Globalizing Columbus: My Sister Cities Experience

15 weeks can fly by just like that if you’re not careful. My internship with Greater Columbus Sister Cities International (GCSCI) was unconventional to say the least, but invaluable nonetheless. Graduating from Ohio State in May of 2016, I accepted a job with GE Aviation, with the caveat that my start date would not be until January of 2017. I did what most 22-year-old college kids would do in this situation, and picked up a job working at a bar. Specifically, one located in the notoriously debacherous Put-In-Bay island.

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Just like eating cake for dinner every night, this experience started out wonderful, but got really old, really fast. I questioned how long I could stand living in this environment, considering there was a good 6 months between me and an exciting new career. It was around this time that Tim Sword re-entered in to my life. Tim was the adjunct professor of an Emerging Markets course I took during my junior year. During this time, we had learned the ins and outs of free-trade zones, culminating in a 9-day journey to Manaus, Brazil.

It just so happened that there was a temporary role available at the non-profit he ran. Just like that, my days of serving Strawberry Mojitos to bachelorette parties were over. I hastily accepted a temporary position as GCSCI Program Coordinator and enthusiastically gave my two weeks at the restaurant.

I had never done any work with a non-profit, nor an international organization before. Excitement radiated through me as I began my first day of work, and I was blissfully unaware of the vast amount of work that would be required in the coming months. With only a few full time employees, my role during this time was expected to be very fluid. There were daily tasks such as balancing our QuickBooks, setting up meetings, and running errands. The time commitment to these duties was marginal, so the bulk of my efforts were focused on programming for 3 main events taking place in the latter half of 2016.

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The Annual Meeting was scheduled to take place in October at the Ohio Statehouse along with our Marathon Exchange initiative the same week. We had also recently established a new Sister City relationship with Accra, Ghana, and the Mayor had agreed to lead an inaugural delegation in November. While there are countless means by which I could sum up my time with GCSCI, I would like to share one event in particular that exemplified this treasured experience of mine.

The aforementioned Annual Meeting attracted over 200 guests; 18 of whom were international, along with the Counsel General Ambassador of India as our keynote speaker. While the weeks preceding was filled with hard work, unexpected hiccups, and fervent resiliency, nothing could be done outside of hoping for the best and enjoying ourselves the day of the event.

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I started my day bright and early with some housekeeping at the Statehouse Atrium, before setting out to pick up some of our international guests. These included two Brazilian runners and two Chinese runners, visiting for the Columbus Marathon Exchange. We had become close friends in the days prior and I could have easily spent the entire week talking with them. However, there was work to be done, and hundreds of eager guests to mingle with. As our Annual Meeting went underway, I was reminded how many people in Columbus truly believe in the concept of an international community.

So much can be accomplished by simply starting a conversation. I was beginning to understand that this event wasn’t just a fundraiser. It wasn’t just marketing for our organization. It was promoting an idea that international ties need to go beyond government-to-government diplomacy. By one o’ clock my mind was already filled to the brim with wholesome and engaging experiences, but there was far more work to do. 11 marathon runners had traveled to Columbus, and we intended to provide them an experience beyond the 26.2-mile racetrack.

Over the next 24 hours we toured the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus City Hall, and Ohio State’s Campus. We went running with the Short North Running Club, and drank beer at Hofbrauhaus. The conversations we had, along with our constant adventures together were exhilarating. I finished off an exhausting week proud of our community and thankful for my new friends.

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As I write down my closing thoughts, Tim Sword, the GCSCI President is in Accra with a 20-person delegation of community leaders. They are currently participating in a round table with the Ghana Institute of Management & Public Administration. Events like this will shape Columbus 6 months from now. Some will even shape our City 10 years from now.

I’m unequivocally satisfied with my Sister Cities experience. Despite moving on to a new city, and a different environment, I’ve become permanently invested in our cause. I can’t wait to see how Columbus engages with the international community and what role GCSCI plays in this movement. And to top it off, I can make a mean Strawberry Mojito to celebrate!

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Author: Sean Newman

Sean Newman is a fall intern for Greater Columbus Sister Cities International. He is a recent graduate from The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Business Administration. Sean is an avid runner, movie lover, and aspiring traveler.

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