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November Alumni Update



Update on #SaveJ1 Campaign

Last week, Executive Vice President of International Exchange Programs at CIEE, Meghann Curtis, was featured in "The Pie News" discussing the challenges facing J-1 Visa programs in the United States. Read the exciting interview for more information about the recent #SaveJ1 campaign that CIEE supported and the potential impact on businesses and international students that cutting these programs would have. Read the interview.

CIEE Alumni Speak to Current Students in Paris About Expat Life

CIEE Study Abroad alumni Winnie Andrews and Michael LoJacono spoke alongside other American expats for a lecture at CIEE Paris last month. They presented about their own career paths that brought them to Paris, the challenges and advantages to living and working in France, whether they feel like they belong in France and if they belong anymore in the U.S., and the differences between being an expat and an immigrant. Current CIEE Study Abroad students asked the alumni a range of questions to paint their own picture about expat life in France, such as different types of work contracts, navigating the French healthcare system, and what to pack for a move abroad! It was an excellent opportunity for current students to learn about building a career in France after studying abroad there.

An Opportunity for CIEE Global Navigator High School Study Abroad Alumni

It's the time of the year for giving thanks, and CIEE is giving thanks to our High School Study Abroad alumni with the Season of Thanks contest. Tell us, what study abroad experience are you most thankful for? From now until December 15, share a special study abroad memory (photo/video and caption) for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. It's our way of giving thanks for our amazing Global Navigators! Learn more and enter.

Thailand Needs Teachers

English competency is becoming increasingly important in our global economy. This creates a need for more English teachers to provide Thai students educational opportunities so that they are prepared for the competitive job search and don’t get left behind. Thailand is focused on improving their students’ proficiency, and they need smart driven people like you to do it. As a CIEE alum, you already know the importance of intercultural exchange and education. Join us in educating Thailand’s future generation of leaders. 

Travel, get paid, make a difference – Teach in Thailand. 

Three CIEE Study Abroad Alumni Participated in IIE Summit

Last month, we had three study abroad alumni participate as Alumni Voices in the 2017 IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad in Washington, D.C. The theme for this year's Summit was "Navigating a Changing World: Building Talent with Global Experience." As Alumni Voices, our alumni contributed their experiences, thoughts, and ideas based on their personal experience transitioning from a study abroad student to a member of a global workforce. Hear about their experience at the Summit, the people they met, and more on the blog.


Stay up-to-date with alumni events by:

Read about the most recent CIEE Alumni Local Chapter events on the blog.





The Alumni of the Month for November are Hannah Rafkin and Meg Robbins, CIEE Study Abroad alumni and recent Bowdoin College graduates who studied in Cape Town, South Africa in 2015. After an amazing experience abroad, the two friends fantasized about returning to Cape Town in a meaningful way. Two years later, they are back in South Africa, working on a documentary about the stand-up comedy scene and how it’s bringing new means of expression for speakers of lesser-known languages in the country. Learn more about this creative duo and their project. 

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


Excerpts from recently published alumni stories:

"My experience in Ghana shifted my college and career path. I chose to move from Vermont to Florida to be around a more diverse population. I also started my college career as a journalism major, but quickly added an international and cultural studies major to allow myself to learn about where different people come from and the roots of their cultures." -Kaylee Haskell (CIEE Global Navigator High School Study Abroad 2013, current CIEE Study Abroad participant)



From left: Representatives from CIEE and U.S. Senator Angus King from Maine in Washington, D.C. at J-1 visa educational session for congressional members as part of continued support to #SaveJ1; CIEE Teach Abroad alumna remembers good times in Thailand on World Teachers' Day; CIEE Work & Travel USA alum visits CIEE's office in Portland, Maine all the way from Siberia to see staff and share her beautiful paintings that were inspired by her time on exchange in Maine.

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Two CIEE Study Abroad Alumni Make Documentary about South African Comedy

Meg & hannah

The Alumni of the Month for November are Hannah Rafkin and Meg Robbins, CIEE Study Abroad alumni and recent Bowdoin College graduates who studied in Cape Town, South Africa in 2015. After an amazing experience abroad, the two friends fantasized about returning to Cape Town in a meaningful way. Two years later, they are back in South Africa, working on a documentary about the stand-up comedy scene and how it’s bringing new means of expression for speakers of lesser-known languages in the country. We interviewed them to learn more about their exciting documentary and how study abroad inspired the project:

What attracted you to Cape Town?
We both attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine – a small liberal arts school of 1,800 students. The University of Cape Town (UCT) is a large research university in a major city, so we were excited to experience pretty much the polar opposite of what we were used to. We also both majored in English and wanted an opportunity to study non-European and non-American literature written in English. Beyond that, we were obviously attracted by the beauty of the city. The city/mountain/ocean combination definitely appealed to us. But that was an added benefit –we were definitely looking to broaden our perspectives and learn about the history and the current challenges South Africa faces. We wanted to have conversations that we wouldn’t ordinarily have at Bowdoin, or any other place for that matter.

