Exchange student returns to city

The Kennedys hosted a Taiwan student as part of the Rotary Club's student abroad program in 2008. Chengchun Wu returned to the c ity this summer fo rhis fourth visit with is host parents. From left are Dianne Kennedy, Wu and Clyd Kennedy.

Coming from a city of more than 2.3 million people to a farm in Lebanon with 50 head of cattle and two dogs was a major change for a young Taiwan student more than 11 years ago.

But that experience has made the young man what he is today.

Chengchun Wu was a foreign exchange student at Watertown High School in 2008. He arrived through the Rotary exchange program, a program his father was involved with in Taiwan.

Wu was born and raised in Taipei,Taiwan, the country's capital and fourth largest city, located in northern Taiwan.

When he reached his teen years, he decided to study abroad. His decision led him to Lebanon. "I came from a big city and moved to the middle of nowhere," he said about his American home.

Wu arrived in Wisconsin near the end of August of 2008. At the last minute, Dianne and Clyde Kennedy agreed to take the young man in for the year.

Dianne Kennedy, a member of the Watertown Rotary, came home from a Monday meeting and mentioned to her husband that there was no host family for the young student. Clyde asked his wife why they should not take him in. The two agreed to be host parents and on Thursday that week, Wu arrived. "He was stuck with us," Dianne Kennedy said from their home now in Watertown.

He moved from a high-rise building in his country to a 120-acre farm with cattle, sheep and dogs.

High school days were also different for the young man. In his native country, he attended school starting at 7 a.m. with plenty of homework through the night. He attended what was called "cram school" to advance his education.

"It was very stressful," he said. Due to that fact, his father suggested the year off to study abroad.

At Watertown High School, students attended five classes a day and were on the same schedule every day.

Among his most memorable moments in Watertown was one of his first physical education classes in which he broke his ankle. He was playing baseball in gym class, his favorite sport and most popular sport in Taiwan, when the accident occurred. He had never played the sport before, just watched it on television.

He also has memories of working on the farm, especially cutting the 3-acre lawn. "It was tough to do," he said.

Both Wu and Dianne Kennedy remembered how the high school student constantly missed the school bus. The Kennedys had a long driveway and Wu failed to make it to the bus on time. "In Taiwan the bus came every three minutes. Here you got one chance," he said.

"The best part for us was his cooking," Dianne Kennedy said. "We enjoyed the Taiwan food. We learned a lot about cooking. We taught him how to eat chocolate chip cookies and bratwurst.

"It was a wonderful two-way relationship."

While in Wisconsin, Wu became a big Badger, Brewer and Packer fan. For Christmas, his host parents got him tickets to a Packer game in December. "I sat on ice," he said of the experience.

Wu returned to Taiwan for future education before returning to the United States in 2016 to attend grad school at George Mason University in Virginia. He graduated in 2018 with a master's degree in sports management, at which time the Kennedys traveled to Virginia for the commencement exercise. That was the first time his Wisconsin parents met his real parents.

This summer he and a friend are taking a road trip to Canada and surrounding states. While traveling, they stopped in Watertown and took in the Wisconsin State Fair. It was the fourth time he had been to Watertown to visit his host parents since his high school graduation.

"He has been to all 50 states and all 25 Major League Baseball stadiums," Dianne Kennedy said.

After his travels in the United States and Canada this year, the 27-year-old will return to Taiwan to pursue a career in baseball management.

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