Sister Cities General Information - Due to COVID-19 and international travel restrictions, some student exchange travel is taking place when feasible with a virtual exchange in place if travel does not occur. Exchanges for the selected 8th grade students are for Shimukappu, Abetone, and Bariloche for the 2022-23 school year. If you are in 7th grade now and are interested in a 2023-24 school year virtual exchange with Bariloche, Chamonix, or Shimukappu, the application process will be announced in mid December. Virtual/online exchanges have a $100 membership fee to Aspen Sister Cities. Student, and City Coordinators will be checking travel and safety restrictions as we move into the next school year. We will travel if possible, and students will visit Aspen if possible.


    The Aspen Sister City Committee is a non-profit organization run by a Board of Directors. The committee meets at 5:00 p.m. the second Thursday of every month (except July) either online/virtually or in the City of Aspen Sister Cities room. The public is invited. If you wish to join an online/virtual meeting please email us at to request an invite.


    For more information about our cities,

    visit our website link below.


    City of Aspen - Aspen Sister Cities Website



    Aspen Sister Cities Middle School Student Exchange Program





    Click here for a general slide presentation of our program



    The Aspen Sister Cities mission is to share ideas and experience cultures through the international exchange of students and community members from Aspen and its Sister Cities. 


    The goals of the student exchange program are:

    • to experience another culture and develop relationships through online communication, family homestays, group activities, and language development
    • to foster small group and one-on-one student exchanges whenever possible
    • to promote world peace


    Aspen Sister Cities, Aspen Middle School, Aspen Community School/Discover Compass, and Aspen Country Day School all work together to create a well-balanced program for eligible 8th grade students who are interested in experiencing an international exchange. Students must be in good academic and behavioral standing at their school. With the exception of the Shimukappu/Tomamu, Japan and the Abetone, Italy program, it is recommended that students be taking the language of their exchange or an approved course. Students apply to the program in the winter of their 7th grade year.


    There are four middle school exchanges. Between 5-15 students are chosen for each program. While staying with international host families, our students experience school days, everyday family life and historical/cultural programs relevant to each city and region.

    Asia - Shimukappu/Tomamu, Japan:  

    With over 20 years history of exchanges, this is the longest-running middle school exchange program. In the fall, Aspen students take an intensive Japanese language and culture class before going to Shimukappu/Tomamu each October. Aspen students host their Japanese student the first week in January just after returning from Winter Break. There is a liaison from Aspen who lives in Japan to help facilitate the program over there. Shimukappu and Tomamu are very small rural towns, so this program is geared towards adventurous students who want a very different cultural experience.

    Europe - Abetone, Italy:  

    Abetone is Aspen’s most recent Sister Cities partnership. The Italian students come from different schools in the Abetone/Florence region. Students who are particularly interested in art, architecture and Italian culture will appreciate this exchange. Students who have a sense of independence are well suited for this trip. This program alternates every other year. The Italian students usually visit Aspen sometime in the month of February and Aspen students travel to Abetone around and during Spring Break. 

    Europe - Chamonix, France:

    Aspen students have regularly exchanged with French students from schools in the Mont Blanc Valley. This program alternates every other year. This program is geared for students who want to practice and enhance their French, enjoy French cuisine and experience the beautiful mountainous region that surrounds Chamonix. The dates that Aspen hosts the Chamonix students will be sometime in the month of February and Aspen students travel to Chamonix around and during Spring Break. 


    South America - Bariloche, Argentina:

    Each year, Aspen students exchange with Argentinean students from three private schools in Bariloche: Capraro, Woodville and San Patricio. San Carlos de Bariloche is surrounded by Nahuel Huapi which a large glacial lake with incredible mountain vistas. Students who want to speak Spanish, enjoy a delicious meat filled asada and visit Bariloche's points of interest will appreciate this part of Southern Argentina. Students receive a Bariloche student during the spring of their 7th grade year usually in April, and travel to Bariloche in October the fall of their 8th grade year.

    * Please note that Aspen Sister Cities promotes interactive one to one exchanges where Aspen students communicate online and/or stay with an international host student and that same international student stays with the Aspen student. Occasionally, due to vacations/holidays, prohibitive costs and the availability of students in the host cities; the student exchanges could be one way. So we would travel to the host city but not necessarily host a student here in Aspen. Sometimes international students that come here are shared among Aspen families.


    Aspen students have the opportunity to experience an international country, culture, family, school and community. Students learn the motivation behind learning a world language and are introduced to the idea of being part of a global community.

    • School visitations enrich the student body and curriculum.

    • Families communicate online and/or experience an international student in their home.

    • Teachers and community members who participate have the opportunity to exchange ideas.

    • Sister Cities relationships are continuously enhanced, develop lasting friendships and promote world peace.


    When (General Timeline): Dates may vary during an online/virtual group student exchanges
    Dec: 7th Grade/Parent presentation; students submit online student applications, essays, and other documents in January

    Jan: For face-to-face & virtual/online exchanges, first Wednesday after Winter Break online applications are due, interviews and written responses begin

    Feb: Student interviews continued. Acceptance and/or non-acceptance letter sent either at the end of Feb. or in March, organizational meetings to plan for Bariloche group. In face-to-face exchanges, all deposit fees of $500 due. The cost for online/virtual exchanges is covered through payment of a $100 Sister Cities Family Membership fee.

