Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

CIEE Alumni Blog

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

Alumni Update - June 2018




2018 Alumni Summer Interns are Here!

Another group of CIEE Study Abroad alumni just arrived at CIEE's offices in Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts for challenging and enriching summer internship experiences. They are rising seniors at colleges all over the U.S. and have studied abroad in Cape Town, Amsterdam, Haifa, Santo Domingo, Seoul, London, Shanghai, Madrid, and Berlin. Hear updates about their summer experience on the @cieealumni social media channels!

Get Paid to Teach English in Thailand!

Immerse yourself in Thai culture while teaching English to eager students! CIEE’s Teach in Thailand program places native English speakers in primary and secondary schools where they bring the English language to life for students through fun, conversational activities. With housing provided and a competitive monthly salary, you will be able to cover living expenses and travel around this gorgeous country on the weekends. As a CIEE alum, you will receive a 10% discount on the program fee, which covers visa fees, in-country orientation, and 24/7 support. Apply by July 1st and you could be exploring Thailand this fall! Learn More.

Open Your Home to the World - Host an Exchange Student

For U.S.-based CIEE alumni, becoming a CIEE High School USA host family is a great way to remain in touch with a different culture from your own. Hosting is a chance to learn from one another, create a home away from home, and connect your family to the world. If you’re ready to open your heart and share your home, chances are you’ve got what it takes to host an international student. Host a high school student from another country this year and continue your global experience! Learn More.


Seattle-Area Alumni, Join Us for a CIEE Event!

Are you a CIEE alum in Seattle or the Pacific Northwest area? Then come join CIEE Alumni for the very first alumni event in the region! The event will be in Seattle, WA on June 29. It will be a great opportunity to network, make new friends, and talk about your exchange experience! Learn more and RSVP.

Stay up-to-date with alumni events by:





The Alum of the Month for June is Hungarian-American Enterprise Scholarship Fund (HAESF) alum Anna Tóth. Through HAESF, Anna gained valuable experience at a startup in Savannah, Georgia then took her experience back to Hungary, where she co-founded The Millennial Women Network. The organization offers leadership skills, mentorship, and an international network to empower young women to become the leaders of the future. Learn more about Anna's inspiring work.

Do you have your own story to share? Email us:


Excerpts from recently published alumni stories:

"I worked in a multicultural environment, as there were people from more than ten countries in the office. There, everyone could contribute equally to the development of the different projects in a very open-minded atmosphere. This exchange promoted different ways of thinking, as anyone who wanted to contribute was encouraged to do so and their ideas were always welcome." -Pablo Ambrossi (CIEE Internship USA, 2017)

"As a group, us CIEE students went on special trips to Kraków and Gdansk. These city explorations were designed to inform us about different regions of Poland and also to study the history of the area. Being a history major, I enjoyed the tours we were given; they opened my eyes to a history that is not taught in America." -Mackenzie Kalisiewicz (CIEE Study Abroad, Warsaw, Poland, Fall 2015)



From left: CIEE Study Abroad alum Priya Charry working in India; several interns on the first day of the 2018 Alumni Internship Program; exploring the landmarks and history of Poland on a CIEE Study Abroad program.

On social media? So are we! Follow us on Twitter or Instagram @CIEEalumni, and join over 20,000 alumni on our LinkedIn group

Don't forget to update your information to receive important communications and alumni news!


Interested in working with us at CIEE? Browse our open jobs.


300 Fore St. Portland, ME 04101  |  1.207.553.4000  |

If you wish to be removed from this group's mailing list, click here

Alumni Meet in the Rainy City

Seattle Alumni

CIEE Study Abroad alum Alvin Duong recently organized the first pop-up CIEE Alumni event in Seattle, Washington. The event brought together alumni from the Pacific Northwest for conversation, good food, and networking.

"CIEE Alumni from the rainy city met up for dinner at Orfeo for our first ever networking event. A common ground was everyone had gone to Europe through CIEE. There were even multiple pairs of alumni who participated in the same program and guests who will be traveling abroad in the coming months! We've already had arrangements to attend sporting events together so join our Facebook group for more information and future gatherings!" -Alvin


Interested in hosting a pop-up event in your area? Email to get started!

