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6 posts from April 2014

CIEE Alumni and Student Diplomats Spur Diversity in the U.S. and France

The efforts of CIEE alumni and a project called Diplomats of Diversity led to four students from Club Barbès in Paris visiting Harvard University on April 22-23.

During their visit, the student diplomats – Babacar, Jays, Dinehs, and Oumou – gave presentations to numerous French classes about a variety of topics, such as French music, their neighborhood in France, and the Club Barbès organization.  They also joined Harvard students for classes and meals. As a result, they strengthened their leadership skills, practiced speaking English, and began to form international bonds with peers.

  Photo 1

The group was hosted by Harvard student and CIEE alum Virginie Chan, who studied in Paris in 2013. Chan has roots in Paris, too, having lived there with her parents, who immigrated to France from Cambodia in 1979.

“I still recall the discrimination that my family faced,” says Virginie. “I was eager to get involved with Club Barbès because I saw a lot of parallels between my own experience in France and the lives of the Club Barbès students.  Although I was primarily tasked with helping the students with their English homework, I had the chance to engage in deep discussion with them about their dreams, their families, and their lives in France.”

“They shared with me their stories and the obstacles that they had overcome to be where they are today. I wanted to do everything that I could to support these students,” continued Virginie, who also organized a club outing to the U.S. Embassy in Paris during her stay.

Back in the United States, Virginie worked with Harvard faculty to make this visit possible. “I thought it would be a wonderful experience for them to visit one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world,” she explains.  “It was so exciting to see the diplomats speaking comfortably and eloquently in front of a full Harvard classroom.  My peers were so interested . . . many rushed afterwards to speak with them individually.”

Initially funded by CIEE and the Ping Foundation, Diplomats of Diversity is an extension of volunteer work done by U.S. students from CIEE’s Contemporary French program in Paris. For five years, students in this program have provided tutoring and support to teenagers from Goutte d’Or, who face daily challenge as a result of their economic, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, and must master English to succeed in France. Through Diplomats of Diversity, this important work extends beyond France to the United States, when Club Barbès students make an annual visit to the home universities of select CIEE alumni. Upon their return to France, students share their discoveries at a community event.

As this event shows, the positive effects of intercultural interactions often ripple farther than you might expect. “Virginie’s efforts show that studying abroad hasa significant impact for CIEE alumni, as well as for those they connect with abroad and then later when they’re back in the United States,” says David Fougere, chief operating officer for CIEE Study Abroad.

CIEE Amman Alumnae Chosen for Fulbright Awards

Dr. Elena Corbett, Resident Director of the CIEE Study Center in Amman, recently shared that two of her recent students have been awarded Fulbright awards.

 Laura Willenbring, a senior at Unversity of Missouri-Columbia, has been awarded study/research grant to Morocco and Coco Tang, a senior at University of Maryland - Baltimore County, was chosen for the English Teaching Assistant program in Jordan.

We are excited to see our alums begin chosen for Fulbright programs and we will highlight others in upcoming posts.



Love, Wine, and Exchange in Napa Valley

CIEE and HAESF alumna Hajnalka Pracser ('07) found love and developed skills as a wine producer while participating on a  J-1 Exchange Internship program in Napa Valley. 
Learn more about her wonderful tale in the recent article published by the Napa Valley Register: "Article: "A pleasant surprise and invitation".
Ronn Weigand
Photo: Lisa James/Register

CIEE Alumni Gather to Celebrate 40 Years of International Education in Paris

On April 1, more than 160 alumni, staff, and special guests gathered at Maison de l'architecture to reconnect and celebrate four decades of international education and cultural exchange at our Paris Study Center. Since 1974, the CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange center has welcomed thousands of American students, and fostered an understanding of French culture and connections between countries.


Like other CIEE alumni events, this evening was an ideal way for past participants to share their international exchange experiences, forge new friendships, and build their professional networks. CIEE staff members, special guests, students, and alumni from a variety of CIEE programs attended, including Study Abroad alums from various CIEE Study Centers who now live in Paris and over 40 alumni from J-1 Exchange Visitor programs, which give students from abroad opportunities to train with U.S. companies, experience U.S. culture, and ultimately strengthen ties between nations.  The gathering was co-coordinated with CIEE staff and CIEE’s long-time local partner Parenthèse.

Also attending were representatives from CIEE’s partner institutions in France: Université de Paris - Sorbonne Nouvelle, the Université Paris Diderot, Collège International de Philosophie, and Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). CIEE was honored to host two staff members from the U.S. Embassy, a member of the Franco-American Commission (Fulbright-France), and 16 members of Club Barbes – one of our Paris Study Center’s partners. Four members of Club Barbes will visit Harvard University later this month as part of a project called Diplomats of Diversity, initially funded and co-created by CIEE.

As part of our commitment to offer alumni ways to continue learning about other cultures, the evening featured presentations from several guests, including Caroline Ryan, managing director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in France.


“Caroline inspired the audience by speaking about her own experiences as a binational professional citizen, and described AmCham’s programs in France that support intellectual and economic exchange between the U.S. and France,” said Dan Olds, director of CIEE alumni relations.

Chosen for its rich history and architectural interest, the venue itself inspired guests. Built in the early 1600s as the home of a Franciscan order, The Recollects (as it was known for years) was renovated in 2003. It is now a regional architectural training center and headquarters of the Regional Council of the Order of Architects of Ile-de-France.

One of the evening’s highlights was a moving performance by Auni Hovanesian, a 2008 Study Abroad alumni and program assistant at the Paris Study Center, who sang original compositions accompanied by musicians on the violin and cello.

Alumni who live, work, and study in Paris made the most of the opportunity to learn and interact. “Late in the evening, it was amazing to see U.S. Study Abroad, J-1 Internship alums, and members of Club Barbes chatting together in French on the patio,” noted Olds. “On many levels, it was a remarkable and authentic moment of international and intercultural exchange.”

From alum to employee- making connections in Moscow

Liz McBean, an Ohio native, began her relationship with CIEE during her junior year of college when she studied abroad at CIEE’s Study Center in St. Petersburg, Russia. Upon graduating from Kenyon College, she spent time teaching in South Korea before making her way back to Russia, where she spent 10 months as a Fulbright ETA at Orenburg State University.

After her time in Orenburg, Liz moved to Moscow to recruit Russian program participants for American Councils for International Education’s FLEX program, which gave her the unique experience of traveling all over Russia, working in a variety of Russian high schools, conducting testing.

After attending the ‘Network CIEE’ alumni networking event we hosted in Moscow last fall, Liz found her way back to CIEE, where she is now a Student Service’s Assistant at our St. Petersburg Study Center. 

Welcome back Liz, we are delighted to have you!

CIEE alum publishes article about study abroad experience in the Huffington Post

Tayler Wiley, a CIEE Study Abroad alum currently attending Santa Clara University in California, reflects on the study abroad experience she had in Seville, Spain in a piece she wrote for the Huffington Post.  Take a look at her full article here.