Wu representing Taiwan in BEA exchange student program
For the first time in a long time, Blue Earth Area High School has just one foreign exchange student this school year.
But, for Jr Ying Wu, a native of Taiwan, being the only one of something is nothing new.
Wu, who likes to go by the name of Rita while attending BEA High School, is an only child back home in Taiwan, as she has no brothers or sisters.
And here in the U.S., Rita Wu is an only child while staying at the home of Scott and Katie Reisenbigler in Winnebago, who also do not have other children.
Rita came to Minnesota on Aug. 1, and will spend the entire school year here.
“I wanted to go explore other places,” the soon-to-be 16 year old says of her decision to become an exchange student. “And my English was very bad and I wanted to become better at it.”
Rita says everyone has been very welcoming to her and have made her feel very comfortable.
Especially the girls on the BEA cheerleading squad.
“I don’t really do sports,” she says. “But I was interested in doing something. Then I went to my first football game and saw the cheerleaders and they did some cool stuff and I thought, ‘I want to do some of those things.'”
She found out the cheerleaders had been practicing for some time, but they let her join the squad.
“It was like the middle of their time, after they had started,” Rita says. “But they were very kind to me and let me join. We are just like a family.”
She plans on being a basketball cheerleader this winter, as well.
And speaking of winter, Rita is excited to experience a Minnesota winter.
Her city in Taiwan has an average monthly temperature of between 68 and 81 degrees, year round. And, definitely no snow.
“It snowed last week, a little, and I just loved it,” she says. “I can’t wait for more snow. I hope it snows a lot.”
Rita says the schools are different between Taiwan and Blue Earth.
“We have more homework (in Taiwan) and more tests,” she says. “And we stay in one classroom and the teachers come to us. Here we move to the teachers’ rooms.”
In Taiwan she takes math, Chinese, English, gym, art, science and history. The history can be Taiwan, Chinese or world history.
At BEA this year she has taken biology, algebra, novel study and art, with communications this next quarter.
“The biology is very like what I had in seventh grade (in Taiwan),” she says, adding that one other difference is that she and all the other students wear a uniform at her school in Taiwan which is named Fu Shun Junior High School.
She says the grades are much different also. Here she is listed as a junior, while back home she is a senior first grade.
The culture and foods are also much different.
“Here there is potatoes and bread,” she says. “At home we eat a lot of rice and noodles. But I like the food.”
Rita says she also is liking living in a small town in Minnesota.
Back home she lives in a city named Kaohsiung, which is the third largest city in Taiwan with a population of 2.7 million people. Only the capital of Taipei and the city of Taichung are larger.
Kaohsiung is described as a modern port city in the south of Taiwan.
Rita and her parents live in the suburbs of the city, as her father has an area for a small hobby type of farm.
Her mother’s name is Hui Pin Liu and is a stay at home mom, Rita says. Her father’s name is Ung Chih Wu and he is an equestrian coach and takes care of horses for others.
And while Rita has no brothers and sisters to miss while she is here, she does miss her pets.
“We have four dogs, three goats, two donkeys and one cat,” Rita says. “Oh and also eight horses.”
But, the horses are owned by other people and her father just takes care of them, she explains.
“I help my dad take care of the animals,” she says. “Especially on the weekends. Sometimes, I go exploring with my mom. We both like to explore and find new things.”
That can mean shopping, she explains, saying she also likes to go shopping with her friends. And like any teenager these days, she also likes to spend a lot of time on her phone.
This is Rita’s first time in the U.S., and she has already explored around Minnesota and the Twin Cities.
“I really liked going to the Minnesota Zoo,” she says. “Because I really like animals.”
For Thanksgiving, the Reisenbiglers and Rita are planning a trip to Denver, Colorado, to visit some relatives. They are also talking about making a big trip in the spring, as well, but have not decided on a destination yet.
This is the second year the Reisenbiglers have hosted an exchange student in their home. However, it could be their last.
“We had Alex last year and now this year we have Rita,” Katie Reisenbigler says. “And we have really enjoyed having them stay with us. It has been great. But it was like a test run, because next year we are thinking of becoming foster parents.”
Rita says her experience so far has also been great, and she is very glad she decided to do it.
“Everyone has been so wonderful to me,” she says. “And it is so beautiful here. It is not like the city, there are so many plants, and trees and so green. We don’t see so much plants.”
Oh, and then there is the snow. Rita says she can hardly wait to see snow and more snow.
“I want to see it like this much,” she says, holding her hand about waist high. “Or even more.”
Only time will tell to see if she gets her wish.