Alumni Update - July 2018




Camp Exchange USA Alumni: Share Your Video to Win Big!

Relive your best summer camp memories with the Camp Exchange USA Alumni Video Contest. How? By creating and submitting a video that tells the story of the life you lived at camp. What was it like? Who did you meet? How did it change you? One winner will be selected by CIEE to receive a $200 cash prize. Learn more and enter the contest.

Get Paid to Teach English in Chile

Want to live and work near the white sand beaches of South America’s Pacific coast? How about living in a dynamic urban center within sight of the snow-capped Andes? CIEE’s Teach in Chile program places native English speakers in the capital city of Santiago, the seaport of Valparaíso, the nearby resort of Viña del Mar, and other locations across Chile. Regardless of where you teach, you’ll have your own Chilean adventures inside and outside the classroom. As a CIEE alum, you can receive a 10% discount on the program fee.  

Apply by September 1st and you could be exploring Chile next Spring! Learn more

Want to Study International Affairs? Attend the APSIA Online Graduate School Fair

Much like an exchange program, international affairs programs equip graduates with an understanding of regions, languages, and global trends. The Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) can help match you with the right school to build on your interest in diplomacy, human rights, global development, or sustainability. Learn more about your options by attending their online graduate school fair, where you can explore schools and form connections with admissions staff from wherever you are! The event will be on July 25 from 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (ET). Register for the event.

The Girl Rising Creative Challenge is Open for Application

Is someone you admire doing great work for gender equality? Or maybe you are the one making the world a better place? Enter the Girl Rising Creative Challenge, powered by HP, for the chance to win big prizes that will help you continue making a difference for girls and women. They are calling on individuals and organizations to share how they are helping to create a gender equal world. Submit videos, artwork, photographs, essays, poetry, music, and more. Learn more about the challenge.


Stay up-to-date with alumni events by:





The Alum of the Month for July is Erin Ruff. Erin studied abroad with CIEE in Legon, Ghana in 2009, where she met a master weaver during a CIEE cultural event. Together, they launched Baskets for Education, selling hand-woven baskets to raise money for children's school fees. Not only has the organization provided school supplies and scholarships to help children learn, but it has also sparked newfound interest in Ghana in a small American town. Learn more about the impact of Erin's experience abroad.

Do you have your own story to share? Email us:


Excerpts from recently published alumni stories:

"Being abroad and a minority has challenged my identity. I knew that I would be the unique one in the group, but I have been "prepared" for this all of my life, because I grew up as the only black person in my classrooms." -Miracle B. (CIEE Study Abroad, 2018)

"I learned how to communicate with others and know the importance of teamwork after this work and travel program. I led a badminton team in our department to compete in a big tournament. Thanks to the hard work from everyone, we got a trophy!"  -WeiHao Chang (CIEE Work & Travel USA, 2015)



From left: CIEE Alumni in Chicago meet and chat over bites at Eataly; New article shows why the experience of black students is the perfect preparation for study abroad; the U.S. and Germany have built mutual understanding through exchange programs for 35 years and you can be a part of it by hosting a German student! Visit for more information.

On social media? So are we! Follow us on Twitter or Instagram @CIEEalumni, and join over 20,000 alumni on our LinkedIn group

Don't forget to update your information to receive important communications and alumni news!


Interested in working with us at CIEE? Browse our open jobs.


300 Fore St. Portland, ME 04101  |  1.207.553.4000  |

If you wish to be removed from this group's mailing list, click here

Working at Cedar Point Amusement Park

by WeiHao Chang from Taiwan (CIEE Work & Travel USA, Cedar Point, Ohio, 2015)

Arriving at Cedar Point Amusement Park: This photo was taken on my first day of work. I was excited to meet new friends and learn how to be a lifeguard. Everything was so new and cool, and I wanted to try each of the rides so badly!
Meeting New Friends from Turkey: After buying daily needs from Walmart, I met these two girls who were also waiting for the bus back to the dorm. We had a good time chatting and had more understanding about each other’s language and culture.
Cedar Point World Cup for Employees: My friends and I grouped up and signed up to compete in soccer. Although we lost in the first round to Romania and were eliminated, we had a good time building up teamwork and applying tactics that were actually pretty fun. Both of our teams enjoyed the game and honored great sportsmanship.


