The Burbank Sister City Committee has opened applications for city resident high school students who would like to join a group traveling to Ota, Japan, in the summer of 2022.
The original group of 12 students and two chaperones was selected in the fall of 2019 to prepare for a summer 2020 two-week tour. However, the coronavirus pandemic intervened and the Student Exchange Program trip to Ota was rescheduled, first to summer 2021, and most recently to summer 2022, due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
Several students who were selected for the 2020 Ota trip are still planning to travel in 2022. However, there are a few spaces for additional students to join the trip. The deadline for student applications is October 15, 2021.
The program’s purpose is to promote communication, goodwill and cultural awareness, as well as foster closer relationships as sister cities by offering the opportunity of better understanding between people of different countries.
Students must be Burbank residents, enrolled in grades 9 – 12 and their families must agree to host a visiting student or chaperone for two weeks of the subsequent two summers. If selected for travel, students and their families must commit to a minimum two-year active role with the BSCC.
For the past several decades, a small group of 12 students, plus two adult chaperones, travel to either Ota, Japan, or Incheon, Korea, every summer to stay in residential homes and experience life in each of those cities for two weeks.
After the Burbank students travel abroad, a few weeks later, a visiting delegation of student travelers and their chaperones from either Ota or Incheon visit Burbank families for a similar experience of life in Burbank, CA. Ota and Incheon alternate summer trips with Burbank. The summer when Burbank students visit Ota, students from Incheon visit. The following summer, when Burbank students visit Incheon, Ota students visit.
Burbank has established Sister City partnerships with four cities since 1960: Solna, Sweden (1960), Incheon, Korea (1961), Gaborone, Botswana (1975), and Ota, Japan (1984.) The Student Exchange Program is specifically set up for travel exchanges with Ota and Incheon.
“To promote these partnerships, the Burbank Sister City Committee strives to stimulate cultural and educational exchanges through community volunteers,” commented BSCC President James Callahan, whose daughters participated in the Student Exchange Program in previous years.
“Burbank’s relationships with our four Sister Cities have long enriched our community by spreading global awareness and bringing people together,” commented Burbank Mayor Bob Frutos. “The exchanges with Ota, Japan, and Incheon, Korea, each summer provide our Burbank students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live with a family in another country and experience everyday life, as well as welcoming Sister City students into their own homes.”
“The City Council appreciates having the partnership of the all-volunteer Burbank Sister City Committee to keep these wonderful exchanges going year after year,” Frutos added.
“My trip to Incheon, Korea, was amazing,” commented John Burroughs High School senior Nuala Giffen, who traveled with the Burbank delegation in summer 2019. “At first it was very difficult because it was hard to understand each other but with the power of Google Translate we were able to communicate really efficiently.”
“This was a phenomenal experience and I was able to learn so much about Korean culture.” she said. “I stayed with two different families who showed me their everyday lives and introduced me to a ton of new foods. There was definitely some culture shock from things like different showers, different eating utensils and also being able to walk alone outside at night. I got to form connections with so many different individuals and learn so much about them. We were able to talk about schooling, college and hobbies and also bond over TV shows we watched together.”
“During the days, we went on group field trips,” Giffen continued. “One of the days, we visited the DMZ which is the area that separates North and South Korea. There we learned so much about the history and also got to go down into the tunnels that North Korea had made when they tried to attack. It was crazy. I looked through telescopes as well and could see people on the other side in the North Korean army.”
“Another field trip that I really enjoyed was going to Seoul, wearing their traditional hanbok clothing. This gave me a real appreciation for their culture. Overall the trip was such a fun experience. I made so many friends, tried amazing food and learned a lot about their culture.”
Visit www.burbanksistercity.org for more information and student applications. Burbank Sister City Committee’s next meeting is Monday, September 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central branch of the Burbank Public Library, which is located at 110 N. Glenoaks Boulevard in Burbank.