More students experience the Gilbert Sister Cities Programme

ANTRIM and Newtownabbey Borough Council could be about to expand the Sister Cities Student Exchange Programme with Gilbert, Arizona.

Following a request from Gilbert to increase the number of participants, councillors will be asked at their forthcoming meeting, on Monday 24 February, to consider the possibility of accommodating two additional local young people. It’s a once in a lifetime experience with returning students from Gilbert.

Now in its 20th year, the Sister Cities Student Exchange Programme continues to provide Antrim and Newtownabbey’s young adults with an opportunity to travel to Gilbert in Phoenix Arizona, USA to develop an understanding of a different country, its culture and people through a family living experience.

Every year four students are selected to participate in the programme, two from Antrim and Newtownabbey and two from Gilbert. This new proposal would see a total of eight students take part with four coming from each area.

The students are matched with a student partner in the USA and over the six week programme spend half the time spent in Gilbert and half in Antrim and Newtownabbey with their returning student partner.

The programme activities will help build the students self-confidence, improve their communication skills and encourage the young people to adapt to different environments. In the long term, the relationships built last long after the programme completes, providing linkages for future education opportunities and employment giving the students a presence on an international stage.

Welcoming the proposal, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Alderman John Smyth said: “The Gilbert Sister Cities Programme is an amazing opportunity for young people to immerse themselves in the cultures and customs of others and open themselves to new experiences and opportunities.

“If agreed, this proposal will give even more students a magnificent chance to try something completely different and learn so much more about themselves and others.”

Previous participating students provided feedback about their experience:

“I have used this experience on both my CV and university application and it has helped create discussion as many people are interested by my experience in Arizona! I found that it has greatly developed my insight into different cultures.”

“The exchange programme was amazing and really opened up my eyes to new experiences and a new culture, and I feel that it has taught me to be independent and also how to adapt to new situations quickly.”

“The programme has helped me and impacted my life in many different ways. It allowed me to develop my confidence through travelling by myself. It has also taught me to become more independent as a person.”

“An opportunity that is beyond all expectations. Gaining not only another sister and best friend for life but a whole new extended family. I have gained so much confidence in myself, tried things and done things I didn’t believe I could do.”

If you would like to find out more about the Student Exchange Programme and details of the next application process please contact: Carly Long E. carly.long@antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk or T. 028 9034 0053.

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