Once Lawrence residents find a sister city, they apparently don't waste any time setting up cultural exchanges.
After spending a couple of years courting towns in France, Spain and Japan, Lawrence residents finally found a Sister City. It's only been about five weeks since a delegation from Eutin, West Germany, came to Lawrence and formalized an "agreement of friendship," sealing its status as Lawrence's sister city.
Now, members of the local Friends of Eutin group already are asking Lawrence High School students to apply for a six-week high school student exchange between Lawrence and Eutin this summer.
Frank Baron, a Kansas University German professor and member of Friends of Eutin, said the group's members believe that a meaningful relationship between the two cities should probably begin with exchanges of high school students.
SINCE 1966, about 600 KU students have participated in Eutin's Summer Language Institute, so an exchange of high school students would be new but not completely unfamiliar territory.
"Certainly I think this is an important area, and so do my colleagues," said Baron. "In Great Bend, the high school exchange (between Great Bend and its German sister city) is an important part of that relationship."
Sometimes, he said, that initial contact between the students and the families they have stayed with has grown into visits between the families and other kinds of contact.
Baron believes that the experience of actually living with a foreign family can enhance anyone's perspective.
"It really changes lives, living together and getting familiar with a different culture," he said. "This isn't just a tourist experience, going to see things, but they see how people live and they can get integrated, to to speak, in their lives."
FRIENDS OF Eutin's preliminary plans, he said, call for the KU students traveling to Eutin for the language institute in June and the high school students arriving in Eutin about a week later. Then, at some point during the summer, a Lawrence delegation would visit Eutin.
Friends of Eutin's members have agreed that a group of Lawrence representatives should go to Eutin soon, possibly this summer, as a follow up to the Eutin delegation's visit to Lawrence late in October.
"This is not something that will be at the city's expense," he said. "The people would go on their own."
Now, the Friends of Eutin group is getting ready to publish its first newsletter and its members also are examining the possiblity of a computer communication link between the high school in Eutin and LHS.
BARON SAID that although Eutin does not have a university, the city is home to a police academy and he envisions possible exchanges between law enforcement officers. Exchanges between civic organizations and other groups in the two cities also are possible, he said.
Baron said he has noticed that interest in traveling to Germany seems to have been heightened by the recent developments in East Germany and Eastern Europe.
The KU students at Eutin's Summer Language Institute have typically visited Berlin each year, he said, and he expects that visit to take on new meaning this summer.
Hannelore Hess, a German teacher at LHS, has given applications to about 20 students; the deadline is Dec. 22. From those applications, a committee will choose about six students, based on their academic and personal qualifications, probably in late January.
"I DON'T want to be the one who decides this," Hess said of the LHS students who will apply. "I know them all too well and I would like them all to go. It would be very hard to make the choice."
Hess keeps in contact with LHS students who've gone on other exchanges to Germany. This year, Bryan Young, LHS junior, is participating in the prestigious a Congress-Bundestag Student Exchange Program and is staying with a family in the central German village of Birkenhordt. Hess said Bryan writes to her and to LHS German students.
"He's written about his impressions of the events there, the Berlin Wall," said Hess. "The kids are very interested in that, they see that it's an exciting time for Germany."
Baron said the Friends of Eutin would also like to raise money for capable students who would be unable to afford the trip, he said.