Commentary by Nicholas Johnsen
When the long midsummer months of June and July come to mind, many here in the Valley think of fireworks, monsoon rainstorms and, of course, sweltering heat.
The pool is never a bad way to go when the thermometer breaks triple digits almost daily. Some, however, see the weeks of potential free time as an opportunity to experience something new.
This is the elite group of 2019’s Sister Cities delegates, who arrived home over the weekend from the international youth exchange program, feted at a welcome dinner after experiencing their month-plus of overseas immersion and travel. The organization is now gearing up to enter the second phase of its annual summer program, this portion offering a personalized view of the U.S. to the delegates’ corresponding exchange-student partner from somewhere else in the world.
Now it’s time for the Americans to “strut their stuff,” so to speak, and show their European companions what they can bring to the globe-hopping adventure.
Wrangler News was able to speak with Sophia Montoya, a Corona del Sol 16-year-old, to get a better look into what the opportunity was like for her. When asked why she initially became involved in the program, she said it was something she’d always been interested in.
“The biggest adjustment while I was there was definitely understanding the slang and heavy accents, but I loved it! Galway was my favorite.” Sophia had returned with her exchange-student guest from Carlow, Ireland. The two advised that their next trip was going to be to the Grand Canyon— they had just gotten back from Sedona that day.
When asked if she would recommend the program to any prospective teenagers, she was affirmative without a doubt.
“I think one of the best parts about the program is that you get an opportunity to form unique friendships that last.”
There’s no doubt that such an awesome endeavor would result in lasting friendships for anyone involved.
After speaking with Sophia, a quick conversation with summer program director David Carrera (a position he manages alongside his wife, Diana) brought even more enthusiasm for the experience that Sister Cities provides. The Carreras have had two daughters themselves travel abroad through the program, and dad David said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When I was younger, I wanted my daughters to see the world—and I think that mentality is really what we’re trying to represent here.”
Carrera explained that, more and more, the world is becoming a global community, and it’s important to find ways to embody that.
Obviously, he confirmed, there’s no place quite like home, but an open mind can easily bring the endless joy of seeing how someone else does it. Groups like Tempe Sister Cities are working to show young people that celebrating the differences between places and cultures like this can be exactly what connects us.