Be Professional: Lifeguarding was not an easy job since you have to pay attention to each area of the pool even if there weren’t many guests in water. As my supervisor always told us, “keep your eyes on the water!”


Break Time: Guarding for hours was tiring. Two of my colleagues gave me a big smile when I came to rotate them out for break.
Focus: The toddler pool was one of the most dangerous places for lifeguards. I saved children 2 times when they were drowning. It still gives me chills when I recall those memories. We always reminded each other to stay laser focus while guarding.


Process Out: It was so sad that this day was the day I had to say goodbye to my best friends. We made a promise to visit each other in the future and keep in touch frequently.


Flight Delay: On my way back to Taiwan, I met these two Americans who were also stranded in Shanghai waiting for the delayed flight for tomorrow. Having no experience trying Chinese food, they were happy that I brought them outside of the hotel to try local foods. I was not afraid to talk to strangers then and was willing to step out of my comfort zone.


Teamwork: I learned how to communicate with others and know the importance of teamwork after this work and travel program. I led a badminton team in our department to compete in a big tournament. Thanks to the hard work from everyone, we got a trophy! 

CIEE Alumni Meet at Eataly Chicago

We kicked off the summer with an alumni event at Eataly Chicago last week. Conversations were flowing between delicious Italian appetizers as CIEE connections made this city a smaller place. As our most popular event to date, we were able to meet over 20 new faces and get the ball rolling for what members would like to see in events to come. Stay tuned for the next CIEE Alumni Chicago Chapter event - join the Facebook group for updates!

Eataly photo-2

Study Abroad Opens Academic Doors for History Major

by Mackenzie Kalisiewicz (CIEE Study Abroad, Fall 2015, Warsaw, Poland)

In the fall of 2015, I traveled to Warsaw, Poland through CIEE to study history. I was able to explore the country where my family roots originated. I used this experience to heighten my education while creating memories I will never forget.


Traveling to Poland was my first time leaving the United States. When I arrived in Warsaw, I was greeted by the smiling faces of the CIEE directors and a student helper who attended the Warsaw School of Economics. Each of us in the program were given a helper to show us around the city and to give us advice. This helper was welcoming and guided everyone in our group to make sure our time in Poland was memorable.

The most influential class I took while in Poland was “Jews in Poland and the Holocaust.” Being a part of that class was an eye-opening experience that I will never forget. I learned about the Jewish culture in Poland and Eastern Europe from 966 A.D., when Poland became a Christian country, to today. That course, along with another history course, helped me identify the topic of history I would like to focus my studies on in the future. At some point, I would like to go to graduate school to study Eastern European History, with an emphasis on Polish history.


On the weekends, I was able to take advantage of exploring different countries by bus and train. Being my first time in Europe, I took advantage of this opportunity. One of the best weekends I had was in Vilnius, Lithuania. I traveled to Lithuania with my roommate and we met people from Australia, Germany, Spain, Latvia, and Scotland. One person we met though our time there was a historian studying in Riga, which was a pleasant coincidence. Aside from the people we met, we got to see beautiful sights. I would not have been able to travel to Lithuania if it were not for my semester abroad.


As a group, us CIEE students went on special trips to Kraków and Gdansk. These city explorations were designed to inform us about different regions of Poland and also to study the history of the area. In Kraków, we visited the Kazimierz district and Wawel Castle, then visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. In Gdansk, we visited the Solidarity Museum and walked around the Old Town. Being a history major, I enjoyed the tours we were given; they opened my eyes to a history that is not taught in America.

During my semester abroad, I used a book to document experiences and facts either learned along the way or during tours. By the time I went home, I was able to fill the book about halfway with unforgettable moments. The majority of the book consists of historical facts from different countries that I learned on tours. My directors suggested doing this at the beginning of the program and I chose to do so because I wanted a way to remember as much as possible from that experience.


All in all, I owe a lot to CIEE for giving me an opportunity to explore a country's history that I was formerly unaware of. My study abroad experience has guided me to identify what I want to do in the future - explore Eastern European history further and make a career out of it - because I believe people should be more informed about the history of countries in this region.


