Exchange student returns for second year at Holy Trinity in Winsted
By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN “Walking around town with Barry is like being with a rock star, I kid you not,” said Mary Ernhart of rural Winsted/New Germany.
Mary, her husband John, and their three children Ben, Ellie, and Natalie have been hosting Holy Trinity’s foreign exchange student, Yongcheng Fang (aka “Barry”), since the beginning of the school year, and their lives haven’t been the same since.
“We’ve had a lot of laughter in this house,” Mary said. “Barry has a great sense of humor.”
Barry, who will turn 18 in December, is in his second school year at Holy Trinity. Last year, his host parents were Trish and Allan Guennigsman.
“I chose to come back here,” Barry said. “Holy Trinity is a very good school; they’re just like family.”
Girls who watch him play basketball have even created a fitting nickname for him Super Barry.
“I like here better than China,” Barry said, explaining that the culture is less serious in America, and young people can joke around with adults.
In China, Barry lived in an apartment in Haikou (population 2 million) with his parents and grandparents. He chose to study abroad as a way to broaden his education, meet people, and practice his English (which he’s been learning since first grade).
For his first American experience, Barry spent five months in Virginia.
“In Virginia, I was in a language school, so there were basically no American people,” he said.
This was a stark contrast to Winsted, where Barry said the lack of Chinese people initially made him “a little bit homesick.”
Fortunately, the students and staff at Holy Trinity quickly helped Barry adjust.
Barry’s host brother, Ben, was one of them.
“We were in the same study hall together,” Ben said.
During that time, Ben helped Barry with religion homework. For every chapter of homework Ben helped with, Barry would buy him a bottle of pop.
“Every day when Ben got in the car to go home, he would talk about Barry and how fun he was,” Mary said. “As the girls got to know him too, they agreed.”
A ‘Barry’ good idea
When Ben heard Barry needed a host family for the 2012-13 school year, he immediately asked his parents.
“I begged them for two weeks,” Ben said.
Mary said she and John were always open to the idea of an exchange student, but thought their household might be too “chaotic.”
“John and I both work, and our family is involved in a lot,” Mary said. “With sports and music lessons, there’s a lot of running around.”
They decided to give it a try anyway, and they’re delighted they did.
“He makes us laugh,” said Ellie.
“I like playing volleyball with Barry,” Natalie added.
“We’ve broken lots of things,” Barry laughed.
Now that he’s here, Barry isn’t eager to leave anytime soon.
“He knows he’s welcome to stay here during college,” Mary said.
After high school graduation this spring, Barry hopes to earn a business/finance degree from the University of Minnesota. His career aspirations are still in the works, though.
“Maybe babysitting,” he joked.
Whether it’s hunting and fishing with John, helping Ellie and Natalie with homework, talking about Chinese culture with Mary, or playing video games with Ben, Barry has become part of the family.
“I’m very happy I chose to come back,” Barry said. “There aren’t very many people here, but you all get to know each other, especially at Holy Trinity. It’s more close.”
Mary can think of only one downside to having such a great foreign exchange student.
“We could never have another,” she said. “No one would ever live up to Barry; he’s a very special kid.”