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Childhood wish comes true for Bolivian foreign exchange student
Sept. 28, 2018

By Jennifer Von Ohlen
Staff Writer

DASSEL, MN – At the start of every school year, there is a lot of “new” going around: new classes, new teachers, new friends, and — for some — a new country.

Alvaro Medina Cordeiro of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, arrived in the US Aug. 24 as a 2018-19 foreign exchange student at Dassel-Cokato High School.

“Since I was 8 [years old], I wanted to experience studying abroad, and I think the US was a good country to do it,” Medina Cordeiro stated.

His host parents, Todd and Lissa Malenke of Dassel, hosted a German foreign exchange student a couple years ago, and are excited to share their home again. In fact, they are hosting two foreign exchange students: Medina Cordeiro, and Chaiwat Verichot of Thailand.

“We find sharing about our life in Dassel and in Minnesota fun,” Todd commented, adding that he and his wife also enjoy learning about the lives, cultures, and personalities of their exchange students.

Medina Cordeiro said he has also enjoyed getting familiar with the American culture, although he admitted he wasn’t as excited for the first day of school.

“I was really nervous,” he said, “but it went really good at the end of the day. I really like this school.”

Now, four weeks into the school year, Medina Cordeiro has found DCHS to be bigger than his school back home, Colegio Bilingue Domingo Savio. It also contains more — sometimes taller — students than he is used to. There are also differences in the school schedule, the mealtimes, and the number of classes.

“[There are] fewer classes [here],” he said, “and you can choose the classes you want here. In Bolivia, you have to take them all.”

While at home, Medina Cordeiro spent his time practicing swimming, teaching young kids how to swim, taking singing classes, and playing guitar and drums.

While spending the year as a DC Charger, Medina Cordeiro is interested in joining the boys’ swim team, the DC drumline, and the school’s robotics team.

He is currently involved in pep band and choir.

The Malenkes also have a few activities planned for the year, including a trip to the Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, the Como Park Zoo in Saint Paul, the Mall of America in Bloomington, a trip along the North Shore, ice fishing, cutting down a Christmas tree, and more.

“Mix all of these things with the kids’ school activities, and we will have a very full year,” shared Todd.

Medina Cordeiro said he is enjoying doing things around Dassel and Cokato too, such as attending the football games and hanging out at Dairy Queen with his host brother and some friends.

“I’m having a great experience so far,” he commented, “and [am] actually meeting friends pretty much every day. [I’m] also learning a lot of new words I didn’t know existed.”

In addition to expanding his vocabulary, Medina Cordeiro hopes his DC experience will help him improve his English, learn more about US culture and its history, and continue making new friends.

Medina Cordeiro added that he is very grateful his parents and host family have made this study abroad opportunity possible.

“You guys are amazing,” he said.

For those “even remotely” considering hosting a foreign exchange student, the Malenkes encourage them to go for it.

“It is a fun and positive experience,” said Todd.

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