As if the arrival of springtime and the close of another school year weren't enough to have teen-agers' heads spinning, some Central Junior High School students are preparing for one of the biggest journeys of their lives a trip to Russia.
Fifteen Central students will leave Wednesday for the 2 -week trip, during which time they'll visit Moscow, St. Petersburg and the city of Izhevsk near the Ural Mountains.
"I'm kind of homesick already," said student Zabrina Payne.
"I can't wait," said student Curtis Zimmerman.
Regardless of how they're feeling now, the students undoubtedly will feel welcome during their stay with host families in Izhevsk, said Central teacher Pat Boyd, who also will make the trip.
She noted that even though the host families include professionals, such as doctors and engineers, they do not have graduated salaries as in the United States. So the very fact that they're playing host to the students shows they're eager to have them.
"EVEN THOUGH these are professional people, they are sacrificing a lot to have these kids in their homes," Boyd said.
The exchange was the brainchild of Julia Sidorenkova, a teacher of English at Udmurt University in Izhevsk. During a three-week visit to the United States in November, she became acquainted with Boyd and extended an invitation for her and some Central students to visit Izhevsk. The city of 600,000 is about an 18-hour train ride from Moscow.
The 15 Central students, all members of Central's Excaliber honor choir, have been busily preparing for the trip. The group has been meeting once every two weeks specifically to discuss the trip.
"We've had Russian speakers, and they've talked to us about people's attitudes and what's acceptable there," Zabrina said.
Some basic rules of etiquette: Gladly accept extra helpings of food whenever they're offered to you, and don't chew gum in front of elders.
THE STUDENTS also want to make sure they have plenty of gifts.
"We've bought lots of books about America and books that have lots of photographs," said student Joseph Campbell. Other smaller gifts include pencils, key chains and sunglasses, and the ever-present Kansas University Jayhawk is on many of the items.
The trip also has meant heavier classwork for the students. Four of the students studied Russian through the school district's Continuing Education program. Also, because the students are leaving a couple of weeks before classes end, they've had to do a lot of work in advance.
Some teachers assigned students work to do on their trip. Some students will interview Russians about their attitudes toward government for their social studies class, and other students will visit a science museum for their Technology class.
THE STUDENTS also have been busy fund-raising to help bring their Russian host brothers and sisters to Lawrence in the fall. Their families are paying their way to Russia, and their fund-raising efforts will pay the total amount to bring their Russian counterparts to Lawrence. With the help of businesses and service clubs, they've raised $6,000 so far. They still have about $4,000 to go.
But right now, all the students are thinking about is their trip to Russia.
"The parents are getting real frantic," said student Emily Unruh.
Other students making the trip are Seneca Theno, Loren Saunders, Hannah Bolton, Breanna Pine, Courtney Sandgren, Sarah Anderson, Mischa Smith, Risa Petty, Nelle Reeves, Matt Hochstetler and Suzanne Hasselle. The students will return May 30.