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Austin Wellman continues adventures in Kuwait

Austin Wellman speaks to students at his former school, St. John the Baptist, in Vermillion. Wellman is teaching English in Kuwait. (Star Gazette photo by Jane Lightbourn)

Austin Wellman has always had the spirit of adventure. As a member of the University of Minnesota marching band, he traveled extensively around the country. He even spent a semester in Hawaii.

He is now teaching second grade at the American International School in Kuwait.

For the past two weeks, Wellman returned home to Vermillion and visited his former school -- St. John the Baptist. The second grade students of Maria Therres have become pen pals of his students in Kuwait. The visit provided an opportunity for the students to learn more about Kuwait.

On this visit, St. John's students wanted to know about the country -- everything from where it is located, the schools and the students.

This privately-run school is much larger than St. John's with 1,000 elementary students and another 1,000 students at the upper level. Wellman teaches in English, although the official language of the country is Arabic.

"The families want their children to learn English," he said.

There are about 200 teachers at the school, most of them from the United States and Canada, and Wellman lives in an apartment building where the single teachers live.

As part of last Thursday's visit, Wellman took photos of the St. John's students by snow banks surrounding the school's playground. It will be a new glimpse of life here in Minnesota for his Kuwait students.

Very few of his students have seen snow. The coldest temperature in Kuwait is about 32 degrees, he said.

"But when it gets hot, it is very hot," he said. During the summer months, temperatures can reach 120 degrees.

When taking the photo of the 25 students by the snow banks, Wellman had them greet his students in Arabic. He taught them a phrase, which translated means, "Peace to you," or "Hello."

Wellman is enjoying life and teaching in Kuwait City. He signed a contract to teach at the school for two years.

Following graduation from Hastings High School, he attended the University of Minnesota for communications studies and music. He enrolled at Hamline to obtain his teaching license.

How he got this particular teaching position is unique. Last summer he attended a convention sponsored by the University of Northern Iowa.

"Teacher candidates come from all over," he said. "I met the superintendent of Kuwait there."

He had an interview at 11 a.m., returned for another at 6 p.m. and was offered a position at the American International School. He soon accepted.

"I had the itch to go," he said.

The pay is comparable to teaching positions here, plus the school supplies the housing and pays for the airfare there.

"What's impressed me the most is how easy it is to live there," said Wellman. "As soon as I walked into the building, I had instant friends. And it is a safe place to be."

There are familiar businesses as well, including an Applebee's.

And the people - most of whom are doing very well economically - are the same as those who live here, said Wellman. They are friendly and warm and caring.

"They want their kids to do well," he said. "They want them to be safe and they care about providing good education for them."

Wellman returned to Kuwait earlier this week.