Alumni Update - May 2018




CIEE Launches Entrepreneurship Crash Course for Post-Graduates

Today, one in five university graduates starts their own business – and 95% are doomed to fail. We’re out to change that, and more, with eLab, the Entrepreneur Lab by CIEE. With intensive certificate programs in Berlin and London, eLab fosters entrepreneurship and gives recent graduates from all over the globe access to the world’s most vibrant startup hubs. Our programs engage experienced entrepreneurs with startup experience to deliver key skills that save participants time and money, including idea generation, validation, digital marketing, and funding. With mentoring, hands-on practice, international networking, and inspiring environments, participants are primed for success in just six weeks. Intrigued? Learn more about eLab.


CIEE Celebrates 5 Years of the Civic Leadership Summit

This summer, the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit will start its sixth year of inspiring young leaders from the CIEE Work & Travel USA program to make a positive impact on their community, country, and the world at large. Alumni from the past 5 years of CLS shared with us the amazing accomplishments they've had since participating in the program. From pursuing higher education to starting organizations, their stories are sure to inspire you. Read more.

CIEE's Passport Caravan Close to Fulfilling 2020 Pledge

As of April 25, the Passport Caravan has sponsored 5,904 passports - more than halfway to fulfilling the pledge we made as part of the Generation Study Abroad Initiative to fund passports for 10,000 students around the U.S. by 2020. Passport Caravan visits college campuses to provide free passports for students who have demonstrated financial need or come from a population of students typically not represented in study abroad. The initiative makes it free and easy to obtain a passport so that any student who wants to study abroad has access to that life-changing experience. Learn more about Passport Caravan.


Stay up-to-date with alumni events by:





The Alum of the Month for May is Priya Charry. Seeking a lesser-known study abroad destination and wanting to learn about her family's Indian heritage, Priya embarked on a semester abroad with CIEE in Hyderabad, India. Almost five years later, Priya returned to Hyderabad as a participant in the William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India - a ten-month service fellowship through the American India Foundation. Priya has been reconnecting with the community, and her host family, and making change through her work at the nonprofit Youth4Jobs. Learn more about Priya's return to India

Do you have your own story to share? Email us:


Excerpts from recently published alumni stories:

"The best part of coming back has been being able to meet new people and experience a different culture within the same country. Despite sharing a similar American identity, the cultures within the U.S. are definitely not the same, and having the opportunity to experience those differences has been the best part of my experience." -Bang Tran (CIEE High School USA, 2016, 2017, 2018)

"The HAESF internship was a life-changing experience, which still determines my daily activities. I learnt quite a bit about high-end scientific research, research and education management, laboratory project management, scientific paper and grant writing, and picked up various other soft skills. Also, the professional relationships lasted: I have sent numerous students to the U.S., having joint grants with Johns Hopkins University and an active working relationship with numerous groups I got to know during my stay." -Tamas Haidegger (Hungarian American Enterprise Scholarship Fund, 2007)



From left: Taking a look back at the American winter adventures that CIEE Work & Travel USA participants had; celebrating National Park Week by sharing alumni's favorite national parks they visited while on exchange in the U.S.; throwback to this group of adventurous CIEE Study Abroad students on a field trip in Dakar, Senegal.

On social media? So are we! Follow us on Twitter or Instagram @CIEEalumni, and join over 20,000 alumni on our LinkedIn group

Don't forget to update your information to receive important communications and alumni news!


Interested in working with us at CIEE? Browse our open jobs.


300 Fore St. Portland, ME 04101  |  1.207.553.4000  |

If you wish to be removed from this group's mailing list, click here

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Yehya Mamdouh Hassan

Interview with Yehya Mamdouh Hassan from Egypt (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2013)

What made you interested in doing an exchange experience in the United States?

In my opinion, the United States is still the most aspired to and most influential country in the world. Its soft power extends all over the globe. Movies and music produced in the United States shapes the life of youngsters all over the world. I dreamed of visiting the United States and seeing the sites that are featured so heavily in pop culture like the Statue of Liberty and Times Square in New York! Like the Seven Wonders of the World, all of those locations in the U.S. were ingrained into our minds since we were young. Many other youngsters all across the world dream of visiting such locations but they do not all have the means to achieve this. I consider myself privileged to have been able to experience the United States first-hand!