What did learning abroad offer that you could not have received on campus?
The most powerful learning experiences we had in Cape Town were not in the classroom. We were lucky enough to experience the start of the #FeesMustFall campaign, a student-led protest that took South Africa’s universities by storm and has continued to evolve since. UCT students organized to demand their right to free education and to protest the treatment of black students and workers. This movement was literally unfolding at our doorstep. One of our resident advisors was arrested for peacefully protesting and spent the night in jail. Students held posters with slogans that their parents’ generation used in anti-apartheid protests. Our finals ended up getting delayed, but it was absolutely worth it to be immersed in this political moment. Witnessing political action and dialogue on such a high level was a unique experience that we knew we’d never get in Brunswick, Maine.

About the project:
As longtime comedy fans, we watched a lot of stand-up while we were in Cape Town. It was exciting to listen to comedians responding to current events and the historical context of South Africa. At this time, Trevor Noah was just starting to take over for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, so that became a frequent point of connection between us and South Africans we’d meet. We had a lot of discussions with South Africans about the role of comedy in confronting political corruption and difficult histories, and these talks got us thinking more deeply about the comedy occurring in our own nation.

After returning to Bowdoin, we continued having these conversations, and we were constantly itching to get back to South Africa in a meaningful way. Halfway through our senior year, President Trump was inaugurated. As our country was delving into chaos, the comedy was getting very, very good. People were turning to SNL, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Samantha Bee. We were deep in thought about this relationship between politics and comedy and kept returning to discussions about how this relationship works in South Africa. One night during one of these talks, the idea for our documentary clicked. We stayed up until 5 a.m. planning and researching – we knew we were hitting on something important and wanted to make it happen.

As we continued to research and talk to South African comedians, we realized that vernacular comedy was the most fascinating genre growing in South African comedy. That’s what we decided to focus on. Vernacular comedy is doubly political – the material confronts messy politics while the medium of mother tongue languages is itself a political protest against the dominance of English and Afrikaans.

What is it like to experience South African comedy?
South African comedy is a huge umbrella term for a variety of performance styles, languages, venues, and themes. Running through them all is an intense energy between the performers and their audience – comedians often repeat to their audiences that comedy works with energy.

We’ve obviously been going to a lot of vernacular comedy shows, and we often get asked what it’s like to experience those gigs when we don’t speak any of the nine indigenous languages that make up the ‘vernacular’ genre. Of course it can be frustrating at times to not understand everything that’s said, but the combination of the palpable energy in the room during these shows and the way the comedians use other linguistic cues and body language – tone of voice, volume, facial expression, hand movements, an English phrase here and there – enables you to sort of pick up on parts of what is going on. You can feel when something is hilarious even if you don’t understand exactly what that is. And sometimes you realize you don’t need a word-for-word translation. We’ve been able to talk to a lot of comedians about their jokes in English. They won’t translate them for us word for word, but they’ll explain the premises. For instance, one of the comics in our film does a joke about his grandfather who still thinks South Africa is under apartheid. Knowing that bit of background and then seeing the audience react as the comedian performs is enough for us to feel like we experienced his set in a meaningful way.

How is comedy challenging the status quo?
In South Africa, stand up has only been a viable art form since the nation became a democracy in 1994 (with the exception of a few white men who performed under apartheid). Since then, it served as a change-maker, a conversation-starter, and a healing tool. In dealing with such a traumatic history and its continuing legacy (South Africa has been rated one of the most unequal nations in the world), laughter has been crucial.

There have been multiple waves of change in post-apartheid comedy. In the early years after 1994, black and coloured comedians began taking the stage for the first time. In more recent years, there has been a surge of female comedians. Now, vernacular comedy – where comics perform in their native language(s) – is the next frontier. This is disrupting the status quo for an obvious reason: the status quo has always been English and Afrikaans.

There are eleven national languages in South Africa, and the majority of its citizens speak some combination of the nine indigenous African languages (Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu). However, English and Afrikaans have remained dominant. It is no coincidence that these were the two official languages under apartheid. The nine indigenous languages are often relegated to the domestic sphere, and are not as well-represented in entertainment, commerce, and public life. But now, comedians are taking to the stage and speaking in their mother tongues as a form of empowerment. By putting these languages in the spotlight, they are amplifying the stories, perspectives and cultures of South Africa’s majority. Vernacular comedy is bringing value to mother tongue languages outside of the domestic sphere, and in turn is helping shape how the languages will be spoken in the future.

