RACHEL YOUNG

7:08 pm | July 29, 2013

students called to each other as they left the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee BBQ on Sunday.

This German phrase exchanged between an American and a German meaning “see you tomorrow,” shows these students are taking a step of courage to make friends with people of other cultures and overcome differences at the people to people level.

The Pasadena Sister Cities Committee hosted a BBQ to celebrate the seven students here from the sister cities in Germany, Armenia, Finland, and Japan as well as the three students who recently returned from Germany and Finland through the program.

This was first time to have so many students in Pasadena at the same time as the American students are usually away when the foreign students come here. The BBQ provided a perfect place to share their experiences and stories.

“People to people is different than government to government. That is the idea about Sister Cities, it is that people to people connection that they have because they have been here and that our students have because they have been there,” volunteer Michael Warner said.

The Sister Cities Committee provides a new home in Pasadena each week for the students visiting from Japan, Armenia, Finland, and Germany over the summer so that each family can show what they love about Pasadena. The students stay from two-six weeks.

One couple has been involved for over 25 years. Gary, a 79-year-old who surfs competitively, gives all the students surfing lessons including Alina and Felix who stayed with them in the past two weeks.

‘Felix got up on his first try. We have so much fun with them, we take them places and help them with their homework at night. I love getting to know teenagers and students from another country and their viewpoints on life. They become kind of like our kids,’ Gary’s wife Linda Stellern said.

The Stellern’s were able to go to Germany last summer for a celebration in Ludwigshafen, Pasadena’s sister city. They stayed with the grandparents of one of the students who had stayed with them several years ago.

Jordan Lopez, a second year PCC student who just returned from Germany on July 4, thinks everybody should seek out a program to live with a family from another country. He worked and lived in Germany for six weeks while taking classes and living with a host family.

“I am glad I had the experience to learn what it is like to live as a German. To wake up with the family and be a part of their routine. You wake up in some else’s life for six weeks; it is something that is unbelievable,” Lopez said.

When he was in Germany his family took him to see the Hockenheimring, a racetrack for normal cars. He had never seen anything like it and loved that he could see something he was passionate about. Lopez felt he learned so much about the culture and that his German really excelled.

“The experience was great, the work was great, but it was the people you meet that really make the experience,” Lopez said.

Veronica Glavez, second year PCC student, also loved her experience in Germany, especially the history, castles, and the food.

“The food was great. I learned how to make frigadellas and how to make saurkraut. One of my favorite meals was the potato and noodle soup. One of my families gave me a German cookbook,” said

Michelle Tanner who is a senior at UC Berkeley had just returned from Finland the day before, on Saturday July 27. Her first experience abroad opened her eyes to the wonders of the world and now she hopes to study abroad during her last year of college.

“They made sure I was able to visit all the great places, eat all of the great food and have a very traditional Finish experience with a Finish family. It is something that you do not get when you are a tourist because when you are visiting you are only getting the surface level experience,” Tanner said.

Volunteering with the Sister Cities Committee since 1981, Michael Warner currently serves as the Chair of the German subcommittee. He takes care of placing the students in homes and registering them for classes at PCC. He also helps with the Pasadena students who go abroad.

“I feel that they get something out of it, it is an experience for them that I did not have when I was a kid, my German experience was compliments of the military, but I was still grateful for it,” Warner said.

Warner referenced the visit of the Vice Premier of China last year to Washington D.C. One thing the Vice Premier wanted to do was to visit his host family in Ohio that he had stayed with when he an exchange student.

“My point on that is that because he had that experience and because he is eventually most likely going to be a high political figure in China, that gives him a much different perspective than if he did not have that experience,” Warner said. “He would not know that face to face we are the same type of people. The fact that we wanted to see his host family shows that it meant something to him.”

The idea for the Sister Cities came from Dwight Eisenhower who wanted to improve relations with Germany and Japan after WWII. He thought that if people could make friends with people across the seas it would be harder to want to go to war because of that personal tie.

Even today those ties are important because the people who come to Pasadena may become strong leaders and have a better view of the U.S. as they make decisions.

“Regardless of who these kids are, they will now have a different perspective on their future,” Warner said.

The opportunity to visit one of the sister cities is available to all high school and college students age 17-24 who are residents of Pasadena or attend school in Pasadena.