What is the most important thing you learned at the Civic Leadership Summit?

The Civic Leadership Summit was a truly outstanding experience. For the first time in my life, I had the privilege to listen to the problems facing other enthusiastic and proactive young people from all over the world, from Ireland to China! I learned a lot by interacting and discussing problems with them. One of the greatest things I managed to grasp from such a forum is that many of the problems that are endemic to developing countries are actually quite similar, despite the existence of borders and different cultures. It was interesting to talk about and hear how different nations deal with issues of child illiteracy, underage marriage, pollution, and human trafficking.

How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

The Civic Leadership Summit installed a wanderlust in me that I am not able to quench to this very day. In my free time, I just have to travel and experience new places and meet new people!

Where are you now? What are you doing now?

I am currently in New Zealand working on my PhD in international law and peace and conflict studies.

What makes you a changemaker?

After I finish my degree, I have several planned projects in mind that I would like to enact once I return to Egypt. Unfortunately, the current authorities do not look favorably on those who run civil projects and NGOS that are outside of the state jurisdiction and supervision. They view all human rights and NGO work as forums for dissent and places to breed conspiracy against the regime. Four years ago, when I returned from the U.S., I tried and succeeded in forming an NGO dedicated to fighting sexual harassment, which is rampant in the streets of Cairo. We developed an app where users can place a mark on the map were they experienced harassment and share their story on the online map so that other people will be aware. However, our headquarters were closed down, all of our assets were confiscated by the state, and the app was banned. I hope to try again once I finish my postgrad degree!

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit

CLS map snapshot

The CIEE Civic Leadership Summit was founded in 2013 in order to bring together passionate, young leaders from the CIEE Work & Travel USA program for an exchange on leadership, social entrepreneurship, and cultural understanding. At CIEE, we believe that a single person can make a difference and, through the Summit experience, each Fellow has potential to have a positive impact on their community, country, and world at large. By taking part in engaging workshops, participants share their world perspectives and discover ways to make a difference in their community. As we begin applications for the sixth year of the Summit, we look back on the past five years to share stories of growth, inspiration, and changing the world:

2013"The Civic Leadership Summit was a truly outstanding experience. For the first time in my life, I had the privilege to listen to the problems facing other enthusiastic and proactive young people from all over the world, from Ireland to China! I learned a lot by interacting and discussing problems with them."  -Yehya Mamdouh Hassan

Read Yehya's story


Bruxelles EP Traineeship

“The Civic Leadership Summit was the first time I actually ran into like-minded people – young adults who still had that drive to change things for the better. It showed me that what I wanted to do wasn't a losing battle, that there are plenty of others out there who wanted the same thing I did – a better tomorrow for themselves and for their community." -Paul Runcan

Read Paul's story



"I grew up in Afghanistan, a country where multi-ethnic cultural differences are a big tension. It was always a big question for me, why diversity can be the power of most countries but not in Afghanistan. The curiosity and wish of having a diverse-united country motivated me to go and find an answer for my question by visiting a multi-cultural country like the United States. Besides, I believed that when I experience a different culture through educational and cultural exchange, I would gain a deeper understanding of myself and those around me – deepening my knowledge of foreign cultures, strengthening international relations, and, the most important of all, making a personal development." -Javed Shadan
Read Javed's story


ABLA Convention

“The Civic Leadership Summit was, with no doubt, the most meaningful experience during my program. It was such an important opportunity getting to connect with other leaders from all over the world with a similar idea of what the world should be like and how they are going to work in order to make it get at least closer to it. I got to share my ideas, my thoughts, my principles about life and the world with a lot of inspirational people that are definitely working to make their own countries a better place to live in.” -Ariana Sánchez Barrios

Read Cheryl's story



"Now I truly feel like I have a responsibility to my community and my country. The issue we have is that young people are not motivated to study, to learn, to think, to change things for better, or fight for what we believe in. We were only six brave Nicaraguans in CIEE Work & Travel USA during the summer of 2017, and that was because I personally saw a lot of young and capable people backing off and claiming that they didn't want to step out of their comfort zone. I am sure I can be an example and set standards to a lot of young people of how good it feels to work for something and achieve what you want." -Cheryl Pablo
Read Cheryl's Story



