A satisfying melding of families
When you come from a city of over 400,000 to live in a city of less than 1,500, it's a little bit of a culture shock. But with the help of his American grandmother, Tsung-Tai Tu has adapted quickly.
Better known as “Amos” Tu, the Minneota foreign exchange student is hosted by Brenda Swoboda, whom he refers to as “grandma”. Amos came to Minneota from Hsinchu, Taiwan, a busy city with a population of 435,000.
His father, Jimmy, works as a chemist in air quality control, while his mother Jennifer is an accountant.
He also has one older sister who is a senior in college. When Amos arrived in the United States on July 19, he and other foreign exchange students stayed at a camp in Allentown, PA.
“I met exchange students from all over the world,” said Amos, 18. “We had a good time.”
When Tsung-Tai was young, his parents nicknamed him Andy. “But we have lots of people called Andy in Taiwan,” he said.
“I didn’t want to be the same as other people. I like to be different and special.”
“I wanted the letter ‘A’ at the beginning of my name, so I decided to change my nickname to Amos, which is not very common. Now, people call me Amos all the time.” Because Amos had graduated from high school in Taiwan, the Minnesota State High School League prohibits him from competing in any sanctioned sports or activities here. “I played basketball in Taiwan for a long time,” he said. “It was really bad that I couldn't play sports in Minneota.”
Amos also was unable to join other activities such as Knowledge Bowl or Speech because of those same MSHSL rules. Amos, who was on the ‘B’ Honor Roll at Minneota, was a co-winner of the Viking Valor for the month of January with Yan Din Suter, a foreign exchange student from Switzerland.
That award is designed to those Minneota students who act with honor, show respect and meet high expectations. In Taiwan, Amos and other students are not allowed to choose their own classes.
Students there are all assigned the same classes. “The school in Taiwan is much, much harder,” he noted. “We have so much homework and lots of tests every day. For me, it's like a vacation here.”
Another big difference between the two countries is the climate. Hinschu, also known as “The Windy City”, experiences a rainy season from Feb. to Sept. each year.
“The weather for me is a lot different here,” Amos remarked. “You don’t have lots of rain here, which I like. And we don’t have snow in Taiwan, so it feels super cold here.”
But the cold weather hasn’t deterred Amos from enjoying the snow, ice and cold. He and Yan Din whose host family is Swoboda’s daughter Bree Anderson and her family, recently embarked on an ice fishing trip to the Twin Cities area this past weekend with excellent results.
“We don’t have ice in Taiwan,” said Amos, who caught several sunfish, crappies and perch. “So I was excited to go ice fishing.” Amos hasn’t had any negative encounters with American food, claiming he is not a “fussy” eater.
“The food for me is not too bad,” he noted. “My grandma (Swoboda) is also a good cook. I tried lots of desserts I had never eaten before. And I like all kinds of potato, spaghetti and angel food (cake).”
He did discover one or two foods that were unappealing to his tastebuds.
“I don’t like chili so much, or celery,” he said. When Amos first arrived in Minneota, he had a little difficulty with some of the language.
Swoboda, figuring he was hungry from the long trip, asked Amos if he was starving. “I said no,” laughed Amos. “Actually, I didn’t really know what that was so I just said ‘no’. Then grandma asked me if I was hungry and I said, ‘Oh my, I am so hungry’.”
Amos is still learning all the different connotations of words and will inquire to someone if he doesn’t understand a certain meaning.
“I learn English from asking,” he said. “I will ask grandma if I don’t know how to stay a word, too. She is a good speller, too. My English wasn’t very good when I came here, so I had a hard time in the beginning. It’s getting better and better now. I hope I will learn more words and have a flowing talk.”
Amos feels fortunate to have a host as gracious and helpful as Swoboda. “She is a fantastic grandma and so fun to live with,” he said.
“If I didn’t have a grandma like her and I couldn’t play sports here, I probably would have left. I love my grandma and thank her so much.”
Swoboda retired from her job at Vishay HiRel Manufacturing of Marshall in September. She currently works in a preschool with three-year-olds twice a week.
“With grandchildren, Amos and Yan Din (who visits often and also calls her grandma) and some volunteer work at church, I stay pretty busy,” she said.
