So, Who Really has the Oldest Sister City Relationship, and Where are they Today?
Although many communities cite evidence of early sister city exchanges and activities, Sister Cities International has verified that officials from Toledo, Ohio and Toledo, Spain signed a twinning document in 1931 linking their communities, making these two cities the oldest documented sister city relationship.
“Becoming Honorary Toledoans”: Sister Cities Program & University Partner to Further Educational Ties
Toledo’s sister city program has grown immensely, with 12 current sister cities. Toledo’s sister cities have provided the perfect platform for partnering with the University of Toledo (UT) in UT’s quest for international outreach for undergraduate students. As part of its international outreach, UT offers in-state tuition to students from Toledo’s sister cities who travel to UT for their college education.
Mark Schroeder, Director of International Admissions at University of Toledo, has been at the forefront of this outreach to international students. Mark regularly meets schools officials, students, mayors, and embassy staff in Toledo’s sister cities to promote this initiative.
Mark said, “Sister Cities was indeed a great jumping off point for our global outreach. We truly wanted to live what sister city relationships are about. Students pay in-state tuition because they are honorary Toledoans– a part of our family.”
By 2013, 200 students had taken advantage of this program, including students from China, Lebanon, Spain, Poland, and Japan. And what is the reaction from potential students when they hear about this initiative?
Mark said, “If they don’t know about it already, they’re pleasantly surprised! Their first reaction is “60% tuition reduction? Really!?”
Mark’s UT colleague, Dr. Thomas G. Gutteridge, Senior Vice Provost and Interim Dean for the College of Social Justice and Human Service, as well as a long-serving TSCI Board Member exemplifies the University’s partnership with TSCI.
Tom elaborated, “The University of Toledo offers a summer program for students from its sister cities. The University and its faculty provide not only an academic experience but also housing and cover other living expenses.”
Professors and students also visit universities in sister cities regularly, “We reached out to the Lebanese diaspora in the region and spoke to them about growing operations in Lebanon.” Based on their recommendations, UT and the American University of Beirut are all set to open a joint institute focusing on medicine and health sciences.
In 2013, TSCI’s flagship annual cultural event, the International Festival, was hosted at UT.
“We had space here at the University and hundreds of students interested in international affairs as well as international students,” Tom stated.
These students joined hundreds of Toledo residents at the festival showcasing cultures from around the world, making it the highest attended event in the festival’s four-year history.
TSCI Executive Director, Dr. Susan Miko said, “Wonderful interactions have taken place over the years between TSCI and our sister cities, focusing on cultural, humanitarian and economic development initiatives. While those typically involved adult interactions, we are also quite proud of the TSCI commitment to education, which has included a long-standing annual International Youth Academy that brings high school aged youth to Toledo from their sister cities for a two week program each summer…”
“The partnership of UT and TSCI has brought college age students into the sister cities movement. If we can get our youth to become friends across borders, they can bring about a positive change in attitude. I have no doubt that the world will be a better place because of their actions.”