Flyin’ in to see sons graduate
Graduation ceremonies can bring relatives in from other states to join in a student's celebration. Rarely do they bring in parents and siblings from another country.
On Saturday, Minneota High School foreign exchange students Tsung-Tai “Amos” Tu of Taiwan and Yan Din Suter of Switzerland marched across the stage with 43 other seniors to receive their diplomas.
Among those attending was Amos’ father and sister, and Yan Din’s mother. Jimmy Tu and Yi-Ling Tu, Amos’ father and sister, respectively, flew from Hsinchu, Taiwan to Chicago and then rented a vehicle to drive to Minneota on Saturday to attend the commencement exercise.
“We wanted to see some things in Chicago so we landed there first,” said Yi-Ling, 22.
“Then we drove 10 hours here. My father and I took turns driving.” Amos’ host “grandmother” was Brenda Swoboda this year, while Yan Din was hosted by Brenda’s daughter Bree Anderson, and her husband Scott and twin sons Logan and Carter.
Amos and Yan Din jointly held their graduation reception on Sunday at Swoboda’s home.
“It was a grad party and a going-away party,” said Bree. “It was a great way for kids, teachers and friends to say goodbye.”
Yan Din’s mother, Season Suter, flew from Zurich, Switzerland to the Sioux Falls airport where Scott Anderson picked her up and brought her to Minneota last Wednesday.
“I didn’t realize (graduation) was such a big deal here,” said Season.
“I was impressed how well prepared everyone is about graduation. I’m glad I came to see it.”
In Taiwan, high school graduation basically consists of an instructor giving the student a diploma and a handshake.
“In Taiwan, we have a bigger ceremony when we graduate from college,” said Amos.
“But in high school, it’s not a big thing.”
“We don’t have anything like this in Switzerland,” added Yan Din.
Amos’ mother, Jennifer, was unable to make the trip to Minneota because her mother is ill in Taiwan.
And Yan Din’s father, Paul Suter, was unable to get away from a busy time at his place of employment to travel here. Even though the year went by quickly for the two boys and their families abroad, there were a few things noticeably different about them.
“I hardly recognized my son when I came here (because) his hair is so long,” laughed Season, placing her hands about six inches apart to show the growth of his hair since she last saw him. “And he is more sociable than he was before. And he sings more now, too.” “(Amos) speaks much better English than he did when he left,” said his father.
“And Brenda said he helps a lot with housework. He didn’t do much of that back home.”
So will he help more at home when he returns to Taiwan?
“I’m going back to being spoiled,” Amos joked. It was a busy year for both boys, who were involved in a myriad of school and social activities this year, as well as joining their host families in an abundance of outings with their host families.
“We just went to Duluth with the boys,” said Bree. “I found a picture of Lake Superior and superimposed a photo of their countries on top to show the difference in size. Lake Superior is about twice as big as Switzerland and one and half times bigger than Taiwan.”
The host families also took the boys on outings such as ice fishing, camping, tubing, knee-boarding, to a Minnesota Gophers football game, a Twins game, and the Mall of America.
“We went to three state tournaments, too,” said Yan Din.
“We went to football, volleyball and girls basketball (state) tournaments.” “I was busy all the time doing something,” said Yan Din.
“This was the fastest year I’ve been through in my life.” Despite all the interesting and exciting activities Amos and Yan Din were able to attend, a simple thing like “mudding” in a Ranger utility vehicle seemed to be each of their favorites.
“That was so fun,” said Amos, flashing a big smile.
“That was one of my favorite things I did.” “I really liked that, too,” echoed Yan Din. “It was fun getting all full of mud.”
The boys adjusted well to the language, culture, landscape and climate of Minnesota.
What they found most unusual, though, came during meals.
“In Taiwan, we eat out of a bowl that we hold up to our face,” explained Amos. “I started doing that with my plate here, too. But I learned to eat with the plate on the table.”
For Yan Din, it had more to do with the utensils we use while dining.
“We always use a knife and fork to eat everything,” he said.
“Here, you only use a fork to eat. I had to get used to that.”
And now the year is up for these two boys and time to return to their homelands. But the memories of one year living in Minneota will forever flood their minds.
“There are so many things I will always remember, but I would say that my last track meet is the most memorable for me because (his mother, host family, and Amos and his father and sister) were there to see it,” Yan Din noted about the conference meet last Thursday in Granite Falls.
Yan Din was part of the Canby-Minneota track team that shattered the 4 x 100 school record that day.
But he won’t be a part of the sub-section meet on Thursday because he left Minneota with his mother on Monday.
“For me, it was going to the Twins game,” said Amos. “They were behind and then they came back to win. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be there.”
Amos’ father and sister left Minneota on Tuesday, and Amos took a flight back home on Wednesday.
Both boys talked about the fondness they have for their hosts and how they treated them like family. But besides their host families and friends they met, there are other special memories the two boys will forever hold onto.
“The stars,” said Amos, when asked what special memory he has of his time spent here.
“We can’t see the stars where we live because of all the pollution.”
“I’ll miss the thrift stores you have here,” laughed Yan Din. “We have thrift stores, but they are so expensive.”
Yan Din has another year of high school next year, while Amos will attend college next year to study Social Psychology and/or Business.
The host families got sentimental when talking about the boys leaving.
“I could tell Amos was a good kid the minute I met him last fall,” said Brenda. “We had a lot of good times together. Both boys will be missed a lot by us and by others.”
“They had a great year and got involved where they could in school and church,” said Bree.
“It will be so hard to see them leave. I know we will all miss them terribly.”
“Carter and Logan gained a big brother they will never forget. I hope they feel their time here was beneficial and successful. I can’t wait to hear from both of them as time goes by and see where life takes them.”