Providing experience in international affairs and citizen diplomacy to youth is a critical part of any sister city program. Sister city exchanges are often the first opportunity that youth have to travel abroad, and the experience of being a guest rather than a tourist is a unique opportunity that helps them develop cross-cultural competence and maturity. Activities often include short- and long-term student exchanges, virtual exchanges, and sports tournaments. Educational exchanges, whether at the high school or college level, provide young people with the opportunity to develop professional skills under the umbrella of citizen diplomacy. These exchanges are often described by participants as “a life-changing experience,” and many current leaders in international affairs or diplomacy can trace their interest to their first sister city exchange.

Sister Cities International currently hosts three programs focusing on youth.

Click here for news on youth and education activities from our member network.

Students from Cork pose with a San Francisco sign on the way to their sister cityIn 2014, five middle school students and junior computer coding experts from Cork, Ireland visited San Francisco, California to exchange coding insights and other Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) activities. Combining youth, education, and technology, the exchange opened up new doors for all involved. The Irish students had a chance to teach their peers at a school in San Francisco how to code and to also learn from senior engineers in the coding field. This digital sister city exchange was celebrated throughout San Francisco and Cork by community members, parents, teachers, and students alike. Click here to learn more!
Students participate in drumming lessons during Gainesville-Qalqilya exchangeIn 2014, Gainesville, Florida, and its sister city of Qalqilya in the West Bank, initiated a unique learning opportunity for members of both communities. Two Deaf students and five hearing students, along with school staff and Deaf teachers, came from Qalqilya to Gainesville for the first educational exchange of its kind. This exchange followed sign language exchanges over Skype between Oak Hall High School and the school for the Deaf in Qalqilya—the only school serving Deaf students in the West Bank. The homestay experience helped both the Palestinian students and their American counterparts get a true glimpse into one another’s daily lives, and teachers and administrators were able to exchange best practices and plan for future activities. Currently, Gainesville is helping raise funds to expand the Deaf school in Qalqilya to serve 10th-12th grades. Click here to learn more!