Ward and Tami Wojciehowski have welcomed foreign exchange students into their Port Washington home in the past, but this year will be a little different.
On Aug. 13, about a week and a half before their daughter Abby got married, Niclas Potente, 16, and Enzo Calvetti Kong, 15, moved in to begin a 10-month stay at the Wojciehowskis’ Grant Street home.
“It has been nice, although the first week or so was a little overwhelming,” Potente, who hails from Guetersloh, Germany, said.
Calvetti Kong, from Santiago, Chile, is in the United States for the first time. Potente vacationed with his parents in Chicago when he was 11 years old.
Both are getting a crash course on American culture.
“We warned their families ahead of time that the first week there would be a lot of our relatives filling the house,” Ward said. “We told them it would be a little crazy.”
The Wojciehowskis hosted two foreign exchange students from the American Field Service program for four weeks last summer.
It was then that son Austin, a junior at Port Washington High School, asked if the family would host students for the entire school year.
“We thought Austin’s junior year would be the ideal time to do this because senior year is a little hectic,” Ward said. “The dynamics of having two kids from different countries is great. It allows us to have more of a dynamic group.”
Both students play on the Port Washington High School junior varsity soccer team, a sport that has helped them adapt quickly to life thousands of miles from home.
“In Chile, you have to pay to play on grass soccer fields,” Calvetti Kong said. “I thought it was unbelievable that you can play on grass almost any time here.”
Potente scored two goals and Calvetti Kong added another in a match against Brown Deer last week.
There have been a few instances where things have gotten lost in translation, Ward said.
“Friday was team photo day and the boys needed to be at the soccer fields at 8 a.m.,” he said. “I was getting ready for work and the entire soccer team knocked on our door. The coach asked them to run down and get the boys to make sure they were in the photo.”
A trip to McDonald’s was also a bit of a challenge, Ward said.
“Niclas was asking for a chicken burger, which we eventually found out was a McChicken,” he said. “They call it a chicken burger in Europe.”
The family is planning a trip to Iowa to visit son Aiden at Loras College in Dubuque, which will give Calvetti Kong and Potente a taste of an American college.
They also plan to take the train to Chicago, visit family in Indianapolis over the Christmas holiday and drive to Florida over spring break to visit daughter Abby and her husband, Alec Shelander.
“We’re going to buy the boys some (Indianapolis) Colts T-shirts and go to a game in October,” Ward said.
Potente and Calvetti Kong agree that Port Washington is a small community compared to what they’re used to, but have taken to the scenery.
“Everything is so green here,” Calvetti Kong said.
The students are able to keep in touch with their families via FaceTime and the WhatsApp texting app on their smartphones. Calvetti Kong calls his parents at 5 p.m. each Sunday.
“It’s a little harder for me because there is a seven hour time difference,” Potente said, whereas Chile is only two hours ahead of Central time.
While they are enjoying American food — particularly Ward’s pancakes on Sunday mornings — they have had cravings for comfort foods.
“There is a Turkish sandwich that has sauerkraut and turkey that I miss,” Potente said. “Our fallback has been cereal.”
With school starting on Tuesday, both were looking forward to getting into a daily routine.
The students will take core classes like math, communications and history. Potente is enrolled in drawing and Spanish classes, while Calvetti Kong is taking both physics and chemistry.
“We told the boys they’re not going to be our guests, but part of our family,” Ward said. “We want them to know this is their safe place when they’re here and we hope to grow a long-term friendship that will last for years.”
Image information: The Wojciehowski Family, including (back row, from left)
Ward, Austin and Tami, welcomed foreign exchange students Niclas Potente (left) from Guetersloh, Germany, and Enzo Calvetti Kong from Santiago, Chile, into their home on Aug. 13.