Former exchange student returns to LP for a visit

July 7, 2008

By Sara Butterfass

After a 10 year absence, Maritn Dodell traveled from his home in Germany to return to the town that changed the course of his life.

Dodell was a foreign exchange student at Lester Prairie high school in 1997-98. His host, and the person who influenced him the most while he was here, was Lester Prairie resident, Gordon Houk.

Dodell returned to Lester Prairie, for the first time this summer since attending high school there, to attend his class’s 10-year reunion. During his trip back, Dodell has visited the Twin Cities, enjoyed Prairie Days, and drove with Houk to Wisconsin to visit his host brothers, Tim and Dave Houk, and their children.

Dodell returned to his home in Munich, Germany Saturday.

Originally from Penzberg, Germany, Dodell experienced a bit of a switch, moving from a town of about 17,000 to Lester Prairie. He remembers being very excited to come here, but nervous at the same time. It was difficult for him to be away from his two brothers at Christmas, but stated firmly, “I never had the feeling that I made the wrong decision” in becoming an exchange student.

Dodell’s most vivid memory of his time as a student at Lester Prairie is of a football game. Dodell was a kicker for the Bulldogs, who made it to the playoffs that year. The first game of the state quarter finals took place in Lester Prairie, on November 7, 1997, with a large crowd watching. The Bulldogs were favored to win over Adrian, and started out strong; up 12-0 at the half. However, in a crushing turn of events, the Bulldogs ended up losing 18-12. He recalls that “it was very emotional.”

The time Dodell spent in school in Lester Prairie changed the course of his future. After taking a welding class, he became interested in metal work. Prior to this class, he had planned to study law or business after high school.

Upon returning to Germany, he completed the last two years of high school. In August 2001, he began school at the University of Munich for Applied Sciences where he studied for a Bachelor of Engineering Degree and a consecutive Master of Business Administration and Engineering Degree.

Dodell finished his studies last year and now works for a company that belongs to the BMW group.

His advice for anyone considering becoming an exchange student is: “If you have the opportunity, take it. Don’t worry about the risks. Be open to experiencing new things and a new culture. Hang out with kids from the town you are staying in, not just other exchange students. And quit saying ‘But back home, we do it this way. . .’”

Dodell sincerely appreciated his time in Lester Prairie, as he was able to notice the little differences, that helped him to recognize what he had back home. He also appreciates everyone in Lester Prairie who made the year he spent there so enjoyable. Living there was like having “a little piece of heaven,” he said.

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