    March: Acceptance letters sent home.  Continue planning for Bariloche group

    April: Bariloche students visit Aspen or begin process for online meetings (may begin in fall)

    May: Shimukappu/Tomamu and Bariloche trip fees due, Japanese culture/language classes begin

    July: Ducky Derby Fundraiser begins (participation required), student sale of paper envelope duck sales and/or online ducks

    August: Ducky Derby Festival- second Sat at Rio Grande Park; Japanese classes continue,  Argentine culture/language classes begin

    Sept: Continue Shimukappu/Tomamu and Bariloche student culture/language classes

    Oct: Aspen students visit Shimukappu/Tomamu and Bariloche.

    Nov/Dec: Shimukappu/Tomamu visit preparation meetings, Bariloche exchange students present at Sister Cities meeting, Abetone/Chamonix trip fees due

    Jan: Shimukappu/Tomamu students visit Aspen, Aspen students present and Shimukappu students are introduced at Sister Cities meeting

    Feb: Aspen students begin culture/language classes for Abetone/Chamonix trip, Abetone/Chamonix students visit Aspen

    Mar: Aspen students travel to Abetone/Chamonix

    May: Aspen students from Abetone/Chamonix exchange present at Sister Cities meeting.

    Family Expectations:

    An international student will stay in your home for approximately 10 - 12 days. You are expected to provide sleeping arrangements, meals and a nurturing family environment. You must also be prepared to deal with emotional issues that sometimes occur as a result of an international student being away from home (homesickness, cultural differences and language barriers). However, support for emotional and health issues are available around the clock by program coordinators and Aspen Sister Cities liaisons. Aspen families need to be prepared to support their own child with strategies for independence and resilience while they are traveling internationally.

    Each host family is responsible for getting their visiting student to school each day, packing any sack lunches that might be necessary, and taking care of the international student during non-school hours. This includes after school and weekends and families are free to structure this time however they see fit. Families are encouraged to give small gifts to their visiting students and provide minimal internet time so that students can contact home.

    Each Aspen family (participating student and parents) is required to attend all planning meetings and and help organize activities for hosting international students. Each family will volunteer for at least one task to complete as part of their obligation to the program.

    Passports should be obtained or updated at this time. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the date of the trip return. Establishing a United Mileage/Rewards account is also recommended. In order to receive mileage points, the name on the student's United account must match their legal passport and/or birth certificate name.


    Student Expectations:

    Aspen students are expected to represent Aspen, their respective schools and the United States as ambassadors, and they must be committed to this process throughout the year. Keeping up on schoolwork and making good choices both in school and out in the community is part of this commitment. Additionally, students will learn about cultural traditions and behavioral expectations in their preparation classes so that they can be gracious visitors in a foreign environment. Students who are ready and willing to experience new environments, unique experiences and who are independent are well suited for the Aspen Sister Cities international exchange program.

    Students must make the Sister Cities Exchange Program a very high priority for an entire year. From the first organizational meeting through the last obligation as a host family, students must plan to be involved and committed. This sometimes means making hard choices between this program and other extracurricular activities such as sports practices, music lessons, school plays and family functions. It is important to think through all of these variables before committing to the program since there is a non-refundable deposit.

    Program Costs: No cost for online/virtual student exchanges.

    After acceptance to the program, students must understand, sign and return the program academic and behavior contract along with a non-refundable participation fee of $500, which includes a $100 one year family membership to Aspen Sister Cities. This deposit is included in the $3750 trip fee. These fees are only collected for face-to-face exchanges.

    Each student must raise a minimum of $400 through the Ducky Derby Fundraiser by selling ducks. This money helps defray the cost of hosting students in Aspen and covers extra travel expenses. In order to motivate students through Ducky Derby fund raising, Aspen Sister Cities will refund or credit any monies earned over $350 according to the following ranges: $351-$1000 student receives 50% of funds, $1001-$2000 student receives 60% of funds, $2001-$3000 student receives 70% of funds, $3001-$4000+ student receives 80% of funds. Any funds earned beyond the trip fee and other student exchange expenses are donated back to the Sister Citites program. Ducky Derby participation is dependent on Aspen Rotary sponsorship.

    The current trip fee is $3750. After the $500 deposit the trip fee balance is $3250. Aspen Sister Cities committee expects that each student will raise at least $350 on their own to contribute toward the family trip fee expense.  Scholarship money is available and all requests must be made in writing. Scholarship applicants need to use the required Francesca MacPherson Scholarship Form that is available from the Aspen Middle School Sister Cities mailbox in the front office and submit the necessary supporting documents by the program application deadline in early January.


    Submit an online application found at the Application tab and complete a research essay comparing Aspen to your first choice Sister City. Everyone who applies will be granted an interview. The interview process consists of a face to face 20-30 minute interview with the student and includes a 5 minute interview with both the student and his/her parent. Students will also complete written responses to interview questions either before or after their scheduled interview appointment.


    Aspen Sister Cities Contacts:

    Jill Sheeley, President

    Betsy Ann Anastas, Vice-President

    Morris Hogan, Treasurer

    Jill Sheeley, Abetone City Coordinator

    Griff Smith & Lala Caffarone, Bariloche City Coordinators

    TBD, Chamonix City Coordinator

    Kamala Marsh, Shimukappu/Tomamu City Coordinator

    Other Middle School level facilitators:
    AMS: Sarah Graber, Chamonix and Abetone Student Coordinator; Kamala Marsh, Shimukappu-Tomamu Student Coordinator

    ACDS: Jon Bender, Abetone Student Coordinator

    ACS: Satya Leidner, Bariloche Student Coordinator


    Images for this site from: reuse with modification allowed. 12.16.2015