Amos will return to Taiwan following graduation in Minneota. “When I leave Minneota, I will take lots of experiences back home with me,” he said.
“And I’ve grown up a little bit here.”
Whether it’s Tsung-Tai, Andy or Amos, this young man is leaving a positive impression on everyone he meets.
“He’s a very nice kid,” said Swoboda. “He is very outgoing and has a great sense of humor. We have tried to let him experience as much of life in Minnesota as we can.”
Yan Din Suter
One thing Yan Din Suter has noticed since coming to the United States as a foreign exchange student from Switzerland is the vast difference in personalities.
“The people here are much friendlier and warm than in Switzerland,” Yan Din stated.
“The people there are mostly cold and distant, especially the adults.” Yan Din, 18, comes to Minneota from Zurich, Switzerland, the largest city in the country with a population of just over 400,000.
His host family is Scott and Bree Anderson, who have 11-year-old twin sons, Logan and Carter.
“It doesn’t get as cold in Switzerland as it does here, but in the winter it’s still pretty cold,” he said. “In the summer, the temperature is about the same.” While the weather is similar, the structure of the land of the two countries is not.
“There are a lot of hills, mountains and lakes in Switzerland,” Yan Din said.
“Here, the land is really flat, but there are a lot of lakes, too.” Yan Din’s father, Paul Suter, is a stage manager at an opera house in Zurich, and also directs plays at various other opera houses.
His mother, Season Suter, a native of China, is an artist. He also has an older sister, Yan Guan. While a student in Zurich, Yan Din was active in sports and other outdoor activities.
“I enjoy all kinds of sports, but my absolute favorite is soccer,” he said. “I also love to hang out with my friends and go skating and swimming.”
“I am lucky my mom takes my sister and me traveling a lot. One of my favorite things to do on those trips is to scuba dive and go fishing.”
Yan Din, who arrived in the United States on July 18, lived with a host family in Deubrook, SD. He transferred to Minneota in October and has been involved in a myriad of activities since his arrival. “He has been a fantastic kid,” said Bree Anderson, who teaches fifth and sixth grade Social Studies and Grammar at Minneota.
“My 11-year-old twins adore their big brother.” “He always enjoys our busy schedule. He really enjoys being a part of school life in America. He fits in well with his peers and is always busy.”
Yan Din was a wide receiver and kicker on his South Dakota team, which ends its season a few weeks before the season ends in Minnesota. “I played football for Deubrook before I came here, so sadly I couldn’t play football for the Minneota team,” he explained.
Yan Din possesses a strong kicking leg capable of hitting 40 to 45 yard field goals, according to those who saw him kick in South Dakota. “I am in band and choir here. I play the trumpet in band. I’m also in Knowledge Bowl,” said the Minneota ‘A’ honor roll student.
“There are no after-school activities in Switzerland and school is a lot harder than here.” Yan Din is figuring on playing baseball for the Vikings in the spring.
He is unsure when he will return to Switzerland. He also had been keeping an eye on the Winter Olympics that recently concluded.
“I have been watching some of the Olympics,” he said. “I like watching ski jumping and curling the most.”
Yan Din and Amos Tu, Minneota’s other foreign exchange student from Taiwan, have developed a friendship. Bree Anderson is the daughter of Brenda Swoboda, who is hosting Amos.
The two families spend a lot of time together, This past Saturday, they all went ice fishing on Bacon Lake north of the Twin Cities.
Neither boy had ever been ice fishing, yet managed to catch several sunfish, crappies and perch. “I had never been ice fishing, so I was super excited to go,” said Yan Din.
He has thoroughly enjoyed his stay with the Andersons, and his time in Minneota. “I absolutely love my host family,” he said.
“I hope we will stay in contact together forever and visit each other back and forth.”
The Andersons gave Yan Din a fish tank and he purchased some fish to put in the tank. But the results weren’t what anyone expected.
“Almost every fish I bought died or got eaten by another fish, until only one was left,” he said. “That was actually pretty sad.”
But the majority of the memories he will have of his stay in Minneota will be positive.
“Watching Minneota play football was great,” he said.
“And going to U.S. Bank Stadium was awesome. And just the simple Minnesota way of life is great.”
And one more thing Yan Din made sure to point out.
“We don’t have cool thrift stores (in Switzerland) like they do here,” he said.