Student exchange program connects sister cities - Tucson News Now

Student exchange program connects sister cities

Student participants. (Source: City of Sierra Vista) Student participants. (Source: City of Sierra Vista)
SIERRA VISTA, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Local students shared experiences they had overseas in a report to the Sierra Vista City Council, highlighting the impact of a long-running exchange program facilitated by the City’s Sister Cities Commission. 

In October, seven students from Buena High School, one from Tombstone High School, and six from Cananea, Mexico, traveled to Radebeul, Germany. Cananea and Radebeul are Sierra Vista’s sister cities and this annual exchange gives students a chance to experience the culture and lifestyle of their peers in other countries. Sixteen students from Radebeul will visit Sierra Vista in mid February.

“It opens up their horizons,” says Susanne Himstedt-Gilbert, chair of the Sister Cities Commission. Her own son participated in the exchange three years ago and is now considering a trip to Spain. She’s seen other past participants gain more confidence and interest to travel abroad as well.

While in Radebeul, local students stayed with host families, just as their German peers will do when they visit here. They went to German schools and learned how the government operates in the German state of Saxony. They also traveled to other cities in Germany including Berlin, and even spent a day in Prague and one in Switzerland. 

The students must pay for their flight but the City of Radebeul and its own commission covers the rest of the trip. In turn, Sierra Vista’s Sister Cities Commission raises funds by selling food at the City’s annual Oktoberfest event to pay for the costs associated with hosting the German students. 

“We’ve had great success at Oktoberfest and the exchange program has seen strong participation this year,” Himstedt-Gilbert says. 

Following the presentation to council at Thursday’s meeting, Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller thanked the commission, the chaperones, and the teacher at Buena High School who helped to facilitate the exchange. 

“We really appreciate the cooperation of the school board and everyone else in the community to make these trips available,” Mueller said, at Thursday’s meeting. 

When asked what the most valuable part of the trip was to them, the students from Buena said experiencing the food, visiting schools in Germany, and fostering relationships with their peers from Radebeul and Cananea. 

For more information about the Sister Cities exchange program, contact Susanne Himstedt-Gilbert at susihg@gmail.com.

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