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Wildcat Chronicle

The student news site of West Chicago Community High School

Wildcat Chronicle

The student news site of West Chicago Community High School

Wildcat Chronicle

Humans Of WEGO: Soccer player navigates American lifestyle

In his short time in the U.S., exchange student Theo Schuetz has loaded up on extracurricular activities and bonded with his American family and friends.
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Foreign exchange student Theo Schuetz is making WEGO his home-away-from-home for the 2023-24 school year. (Photo courtesy of Meredith Nika)

 Many people at WEGO do not realize that there are several foreign exchange students at the school this year: two from Germany and one from Sweden. Theo Schuetz is one of them. Schuetz came to the USA at the beginning of August and is spending 10 months in the country before going back to Germany to finish school. 

Schuetz takes in the sights during his extended stay in America. (Photo courtesy of Meredith Nika)

Schuetz is a senior who left his German family to join a new host family – one he never met before in his life. Now, Schuetz lives with a mom, a dad, and three sisters. The arrangement is the culmination of a multi-year friendship between Schuetz’s family and the Nikas of West Chicago.

“Theo’s father, Reinhard, was part of the GAP (German American Partnership) program many years ago. My older brother, Eric, and Reinhard exchanged between the USA and Germany. Our parents developed a friendship and have been in touch all these years. Long visits, celebrating birthdays and major holidays were happy results of the GAP experience. Last year, Reinhard asked my brother, sister and me if any of us were interested in hosting his son, Theo. We had never met Theo before, but were immediately interested. Our families’ friendship is so strong that this seemed like a great way for a new generation to form better bonds,” Meredith Nika, Schuetz’s host mother, said. 

After a rough introduction to America involving some lost luggage, Schuetz began to settle into a routine that involved summer band camp and jet lag.

He handled all this craziness with great flexibility and humor,” Nika said.

And while his host family is different from his real family (Schuetz lives with his parents, two brothers and sister in Germany), he is starting to feel at home.

“I can be myself around them. I would say that my host dad is like the typical American Dad. He reminds me of, like, some movies,” Schuetz said.

Schuetz also lived in France from September to December of 2022. He intended for the four-month period to provide a little practice before coming to the U.S., and he wanted to experience different cultures. He spent that time in France with a host family, and attending a public school. 

For Schuetz, the brief period in France offered another perspective. He said that his host family from France was very different from his host family in the U.S. and his biological family in Germany, in the way that they were rather poor and did not live at the same standards as he was used to living. Still, he was grateful for the opportunity, and felt ready to spend a year in America after his initial study abroad experience. 

“I was excited for the experience and the memories I will make. I think the positive feelings outweigh the negative,” Schuetz said.

At WEGO, Schuetz has already gotten involved in activities. He is part of the marching band, and played Varsity soccer, which just wrapped up its season. According to Schuetz, the biggest difference in soccer is that in Germany the game is mostly played in clubs and there are no school activities. In Germany, soccer is played all year round. 

Schuetz, who played Varsity soccer this past season, holds up his Senior Night sign. (Photo courtesy of Meredith Nika)

One similarity between soccer in Germany and in the USA is the playing style, though he admits some teams in Germany play a more technical and physical game. One major difference, however, arrives in the form of team bonding.

“In Germany, I’m not really best friends with my teammates, but in America, chemistry is rather better,” Schuetz said.

Schuetz has also observed a big difference in the team spirit: because most Americans play for school teams, there are a lot more people coming to watch the games. People care more about the team, according to Schuetz. 

The differences carry over to marching band as well. In Germany, Schuetz plays in a normal orchestra, and this fall marked his first time playing in a marching band. Schuetz says that playing in a marching band is not harder than playing in an orchestra. But he says that he had a hard time playing while walking at the same time. He says that it’s hard but that he managed to settle in good.

Sophomore Caleb Salzman is a friend of Schuetz, and is also in the school band with him. Salzman considers Schuetz to be an “excellent person to converse with,” and “a great listener.” 

Theo is very smart and he is very good in all his classes. I got to know Theo over the summer in band camp, and after I talked with him and learned his interests, I knew he was a cool guy,” Salzman said.

The two got to know each other over the summer camp with the band, and share some of the same interests, with both of them being into band and soccer.

“We had some cool conversations about which goalkeepers from Germany are better and what teams we thought we would make for soccer tryouts. When tryouts first started, Theo knew almost nobody, but once I introduced him to others, he got along well with everyone,” Salzman said. 

In addition to extracurriculars, Schuetz has been focusing on his studies, and navigating he American high school experience. He talked about how German students have 12 different classes every week and end school at different times on different days. Schuetz mentions that the classes shift every day, so he does not have the same schedule every day. For example, he might have math three times a week, and PE just twice a week. The change in schedule has not flustered Schuetz at all.

“Theo is an optimistic, easy-going spirit. He is not one to be pushed around, but willing to say, ‘OK, I’ll give it a try’. It is hard to not share in Theo’s excitement when he is especially happy, as his exuberance is contagious,” said Nika.

With just a few months remaining in Schuetz’s foreign exchange, there are some things that he wants to do before he goes back to Germany, the major one being that Schuetz would like to ski in the U.S.

“The USA is a very big country, and as much as I would like to show him so many places, there is neither the time or money to get to it all. That said, we will have a chance to visit my family in New York State after Christmas to see those places his father once traveled to as a young man – and to go downhill skiing! Other goals: see a great play or musical, go to Chicago many times, and attend a Cubs game in 2024,” said Nika. 

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About the Contributor
Albin Tosterud
Albin Tosterud, Reporter
Soccer player Albin Tosterud is a senior, and this is his first time being a part of the Wildcat Chronicle. His hobbies include playing basketball and, of course, playing soccer - as well as listening to music. His favorite artist is Tyler the Creator. This is also Albin’s first year at WEGO, as he is an exchange student from Sweden who finds school in America "different" than in Sweden. His plan after the school year ends is to head back to Sweden and take two more years of school.
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  • Hayley ErmerNov 20, 2023 at 8:31 pm

    We have been fortunate enough to spend some time with Theo and have thoroughly enjoyed our chats with him. It has been a joy to watch Theo and Albin bond and listen to their experiences here in the US. Thank you WEGO for offering these boys an exchange opportunity in the US and we are happy to be a part of it.