An ongoing series of reports, articles, and news items about the Arlington
Sister City Association's programs and activities, plus news from its Sister Cities

                September 29, 2019
Celebrating 25 Years of High School Exchange between Aachen and Arlington
Editor's Note: 
Seventeen high school students and two chaperones from Arlington went to Aachen, Germany in July for the outbound segment of the 2019 Arlington-Aachen High School Exchange. In this article, Yuchen Zhang, one of the two trip leaders, and student Kevin Farrell share their experiences. We will welcome our Aachen exchange partners for the inbound portion of the exchange from October 9 to 22, 2019. 
The Arlington-Aachen High School Exchange is the longest running exchange program of the Arlington Sister City Association, and in 2019 we celebrate its 25th anniversary.
To find more about the 2020 Arlington-Aachen High School Exchange please come to our Information Session on October 17, 2019 7:00 p.m. at Arlington Mill Community Center.  Click here for additional information.  
Reflections of a Trip Leader
By Yuchen Zhang
This past July, I along with William Lomax, led 17 Arlington high school students on a cultural exchange to Aachen and Berlin, Germany as part of an Arlington Sister City Association high school exchange. When we arrived in Aachen, we were warmly greeted by all our host families. After seeing the smiling faces and exchanges of hugs among the students, I knew this was going to be a fantastic 17 days of adventure and fun.
Our first days in Aachen were packed with activities that helped us get to know this historic city, including a team scavenger hunt in the city center starting at the Elisenbrunnen, plus visits to the Charlemagne Museum, Newspaper Museum and beautiful Aachen Cathedral.
The first day of touring Aachen
Our first day of touring Aachen 

Our German partners made sure to keep us engaged by planning many fun recreational activities, such as testing our strengths and courage in the high-ropes courses at Kletterwald, a 30+ mile bike ride to Belgium, and even more fun at
Die Halle, the local sport center.
Students and trip leaders enjoying themselves in Kletterwald and Die Halle
Not only did we get to know Aachen, but since we were so close to Belgium and the Netherlands, the group had lots of opportunities to explore the region by touring the caves in Maastricht and hiking to the Dreiländerpunkt, where the three countries meet. We also got to tour the beautiful cathedral in Cologne, and visited the Haus der Geschichte museum in Bonn, as well as the quaint city of Monschau.
We hiked to Dreiländerpunkt in record time! Officially in 3 countries at once!
Soon, we had to say goodbye to the amazing host families that housed us for the duration of our time in Aachen as our two weeks here came to an end. After a lovely potluck farewell party followed by soccer and football, we packed our bags and got ready for our next destination: Berlin!
American and German students hanging out on the last night in Aachen
Students got to learn much of German history first hand with an informative bike tour of the Berlin Wall and visiting Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate.
Arlington and Aachen trip leaders, along with students at the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate
Our time in Berlin ended much too quickly as our 17-day Arlington-Aachen exchange came to an end. There were many tears shed and hugs exchanged among the students as German and Arlington students made promises to keep in touch and visit soon. The goodbyes were made easier as students look forward to the inbound portion of the trip where their new German friends will come to this side of the pond in October. I know this trip has been incredibly valuable and educational for all our students on many fronts, from gaining knowledge and appreciation for Germany and the European Union to becoming experienced world travelers to building new friendships.  
I was grateful to have been part of such an amazing program that bridges cultural gaps and allows our young people to forge friendships across the ocean and therefore work towards a more united world. As another trip leader put it, "this was a rich experience that truly complements the rich educational experience of the Arlington Public Schools!" Happy 25th Anniversary and I wish this program 25 more years to come! 
Yuchen Zhang is a former counselor at Yorktown High School in Arlington who has recently relocated to Seattle, WA.
Reflections from My Time in Aachen
By Kevin Farrell
This past July, I traveled nearly four thousand miles to the city of Aachen in the west of Germany as part of the Arlington-Aachen high school exchange. The seventeen days we spent with our exchange partners from Aachen and each other were not only memorable, but also taught us about German history, culture, and current affairs.
During our time in Aachen, we had group activities almost every day with something for everyone; from attending school with our exchange partners to day trips to nearby cities to riding bikes seeing the region.
In one of my favorite activities, we spent one day on a cycling tour, taking us to the town of Raeren in Belgium
With us for all of this were our exchange partners from the various schools in and around Aachen. It certainly seemed daunting at first to spend two weeks with a family which I had only spoken to over the phone, but as any of the participants will tell you, our host families all showed the warmest of hospitality.
For me, the best part of the trip was living like an Aachener for the duration of my stay. My host family lives in the central city area, and I especially loved getting to know the streets, popping into a store that caught my eye, and sitting in a cafe in the Markt (Market Square) across from the Rathaus (Town Hall) and simply talking. My exchange partner is a member of the Scouts, and he took me to two of his meetings in a building called the Ponttor (Town Gate), where one of my partner's friends bragged, "We're in a building older than your country" (about which I was more jealous than anything else!).
Spending two and a half weeks together brought us closer to not only our host families and exchange partners, but also to each other. All of us in the group, both German and American, got to know each other, and each of the student participants had, by the end of the trip, made a few new friends among the German and American students.
David, my exchange partner, and I spending some down-time together 
During my time in Aachen, I got to experience the best of both feeling welcomed and at home but also being in an exciting new place. As I write this, October is fast approaching and we are all looking forward to seeing our exchange partners again and showing them the same wonderful hospitality which they so graciously showed us. However, this time we won't be meeting them after their long day of travel as strangers, but as good friends.
Kevin Farrell is a junior at Yorktown High School in Arlington.
The Arlington Sister City Association (ASCA) is a nonprofit organization established in 1993. ASCA works to enhance and promote Arlington's international profile and foster productive exchanges in education, commerce, culture, and the arts.