Part of the Phoenix Sister Cities’ Youth Ambassador Exchange Program, three Ahwatukee Foothills teens returned from overseas trips last month.

Patrick Murphy, Kaitlyn Stiles and Joseph Steigerwald returned home after spending three weeks in a few of the program’s sister cities.

Steigerwald, of Desert Vista High School, stayed in Catania, Italy, and said that the trip opened his eyes to an important lesson about the world.

“We are all the same people,” said Steigerwald, a senior at Desert Vista.

“Even if we have different beliefs or cultures, there are still things we have in common,” he added.

About 20 students of the Youth Ambassador Exchange Program, part of Phoenix Sister Cities, are hosted by families in nine different cities around the world every year. In turn, those “host” brothers and sisters are from countries like Italy, Japan, China, Canada, Taiwan, Ireland, France, Israel, and Mexico.

“Often times students walk away having a great global perspective, are more flexible, mature, and eager to learn more about other cultures, differences and similarities,” said Misty Cisneros, director of the Youth Ambassador Exchange.

The program’s purpose is to offer local high school students, who are sophomores and juniors, a chance to appreciate and understand the cultures of the sister cities with a home-stay experience.

“I think everyone liked it. Since they came to Phoenix, they got a unique American experience,” Steigerwald said.

Mountain Pointe High School students Murphy and Stiles traveled to Himeji, Japan, and Ennis, Ireland.

Steigerwald, who admitted he was a little sad the trip is over, recommends the program to anyone interested.

He also offered some advice: “Don’t set any expectations, what happens will be different than what you expect, have an open mind,” Steigerwald said.

For more information about Phoenix Sister Cities and the Youth Ambassador Exchange Program, visit phoenixsistercities.org.

• Diana Martinez is freelancing this summer for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Reach her at thedianamartinez@gmail.com.

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