Lando Winter, 16, came to the U.S. in August of 2021 from Germany, through an exchange student program through FLAG International (Foreign Links Around the World). His exchange family includes Julie Hawkins of Maud ISD, her husband, and three sons.
When Lando arrived in the U.S. he asked Julie if there was any way he could play tennis while he was here in the states, something he loved to do back home. Unfortunately, Maud ISD didn’t have a tennis program, but thanks to the hard work and dedication from Julie and others from the district, they were able to sign Lando up. “When he came, I didn’t know if he was good or not. I just kept taking him to different practices with other teams around the area, and they kept saying, ‘Julie he’s pretty good.’ I don’t think I realized just how talented he was until we got to regionals and then state,” Julie gushed.
“We spend a lot of time in the car,” Lando laughed, as he talked about the amount of time he and Julie have spent together over the last 11 months. Julie and her family live in DeKalb, commute to Maud for school, and then travel throughout the Texarkana area to take Lando to different practices, matches and tournaments. “On top of taking Lando to everything, we also have three other boys in competitive baseball. It’s been crazy,” laughed Julie.
Lando and Julie have created a strong bond in the time he has spent with her family. “I really am just the moral support here. I drive him, I feed him, I encourage him, and the rest he has done on his own,” said Julie. “I was really surprised when I won the State Championship. It’s a huge thing to do. I only came in 2nd at Regionals, and I also injured my shoulder which made it harder,” said Lando. “I told him we have to think smarter about his injury. In the end, he didn’t even raise his arm over his head the entire tournament. It was truly special to see him win,” said Julie.
Now that Lando is only 5 weeks away from returning home, he reflected on all of the things he has been able to do since he arrived. “It’s been really cool being here. I have seen so many different things, and tried a lot of different food. The living differences have been crazy. I think I own a pair of pajamas for every holiday now, but in Germany we don’t do that. I came here with one pair and am leaving with a lot more,” Lando laughed while looking at Julie. “I’ve been able to visit Colorado with the Hawkins family, and through the FLAG program I’ve been to Washington, D.C. and the Grand Canyon,” said Lando. “It’s been a lot to get to know another culture, since it was my first time out of Europe, but it has been a great experience being here, learning to practice English as my second language, and meeting everyone that I have. It was truly a win coming here,” said Lando.
Lando and the Hawkins family are making plans in the future to reconnect, hopefully on German soil so Lando can show them his hometown. Lando hopes to attend University in the future, maybe in the United States if he is able to receive a scholarship. Congratulations to Lando on your big win at State, and safe travels on your journey back home!