What impact has vernacular comedy had?
Though formalized stand-up comedy is a recent phenomenon, humor and storytelling are by no means new in South Africa. But now, vernacular comics are making a living doing this. They are performing sold out shows in front of massive audiences without having to conform to industry pressures to speak English or to discuss certain topics.

As evidenced by enormous fan followings, consistently sold-out events, and booming laughter, South African audiences are ready to see their linguistic diversity represented onstage. We’ve even observed this at ‘English’ comedy shows. A comic will go through the whole arc of a joke in English, and then suddenly crack the punchline in Zulu or Xhosa – the audience explodes.

Comedians and audience members alike often describe comedy as a healing tool – a powerful means of grappling with both personal and political trauma. Vernacular comedians in particular stress the importance of relating to their audiences; they seek to provide them with stories and jokes that are relevant to their daily lives. In a country that has historically shunned the life experiences of its majority, this laughter and connection is especially important.

Learn more about the documentary by watching the video below and visiting their Indiegogo page, where you have the chance to donate to this incredible project!

Alumni at the 70th CIEE Annual Conference

CIEE is proud to have a number of fantastic alumni at the 70th CIEE Annual Conference happening this week in Austin, Texas. The theme of this year's conference is "Born Digital: Embracing Technology to Enhance International Education." The study abroad community, including our alumni, are engaging in thought-provoking conversation around the topic this week to share ideas of how 21st century learning approaches can be incorporated into the innovative global programs and experiences abroad that prepare today's students for the future. These are the alumni that will be taking part in this year's conference as session presenters, attendees, and more:


Session Presenter

“Turning to Technology: Emerging Access for Students with Disabilities”

Emma Verrill is originally from Yarmouth, Maine. After receiving a BA in Gender and Women’s Studies from Bowdoin College, she moved to Rennes, France, where she studied abroad, to teach English. Emma participated in the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) from 2010-2012. While living abroad, she worked for the local CIEE office evaluating the physical accessibility of the city and the program. Upon return to the United States, Emma moved to Austin, Texas here she obtained her Masters in Education from Texas State University. She is currently a second grade teacher at Trinity Episcopal School. Emma enjoys live music, warm weather, and the active/outdoor lifestyle Austin has to offer.


Session Presenter

“Uncovering the Digital Author Abroad: Reflection, Representation, and Authority in Digital Learning Abroad”

Hannah Milkie is a student at Northern Michigan University, with a graphic design major and double minors in political science and philosophy. She studied abroad at the CIEE Global Institute in London the fall semester of 2016. She's always been extremely passionate about political activism but studying abroad in London helped her begin to take her creativity more seriously. She is unsure what the future holds for her but she hopes to keep developing her skills in design and other forms of media. Additionally, she hopes keep traveling and gaining new cultural experiences at any given opportunity.



Session Presenter

“Once More with Feeling: Humanizing Technology in the Study Abroad Space”

Mandi Faulkner is a history major at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2015, she spent a year studying abroad at the University of Amsterdam. She wrote her honors thesis on women’s networks in seventeenth-century Amsterdam and hopes to return there soon.



CIEE Breakfast Presenter

Peiré Wilson is a junior at City College’s Colin Powell School of Civic and Global Leadership, located in Harlem New York. He currently is studying Political Science with a minor in International Studies, with plans to combine his passions for arts, technology, advocacy and law into a career in Intellectual Property Law. He was a member of the first cohort of Frederick Douglass Global Fellows to study at the CIEE London Global Institute, where he studied intercultural communications and leadership. His experience in London was a transformative one – after meeting with the living descendant of Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass, Ms. Nettie Douglass, he felt a renewed charge to push against conformity and instead fight for unity.


CIEE Breakfast Presenter

Chinwendu “Chi-Chi” Maduegbunam is a junior attending Fayetteville State University. She is majoring in psychology and minoring in biology with hopes to attend medical school afterwards. Chi-Chi was named one of the first Frederick Douglass Global Fellows and plans to use what she has learned to continue on her path to being a successful leader in the medical field. She wants to positively impact the people around her by becoming a pediatrician or pediatric psychiatrist. Later on in her career, she wants to develop a charitable organization in Nigeria to give medicine, clothes, food, and other necessities to impoverished areas. By having this study abroad experience, it has spearheaded her vision and goals.



