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Exchange student gets taste of Viking-Packer mania

One of New Richmond's unsuspecting foreign exchange students was swept up in the Minnesota-Wisconsin border battle this year.

Daniel Silveira, 18, from Dourados, Brazil, has spent the past year in the area honing his English and living the quiet life of a Midwesterner.

But after host family Bonnie and Scott Johnston surprised the young man with a trip to a Packer game at Lambeau Field, Vikings fans would have none of it.

Previous host family to Daniel, John and Ann Mike, eventually took him to the Metrodome for a game as well.

"When I was at Lambeau, I had to cheer for the Packers," he said with a laugh and a shake of his head. "And then I had to cheer for the Vikings when I was in Minnesota."

The experience was just one of many lasting memories Silveira has gathered while living in New Richmond since last summer.

On his top ten list of favorite memories were host family trips to Atlanta, Texas and Arizona throughout the year. Seeing the Grand Canyon during spring break was a highlight for Silveira.

He's also leaving soon with other Rotary Club exchange students for a tour of the East Coast, including stops in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Disney World in Florida.

Apart from traveling, he said he appreciated the chance to have a season pass to Trollhaugen Ski Area, where he attempted snowboarding for the first time.

"I loved it," said Silveira, who had never seen snow before coming to Wisconsin. "It was one of the greatest things I did while I was here. I went a lot."

Just simply enjoying the snow was a highlight for Silveira. He particularly liked the big snow storm that dropped more than a foot of snow on the region in March.

"I chose to come to the U.S. and I wanted to be more in the north," he said. "It's warm where I live, but I wanted to be in a different climate. I wanted to see something different, but now I've seen enough snow."

Silveira was also thankful for the chance to compete in soccer and tennis through the school year. A big smile stretches across his face when he reports that he lettered in both sports and he has a letter jacket on which to display them.

"It was cool," he said. "It gave me something to do after school, and it helped me to make friends."

He enjoyed frequent trips with Rotary Club members during the year as well, Silveira said. He got a chance to see a Minnesota Wild game this winter.

"I had never seen hockey before. It's a fast game," he said.

Silveira admits there were challenges he faced through the year.

Despite having five years of formal English education, and having a mother who teaches English in Brazil, Silveira said it took a while to communicate well.

"I was OK with adults and stuff," he said. "I had a harder time with young people, they use so many slang words. But after awhile it was OK."

Adjusting to the New Richmond school routine was also a challenge. In Brazil, the school day runs from 7 a.m. to noon, with strictly academic classes and no music, art and gym.

While he was prepared for the cold weather, Silveira said the winter weather caused few problems for him.

"I thought I would feel more cold, but I didn't," he said. "You're always inside, and there is always heat, so it's not too bad."

As he prepares to return home, Silveira said he's ready to get back to Brazil and see his family and friends again.

"It was a really long time," he admitted, "But I'm sure it will be pretty tough to leave too, to know I will not see some people ever again. But that's life."

Silveira is excited that both host families, and a few friends, plan on visiting him in Brazil in the future.

Silveira's family includes two brothers, along with his mother and father. His father was an exchange student in Oregon three decades ago, and his brother lived in Germany as an exchange student for a year. Both played a big role in convincing Silveira to sign up for the Rotary program.

"It's been a great experience," Silveira said of his exchange year. "I'm really glad I did it."

His father and grandfather operate a 6,000-head cattle farm in neighboring Paraguay.

After he returns home, Silveira said he'll begin studying for a difficult college entrance examination in November. If he passes, Silveira will receive free tuition from the Brazilian government. He hopes to become an engineer following school.