"It changed the way I see things. Surrounded by brighter minds makes you feel motivated and confident. Discussion and sharing ideas made me clarify the way I see things and how they really are. This summit made me motivated and taught me that one person can make a difference if we just go for it. Therefore, we will always be the solution to every problem." -Valmira Xharavina

Read Valmira's story


CLS 2017 2

"I was deeply motivated by the passion of my fellow participants of the Summit. Just by hearing the fellows’ stories and their ideas on how to change their communities, I realized that they were the people who will one day become politicians, leaders and changemakers in their communities. They gave me hope and motivation to create a lasting impact in my community." -Irfan Tahir

Read Irfan's story



"It was an amazing feeling to know that I, a girl from Romania, can have so many things in common with a girl from Nicaragua. We bonded over what seemed a simple question – “If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?” It was an awesome feeling to know that if you are willing to open your mind and let go of prejudices, you can make friends with people from all over the world." -Andra Dolana

Read Andra's story


Life after cls

We checked in with other Civic Leadership Summit alumni this past year to see how they're finding meaning and creating impact around the world. Here are some of the adventures they're having and projects they're starting that show how life can change after participating in an inspiring event with other young leaders:



I’m in LA traveling after I finished my job. I’m going home to Palestine next week and I have a lot of ideas, thoughts, and things to do. Wish me luck! -Ahmed M. Lafi


I'm currently back in Tunisia, back in school, and have only one and a half years left before I graduate from my university. I also currently serve as the external relations manager for a social enterprise called Young Tunisian Coders Academy. We recently won the Social Impact Award that was held here in Tunisia! It was only my second time pitching in front of an audience. This was time it was in French, not English! Within our social enterprise, we aim to evolve and become a startup. -Naouel Cherif


I was accepted to the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship Program to study one full academic year at Emporia State University in Kansas. I have also been selected to be the Hult Prize campus director at ESU and was accepted as a delegate for the Model United Nations at Harvard University. All thanks to the CLS and all the amazing CIEE staff! -Amir Ammar


I participated in the Civic Leadership Summit in 2016 and when I came back to Egypt (my home), I was selected to be the director of international affairs of my faculty (medicine) and now I have my own startup! I created a new association about the environment and empowering youth potentials and talents called ExEgypt. I’m the founder and CEO and I’m really happy that the CLS made a new character of me. I’m no longer called a doctor, I’m a real CHANGEMAKER! Many thanks to my CIEE family” -Alaa Elyamany

Book with writing_#009ad7_128px

The CLS was one of the best opportunities of my life. When I went back to Turkey, I founded the first student nutrition magazine in the country. I started to study business on a full scholarship and involved a reverse mentoring program at Unilever. Thank you for all the hospitality and amazing days in Washington, D.C.! -Pinar Batmaz

Statistic report_#009ad7_128px

After the CLS, I went back to Italy (where I was studying) and got my master’s in international business and finance. I then moved to Spain now live in lovely Barcelona where I work at HP as a financial analyst for the 3D Printing Solutions. Still playing basketball and, meanwhile, I learned how to dance salsa! -Polina Peltekova

Business greeting_#009ad7_128px

I am back in Jamaica completing my degree in microbiology. Currently, I am serving as the director of membership and new generation for the university's Rotaract Club (a partner club of Rotary), where my job is to motivate members of the university population and surrounding high schools to be more active in community service.  -Ackime Thomas


I’m in Mexico studying business management and am a leader by founding the student society at ITESO (a higher education institution), joining CEENI congress programs. I am actually trying to push my CIEE idea from the CLS into reality and some other little projects! -Emmanuel Monroy

Study Abroad Opens Doors to the World: How One CIEE Alum Returned to India

By Priya Charry (CIEE Study Abroad, Hyderabad, India, 2013)

In my junior year of college, most of my friends studied abroad in well-known locations in Europe or South America. I decided that I wanted to go to a lesser-known destination. The desire for a unique and immersive experience, combined with my family's Indian heritage, led to India as my country of choice for a study abroad program.

As I researched options in India, CIEE Hyderabad emerged as the best fit. The Arts & Sciences program allowed me to study humanities with students from across the U.S. while exploring India through field trips and homestays. Hyderabad is centrally located in the country, allowing for affordable plane, train, and bus travel to many other cities. I was able to travel extensively during my semester there. All of these factors contributed to the amazing semester I had with CIEE Hyderabad!