Mayra “Kahori” Vidana Sanchez a junior at University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), studying to become a math educator. There, she serves as a student ambassador of the university at various events and conferences, is a leader in the UTEP Honors Program, and works at the Contracts and Grants office at her institution. In these capacities on campus, Kahori highlights the importance of study abroad opportunities, by sharing her story from the summer of 2017 in Northern Ireland and at the CIEE Global Institute in London, as a member of the first cohort of the Frederick Douglas Global Fellowship. Kahori’s greatest determination is to give others the accessibility to educational excellence, because to her, education is essential for progress for a global society. Kahori’s personal narrative was featured in The Atlantic.




Katherine Tran is a senior and Distinguished Business Student in the College of Business at The University of Texas at San Antonio. She is currently studying Management with a concentration in International Management, and is also a first-generation college student. She was a member of the inaugural cohort of the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship at the CIEE Global Institute in London during the summer of 2017. Katherine loves to be involved on campus through many student organizations! Besides her academics, she enjoys going on hikes, trying new food, and hanging out with her family and friends.



Lea Sandoval is a senior at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. She will earn a Bachelor of Science in Middle School Math Education with a minor in Social Work. Lea had the opportunity to study abroad with CIEE in Seoul, South Korea during the spring semester of her sophomore year. Her semester abroad allowed for personal and professional growth, which she has utilized since her return. After returning from Seoul, she gained a newfound passion for study abroad and now aims to become a study abroad advisor at the university level.

CIEE Study Abroad Alumni Reflect on the 2017 IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad

Image courtesy of Event Photography of North America Corporation.

This year, we were fortunate to have three CIEE Study Abroad alumni invited to participate as Alumni Voices in the 2017 IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad in Washington, D.C. The Summit, which took place in early October, is part of the Institute of International Education (IIE)'s Generation Study Abroad initiative that aims to double the number of U.S. students studying abroad by 2020. As a partner and luncheon sponsor, CIEE was excited to have these alumni in attendance – sharing their thoughts and experiences about studying abroad and building talent with global experience.

Our alumni reflect on their Summit experience:

“The conference was great - it was so neat getting to meet so many people that work hard on making education easier for all students. A highlight was definitely going to the Norwegian embassy and meeting the ambassador, and getting a selfie with him and IIE president Alan Goodman. It was interesting to me in the sessions I attended that they kept promoting a focus on diversity, but spoke mostly about diversity with different cultures and races, and how important language is for diversity in study abroad. I only briefly heard them speak of disability inclusion with diversity. I was glad to see the people that I met from Ireland wanting to hear about my experience, and wanting to learn about the difficulties. It was interesting to me that several things I pointed out regarding access, they hadn't seemed to notice themselves.”

-Rachel Malone

Image courtesy of Event Photography of North America Corporation.

"The IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad was an amazing experience and I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to attend! I met peers who are creating and accomplishing amazing feats. I had the opportunity to network with trailblazing professionals. I love that IIE is committed to diversity, which was visible throughout the conference. Thank you so much to CIEE and IIE for this opportunity!"

-Breanna Moore


“The crowd was large and purposeful, and it was fun to walk among the goal-oriented without a detailed agenda. In fact, the best way to describe my experience representing students at a conference of industry professionals whose work surrounds students is half celebrity, half specimen. Day one was very hustle-bustle. I got the impression many people were preoccupied with meetings that had been planned far in advance. Day two was more relaxed, and I found it easier to mingle after the crowd had a day to cool down and I had a day to warm up. I ended up meeting some interesting people, exchanged plenty of business cards, and even wrangled some possible work opportunities.

“I'm not a business person. The business side of study abroad never really interested me, so as I witnessed many panels attempting to distill the powerful elements of curiosity, self-discovery and wonder that is study-abroad into concrete figures and language meant for the business world, it crushed me a tad. I see its importance, but I don't play that game, and as a writer, I champion the very opposite: anecdotal evidence. My favorite moments were when I was able to speak to that and use my position as a Summit voice to remind some of the officials that the beauty of study abroad isn't about how much more desirable you are to a corporation after the fact, but rather how much opportunity it allows a young person to grow within themselves in the moment and shake their worldview. In many of the people I talked to, I sensed that appreciation underneath, yet somewhat buried under industry vocabulary and vernacular. I had fun breaking through that and finding real human moments with some very industry-minded people.”

-Thomas Rose

Image courtesy of Event Photography of North America Corporation.

October Alumni Update



Thank You For Supporting J-1 Visa Exchange Programs

Thank you to everyone who participated in the #SaveJ1 advocacy campaign last month by sharing photos of your J-1 experience on social media, sharing stories about why J-1 visa exchange programs matter, and calling your elected officials. Your voice was powerful in spreading the word about helping others see how important this program is for global diplomacy. In fact, this campaign, conducted by CIEE as a part of a larger advocacy effort by Americans for Cultural Exchange, has reached over 5.7 million people! Thank you for being a part of this amazing effort. As of now, the J-1 program has not been eliminated and CIEE will continue efforts to advocate for and protect this program. Follow us on social media @cieealumni for more updates on the outcome of this ongoing advocacy work.

