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Santa Clara Sister Cities Association’s Youth Commissioners Share Study Abroad Experiences at  Annual Tea

At the Santa Clara Senior Center on Feb. 10, members of the Santa Clara Sister Cities Association’s (SCSCA)Youth Commission decorated the Multipurpose Room with big hearts, set up tables with formal place settings, made delicious tea sandwiches, poured tea and served guests at the SCSCA’s Eighth Annual Afternoon Tea. Santa Clara’s Sister Cities are Izumo, Japan; Coimbra, Portugal; and Limerick, Ireland.

“Proceeds from our fundraisers, such as this tea, go to fund the trips the Youth Commissioners go on,” said Patricia Knowles, Vice President of the SCSCA Youth Commission. “We accept kids in the Youth Commission here from ages 12 to 18. I help to identify candidates to apply and go overseas to Portugal, Japan and hopefully, Ireland. We meet once a month every second Wednesday for one hour in the evening at the Headen-Inman House behind the Triton Museum. We’re always interested in new members. They can email me at or visit for more information.”

“This program helps students become global leaders within their community, which we hope will extend to future possibilities,” said Tedra Nikolai, President of SCSCA.


“The mission of Santa Clara Sister Cities is to explore new cultures and to connect with the cultures from around the world,” said Ria Grewal, 16, President of the SCSCA Youth Commission during a speech at the tea. “Sister Cities gives young individuals the opportunity to explore new cultures and be more enriched in global exchanges around the world.”

One such global exchange Grewal has participated in was her study abroad trip to Coimbra, Portugal in February 2016. Her host family, the Luisas, brought Grewal to restaurants, shopping malls and to her host student’s school.

“The students had questions for me about America; they wanted to know what it was like, how school was like here, and if we eat lots of pizza,” Grewal said. “The architecture there was intricate, detailed, old and rustic. There was a building I liked called the Alcobaca. It’s a big cathedral.”

SCSCA Youth Commissioner Francesca Penabella, 16, speaks some Spanish, which she says is similar to the Portuguese language. So when she visited Coimbra, Portugal in February 2017 she communicated with others by speaking Spanish and English.

“I stayed with a host family, the Silvas,” Penabella said. “My favorite Portuguese food are the natas. They’re little bite size custard pies. I ate this every day in Coimbra. I rode on my host student’s sister’s scooter to the mall. She drove and I was wearing a helmet and holding her from behind her. I also became friends with my friend’s host student. She will be in Santa Clara in March. I hope that we will be her host family.”

SCSCA Youth Commissioner Amanpreet Kaur, 16, has been studying Japanese for about 8 years. Although she had forgotten some Japanese before she visited Izumo, Japan last summer, once she was on her week-long trip, the Japanese words she knew came back to her and she picked up new words as well.

“I stayed with my host family, the Hamamuras,” Kaur said. “I went to a Japanese school for two days. The students there were so kind. My host family, on two separate days, took me to a ramen restaurant and a cake shop in Izumo. It was the birthday of my host student’s younger sister. We sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her in Japanese. I really miss Japan. I want to go back so badly and meet my Japanese school friends again.”


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