Golconda Fort
Golconda Fort

Hyderabad is a dynamic, diverse city with something for everyone. There are remnants of the former Nizams (sovereigns of Indian states) in the palaces, tomb complexes, and the sprawling fort. You can explore stunning rock formations and hiking trails, visit a number of temples and mosques, and have some of the best food in all of India – Hyderabadi biryani! There are also a number of new breweries, pubs, restaurants, and stores. A lot of the recent development has been in the technology sector, with high-rise office buildings and eateries popping up in my neighborhood – Hitech City. This is a well-developed neighborhood with students, workers, and visitors from all over the country, and the world!

In Hyderabad, I felt like I had found a place where I could make a real difference. This affinity for India – the people, the geography, the music and art, the food – reinforced my connection to my distant Indian heritage. When my study abroad term ended, I made a commitment to return to India, either for extended study or work opportunities.

CIEE group
Priya and other CIEE students studying in Hyderabad

After college, I earned my master's degree in Library and Information Science and worked as a librarian in Boston. My work involved one-on-one interactions with communities and individuals to fulfill their various information needs. Unfortunately, these kinds of services are not widely available in most of India. I decided that I wanted to learn about the NGO/nonprofit sector in India and how my future career as a librarian and a public servant could unfold there. However, there were not many opportunities for early-career librarians to work in libraries in an international context. I learned more about the available options and found a fellowship that would take me there.

In September of 2017, almost five years after my semester abroad, I returned to India as a participant in the William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India, a ten-month service fellowship through the American India Foundation. When applying for this fellowship, I emphasized my experience in Hyderabad and my current work interests. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that one of the available placements was for an arts-based program at a nonprofit in Hyderabad – a perfect fit! In my interviews with the fellowship staff and with the nonprofit itself, I found that my prior experience in the city was a huge bonus in the selection process. It made the settling-in process a whole lot smoother, allowing me to jump into my work much sooner with a baseline degree of knowledge. It also demonstrated that I was willing and eager to create a fulfilling life here and make close connections with the community. The introductory Hindi course that I took during my semester abroad also proved to be very helpful while traveling during my current fellowship. It gave me a solid foundation for the language and, most importantly, taught me how to read the Devanagari script.

AIF Fellows
American India Foundation fellows

It felt a little uncanny, at first, to be in India again. I knew I would benefit from extended professional experience in India, so I was excited to return. However, so much has changed in the past five years! From infrastructure (with the new Hyderabad metro under construction) and technology (with apps ruling daily life), it took a couple weeks to acclimate to my new home and to shift from the mindset of a temporary student to an adult employee. And without a network of students/fellows in the same city, I felt a bit isolated during the first few weeks. But it was a huge relief to know that I had my CIEE host family just across the city, welcoming me with open arms.

Soon after I arrived in Hyderabad, I made a visit to my host mom and her daughter. It felt like nothing had changed (except my host sister, who had grown about a foot taller!). After reconnecting with my host family and CIEE staff, I felt much more at home and ready to settle into ten months of work. Both my host mom and I work full-time in different parts of the city, making it difficult to find time to see each other, but we message often and get together when we can. I'm so grateful for this relationship during this fellowship.

Host family
Priya (center) with CIEE student (left) and host family

My fellowship placement is at the nonprofit organization Youth4Jobs, which runs a national network of placement-linked employment skills centers for youth with disabilities. My project, Not Just Art, is a new startup of the organization. We work with artists with disabilities to promote and sell their artwork online, ensuring sustainable livelihoods for them and their families. We also hold art workshops for children with disabilities in local schools. The project became operational last year and is off to a great start!

My work requires interaction with colleagues in our office and with artists across the country. Though much of the work is based in my office, I have had the opportunity to visit artists at their homes, represent the organization at events, and even lead an art workshop for visually impaired children. These interactions with the community remind me why I came back to India and why I want to work here long-term. I am gaining valuable skills in my project management role, from web development to curriculum development to social media management. These skills are not tied to an Indian context, but will be helpful in any future work environment.

NJA workshop
Priya conducting a workshop in India