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Alumni Update - May 2018

 



NEWS THIS MONTH

 

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.


UPCOMING EVENTS 

Stay up-to-date with alumni events by:

 

 


 

ALUM OF THE MONTH 

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: alumni@ciee.org


ALUMNI VOICES

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)

 


@CIEEALUMNI 


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.

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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

2014

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

2015

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"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

2016

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

2017

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"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

 

Valmira2

"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

 

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"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:

 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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Priya conducting a workshop in India

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Andra Dolana

Interview with Andra Dolana from Romania (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)

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What made you interested in doing an exchange experience in the US?

It was my second time coming to the U.S. and I decided to participate in this experience for the same reasons I did the first time – the desire to be a part of a different culture, to see how the people of one of the greatest countries in the world are, to get to know people my age from different cultures and, of course, to travel. The American culture is everywhere and I wanted to experience a Fourth of July holiday, eat burgers and Philly cheesesteaks, talk with Americans, and visit one of the most amazing cities in the world – New York.

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

I think the most important thing I learned was that no matter the cultural barriers, or how different our personalities are, there are some things that bring us all together, like our desire to help the environment, our desire to combat corruption, and our overall desire to change the world that we live in. 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.

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How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

It made me more sure than ever that I want to make a difference and that I can make a difference. I used to feel that a single person cannot fight against an entire system, but at the Civic Leadership Summit I learned that I should start by helping the people in my community; that thinking small is not bad thing – it’s productive and can help make the world a better place. I learned a lot of interesting information and gained some helpful skills for becoming a changemaker. On top of that, I also met a lot of intelligent, fun, and caring people.

Where are you now?

I am in my country and I am currently on the path of getting my master’s degree in gender studies.

What makes you a changemaker?

Well, I am a journalist, and at the Civic Leadership Summit, I learned that storytelling is an important part of making a change so that is what I plan on doing. Using my knowledge from the Summit and my gender studies program, I plan to find stories regarding discrimination, violence against women, and racism and give those people a voice. My dream is to open a website for young women where they can learn about politics and how it affects their life and to learn about their rights, health, and education.

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Cheryl Pablo

Interview with Cheryl Pablo from Nicaragua (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)

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

I grew up in a small country with a small family. My dad works out of the country and has a lot of stories about how life is out there. He has a special feeling for the United States because it's the country that gave him a job and an opportunity to start a family, have a home, and fortunately have me and my brother studying and preparing ourselves for life. My life experience, the media, the music I listen to and the way of thinking I grew up with made me want to experience life on my own in the great United States.

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

I learned that everyone in the world could live in harmony if we base our lives on respect and empathy. I met bright young people from so many different backgrounds, but we all had this feeling of respect towards everyone, even though we were different in so many ways. Also, I learned that one person can make a change – one person can be the light to others that would come to you and start a fire.

How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

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.

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Where are you now? What are you doing now?

 I am in Nicaragua, studying and working right now. I'm saving money to be part of the CIEE Work & Travel USA program again this summer!

What makes you a changemaker?

My main area has to be young people, teenagers in high school, and young people in college. I've been volunteering in projects to help kids learn to read and write, and high school students to find what they truly want to study in college. I think education is very important for us to open our minds to the world and have more sense of how our actions do matter and how much we can help others if we all get together. This is something that I'm doing because, at the moment, it is the only way I can help. But, I am truly putting in effort to get people together with the same motivation – to help others.

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Irfan Tahir

Interview with Irfan Tahir from Pakistan (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)

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

When I was 15, I was fortunate enough to be selected for a one-year high school exchange program to the U.S. Since completing that program in 2017, I’ve been on a lookout for a program exactly like CIEE Work & Travel – something that will allow me to visit the beautiful country I adore, give me a chance to make new friends from around the world, and give me a taste of a real job. It’s fair to say that the Work & Travel USA program exceeded expectations! I didn’t know every single day in my host state of New York would be so eventful and exciting. Without a doubt, it was one of my best decisions to date. 

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

The most important thing that I learned at the Summit was something that I have always been aware of, but it was the first time I saw it in action in such a close proximity – that we are all the same regardless of our differences! At the Summit, I saw an Armenian girl conversing with a Turkish man, and I saw my Serbian friends mingling with my Kosovan friend while we explored D.C. together. It was beautiful to experience such a profound acceptance of each other despite our ideological, political, and social differences.

CLS 2017

How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

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.

Where are you now? What are you doing now?

Currently, I am in my last year of university studying mechanical engineering in Ankara, Turkey. Thanks to my summer exchange in the U.S., I can’t stop dreaming about doing my graduate studies in the U.S. Hence, it’s busy season here applying for universities and sitting for an endless string of exams.

What makes you a changemaker?

I have been working with a Connecticut-based organization called Level Up Village since the past year as a graphic designer and social media manager. Level Up Village delivers STEM-based courses to students in the U.S. and around the world with a global aspect. So essentially, students in grades 3-6 learn new and exciting things about science and build projects with their global partners in another country. I want to find a way to bring this or a similar program to schools in Ankara. I believe this is one of the best ways we can initiate change in the community – by instilling a sense of global citizenship in the students at an early age. 

