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Foreign exchange student added a fun new dynamic to Kumm family functions

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WAUSA – Noah Mueller is going to miss his Wausa host family and friends, but he is ready to return to his home country.

The foreign exchange student from Switzerland is scheduled to leave the Knox County community Thursday, May 26, after spending the 2021-22 academic year as a Wausa High School senior.

Noah, who has been living with the Mike and LaNell Kumm family on their farm southwest of Wausa, noted his experience in the United States has been completely different than his life back home.

“It was really interesting seeing the American culture for a whole year and not just for one to two weeks,” the 19-year-old said. “Going to an American school and getting to live the high school life with all the sports was very fun.”

He took part in various school activities while he was a Wausa student, such as Vikings boys basketball, football and One Act.

Noah enjoyed playing football even though he did not get to participate after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left leg during the junior varsity game against Osmond in August.

“I got injured the second game of the season and the recovery time is usually about nine months for a torn ACL,” he said.

“I could be a good runner, but due to the injury, I lost some pace,” he said.

LaNell Kumm noted the 2021-22 academic year has been filled with a lot of memories for her family and Noah.

“The hard part was the ACL tear he had and all that went with that,” she said. “We did not want his year in America to be in therapy. However, he made the most out of it.”

Noah did not get to play basketball for Wausa due to his leg injury, but he still traveled with both the Vikings football and basketball teams to games.

“After the season, I played a bit of basketball with friends in the gym,” he said. “I would say it wasn’t a big loss for the Wausa basketball team because I am really bad at basketball.”

LaNell noted Noah jumped right into becoming part of the Kumm family, which includes her husband, Mike – the president of the Wausa Public Schools Board of Education – and their children, Krissy, 23; Brooke, 19; Henry, 16; and Hallie, 12.

“Henry and Hallie have gotten to spend the most time with Noah, as the others do not live at home anymore,” LaNell said. “Henry and Noah have gotten to be really good friends – more like brothers.

“Noah has the privilege of having a younger sister,” she said. “Having raised more girls than boys, it was different to have more boys in the house than girls. They eat a lot more.”

LaNell explained having Noah around made family game nights more enjoyable and interesting.

“He added a lot of fun to the games with his personality and different thoughts,” she said. “Noah brought a lot of humor to the table.”

In addition to the school activities he was involved in, Noah had many fun travel adventures with the Kumm family while in the United States.

“We took him to the Rocky Mountains, where he fed a buffalo,” Kumm said, noting that trip took place in October. “We did a bank heist escape room, went to ‘The Price Is Right’ game show live, a few Husker games, to name a few.”

Prior to visiting the United States for the first time during the 2021-22 academic year, Noah had traveled from Europe to North America twice before during family trips to Mexico.

He is from a small village in Switzerland called Holderbank that is located in the canton – similar to a state – of Solothurn in the northern part of his home country.

Noah’s native language is Swiss German. He also speaks German, French and English.

“Living in Switzerland is completely different than the life in the U.S.,” he said. “One example is that in the U.S., you need a car for everything; in Switzerland, you can just use the public transportation, even in the small villages. And everything is a lot closer in Switzerland.”

Noah explained he wanted to spend the 2021-22 academic year in the United States after completing an accounting apprenticeship back in his home country.

“I had to finish my apprenticeship in Switzerland first, which was from 2018 to 2021,” he said. “And I ended up in Wausa, Nebraska, because the Kumms chose me.”

LaNell and Mike and their children had discussed the idea of hosting a foreign exchange student for a couple of years, but they were not looking to necessarily do that for the 2021-22 academic year at first.

“It kind of happened really quickly,” LaNell said. “The opportunity and the fit for our family just seemed right and we all decided to try the adventure.”

The Kumm family – farmers who grow crops and raise beef cattle and hogs – decided to host a foreign exchange student through an organization called Education First High School Exchange Year.

“EF sent Noah’s application to us,” LaNell said. “We read about him and chose him because Noah’s father was a farmer and he came from a big family. He looked like a good fit for our family as we live on the farm and have a large family also.”

Luella Hodson, EF’s international exchange coordinator who is based in Osmond, visited with the Kumm family last year and gave them the details about hosting a foreign exchange student such as Noah.

“We talked it over and prayed about it and felt that if we were going to, it would be this year, since our son was a sophomore and they seem to have a lot of common interests,” LaNell said.

“Once we decided to go forward and the application was approved with EF, we got to FaceTime with Noah as a family and introduce ourselves to him,” she said. “During the summer, we had a family Snapchat group that was a great way to get to know him.”

Noah arrived in the United States on Aug. 5 when he flew into Sioux City, Iowa, where the Kumm family picked him up.

“My travel was 24 hours long and I had to stop in Germany and Chicago,” he said.

Now Noah is getting ready to head back to his home country after playing softball for the first time on May 22 at Gladstone Park in Wausa during a community farewell party for him.

He also played sand volleyball with other Wausa teenagers during the event, including many fellow Vikings who graduated with him from high school on May 14.

The party food included cupcakes – which LaNell and Noah made – with small American and Swiss flags adorning them as well as Swiss chocolate.

After he departs Wausa on May 26, Noah will travel with his mother, Nicole Hueber, and take in the sights as they drive to Chicago via Minneapolis before leaving for Switzerland on June 6.

“If I return, I would make more of a round trip in the U.S. to all the places I wanted to go but couldn’t during my exchange,” he said. “And for some days, I could visit Wausa during that time.”

Noah will see other family members again when he returns to his home country, including his father, Leo Mueller; three older brothers; and three step-siblings.

“I’m excited to see my family and friends again,” he said, noting he mainly has communicated with them through Snapchat while he has been in the United States. “It’s quite hard to be gone from everybody for a whole year.”

LaNell noted Henry will miss Noah the most out of their family.

“He has been the brother he never had,” she said, noting Noah and Henry rode dirt bikes, went to games and lifted weights together.

The Kumm family has enjoyed having Noah live with them and learning about his point of view coming from another part of the world.

“He has also taught us many different games,” LaNell said. “Noah has become part of our family and we will simply miss the everyday life with him.

“It’s been great to learn about Switzerland and what a great country it is,” she said. “We hope to visit it some time. We have enjoyed his Swiss chocolate.”

Noah, who will have to take part in mandatory military service when he returns to Switzerland, noted he will miss the people he just met during the 2021-22 academic year the most, especially the Kumm family.

“I just want to thank the Kumms for taking me under their roof for nearly a whole year and treating me like one of their children and also the whole town of Wausa for being welcoming and helpful,” he said.