German student tackles life in Quincy
That’s all it took, really. One tackle, and Justin Stefanovski was sold on this town for life.
The tackle occurred during a football game this fall, and it was Stefanovski’s first taste of playing time. The ball was snapped, Stefanovski tackled his guy, and as he got up, he heard the public address announcer say his name over the loudspeakers.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my god, they called my name!” Stefanovski said. His native country of Germany does not have high school sports, he said, so this was a major novelty for him. “I felt like a star.”
Not bad for a teenager who had no idea what to expect when he first heard he would be living in Quincy for a year as part of an exchange program. A native of massive, sprawling Dusseldorf, a year in central Washington figured to be quite a change for this soon-to-be 16-year-old.
“At first, I thought, ‘OK, wow, Quincy has a lot of Mexicans,” he said.
The surprise soon turned into an advantage, as now Stefanovski counts many of the fellows from south of the border as his buddies.
“When you have a lot of friends and when you have fun, it doesn’t really matter where you are (from),” Stefanovski said.
In addition to his time as a football player, he is now on the wrestling team, with some of his Mexican pals sometimes using Stefanovski’s fondness for Mexican food for their own amusement.
“We gave him quesadillas one time before practice,” said Carlos Ruiz, a wrestling teammate. “He almost puked.”
The mirth doesn’t stop there. His pals have got Stefanovski pegged as a bit of a wrestling innovator.
“He is good,” Ruiz said. “But he does make up his own moves.”
Eliseo Valdovinos, another wrestler, said Stefanovski is a confident dude, who landed his first-ever backflip in practice.
Food mishaps and acrobatics aside, Stefanovski expresses no regrets about his choice. Given three countries to pick from – Ireland, Australia and the U.S. – he went with his lifelong desire to visit the U.S. Given three states to choose from, he chose California, Oregon and Washington.
“Then (the exchange student organization, Education First) tries to match us with the perfect host family,” Stefanovski said. There was one available in Quincy, and that’s how Stefanovski ended up here, living with Jeremy and Micaiah McCreary.
Back at home, Stefanovski left behind an excited dad and a sad mom. Stefanovski is an only child, so for Mom this was a sneak preview of the empty nest. For dad, this was a chance to see his son have the opportunities he did not have.
Being solo in Quincy will help him grow, he says. When the year is over, Stefanovski said, he will probably be more of an adult than he is now.
Schoolwork is “way, way harder” in Germany than in the U.S., he says, and teachers are stricter, but with schoolwork and sports practice, there’s very little free time. Not that he complains. In fact, he says he knows he will one day return to Quincy.
“I love it here,” he said. “I love my host family.”
Asked what he could take with him back to Germany if he could, he says it’s the food. His German friends had told him about mythical, magical places like Wendy’s and Taco Bell, famous all over, but absent in the home country.
“I’m eating so much,” he said. “In Germany I can eat much too, but here there are so many things I never tried. Candy, footlongs, Reese’s, Hersheys. I’ve tried everything. It’s so good.”
By Sebastian Moraga, firstname.lastname@example.org