Ed and Lori Robison of Wauna first became involved as a host family for visiting foreign exchange students several years ago as part of the Lions Clubs International Youth Exchange Program, sponsored by the Key Peninsula Lions.
Ed is the son of KP Lions George and Cindy Robison.
Having been bitten by this rewarding experience, the couple has continued to enjoy the fruits of their labor of love, this time with Aspect Foundation of San Francisco.
A week ago, Ed visited the KP Lions’ regular meeting and brought with him Steven Wolf, a 15-year-old German exchange student who entertained the Lions and described his experiences here as they contrast with those in his home country.
“The last five months I’ve spent in this country have been the time of my life,” Wolf said. “A lot of people want to know why I decided to go on an exchange, and why America? First of all, I wanted to improve my English and chose the U.S. because I’ve always had a strong connection to this country. My dad was born and raised in Chicago and later moved to Germany. He talked a lot about his childhood, so I always had this dream of living here.”
Steven became a Peninsula High School student last September.
“I decided to try out a lot of new things while I’m here to make it an even greater experience,” he said. “So I joined my school’s swim team. Although training is tough sometimes, my teammates and I are having a good time.”
I caught Steven with his teammates at the PHS pool, where he was honing his breaststroke. Looked good!
“Besides, I even learned how to ride horseback, which is a lot of fun,” he said.
I found him doing a, “Look, mom! No hands!” atop Joey, a Belgian draft horse (which is only slightly smaller than an elephant, to my way of thinking).
His hostess, Lori Robison, owns and operates Four Winds Riding Center in Wauna. What a deal, Steven!
Steven has noticed a lot of differences between Germany and America.
“Americans seem very outgoing to me,” he said. “It is so easy to make new friends here. Everything seems so much bigger here! The cars, the stores and even the fridges.”
He feels American high schools are more diversified.
“All these elective classes and clubs,” he said. “It’s so much more fun! In my opinion, German high schools are harder and more strict. We don’t get to choose our classes.”
In Germany, he attends class 10 hours per day, five days a week. He will receive no credit in Germany for the work he is doing at PHS and will have to re-do the year when he returns home.
“Another thing I realized,” Steven said, “is that we celebrate Christmas differently. We open our presents on Christmas Eve, then have a first and a second Christmas Day.
“In the few months I’m here, I have already seen so much For example, the Space Needle and the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Olympic National Park, Forks, and I even got to see the Seattle Seahawks play! I love American football!”
One of his favorite experiences was homecoming weekend at PHS.
“My whole school came together to cheer our team at the homecoming game,” he said. “(It was fun) taking my date out to dinner, and then going to the homecoming dance and just having fun. It was a great weekend.”
In his remaining five months, Steven hopes to learn even more about the American way of life, make more friends and have “more great experiences.”
Being an exchange student is not always easy, he said.
“I had to leave my family and all my friends back in Germany to go to a different country and built up a second life far away from home,” he said. “But I’m so glad I did it!
And so are we, Steven!Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000 @centurytel.net.