Enter to Win A Free Destination TEFL Course

You’re going places. TEFL can help. Ready to go abroad again? CIEE Destination TEFL combines our 130-hour online TEFL Certification course with a 2 week practicum abroad in Barcelona, Rome, Bangkok, or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Get certified to Teach English as a Foreign Language – a valuable credential to add to your resume and skill set to add to your back pocket – and then spend 2 weeks practicing your teaching skills and gaining work experience abroad. Plus, if you win, you could do all of this for FREE. Enter Now.

CIEE Study Abroad Alumnus Wins Emmy Award

CIEE Study Abroad alumnus and producer Jason Kane, who studied in Cape Town, South Africa in 2006, won an Emmy Award on October 5 for his work on the series "The End of AIDS?" - a six-part broadcast and digital series on worldwide efforts to lessen the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Keep your eye on the CIEE Alumni blog next month for an interview with Jason!


Alumni Meet in St. Petersburg for an Anniversary Celebration

Program faculty and staff, CIEE Study Abroad alumni, and current students recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of CIEE’s Study Center in St. Petersburg, Russia during a series of celebratory events in September. From watching a Russian ballet to experiencing famous opera arias at their own costume ball and learning how to dance the Russian folk dances, the weekend was packed with cultural events. During the opening reception at the Grand Hotel Europe, opening remarks were made by CIEE President & CEO Jim Pellow; Mary Kruger, 1969 and 1970 CIEE Study Abroad alumna and the former U.S. Consul General in St. Petersburg (2005-2008); and Thomas Leary, the current U.S. Consul General in St. Petersburg. The anniversary celebration also featured a keynote presentation by John R. Beyrle ’76, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, as well as panel presentations with Britta Bjornlund ’88, branch chief, U.S. Department of State; Jill Dougherty ’69 ’71, former CNN correspondent and Moscow bureau chief; Mark Teeter, columnist at “The Moscow Times"; Eric Naiman, Professor of UC Berkeley and alumnus of 1978; and Larry Sherwin, Deputy Director of Communications at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and alumnus of 1975. Learn more about the anniversary, read the DW news feature, and hear alumni stories from St. Petersburg.

Scholarships, Fellowships, Awards, and More!

From supporting scholars to receiving awards, CIEE continues to show commitment to increasing access to international exchange opportunities and providing extraordinary experiences for people around the globe. Here are a few highlights of what CIEE has celebrated in recent months:


Stay up-to-date with alumni events by:

Read about the most recent CIEE Alumni Local Chapter events on the blog.





The Alum of the Month for October is Alyssa O'Connor. Alyssa taught English in Chanthaburi, Thailand in 2013 to first, second, and third grade children through CIEE Teach Abroad. She is about to embark on her next journey abroad as a girls' health management project leader in Kenya, providing educational workshops and sanitary products to empower girls to make healthy decisions for their bodies. Read her story.

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


Excerpts from recently published alumni stories:

"This exchange experience has been life changing for us. It helped us be more independent and shaped our personalities for the better. We were able to take the good examples of the United States and bring and implement them in our country." -Guxim & Grese (CIEE Work & Travel USA, 2016)

"...I value travelling more than anything, it’s a great way to learn about the world you live in. There is no way they [university teachers] would teach you how people behave themselves in the U.S. and why they are always friendly... you have to go the country by yourself and figure it out. ONLY then you will be able to understand life in another country." -Nikita Bazhenov (CIEE High School USA 2012, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)



From left: CIEE High School USA alumnus and current CIEE Work and Travel USA participant shares his adventures across America through vlogging; #SaveJ1 trends on social media as alumni and other supporters share photos from their experiences on exchange programs in the U.S.; alumni and guests show off their name tags at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the CIEE Study Center in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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*A version of this post originally appeared on the CIEE Study Abroad, Legon, Ghana, Arts & Sciences program blog

by Kaylee Haskell, a Junior at University of Tampa who is studying this Fall '17 semester on the CIEE Ghana Arts and Science program. She is also an Alum of the CIEE Global Navigator High School Study Abroad program in Ghana in 2013.

Small towns produce two kinds of people- those who sit comfortably in their familiar, safe environments and those who crave to find what’s beyond, following their curiosity and need for something new and different. I will always be grateful for growing up in Vermont, but it was definitely beneficial and necessary to explore new, different cultures.

When I decided to go to Ghana in 2013, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was finishing my junior year in high school and I had never left my mother, aside from 3-day field hockey camp, but I felt like I needed a change of scenery. 

