Sister city relationship fosters lifelong connections

Around 30 students from our American sister city Eau Claire are studying in Lismore this semester as part of an annual university exchange that has been going for more than 20 years.

Since 1995 around 600 students have travelled to Lismore as ‘study abroad’ students with Southern Cross University. These university undergraduates come to live and study here in Lismore while earning learning credits for their degrees back home.

Mayor Isaac Smith said the program provided excellent cultural learning opportunities and an unforgettable experience for the young university students. The Mayor recently held a formal reception for the students and their teachers at the Council Chambers in Goonellabah.

“I love our annual reception for the Eau Claire students – they have such an amazing energy and are always so excited and enthusiastic to be in Lismore. As a very big fan of Lismore, I find that enthusiasm for our city just a joy to be around,” Isaac said.

“They really enrich our city by bringing their own skills and world views. Eau Claire is a great supporter of our sister city relationship and the students really share that love for Lismore.”

Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has been Lismore’s sister city since 1991 and has always been demonstrative about celebrating the relationship. One of their local hotels lined its walls with Northern Star wallpaper and even built a Jenny Dowell Suite in honour of our then-Mayor.

Southern Cross University’s Manager of International Mobility and Recruitment, Christine Martin, said the students arrive in February for a six-month stay, and are very excited to leave the depths of a Wisconsin winter for a sunny Aussie summer.

“These students come to Lismore so energised and excited to study abroad – they learn, connect, travel and make great friendships here,” she said.

“It’s also a really amazing time for students to reflect, and experience the differences between Australian and American cultures and learning systems. I think they are often told our culture is quite like America’s, so it’s very interesting for them to come here and find that in reality it’s quite different.”

Christine said after 20 years, there are many wonderful stories to tell from the study abroad program.

“They make incredible connections that often carry on for life – we’ve had babies and marriages out of this program!” Christine laughed.

“The students bring this feeling with them, of study and adventure travelling abroad, and it often inspires our own university students to study abroad,” she said.

“They also often want to volunteer and have a rich community experience as well. They end up getting involved in programs like our Live Ideas community engagement program that involves them in events at The Quad. It’s all part of experiencing our culture and making real and lasting connections with local people.”

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