Museum Blog

The World As a Classroom

By Kodee Summers

Traveling the world is a dream for many people. They want to experience a different culture and get to experience a day in the life of another. Many of us don’t get to experience different cultures at a young age. However, when foreign exchange programs fully came into practice in 1876, students from ages of as young as 13 to as old as 18 were able to experience this mind-opening experience of a new world. Most programs today support the idea of students getting to experience a different culture, even for the purpose of healing the relationship between two countries. 

The great thing about foreign exchange programs is they are all different and there is always a program for you. In our very own Canon City, we not only have many foreign exchange students that come to the high school, but we also have a Sister City in Valday, Russia. After the fall of communism, relations between Russia and the United States were still complicated. In 1992, Vaughn L. McClain and his wife Taan founded the Canon City Russia Sister City Association when they moved to Canon City. It still is running today–myself and three others, including my dad, were able to travel to Valday, Russia this past summer. It was an eye-opening experience that I would have never expected. In my time there, I met amazing people, and it made me realize how alike all teenagers act and feel regardless of where they’re from.

In describing the high school’s exchange program, the Canon City Daily Record stated on the 4th of November, 1998, “Students came from Brazil, Germany, Peru, and New Zealand in addition to Australia and China.” Those are just some of the many countries that have traveled to our town to experience our great American culture. This semester, I am fortunate enough to host a foreign exchange student from Malaysia for five months. She comes from an exchange program called the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program. YES was established by Congress in October 2002 after the tragic event on September 11, 2001. They provide scholarships to students from Muslim countries in an effort to improve awareness of religious differences and form close relationships between the youth of our country and the exchange student’s country.  So far, it’s working!

Lapel pin likely commemorating Cañon City’s sister city relationship with Valdai, Russia. Object ID: 2016.009.949; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center collection.

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