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4 posts from January 2015

From Cape Town to Community Health - CIEE Alum Emma Louise Backe

Emma Louise Backe studied abroad with CIEE in Cape Town in 2012, and served as a Community Health Empowerment Volunteer for the Peace Corps in Fiji from 2013-14. 

Emma Louise Backe - Cape Town

Emma (right) at an excursion organized by CIEE during her study abroad semester in Cape Town. 

For Emma, the Peace Corps was a way to combine her interest in cultural studies and her desire to engage in grassroots, impactful activism on the ground. "I'd wanted to join Peace Corps ever since I was a child,” says Emma. “I've always felt very thankful for the opportunities that were available to me, and subsequently felt compelled to pay those opportunities forward, either internationally or locally. I want to devote my professional career to humanitarian work, and I admired Peace Corps' approach to international development, which emphasizes sustainability and capacity building.” 

Emma Louise Backe - World AIDS Day

Emma in Fiji during her Peace Corps service. 

Emma’s CIEE study abroad program was her first experience living in a foreign country for an extended period of time, and she says it helped her to prepare for her Peace Corps service. While studying abroad in Cape Town, Emma discovered the subject of Medical Anthropology and “absolutely fell in love with” the specialty – she plans to ultimately pursue a PhD in the subject. Her studies in South Africa, along with her internship with the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit while in Cape Town, exposed her to the complexities of public health, and triggered her desire to work in the health sector.

While studying abroad in Cape Town, Emma discovered the subject of Medical Anthropology and “absolutely fell in love with” the specialty.

As a Community Health Volunteer in Fiji, Emma developed and implemented a sexual and reproductive health curriculum for primary and secondary school students. Her projects included teaching sexual and reproductive health in schools, working to eliminate the stigma surrounding contraception, and conducting training sessions with Fijian doctors. She also served as the editor for Peace Corps Fiji's publication Coconut Wireless and Secretary of Peace Corp's Gender and Youth Development Committee. 

Emma’s background includes interning at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt Program, helping to run a creative writing workshop with female inmates at the Duchess County Jail, and blogging for The Geek Anthropologist and on her personal blog site.

Are you a CIEE Alumni involved with service, international development, or global health?

Share your story by emailing

January Alumni of the Month: Chloe Maxmin, Gap Year Abroad

CIEE Alum Chloe Maxmin is making a big impact in the world of climate activism. Although she is only 22 years old, Chloe began her work as a climate activist more than ten years ago, when she took action against the development of the North Maine Woods at the age of 12. In high school, she founded her school’s Climate Action Club and led campaigns to improve environmental issues in her local community, such as reusable bags and solar panels for schools. 

Chloe Maxmin - photo

Photo: Chloe Maxmin

Chloe wanted to study environmentalism in different parts of the world. After high school, she participated in the CIEE Gap Year Abroad program. Chloe spent the first half of her gap year in Bolivia and Peru, researching the concept of “Pachamama” – a more spiritual approach to caring for the planet. The second half of her gap year was spent in Shanghai; she chose the city because of its significance to environmental issues, including persistent pollution. In these two different parts of the world, she experienced firsthand the negative impact that climate change was already having on the lives of those in the local communities. “I learned about how a community deals with significant environmental damage when the effects are facing you every day,” Chloe recalls. “I also learned about the tensions between a system and individual behavior change when confronting such major environmental changes.” 

Shanghai blog photo

Photo: CIEE Shanghai/Nicole Eigbrett

Chloe says that her experience in China with CIEE was one of the most difficult experiences of her life, but also the most rewarding – and that she came back to the United States with a new appreciation for other cultures.

Today, she is the co-founder of Divest Harvard, an organization that launched one of the most powerful movements in Harvard history. She is also the founder and president of First Here, Then Everywhere, an online network by and for young environmentalists. She’s received national and international recognition for her work: in 2013, she was named a Green Hero by Rolling Stone magazine, and she was a recipient of the Brower Youth Award (2013), as well as the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes (2010) and the Samantha Smith Award (2011).

Chloe’s post-graduation plans include continuing to work on political organizing around climate and environmental issues. She says that with important upcoming events – such as the Paris Climate Talks in 2015 and the US Presidential Election in 2016 – climate activism is more important now than ever.