Kaylee (2nd from left) with some of the High School students and Programme Leaders

CIEE made the planning and traveling process as easy as possible for my family and I. The Leadership Academy prepared me more for what was to come in my life than anything in my prior 17 years. I had little knowledge about Ghana before I stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac, but I could tell instantly that this place would have an impact on me.

I was very homesick for the first week that I was in Accra. I had convinced myself before I left that I would be fine and not miss home, but it seems somewhat inevitable when you’ve never left home before, and now you’re 5,000 miles away. However, the homesickness didn’t prevail and I quickly settled into this new culture and let it open my eyes to people, places and things unknown.

 Our small group of 6 high schoolers spent our weekdays volunteering at Future Leaders UCC, and then returning back to the University of Ghana campus to take Twi language classes and group leadership lessons. On weekends we would participate in excursions and escape the city life of Accra to more rural places that took us deeper into the roots of the culture.

My four weeks in Ghana felt more like a taste of the culture than an actual immersion. The days flew by and when it was time to leave, I wanted more. Despite taking language classes, I could only comfortably say '3te s3n', '3y3' and 'medaase', which was sufficient for the 30 days I was there, but I found myself wanting more, and I knew I would eventually return.

At the Cape Coast Castle

My experience in Ghana shifted my college and career path. I chose to move from Vermont to Florida to be around more, diverse people. I also started my college career as a journalism major, but quickly added an international and cultural studies major to that to allow myself to dive into different people, where they come from and the roots of their cultures.

I decided that I would return to Ghana for the fall semester in 2017. Because CIEE has helped me so greatly before, I didn’t look to any other program because I knew they would ensure that I had the greatest abroad experience.

I arrived on the Legon campus on August 10th, and have now been here for 36 days, a little over the time that I spent here before, and it has flown by. My experience from the Leadership Academy prepared me greatly for the semester ahead. I feel as though I am more comfortable with intercultural communications and am more accustomed to the everyday norms that differ from those in the US. I have been able to make friends with locals, travel comfortably outside of the capital, confidently board and trotro and make connections throughout the country that I never could have done otherwise.

I decided to focus my studies for this semester on gender and culture within Ghana and the issues that surround it. I am enrolled in 5 classes, including another Twi language course, I’m determined to carry a conversation, an intercultural communication course and 3 classes surrounding issues within gender roles, religion and Ghanaian culture. Even with some prior knowledge, it is interesting to indulge in conversations with locals and see what norms are still prevalent in everyday life today.   

The most interesting lesson that has been the topic of discussion in more than one of my classes is the role of women in Ghanaian society and how it is calculated, or not calculated, into the Gross Domestic Product of the country. The GDP is measured in the public space, which doesn’t account for any services that are provided in the private space. This leads to a high rate of unemployment within the female population of Ghana, because a majority of the country promotes strict gender roles, keeping the women’s work in the household. These women are considered “not working” while they are the first to rise, maintain the household, prepare her husband for work, her children for school, clean while they are all gone, run errands, cook and clean when everyone returns home, wash and maintain the house while they are asleep and repeat these steps every day. Women’s roles in Ghanaian culture are crucial to the function of the society, but never measured on the big scale. 

Kaylee learning how to Tie Dye

This has stood out to me the most so far, but we are only 5 weeks in. I am forever grateful for the opportunities CIEE and Ghana have provided me with and am looking forward to the next 3 months in this vibrant, evolving country.

Kaylee with some of her local Ghanaian and CIEE friends


CIEE Teach Abroad Alum Leads Girls' Health Project in Kenya

The Alum of the Month for October is CIEE Teach Abroad alumna Alyssa O’Connor. After graduating from Cornell University, Alyssa taught English in Thailand in 2013 to first, second, and third grade children in Chanthaburi. She now looks back on her experience as a time of growth and cultural immersion as she is about to embark on her next adventure abroad.

Alyssa with students in Thailand
Alyssa with students in Thailand

“Looking back, teaching English was the best decision I could have made for myself and I am so grateful for this organization. I enjoyed the chance to live and work abroad, immersing myself in another culture versus just traveling through it. At the end of my program, I found myself asking, 'Did I come to teach? Or did I come to be taught?' I learned so much from my kids, as well as my fellow Thai teachers, that I knew working internationally was the direction in life I wished to proceed. Taking the confidence and skills I gained from CIEE, I started working on my next opportunity to go abroad and am so happy to share this project with you.

