See the World with CA’s International Exchanges

Experience a different culture and travel abroad! The International Exchange Program offers exchange opportunities for Columbia and Howard County residents with Columbia’s five Sister Cities, Cergy-Pontoise, France; Tres Cantos, Spain; Tema, Ghana; Cap-Haitien, Haiti; and Liyang, China.

Travel to one of Columbia’s Sister Cities for one or two week trips organized by CA Program Manager for International Exchanges based on community desires. Travel abroad and/or become a host for visitors from one of our Sister Cities. Exchanges for adults have been organized for cuisine, art and music. Youth exchanges are organized every summer for high school students.

The cost includes a program fee plus airfare. For more information, please call 410-715-3162 or email

Columbia’s Sister Cities

Cergy-Pontoise (18 miles outside Paris): The sister city relationship between Columbia, Maryland, and Cergy-Pontoise, France, was established in 1977. Exchanges (cuisine, art, architecture and music) are periodically planned for adults, with home stays in both France and Columbia. Community members with a sincere interest in France are invited to join the Cergy-Pontoise Sister City Committee (a subcommittee of CA’s International and Multicultural Advisory Committee).

Tres Cantos (16 miles northwest of Madrid): The sister city relationship between Columbia, Maryland, and Tres Cantos, Spain was established in 1990. There have been annual summer youth exchanges with Tres Cantos for over 28 years.

Tema, Ghana (20 miles from the capital, Accra): The official Sister Cities Agreement between Columbia and Tema, Ghana, was signed in November of 2014. CA’s Tema Sister City Committee is working to support the Tema Central Library and several school libraries and is planning to develop adult and youth exchanges. Community members with an interest in Ghana, and of Ghanaian descent, are invited to join the Tema Sister City Committee.

Cap-Haitien, Haiti (on the north coast, about 150 miles from Port-au-Prince): The Columbia – Cap-Haitien sister city agreement was signed in Haiti in July 2016 with a delegation from Howard County. Columbia Association is seeking volunteer members for its Cap-Haitien Sister City Committee. Members should be residents of Columbia or Howard County who are interested in developing future exchanges and activities for the residents of Columbia and Cap-Haitien in the areas of culture, dance, visual arts, music, education, sports, environment and business.

Liyang, Jiangsu Province, China (150 miles west of Shanghai): The city of Liyang in the People’s Republic of China officially became Columbia’s fifth sister city on Monday, September 10 during a ceremony at Historic Oakland in Town Center. Columbia Association President/CEO Milton W. Mathews signed the sister city partnership agreement with Liyang Mayor Huaqin Xu, who traveled from China for the signing ceremony with a delegation of seven members.

For the press release about the signing ceremony, click here. To view the signed Sister Cities Agreements in English and Chinese, as well as photos of the event, click here. If you want to see what Liyang and its surroundings look like, you can check out this video.

The Liyang Sister City Committee is seeking volunteers who are interested in China and Chinese culture. Members should be residents of Columbia or Howard County who are interested in developing future exchanges and activities for the residents of Columbia and Liyang in the areas of culture, dance, visual arts, music, education, sports, environment and business.

For additional information, please contact Laura Smit, program manager for CA’s International Exchange and Multicultural Programs, by calling 410-715-3162 or sending an email to

Sister Cities International

Columbia is a member of Sister Cities International, a U.S. nonprofit organization with a mission of promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time — through “citizen diplomacy.” Sister Cities International was created at President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House conference on citizen diplomacy. Eisenhower envisioned an organization that could be the hub of peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world. By forming these relationships, President Eisenhower reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build connections that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.  Sister Cities International dedicates a special focus on areas with significant opportunities for cultural and education exchanges, economics, and humanitarian assistance.

What is a sister city relationship?

  • A broad-based, officially approved, long-term connection between two communities, approved by Sister Cities International (

  • Becomes official with the signing of an agreement by officials of both cities, after approval by city councils of each community.

  • Allows citizen volunteers of both communities to get involved in citizen diplomacy, projects of mutual interest and international relations.

Why have a sister city relationship?

  • A sister city relationship between provides opportunities to Columbia residents for cultural enrichment, educational exchanges, business relationships, and humanitarian contributions.

  • To facilitate interaction between residents of each community.

  • To increase understanding between our cultures, through direct, friendly, personal contact

  • To open dialogues with people of another culture who can share insights and perspectives

  • Creates a win-win situation where residents of both communities benefit

Laura Smit, Program Manager
Phone: 410-715-3162