In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower created the idea of sister cities to promote international cooperation.
“The idea of sister cities was founded after the Second World War to kind of promote this cultural and economic exchange of cultures between these very different locations,” said Assistant Director of Study Abroad Robbie Van Pelt ’15.
“It became … kind of a relationship for strategic business practices. If you had a sister city in another town, it might be a good idea for your business to expand into that city.”
Today, countries all over the world have sister cities, and Greensborohas three: Montbeliard, Buiucani and Yingkou.
“It’s very important (to have sister cities) because we see, in our society today, (there are so many) cultures that we don’t understand,” said junior and Greensboro resident Taylor Brown.
“It’s also just a good experience to view other cultures. Having sister cities outside the U.S. is pretty awesome.”
Montbeliard has been Greensboro’s sister city the longest. Located in Franche-Compte, France, Montbeliard took on this status in 1964.
“Exchanging just basic cultural information about what kind of enterprise, what kind of business is important to those two areas, you might actually realize that they have a lot in common or that things are quite different” said Visiting Instructor of Foreign Languages Janet Starmer.
Several North Carolina cities have sister cities in France, including Asheville, Charlotte and Raleigh.
Buiucani is our second sister city. Greensboro has been working with Buiucani, located in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, since 2000.
“One of my best friends and their family are immigrants from Moldova,” said Director of Study Abroad and International Student Advisor Daniel Diaz in an email interview.
“Naturally, they brought their culture with them, and I know Greensboro is a more diverse place because of their family and others like them.”
According to the Greensboro City Council minutes from July 6, 2000, one of the reasons Greensboro and Buiucani decided to work together is because of North Carolina’s adoption program for Moldovan teenage orphans.
The two cities also planned to exchange businesses, education and culture according to the same document.
In 2009, Yingkou, a city in China’s Liaoning providence, became the third sister city to Greensboro.
“The fact that I have connections in two places almost (on) opposite (sides) of (the world from) each other makes it easier to connect,” said junior Leah Whetten-Goldstein, who is currently studying abroad in China, in an email interview.
“You have twice the amazing aspects of culture and are able to be part of twice as many celebrations (and) traditions.”
According to the Greensboro City Council minutes from Oct. 20, 2009, the purpose of creating a connection with Yingkou was specifically to enhance trade.
“I think there is a lot we can learn about our sister cities,” said Diaz. “Each will have a different way of thinking and approach to working on issues that all cities face like growth, development, housing, infrastructure, etc.
“By working with our sister cities and seeing how they are approaching these issues, we may find unique and interesting ideas that would benefit our own community.”
For many students looking at study abroad programs or entrepreneurs who want to bring their businesses abroad, finding a city that may have similar surroundings to your own or just having people know where you are from can be comforting.
“It promotes a ton of cultural exchange,” said Van Pelt. “It provides a sense of comfort for not only students, but for professionals who are looking to expand their business abroad, for educators who are looking for a sight to explore.
“I could really go on for days about the value of it.”