Tarzis Maurer from Switzerland poses with his host sisters on the first day of classes at Niagara Schools. Pictured from left, front row, are Annabelle and Hailee. In back are Morgan, Tarzis and Hannah.
NIAGARA, Wis. - Niagara exchange student Tarzis Maurer has done something few other boys from Switzerland have done - played American football. He even scored two touchdowns.
Tarzis is one of nine exchange students at Niagara High School. He arrived on Aug. 6 and decided to give American football a try.
"I love sports. Football is pretty cool. It does not matter what kind of athlete you are. They give you a position that matches you," he said.
The athletic 17-year-old, who plays soccer in his home country, played on the basketball team and is trying out for the track team. He was also involved in forensics.
In Switzerland, they don't have sports in school. School is not involved in anything but academics and little else, he said. Sports are all private clubs.
Tarzis is from Olten, a city of about 17,000 located in the middle of Switzerland and it rarely gets below freezing. He lives with his parents, Karin Maurer and Michael Neuenschwander. They are both part time teachers and are home a lot, he said. Switzerland, known as the Swiss Confederation or Confoederatio Helvetica (CH), has a population of about 8,000,000.
He is staying with the Waugen family, who he described as a wonderful, patchwork family. Host mom, Katie, serves as the coordinator for the International Experience program that brought Tarzis to Niagara. His host father is Hans and he has four host sisters, Hannah, 18, Morgan, 15, Hailee, 8, and Annabelle, 7.
"It was quite a change from no siblings at home to four sisters, but I am so glad to have them now. I always wanted siblings. It is always a good atmosphere at the Waugens' house, usually everybody is pretty laid-back, except for the young ones. They brim over with energy," he said.
At home in Switzerland, Tarzis said he is more independent because they have buses and trains everywhere. "I cannot drive a car here."
What he likes most about being an exchange student is the mental freedom. "I do not have to worry about anything here, I can just live."
But he is not a big fan of the food. "In CH we are an all-organic family and I can eat at home four out of five school days."
He decided to become an exchange student because, "I just felt like when I'm older I couldn't do it anymore." He considered going to China as an exchange student, but said, "I thought that might be too much of a shock."
When he returns, he will have two more years at Kantonsschule Olten, his school of about 1,000 students.
He said at his school, students attend school from about 7:45 a.m. to about 5:10 p.m. He takes nine classes. Students in Switzerland can't pick their own classes and only about 15 to 20 percent attend upper levels of high school so it is at a higher level, he said. In America you pick your classes and you attend school with all levels of students.
Teachers in America are more like friends. "Respect is way lower but they are closer to you. In Switzerland our teachers are more like 'you do your job, I'll do mine.'"
Tarzis said he has traveled to much of Europe and visited New York four or five years ago. With his host family he has been to Chicago, Green Bay, Appleton and Wisconsin Dells.
After he finishes school he will enter the military for 42 weeks and then he plans to study something in the tech field at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
Marguerite Lanthier's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.