At the Hey Days Main Stage area on Friday night, Nikolaus Hamann talks about life as an foreign exchange student in the town of Hayfield and the Hauschild household. "We laugh a lot," he said. Photo by Melanie Dobson
By Alexa Nash and Melanie Dobson
Fifteen years ago, a young man from Germany came to the city of Hayfield to learn more about the English language and the American culture. Now, 15 years later, he came back to visit his other home and reunite with his fellow classmates at their 15-year class reunion as well as to be a part of a wedding.
Nikolaus Hamann was a teenager braver than others in his hometown in Kiel, Germany, a place in the Northeast part of Germany with a population of around 250,000, making it about twice the size of Rochester. He came to Minnesota as a part of his school's foreign exchange program. It may be much more popular now, but back then he says it was a special thing, and that he was the only one in his class of thirty to go through the program. It was his opportunity to improve his English and to be away from home for awhile, as well as to experience something brand new. He came to the U.S. to live with his host family the Hauschilds in Hayfield, and with them got to know more about the culture here. He said that it was similar to Germany, so it was the little things to get used to - such as long car drives just to go hang out. He graduated with the 1998 class at Hayfield High School.
His life as a Hayfield student started off "...very, very well." He kicked the winning field goal against Zumbrota-Mazeppa at the first football game, was named homecoming prince and was on the student council.
Nikolaus is now a tax attorney in Germany with degrees in business and tax law. He went through foreign exchange once more to attend a university in Denmark in 2005.
He has kept in touch with a few of his classmates here as well as with the Hauschilds. "I still call them Mom and Dad," he said of Kristi and Paul Hauschild. He returned attend the wedding of his host sister Allison Hauschild on July 20, who was only eight years old at the time; and on July 27, Hey Days weekend, he attended his 15-year High School Class Reunion.
The whole experience was something new for the Hauschild family as well. Pastor Paul Hauschild was working for ERDT, or the Educational Resource Development Trust, as a member trying to place students in the area. Through that, he decided to host a student himself to see what it was like. At the time, his three kids were eight (Allison), five (Jake), and two (Kassidy - Carly wasn't born yet), so it was quite an adjustment for his family to make to take in a teenager, much less one from another country. However, he explained that they bonded through it, and his kids liked how they had a new big brother to play with. Nikolaus, the oldest of three siblings, said it was just like home - being the big brother. He played games with the kids.
"Kassidy was my little side-kick." Kassidy was one of the Hey Days candidates, and he attended the Miss Hey Days pageant events in which Kassidy won the Community Service Award.
The Hauschild's hosted Nikolaus' sister as a 2000 graduate and have gone to visit the Hamann family in Germany, keeping in touch ever since.
"It's an honor to have him come back to be a part of our family again," Pastor Paul said.
Nikolaus, now 32, isn't married but he does have a girlfriend, Sarah. "It's strange, he said, "I am the same age Paul and Kristi were when they took me in."
Nikolaus went back home on Sunday, July 28, but even when he was away, he was still at home here in the U.S. with the Hauschild family and the city of Hayfield.