20 years later, Eastern friendship still going strong

Analicia Haynes, Managing Editor


(From left to right) Chris Desmond, Jon Etchison, Patrick Meisberger, Matthias Eggert, Wolfgang Paquin, and Lutz Pehl recreate their graduation photo 20 years later in front of Old Main Saturday.

Analicia Haynes
(From left to right) Chris Desmond, Jon Etchison, Patrick Meisberger, Matthias Eggert, Wolfgang Paquin, and Lutz Pehl recreate their graduation photo 20 years later in front of Old Main Saturday.

As the minutes tick away and tomorrow becomes yesterday, all the jokes adults make about “the glory days,” or times spent partying with friends and being young slowly become reality during Homecoming.

It can be easy to forget just how fast time flies and even easier to neglect the thought that some friendships created in college will be left in the past.

However, six friends who spent a year together in Charleston and graduated from Eastern with their MBAs 20 years ago were able to create a lifelong friendship and relive their glory days everyday.

The six friends flew in from different parts of the world Friday evening to celebrate another year of Homecoming, one that was 20 years in the making.

Though they all make time to see each other throughout the year, whether through rendezvous in Spain or London or just a Skype video to say hi, this year was the friends’ first time being at Eastern together since graduating in 1996.

There was no filter in the conversations rekindling the memories that established their friendship years ago.

Chris Desmond, Jon Etchison, Patrick Meisberger, Matthias Eggert, Wolfgang Paquin, and Lutz Phel, four Germans and two Americans, found each other in small-town Charleston and made a new family.

The jokes were never-ending; as they bickered and made wisecracks at one another, it seemed like they were in college once again.

“It’s a little unreal,” Patrick said, shaking his head smiling as he sat in the stands at the Homecoming football game. “It’s really fun, and there are many memories that pop up.”

Patrick, who brought his wife and two young children from Germany to experience the school that he spent a year at, explained the American game to his daughter Nina and son Ben.

Meisberger, Eggert, Paquin and Phel graduated with undergraduate degrees from the University of Cologne in Germany.

The four hardly knew each other before coming to the U.S. on scholarships to get their Masters of Business Administration as part of the Eastern exchange program.

“Do you know ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’? (When I came here) I wanted that,” Lutz said, laughing.

Lutz described the first couple of weeks at Eastern as long and hard.

The content of the schoolwork was not what bothered him though; it was the excessive amount of homework and learning to adapt to an unfamiliar language and American social norms that made it difficult.

However, as those first few weeks slowly dissolved, Lutz said he made the remainder of his year just like the movie.

“The Germans,” as they were referred to by their friend group, made time to finish their work first, but always found time to party, especially at the infamous “Manor” apartment complex where they all met and the friendship started.

“We brought our party culture back to Eastern,” Lutz said.

Eggert, the first of the four to arrive in the U.S., said he was lucky Paquin and Meisberger were the ones who put a down payment on the apartment.

Jon Etchison helped Eggert when he first arrived, driving him to Wal-Mart and making him feel at home.

Though facing some culture shock, the four said it was easy to adapt in America. However, the “reverse culture shock” they felt when going home to Germany after a year in the U.S. really shook them.

“It was never my intention to go abroad to get my MBA,” Paquin said. “It was about the experience, living abroad in a different country and getting to know people. It took a while to figure that out. The first couple of months were hard.”

Then, when the winter months forced everyone to hunker down indoors, the fun still continued as everyone in the group cozied up with a glass of “Gluehwein,” or mulled wine.

From spontaneous road trips to Daytona Beach and Atlanta for the ‘96 Olympics to crazy girlfriends and outrageous parties that gave them their reputation, the friends made the most of their time in Charleston.

“I never knew it was an international student apartment,” Holly Etchison, Jon Etchison’s wife, said referring to the apartment she spent the year in just across the hall from Jon Etchison and the Germans. “I learned more that year from that apartment than that year at school.”

Holly and Jon Etchison recalled how the four Germans would ask “how to do this” or “why this,” and of course, “oh I hate this,” when referring to certain elements in American culture.

“It was fun to indoctrinate them in our culture and show them our perspective,” Jon Etchison said.

One of the things they hated, Jon Etchison said, was butter that really is not butter and juice without pulp.

“Juice without pulp is heresy,” Jon Etchison said. “It is against the law in Germany.”


Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]