By Tara Mathews
HOWARD LAKE, MN It’s very rare that two foreign exchange students from the same area end up at the same school, and it’s no coincidence that two generations of one Australian family and one Howard Lake family shared this experience nearly 30 years apart.
In 1986-87, Tony Corr of Australia came to Minnesota as a foreign exchange student. He stayed with Dale and Bonnie Engel, and attended Howard Lake High School as a senior.
“It was just by chance that we ended up hosting Tony,” Bonnie noted.
“By good chance,” Dale added.
Tony enjoyed his time as a foreign exchange student, and became very close with his host family, which he has kept in contact with ever since.
“I visited the Engels two years ago with my wife and two sons, and they loved it just as much,” Tony commented.
So the group came up with a plan for Tony’s oldest son, Atticus to come to Minnesota last November for a small foreign exchange type situation.
“This situation is different, because we just set it up on our own,” Tony said.
Atticus is in ninth grade, and most students don’t have the ability to participate in foreign exchange programs until their junior or senior year.
In Australia, the seasons are opposite of America’s, so Atticus was on his summer break for the duration of his time at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) High School.
“I left school in Australia one week early, and came here,” Atticus stated. “And I will start school there a few days after I get back.”
He returned home to Australia last week.
Atticus stayed with Jill and Mike Kittock, and their three children Sam, T.J., and Max while he was here. Jill, a teacher at Dassel-Cokato High School, is Dale and Bonnie’s daughter, and she went to school with Tony when he was an exchange student.
He didn’t take the same classes as his dad did many years ago at Howard Lake High School. Instead, he was able to participate in more “fun” classes, because his time as an exchange student didn’t count for credits.
In Australia, there aren’t elective classes available. Classes are focused more on core subjects such as math, grammar, and science.
“We signed him up for mostly electives,” Jill commented. “We figured he should take some classes he wouldn’t take at home, and it also didn’t pay to have him take core subjects for the short time he was here.”
Atticus said his favorite class was vocational agriculture with James Weninger (Winnie), HLWW’s agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. Winnie also taught Tony when he was an exchange student.
A great experience
Although Atticus’ summer break was cut short, he is happy to have experienced Howard Lake culture.
“He made a lot of friends and was sad to go,” Jill said.
While Atticus was here, he enjoyed a multitude of Minnesota activities, such as snowboarding, making snow angels, ice skating, ice fishing, and more.
He also played basketball, and was able to attend an FFA snow tubing event.
“I enjoyed the snow, until the novelty wore off,” Atticus stated.
Before the ground was covered with snow, Atticus was able to try a few summer-type activities, as well.
“He tried shooting and drove a four-wheeler for the first time ever,” Jill said.
“It was a lot of fun,” Atticus commented.
He tried new foods, such as barbeque sandwiches and tator tots, and also brought some vegemite to share with classmates who hadn’t tried it before.
He had so much fun during his time here in Howard Lake, he can’t wait for another chance to visit, he expressed.
“I will definitely do it again, if possible,” Atticus commented.
He also became a sports fan during his time in Howard Lake, especially for the Timberwolves.
“We are Wild fans, so we kept messing with him and changing the channel to Wild games when he was trying to watch the Timberwolves,” Jill laughed.
Although communication in the US and Australia is close to the same, there are a few words that are slightly different.
“Even though I know the language, some words I didn’t understand because we have different terms for it,” Atticus stated.
For example, what is called a “counter” in the US is called a bench in Australia, a store is a shop in Australia, football is called “footie,” and a sweater is a jumper.
Normally, this time of year, Atticus and his family spend a lot of time on the beach, not bundled in snow gear.
“It doesn’t get below freezing at home,” Atticus noted. “And Christmas is the hottest time of the year.”
He admitted to missing the beach when he was talking with his family through Skype on Christmas.
Some of the differences Atticus found beneficial were that HLWW is a co-ed school, since back home he went to an all-boy, private school; and he also enjoyed the lack of school uniforms.
Another big difference for Atticus was school lunch, which is not something that is provided in Australia.
“We just pack a lunch from home,” he commented.
Tony came to visit during Atticus’ last week in Howard Lake.
During Tony’s visit, he went to DC High School and taught Jill’s eighth grade class a little about Australia.
“I think Atticus was happy to see his dad, but he knew that meant his time here was coming to a close,” Jill said.
“I don’t want to go, and I’m definitely not rushing to leave,” Atticus stated. “I could’ve stayed longer.”
The Kittock and Corr families have plans to exchange more children in the future, as well.
Tony’s youngest son, Finnian, will be in ninth grade in two years, and the families are already looking forward to his time as an exchange student.
“If all goes as planned, he will stay with Jill and her family,” Tony noted.
Atticus is looking forward to any future chance to return and see his friends in the Howard Lake area.