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Former exchange student returns for reunion

Staff writer

If a long-distance prize had been given at the 25-year reunion of Peabody-Burns’s class of 1992, it would have gone to Joerg Forchel.

Forchel came from Krefeld, Germany, where he is now an investment banker, to attend the reunion.

Forchel was one of three exchange students that year. The others came from Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Some things about Peabody are different now while other things remain the same, Forchel said.

“The first thing I’m missing is the old high school building,” he said.

The town itself, though, especially the flag-decked downtown, looks “pretty much the same,” he said.

As for life in Kansas, many other things have changed since he spent a year here.

“Television was three channels and an antenna,” he said. “Now it’s different. Back then I used to write letters home to my family. Today email and Facebook make things a lot quicker.”

Forchel said he wanted to attend this year’s July 4 reunion to catch up with classmates.

“I just wanted to see old friends and see what has happened to them,” he said.

Peabody’s 1992 July 4 celebration and Peabody, Forchel said.

“On that evening, I got to say goodbye to everyone because everybody was at the fireworks,” he said.

Before he came to Peabody as an exchange student, none of his friends back home in Germany knew where Kansas was, he said. It’s not a state that gets enough international publicity for the name to be recognized.

Attending a small high school gave him opportunities he would have missed in a larger school.

“Being in a small school gave me the chance to do everything,” Forchel said.

When he entered the exchange program, he got to select the country where he wanted to attend school. He did not get to choose what part of the country.

“I wanted to see what America was like,” Forchel said.

His younger brothers also became exchange students.

After Forchel graduated at Peabody, he returned to Germany for two more years of high school.

Forchel’s year in Peabody as an exchange student and his American high school diploma later helped his career because employers were interested in the diversity of his background, Forchel said.

While spending two weeks in the U.S., he and his wife, Nina Jungmann, also will visit his host parents, Ben and Sue Richenburg, who now live in Muscotah, and spend time at Key Largo, Florida.

Forchel and Jungmann have visited the U.S. six times, and the Richenburgs have visited them several times in Germany.

His last high school reunion at Peabody was five years ago.

“This time is a special time,” Forchel said.

Last modified July 7, 2017

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