Two Higley Unified School District seniors came back to school this year with stories from around the world after serving as sister cities youth ambassadors.
Jonah Call, a senior at Williams Field High, and Lindsey Giles, a senior at Higley High, were student ambassadors through the Gilbert Sister Cities program. Call spent two weeks with a family in Leshan, China, while Giles spent three weeks with a family in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland.
During their time overseas as sister cities youth ambassadors, both Call and Giles gained valuable insights into how other cultures go about things. They were blown away by some the intricacies of the cultures in China and Northern Ireland, as well as the countries themselves.
“It was unexpected how small Ireland was,” Giles said. “There, you can drive for six hours and go coast-to-coast, where here, you can drive six hours and barely be in the next state over.”
Call said the people in China were extremely friendly and the country and its people were much more like the United States than he expected. Many of the teens acted in similar ways to their American peers. Giles talked about how people can travel and experience a new place, but not a lot of people get the opportunity to be entirely immersed in a new culture and get to experience somebody else’s life.
“It’s such an eye-opening experience to be somewhere else and live with someone else and see somebody else’s daily life,” Giles said. “They were so kind to me and their house was always so full of laughter.”
Both students were happy they took their trips and viewed their respective experiences as a privilege. They also recommend the program and the experience to others.
“I’ll try to tell anybody I know who’s a junior at Williams Field,” Call said. “It’s such a cool experience that realistically you probably won’t ever get again. You get to have a friendship with somebody from the other side of the world.”
Call and Giles endured a rigorous selection process in order to receive the honor of representing their schools and town.
The application and interview process included nearly five months of events, fundraisers and socials, all while being watched and graded by the selection committee on how well they talked to different people at different functions.
At the end of the process, the students participated in a group interview, followed by an individual interview for the finalists. Four students from Gilbert participated this past summer.