the same classes every single day, Remsu says the classes change every three days, so the topics that are taken for the day have more class time, and thus, more understanding of the subject.
They even have a “test week” where the entire week is dedicated to tests, instead of them being intermittently scattered throughout different class times and days.
“And the cool thing is, if there is not a test for a specific class during a day of exam week, you can just go home early,” says Remsu.
Remsu actually goes to an international baccalaureate school, which means there are several places throughout the world, where he can take his classes at. He has two more years of high school to finish, and this year, he is taking the school year off.
“We are allowed to take one year of school off in Finland, so I decided to take this one off to come to America,” says Remsu.
And another interesting piece of Finland’s education system is the required one year of military or social service.
According to Remsu, the dedication of time to the military or social services of Finland are mandatory, but teach young people to serve others, and serve their country.
When Remsu is not busy at school or at Driver’s Ed learning the highways and byways of the Minnesota’s road rules, he enjoys participating with BEA’s Knowledge Bowl and Math League, four-wheeling with the Wolfs, traveling, and enjoying time with friends.
Remsu even learned how to water ski and wakeboard during the summer, but in the fall, he is all about football.
“I would have played varsity, but I was not able to do it,” says Remsu. And, oddly enough, it is because of his mother Katya’s 1990 visit to the U.S. that makes Remsu ineligible to play varsity. “I got to kick for them once, and I enjoy junior varsity, definitely. It is a lot of fun.”
At home in Finland, Remsu plays on a club soccer team. He says if he had to choose between American football and European ftbol (soccer), he would choose American football.
“There is more of a camaraderie on the team than there is with soccer. It is just a little more exhilarating than soccer probably because you get more contact with other players, but soccer is fun, too, of course,” says Remsu with a smile.
So far, Remsu has visited Chicago, where host mom, Misty, ran a marathon; they’ve also visited the Twin Cities, South Dakota, and have gone camping in Greater Minnesota. The Wolfs still plan to take Remsu to the Black Hills and a few other destinations.
All in all, it seems Remsu is a part of the Wolf family, because he is, and the Wolfs are a part of the Remsu family.
Twenty-six years of friendship seems to be going swimmingly for the two families. Perhaps it just goes to show it truly does not matter how far a friend may be in physical distance to feel the closeness of friendship.