Making memories in Ely

Exchange student Finn Liesching reflects on U.S. experience

by Tom Coombe
Finn Liesching came to Ely in part to hone up on his English skills and try out American sports.
The exchange student from Germany has done that, and much more, in his seven months in the community.
Liesching shared some of his experiences and anecdotes this week at the Tuesday Group luncheon.
“It’s been a blast here in Ely,” said Liesching, who is here as part of the Rotary Exchange Student initiative. “It’s been such a good time. All the people are so welcoming.”
The youngest of four children, Liesching opted to go abroad for his junior year of high school and will have two more years of high school to complete once he returns to his home, near the French border.
While he grew up playing soccer, the signature sport of his nation, Liesching also became a fan of the NFL and dabbled in American football in his home country.
The chance to play high school football in the United Stetes appealed to the gregarious Liesching, and he made an immediate impact for Ely’s Timberwolves.
Liesching was a two-way starter and a standout on Ely’s defensive unit.
“I wanted to try football and it turned out I wasn’t too bad,” said Liesching.
He told an audience of about 40 people at the Grand Ely Lodge that family members stayed up until 2 a.m., listening to Ely football games on WELY’s internet stream, and that they became some of Ely football’s biggest fans.
In Ely, Liesching’s host family has been Tom and Heidi Omerza and their four children, including high school junior Eric Omerza, who Liesching called “my best friend” in town.
“I can just say it’s been awesome to have them as a host family,” Liesching said of the Omerzas.‘They have really taken me into their family.”
Liesching and Eric Omerza are teammates on Ely’s high school boys basketball team, and in a slide presentation Liesching showed off a slew of memories and experiences from his time in Ely, from dress-up days and school dances to the Homecoming parade and trips to the Twin Cities.
In Germany, there is occasional snow and temperatures don’t stray far below 32 degrees, according to Liesching.
That’s created a major adjustment to Ely’s climate, particularly during a rugged cold stretch and frequent, lengthy Arctic blasts of subzero conditions.
“I wasn’t used to the cold,” said Liesching. “It was the first time my eyelashes froze.”
Liesching has worked as a teaching assistant in the high school’s German class and volunteered at the Ely Area Food Shelf.
While the Omerzas have housed Liesching, the exchange student has also bonded with members of the Ely Rotary, calling club members “my second family in Ely.”
Liesching will leave Ely shortly after the end of the school year, but before he returns home his parents will come to the United States and the family plans a trip to the west, including stops at the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.
He’s planning to attend college and is considering a career in law, but Liesching also intends to tour the world, and return to Ely.