There are sure to be tears at the airport this Friday when Washington area families bid goodbye to the Marbach students they’ve hosted for the past two weeks. Fortunately, for most, the separation will be short.
At the end of May, the second part of the Sister City Youth Exchange will take place. Sandy Siess, longtime German teacher at St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, and Sister City Committee member, will accompany a group of 16 students and five adults on a tour of Europe, followed by a homestay in Marbach.
Sandy has visited Marbach on numerous occasions and will catch up with German friends in our marvelous sister city. She may even cross paths with a former student who has made the Marbach area her home, a lovely young woman whose connection to Germany began back in high school in the summer of 2006 when she went on a Sister City trip led by Sandy. As a result of that experience, Laura Eschbacher’s life was forever changed.
The motto of the Sister City Partnership is “We Are Friends.” It’s impossible to estimate how many long-term friendships have been spawned by the bond between our towns, but I know of a number because of my previous involvement with the Sister City program.
During those years, committee members used to wonder if there would ever be a wedding. Cupid has struck. In May 2014, wedding bells will chime for Laura and Fabian “Fabi” Heidrich in a ceremony that will take place in the United States, followed by another celebration in Germany for those who can’t make it to America.
At present Laura is living in Großbottwar, a village close to Marbach with the Brosi family who hosted her when she visited on the Sister City Youth Exchange and several months later when she returned for the 2006-’07 school year to attend the International Fellowship Class at Friedrich Schiller Gymnasium, Marbach’s high school.
The International Fellowship Class is open to students worldwide and offers an intense year of study. Laura left a lasting mark. She finished at the top of the class and went on to attend Webster University on a scholarship.
Laura’s success comes as no surprise to Sandy. She describes Laura as brilliant and “just a delight,” the type of student every teacher loves to have in class.
Though Laura and Fabi met in the International Fellowship Class, it wasn’t love at first sight. Laura said they were friends for some time, keeping in contact after the IFC by writing letters. Three years later, they realized their Sister City friendship had evolved into something more.
They stayed in touch via Skype and letter after letter, wishing they could be together but knowing that was impossible because they were in college.
The couple did manage to visit back and forth every six months or so. That gave Laura’s parents Mike and Tammi Eschbacher of Sullivan a chance to get to know Fabi, a young man they are really taken with and happy to welcome to the family.
In 2012, Laura moved to Germany and is working as a freelance English teacher and translator. She teaches business English to large companies in the Stuttgart area and tutors students, as well.
Though Cupid used to have his hands full keeping the long-distance couple in touch with one another, the imp’s job is now less stressful. Fabi lives close to Laura in Kleinbottwar. He’s finishing up his international business degree and working for Protec, a medical company he’s been associated with throughout his university studies.
Once Laura and Fabi are married, they will live in Germany for a while, and then see how their futures play out. Laura said via e-mail that an intercultural relationship can be challenging but that Fabi shares her “passion for cultures” and that the two are always “discovering, discussing and laughing about language mistakes together.”
“His family has taken me hiking and skiing in the Alps, and my family has taken him frog gigging and float tripping. There’s always something new. I think the key is to be open and say ‘yes!’ when fate hands you an adventure — something I was lucky enough to learn early in life through the Sister City program.”