It’s another COVID victim: A summertime exchange of high-school students with Arlington’s Sister City of Aachen, Germany, appears likely to be on hold for a third straight year.
“The exchanges have been paused until we get more clarity on the safety of international travel for our students,” the Sister City Association said in an e-mail to boosters Jan. 5.
“While we have been continuously working with our Aachen partners in anticipation of a return of high-school exchanges for summer 2022, it is apparent, with the current state of the pandemic with increases in infections and lockdowns in Germany, the summer program had to be postponed,” the organization said. “We are hopeful that we can resume one of our most popular programs as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Aachen Committee is looking for alternative student programming to help bridge the gap until we can resume our exchanges.”
In pre-COVID times, high-schoolers from Arlington usually traveled to Aachen over the summer months, with Aachen students coming to Arlington in autumn.
(In preparation for resumption, the organization is seeking a volunteer coordinator of the exchange programs, which in addition to high-school youth saw younger students travel annually between Arlington and Aachen in pre-pandemic times.)
Postponement of the exchange was another COVID-related setback, even though the Sister City Association has been making progress in the interim, keeping relationships alive and helping to resuscitate others.
“Although the world is not completely open yet, we are optimistic that we will be able to begin some of our exchanges later in 2022,” organization president Hanna Eun said. “ In the meantime, keep checking in for some exciting new programs.”
In addition to Aachen, the Sister City Association oversees relationships with Reims, France; Coyoacán, Mexico; Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, and San Miguel, El Salvador.
“During the first half of 2022, we will embark upon a strategic-planning process,” Eun said. “We will be reaching out [to our members] to find out what you want. More cultural programs? Lectures? Kids programs? Book talks? International travel? We really want to hear.”
A proposed plan is likely to be Among the various partnerships within the Arlington Sister City Association umbrella:
• Orlando Gamarra, president of the San Miguel Sister City Committee, will travel to El Salvador this month to coordinate with his counterparts in San Miguel. Meetings with the mayor and discussions with educational and cultural leaders are planned.
• The Ivano-Frankivsk Sister City Committee has new co-presidents: Sophia Tailor and Charlie Toth. They will succeed Eileen Kropf, who has led the committee for the past 18 months.
“As a native Ukrainian who grew up in Virginia and now lives in Arlington, I am so excited to lead the Ivano-Frankivsk Committee by strengthening partnerships between and celebrating the cultures of our two communities,” Tailor said.
Toth also has a connection to Ukraine, having recently lived there for several years.
The Arlington Sister City Association was established in 1993, and operates independently of, although with some financial support from, the Arlington County government. For information on the organization, see the Website at www.arlingtonsistercities.org.
The Sister City concept originated out of the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s, designed as a way to foster international friendships in the tense Cold War era. Today, according to the International Sister City Association, there are 500 participating communities in 140 countries, with a total of 2,000 partnerships.