"In January, I will be going to Kenya for three months as a menstrual health management project leader with Cross World Africa, a non-profit dedicated to ending inequality in East Africa. All over the world, menstruation persists as a taboo subject that is not discussed within the home and is largely skipped over in school. When girls reach puberty, many are left confused and scared about what is happening in their body. To make matters worse, many girls can't afford sanitary products and resort to using improper materials, like mattress stuffing and old newspapers, which leads to infections and missed school. Lack of education on menstrual hygiene management, as well as lack of access to sanitary products, are just two parts of a vicious cycle that negatively affect girls who already face enough barriers to their education and empowerment. This summer, Cross World Africa secured a partnership with Ruby Life Ltd., a socially-minded, menstrual health company that makes a product called Ruby Cup. Working together, the goal of this project is provide educational workshops and a menstrual cup to empower girls to make healthy decisions for their bodies.”

In just a few short months, Alyssa will be traveling to Kenya to lead the three-month-long project - Ruby in the Rift - in the Rift Valley. Though it will be a challenging time for Alyssa with new language barriers and cultural barriers to overcome, she has already developed the skills to adjust through her CIEE Teach Abroad experience in Thailand. Alyssa is ready for her next teaching experience abroad on a new continent - a great new adventure. Learn more about the project and read the CIEE shout-out on her project leader page!

Three CIEE Study Abroad Alumni to Participate in IIE Summit as Generation Study Abroad Voices

This year, three CIEE Study Abroad alumni were invited to participate as Alumni Voices in the 2017 IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad in Washington, D.C. from October 1-3. The Summit is part of the Institute of International Education (IIE)'s Generation Study Abroad initiative, of which CIEE is a partner, that aims to double the number of U.S. students studying abroad by 2020. The theme for this year's Summit is "Navigating a Changing World: Building Talent with Global Experience." Studies show that graduates with an international experience find employment faster and are more prepared than those without it, yet less than 10% of U.S. college students graduate with global experience. The Summit will bring together leaders and practitioners from education, business, and government for discussion on global workforce readiness to spark new ideas and creative collaboration to work towards expanding study abroad participation.

As a Generation Study Abroad Alumni Voice, these three CIEE Study Abroad alumni will be contributing their experiences, thoughts, and ideas as individuals who have gone from a study abroad student to a member of a global workforce. Combined, they present skills in photography, advocacy, business, marketing, writing, editing, and more. Click on their bios below to learn more about them, what they plan on contributing to the Summit, and what access to study abroad means to them:



Dublin, Ireland

B.A. in Travel and Hospitality, Minneapolis Business College

Brand Ambassador, Sand Cloud



Legon, Ghana

B.A. in International Relations and African Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Founder and CEO, LaBré



Lisbon, Portugal

B.S. in Professional Writing, Champlain College

Freelance Writer & Editor




IIE Summit Participant: Rachel Malone

Rachel Malone

CIEE Study Abroad in Dublin, Ireland, Summer 2016. CIEE/MIUSA Access to the World Scholarship. Minneapolis Business College graduate.

Rachel is a strong advocate for disability rights with insatiable wanderlust and goals to compete in the Paralympics someday. She has put her degree in travel and hospitality to good use by travelling to more than thirteen countries using a wheelchair. She also studied American Sign Language and is an award-winning, exhibited, and published photographer. Rachel is an advocate for disability civil rights and works closely with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related programs in her hometown community in Minnesota. Her experience travelling abroad has offered a unique opportunity to compare and contrast accessibility in other countries. A true global citizen, Rachel has a strong sense of wanderlust and adventure that is sure to take her on many more travels to come. Her globetrotting experience offers great knowledge for the international education community in learning about accessibility differences worldwide. Learn more about Rachel:

"Myself and paralympic wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden in front of her image on the stairs of the National Portrait Gallery, during ADA 25/40 celebrations.Washington, D.C."

What made you interested in studying in Ireland with CIEE?

I attended the ADA 25th Anniversary celebrations in D.C., and when I returned home I saw that there was a scholarship being offered to 25 students with disabilities from MIUSA and CIEE called "Access to the World," so I applied and received it. I was asked where I'd want to go and why, and I said Ireland because I have part Irish heritage and my disability is most prevalent in Ireland. So, I wanted to see what life would have been like if I had been born with my disability in Ireland had my family not created the Irish colony where I am from in Minnesota.

Where else in the world have you traveled?

I've mostly gone on cruises, but in total I have been to 13 countries and 32 states – Jamaica, Haiti, England, France, Denmark, Iceland, Mexico, Italy – to name a few.

What does being a global citizen mean to you?

Learning about others’ beliefs and customs and respecting our differences. Contributing when you feel you are able to offer something of value, and being open to trying different things.

The Summit revolves largely around making study abroad accessible to everyone. What are your thoughts on this?

