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 four Sister Cities, Cergy-Pontoise, France; Tres Cantos, Spain; Tema, Ghana; and Cap-Haitien, Haiti.

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.

  • For information on the teen exchange program, click here
  • For information on the adult exchange program, click here.

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 (13 miles outside Madrid): The sister city relationship between Columbia, Maryland, and Tres Cantos, Spain was established in 1990. There have been annual youth exchanges with Tres Cantos for 25 years.

Tema, Ghana (20 miles from Accra): The official Sister Cities Agreement between Columbia, Maryland, USA and Tema, Ghana, was signed by Milton W. Matthews (president & CEO of Columbia Association) and the Hon. Isaac Ashai Odamtten (the Tema Metropolitan Chief Executive) at a breakfast and signing ceremony on Nov. 11, 2014 at Historic Oakland Manor in Columbia. You may view photos from the ceremony here. The Tema Delegation included seven leaders from the Tema Metropolitan Assembly and the Tema Development Corporation.

CA’s Tema Sister City Committee will be working with Tema on developing adult and youth exchanges in the following areas: virtual exchanges between high schools in Columbia and secondary schools in Tema; bringing high school students from a secondary school in Tema to Columbia; developing a relationship between Narh-Bita Medical College in Tema with Howard Community College in Columbia; connecting Columbia Rotary Clubs with the Rotary of Tema; connecting religious congregation in Columbia with churches in Tema; and promoting the art of Ghana, with art exhibits, artist exchanges, music and dance programs. Ghana Fest 2 was held in November 2014 (see Multicultural Programs).

Community members with a sincere interest in Ghana are invited to join the Tema Sister City Committee (a subcommittee of CA’s International & Multicultural Advisory Committee).

Cap-Haitien, Haiti (on the north coast, about 150 miles from Port-au-Prince): Cap-Haitien Mayor Jean Claude Mondesir signed the sister city agreement in July 2016 while joined by a delegation from Howard County, which is home to a large Haitian and Caribbean diaspora.

Cap-Haitien has a population of about 190,000 people. It is home to the Palace of Sans Souci and the buildings at Ramiers and the Citadel, which together have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Columbia Association is seeking additional 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 China Sister City Planning Committee of the Columbia Association is working on developing a relationship with the city of Liyang in Jiangsu Province. The 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.

Developing New Sister City Relationships: New sister city relationships for Columbia can be proposed by community residents but must have a group of committed volunteers who come together to work for a common goal, developing contacts in the prospective sister city, doing research on the city, and developing a proposal that is presented to CA’s Board of Directors. The volunteer committee of residents should work closely with the program manager for CA’s International Exchange and Multicultural Programs to develop any new sister city relationship for Columbia.

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