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Javed Shadan

Interview with Javed Shadan from Afghanistan (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2015)

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My name is Javed Shadan. I was born in Afghanistan but spent most of my adult life in Turkey. I graduated from Karadeniz Technical University of Turkey with a degree in Civil Engineering. I am currently in Toronto, Canada and a step closer to starting my master’s degree. I am also a member of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute in California.

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

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. I then made my way to the United States in 2015 to participate in the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

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

I heard the ideas and thoughts from leading experts in the summit that increased my leadership abilities. It allowed me to sharpen and gain new skills. Later, when I was back at school in Turkey, I found my skills much useful for my activities in university. In 2016 and 2017, I was chosen as the team captain for Karadeniz Technical University at the Seismic Design Competition that was held in San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, respectively. The leadership skills I learnt at the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit helped me gain a great achievement for my university at the competitions.

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How has the civic leadership summit impacted your life?

When I compare my present time to the years before my participation to Civic Leadership Summit, I feel a huge positive change in myself. I feel like I don’t just belong to the country I was born, I am now a citizen of the world. I am now working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make a difference and be a changemaker in the world.

What makes you a changemaker?

Afghanistan’s turbulent modern history has been shaped by decades of internal conflicts and extreme natural disasters. These years of war and severe poverty, combined with poor security, have left a huge knowledge gap for the children and youth in Afghanistan. Children in rural areas have been kept far from schools due to the lack of educational facilities. They study in open-air classes with no access to libraries. It is a matter of grave concern that Afghanistan is lagging behind in the education sector and exposes many children to various forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse. Saving the children in Afghanistan by making schools, libraries, and re-opening schools in rural areas with campaigning across the country is one of my most important plans that I want to pursue by starting a volunteer organization after I complete my graduate school.

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Valmira Xharavina

Interview with Valmira Xharavina from Kosovo (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)

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

It is obvious that being a student nowadays is not easy. We constantly deal with ideas that our life is a mess and we’re always thinking of what we should do to refine it. This kind of feeling always follows us and there will come a time when you will need to change it. The perfect solution to this would be an exchange experience. Why? Because it will definitely be the best experience of your life. You will be independent. You will have the chance to explore a country and its culture that is completely different from your own. Most importantly, you will make the most amazing friends who will make you feel like home. However, the real question is, “why should you do an exchange experience?”

In 2017, it was my first time that I took an exchange experience, and in the beginning, I have to admit it wasn’t easy. You will get in a lot of arguments with yourself. I constantly had thoughts such as “You’re too young, you don’t fit in here, you will be lost of time…” going on in my mind. When I look back at it, I see that it was the greatest decision I could have ever taken and here are some of the reasons why:

  1. It’s an amazing way to learn and improve the English language. When I was in the U.S., I used to live in a dorm and it was the perfect place to advance the language. Talking over and over not just advances the language, but enhances your communication skills as well.
  2. You are young. As we know, the younger you are, the easier it is to learn new things. Things like going alone in the other countries needs more attention. Booking, searching, and exploring will help you to invest in yourself more than you think. I realized that I was being more independent and I did not need anyone else to help me. In other words, you will open a new road to your own life.
  3. You get to know yourself on a level you could not possibly have imagined before. Staying in the U.S. for 4 months made me appreciate everything from my family to the way things are organized in real life. I made friends for life and, from now on, I have the door open almost everywhere. The most interesting things that come from doing an exchange experience in the U.S. is that you will learn the most random, little things that yet in some moments of your life you will use it again and you realize that it somehow all had a purpose.

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

EMPATHY. While I was in Washington D.C. during the Civic Leadership Summit, we learned how we can be a changemaker. The term changemaker is simple to understand, just from the words it's made from. But how can you be a changemaker? This is the most sensitive part which we learned and we were taught how to share it. If you want to change the world, you can do it by gathering knowledge and resources and having the motivation to keep going. But, why do we need empathy? As we know, empathy is important because it helps us understand how others are feeling so we can respond appropriately to the situation. Empathy will make a huge difference in the world. So, if you want this to happen, start from your own self.

Valmira1

How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

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.

Where are you now? What are you doing now?

The knowledge that I gained from my personal experience in the United States, especially at the Civic Leadership Summit, will definitely be useful for my upcoming opportunities, as well as academic and professional career. Returning to Kosovo, I noticed that there are just so many things that I can do using the ideas and conceptions I have attained and I feel utterly motivated to begin a new journey here. I am currently trying to organize my plans and see where they fit the most. Moreover, I am now in the third year of my studies for speech pathology and therapy and I am trying to give my best to be a great doctor as our community needs. Additionally, I am continuing to be a volunteer at Down Syndrome Kosovo to help people with Down syndrome to have a better life. Ultimately, I am also continuing my recent research on adolescent knowledge about emotions.

