You Know You're From...Kronenwetter: Foreign Exchange Host Family
Diane and Emil Wasniewski have been married 40 years, the second marriage for each. They have 5 kids from their first marriages, but none of their own. After visiting a summer festival put on by the Lake Dubay Lions in 1982, Emil introduced the idea to Diane to become a host for foreign exchange students.
"I met these two young Japanese (students)," Emil said.
"He came home and told me about these two young people," recalled Diane.
"Found out what it took to get a youth," said Emil.
Diane thought, "well, this will be a nice thing and those will be our children."
"Every year since then we've been involved," added Emil.
Their first youth was Reiko, from Japan, in 1983. Since then, they've hosted an estimated 150 students from 31 countries through various organizations including The Lions, Northcentral Technical College, and UW-Stevens Point.
"It keeps me young," Diane said. "Keeps me out of the rocking chair. Keeps my brain sharp because these kids will come up with questions that will, just kind of, floor you."
They make sure the students understand the landscape they're coming to here in Kronenwetter.
"Once they come into a small community they find out that the people want to talk to them. And they want to learn about them," said Diane.
"I think it was a wonderful experience," said former exchange student, Joyce.
'Joyce,' realy name Wei-Tung Wang, recently visited from Taiwan, and was made to feel like family, not an outsider.
"Every morning and every night, Emil and Diane will give us a hug," Joyce remembered.
"We open our house and our heart," claimed Diane.
Their bonds grow so close, that often the students refer to them as...
"Mom and dad," said Diane with a smile.
"When you go over to their country, they greet you and treat you so well that it really makes you feel good," Emil said. "And it makes it all worth while of everything you've done for them."
With another student set to arrive this summer, the Wasniewski's will continue to have an influence on the world.
"When you can learn why people do what they do, how can you not feel the friendship and international peace that way," said Diane.
In our Skype interview, Joyce had some kind words to share with Diane and Emil in Taiwanese. In translation, she said "thank you for everything when I was in the U.S."
Diane and Emil have gotten the most out of their passport, as well. They've been to Japan several times. Also Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Mexico and Canada to visit the families of the students they've hosted.