The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

Meet the Staff
Elinor Russo
Elinor Russo
Captions Editor

Elinor Russo is a junior and photographer on staff. She is involved in NHS, Link Crew, and Fiberbirds. Outside of school, she enjoys crocheting, cooking, playing piano, and gardening.

FEATURE: Life as an American Teen

Head of German student newspaper shares her exchange program experience
Lady Ortega-Perez
Sister Cities exchange student Lotta Schünemann stands next to Firebird statue

Life as an American Teen

I am a German exchange student with the Sister Cities program between Lawrence and Eutin, I visited Free State High School for three weeks. While here, I lived with a host family and my host sister who also attends this school. After choosing my classes freely, I visited them every day and experience the “typical American school life” and spent time with my host family in the afternoons. 

However, I did not come to Lawrence alone. In addition to my teacher, 11 other students from Eutin traveled with me to visit Lawrence High or Free State. In addition to one-day excursions, such as visiting Kansas City, we flew to New York for a week on Oct. 12 before returning to Germany. 

There’s No Place Like Home

Something I missed from home is plain frozen yogurt! In America, “plain” is vanilla flavored, but in Germany it’s actually plain. Besides my family and friends, I also missed the Baltic Sea, from which I live only 15 minutes away from by car, and often go swimming in the summer. I also missed German bread. Most of the stores in Germany have healthy bakery-style bread — along with actual bakeries — while there are only a few places in Lawrence that have actual homemade bread.

What Things Do I Like Here?

Definitely the openness people have with each other! I was very warmly welcomed everywhere and many people were very helpful and interested in my story. I also think it’s interesting how sports are integrated into school here. We do have professional sporting schools in Germany like badminton at Luisenschule — which are very difficult to get into — but normally sports activities take place outside of school. Unfortunately, you often have to choose between school stuff like homework and training. I also particularly enjoyed the visits to the college football games.

Why the Exchange?

I am very interested in cultural exchange. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot with my German family around Europe, but I had never been to the United States. I wanted to see the way of life here. What do people do here? How and what do they think? What are their values? What is different from home? What might be better and what might be worse? 

Despite the fact that each exchange student of the Sister Cities program has a host family, host siblings, their teacher and the other students at their side, in some situations you are also on your own. Thus, an exchange can amount to a lot of self-discovery. I learned a lot about other cultures and places, as well as about myself and life.

The Sister Cities Program 

Eutin has been the official German sister city of Lawrence since Oct. 27, 1989. The first educational contacts between the cities were established as early as 1964. Even before the exchanges between high school students took place, there were many exchanges with students and teachers from University of Kansas [KU] beginning in 1966. Many of these programs are still active today. For example, I was able to meet a KU student in Eutin just before I left.

More information about the sister city program is available at


Every year, students from Lawrence High School [LHS] and Free State also visit us in Eutin in the early summer. If you are also interested in learning about German culture, festivals and cities like Hamburg, Kiel, Lübeck and Berlin next year, making international friends and learning more about yourself, you can contact European history teacher, Arne Scholz.

If you don’t like to travel, but still want to contribute to the exchange and city friendship, you can also host a German student like me. Please contact Scholz at [email protected] or talk to him personally in Room 214. German language skills are not necessary.

Fun fact — Scholz used to be a teacher at my school in Eutin. He accompanied the student exchange as a young teacher and fell in love with a woman here in Lawrence. He then moved from Eutin to Lawrence a few years ago, married the love of his life and went on to teach at LHS and now Free State.

So What?

This exchange has been the best time of my life so far. I recommend that every student take advantage of such a unique opportunity. It was the most valuable time of my life, and I look forward to welcoming some of you to my hometown in 2024! If you have any further questions about the program, my time here or myself, you can reach me on Instagram at @Lot.taa.

About the Contributor
Lady Ortega-Perez
Lady Ortega-Perez, News Photo Editor
Lady Ortega-Perez is a Junior at Free State and is in her second year of journalism with the title of Photo Editor for the Free Press Newspaper. Outside of journalism, she is co-president of Key club, webmaster for the Kansas district level of key club, part of equity council, city of Lawrence coalition for equity, and choir.
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