As a person with a disability who has an educational background in travel and hospitality, I took the difficulties I faced in my study abroad in Ireland and our Intercultural Comparative Experience (“ICE”) weekends in Spain and Germany, and it made me want to look for ways I can contribute to making the lives of Europeans with disabilities, and lives of others like families and caregivers, easier where I see significant flaws. The trips made me want to find ways to make their lives better, which would in turn make the lives of everyone with a disability better. Seeing the difficulties that they face and that I don't deal with in the U.S. made me want to meet more of them, to look for a possible committee on accessibility, understand if they see a change being needed, and to offer them ideas or advice which I think may help.

"A photo of the ADA Legacy Tour Bus, during ADA 25/40 celebrations, as many of us with disabilities marched with NCIL, from the Grand Hyatt a rally at the U.S. capitol. Washington, D.C."

What thoughts are you excited to contribute to the IIE Summit?

How better accessibility and removing barriers would greatly improve the quality of life for their citizens with disabilities in Ireland, and give those citizens more opportunities to shine. Better access for the country would mean a greater tourism boost and a better economy. Disabled visitors to the country would be able to get a better understanding of the Irish, their history, and the country itself. If accessibility needs are understood and barriers are removed, everyone would benefit; more people with disabilities would be able to travel independently in the country, and more citizens of the country would become self-reliant rather than potentially feeling like a burden or charity to caregivers. Quality of life for not only the disabled but those around them would be greatly improved with access. Europe has great adaptive equipment inventions, and if I were to run a country with that distinction, I would want to have people with disabilities front and center showing off our achievements.

IIE Summit Participant: Breanna Moore

Breanna Moore

CIEE Study Abroad in Legon, Ghana, Spring 2014. Michael Stohl Research Scholarship. University of Pennsylvania graduate.

The immersive experience of living and studying in Ghana exposed Breanna to the vibrant artisan communities, stunning Ankara fabrics, and traditional Kente cloth that inspired her to create her own clothing line – LaBré. LaBré is a fashion-forward West African-inspired clothing company that employs Ghanaian designers, seamstresses, and tailors, who are primarily women, to create African-inspired, modern products for exposure to the international market. Her entrepreneurial pursuits aim to increase economic growth in the country through job creation – supporting those who are often disenfranchised. Based in Philadelphia, Breanna continues to grow the fashion line and build on the large, preexisting network of African-focused organizations in the city. Breanna’s semester in Ghana represents the powerful intercultural connections and economic development opportunities that are found through exchanging our world. Learn more about Breanna:


What made you interested in studying in Ghana with CIEE?

The summer prior to studying abroad in Ghana with CIEE, I studied abroad for one month at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology through the International Development Summer Institute where I taught mathematics to elementary and middle school students in Adanwomase, Ghana. That experience motivated me to come back to Ghana and explore the country through a semester-long program with CIEE.

Where else in the world have you traveled?

I have traveled to South Africa, Togo, Barbados, and Grand Cayman Island.

What does being a global citizen mean to you?

Being a global citizen means not being confined by political, man-made borders. It means accepting people from other cultures as your human family, knowing that "foreign" is only one translation away from realizing we all share a common experience, culture, and bond.

The Summit revolves largely around making study abroad accessible to everyone. What are your thoughts on this?

I agree wholeheartedly that it's vital for youth to have the opportunity to travel, learn, and expand their mind. Traveling teaches you not only about other people and their cultures but also about yourself. It's necessary that steps are made to prohibit financial or other disadvantages from hindering youth from getting the life-changing experience of global citizenry through travel.

How do you think study abroad prepares young people to become global leaders?

Once you realize, through travel, that the world is bigger than your street, your neighborhood, your city, your state, your country, you'll able to care more about how global systems affect people everywhere. You will be able to lead being driven by the motivation to have a positive impact on all communities and not only try to find solutions to issues that affect you and your community directly because you'll realize that we are all connected and until everyone in the world is from free oppression then there is no progress.


How has your study abroad experience shaped who you are as a person and leader?

Studying abroad in Ghana caused me to pick up better values and treat people better. I loved certain parts of the culture and adopted it into my own. I began to share more with people. I asked people how they were and how their family were with genuine care. I talked to people more directly. I became more relaxed, appreciative, and less stressed. I listened more and grew from being in and observing the culture.

How did study abroad equip you to be a part of the global workforce?

Studying abroad allowed me to make connections with people who I desired to do business with. I learned more about the market and fashion industry that I now participate in. I learned the importance of international travel and international business. Studying abroad equipped me to become an entrepreneur.

What thoughts are you excited to contribute to the IIE Summit?

I'm excited to contribute to the IIE Summit how studying abroad can, and will, impact you past the tone experience – how you can take what you learn and use it to propel you towards your interests and passions.