What makes you a changemaker?

Being an active member of the community will give you tremendous psychological benefits. Involvement will help you feel a part of something bigger and helping to construct a better world makes you feel like a superhero. We are social beings and all we want is to be happy, so getting involved is a great first step. If you want to change something, you can start from simple things that can make huge differences. The change for my community will start in simple ways: looking at what is a primary need for my community, I will take the initiative to build a city cleaning project. But how? As mentioned before, I will start to clean up in front of my home and share the information to everyone who wants to be part of this project. Otherwise, as a student of speech pathology, I know that we don’t have enough resources that we can rely on. While I was in America, I got the chance to buy great books that every student needs. As an active member of the community, my next project is to translate books for students and for parents as well, so they can have something to support and invest in their children’s knowledge. Above all, I strongly believe that changing the world starts with understanding and appreciating others.

Alumni Update - April 2018




NEWS THIS MONTH

CIEE Staff Reflect on their Experience Volunteering in Puerto Rico

CIEE brings people from across the world together in shared experiences that build bridges between individuals and communities. In this spirit, CIEE sent 10 staff members to Puerto Rico in February 2018 to volunteer with local service organizations helping communities devastated by Hurricane Maria. The volunteers packaged food for distribution with Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico, painted a community facility with Asociación Pro Juventud Y Comunidad de Barrio Palmas, and prepped meals with World Central Kitchen. Click the image below for a video of staff reflecting on their experiences:

 

Thank you to our employees from across the globe who represented CIEE in Puerto Rico! In CIEE shirts in the image above, from left to right: Alan McLellan – Portland, Maine, USA; Julie Terzian – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Stacy Sullivan – Portland, Maine, USA; Tian Song – Santiago, Dominican Republic; Alicia Ludidi – Cape Town, South Africa; Tina Lee – Seoul, South Korea; Francisco “Paco” Diez – Alicante, Spain; Oumaima Farik – Rabat, Morocco; Julia Pons – Portland, Maine, USA; Joanna Blanck –  Portland, Maine, USA.

CIEE Hosts Justice for Women Lecture Series Event

On March 29, CIEE hosted a powerful presentation by peace activist Marian Jalabi at our global headquarters in Portland, Maine as part of the Justice for Women Lecture Series – an effort that brings distinguished speakers to Maine from around the world to promote a global conversation about justice for women and girls in both Maine and the developing world. Ms. Jalabi presented the audience with a unique perspective on the crisis in Syria by sharing stories and photos of Syrian women of the revolution. It was an informative event that represents our shared values of bringing the world together. View the recording here.

Leverage Your Knowledge of China into a Career

Do you study abroad in China or study Chinese language? Attend the US-China Strong Foundation's China Careers Summit in Washington, D.C. to learn how you can utilize your knowledge about China for a career. Experts and employers across a variety of sectors are offering talks, panels, and site visits to give American college juniors, seniors, and graduate students practical guidance on the wealth of job opportunities available to those with China expertise. Learn more.

J-1 Alumni Meetup in Madrid

CIEE alumni gathered in Madrid for a networking event with CIEE staff, employers, and representatives from the U.S. Department of State. Conversation flowed as new connections were made. The group also enjoyed a speech from a CIEE Internship USA alumnus about his amazing internship experience. We look forward to hosting alumni meetups in other global locations! See photos from the event.


UPCOMING EVENTS 

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ALUM OF THE MONTH 

The Alum of the Month for April is Peter Sima, who participated in the CIEE Internship USA program in 2014. Peter traveled from his home country of Slovakia to sunny San Diego, California for a year-long internship in the online marketing department at ESET - one of the world's leading antivirus companies. The experience inspired him to start his own consulting business helping nonprofits expand their digital presence. Learn more about Peter's amazing work!



Do you have your own story to share? Email us: alumni@ciee.org


ALUMNI VOICES

Excerpts from recently published alumni stories:

"I will never forget the day I arrived at camp. Having watched the Vega videos at least 16 times, I thought I knew what to expect. I was way off. The lake was so much clearer, the trees were taller, and the road was much bumpier than I imagined! When travelling down that stunning lakeside road, never did I think that I would leave here a different person: more complete, more confident and more of the person I wanted to be." -Conor O'Rourke (CIEE Camp Exchange USA, 2017)

"Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really amazing summers. However, nothing can top spending my summer in New York City, living with 30 exchange students from all over the world, travelling to more than 10 states in the U.S., and making so many of my dreams come true." -Carolin Richly (CIEE Internship USA, 2015-2016)


@CIEEALUMNI 




From left: CIEE Camp Exchange USA Alum Conor reminisces about the summer of friendship he had in the U.S.; throwback to the first Civic Leadership Summit in 2013 to kickoff application season for this year's event; Announcing the CIEE Teach in Spain Great Grant Giveaway, where two lucky winners will get $250 off a CIEE Fall 2018 Teach in Spain program!

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