Are you a CIEE Alumni working to make the world a better place? We’d love to hear from you! Share your story @CIEEAlumni on Twitter or Instagram, or e-mail


Bright Future for Global Architecture and Design Alumnus


On December 4, 2014, Francesco Stumpo, a student of Wentworth Institute of Technology and an alumnus of the spring 2014 CIEE Global Architecture and Design program in Barcelona, was recognized by the Boston Society of Architects (BSA). Stumpo’s project, which he created during his semester abroad on the CIEE program in Barcelona, was chosen to be featured in BSA’s Annual Student Design Showcase and Competition. The top projects were chosen through a competitive selection process and are featured for two months at BSA Space


Concept Image: A social bridge/Un puente social Riu Besòs, Barcelona

The Besòs River is considerably reduced when it crosses the city’s south area. After extensive urban renewal and upgrading of the river’s water over the years, today the Besòs is a barrier that divides the site into two halves, both facing away from each other.


Stumpo, who is from Venezuela, received a scholarship to attend Wentworth’s “4+1” combined BA/MA architecture program. He took part on the CIEE program in Barcelona as part of his undergraduate degree. He noted that his semester abroad was very different from normal “studio semester” in the sense that they engaged in speculative practice that is defined as “the deliberate formulation of new ideas based on existing knowledge and intelligent projection”.  Stumpo’s studio experience included observing properties of water, social interactions, and relationships near sections of the river to create his final concept of a “vertical linear park” (pictured above).

Happy New Year from CIEE!

A year in review, and looking ahead to 2015

2014 was a terrific year for the CIEE Alumni Global Network. Thousands of CIEE alumni – from more than 170 different countries – have connected and re-connected this year, through online platforms and in-person events. New-Years-Post-Image---3

Alumni events in San Francisco (top), Paris (left)  and Buenos Aires (right). 

This year, our alumni have:

- Celebrated our worldwide network at lively in-person events in Moscow, Bucharest, Paris, New York, San Francisco, and Buenos Aires.  (Click here to view photos from each event)

- Worked to further their career development by participating in virtual networking events with fellow alumni around the world, as well as through opportunities such as the CIEE Alumni Summer Internship

- Engaged in causes that matter to them, such as contributing to CIEE’s partnership with Girl Rising and taking part in CIEE’s annual Justice For Women Lecture Series featuring Dr. Sima Samar

- Served as advocates for international exchange and intercultural understanding on their college campuses and at their local high schools

- Participated in the 100K Strong initiative to encourage more students to study abroad in China

100K Strong Image

Leia Johnson (Shanghai '14) and Inteus Taylor (Nanjing '14) at the 100K Strong reception in November 2014. 

All of this was made possible by one simple common element: a shared transformative experience through international education and exchange.

Looking ahead, we believe that the coming year will be even bigger and better for CIEE alumni. In 2015, we are excited to provide new alumni benefits and opportunities to connect with other members of the CIEE network to enrich your life and career.

In January, CIEE will launch its first 10 regional chapters of CIEE Alumni Local Chapters. Each chapter will provide support for networks of alumni to connect on a local level, in their own cities and communities. We’ve also planned a number of events in 2015 for online “meetups” and virtual networking for CIEE alumni.

We’re also increasing our professional development opportunities through our LinkedIn group and online resources. Alumni will again have opportunities for continuing their global education, including unique access to an incredible international thought leader through the Justice for Women Lecture Series – this year on March 19th featuring Ruchira Gupta, an award-winning advocate against human trafficking and founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide


Caroline Ryan, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris, speaks at the CIEE Paris 40th anniversary celebration and alumni gathering in April 2014.

We invite you to take advantage of all of these opportunities in the year ahead. To gain full access to all the benefits of being a member of the CIEE Alumni Global Network, please be sure to register in our Online Alumni Directory and confirm that your contact information is up to date. While you’re there, you can find classmates from your CIEE program as well as peers living and working near you. Click the ‘Join Now’ button on our alumni homepage to get started.

Want to connect with fellow CIEE alumni on social media? We have over 12,000 members in our CIEE Alumni Global Network group on LinkedIn! If you’re interested in learning more about what CIEE alumni are up to now, follow the CIEE Alumni blog for alumni profiles, news, and our Alumni of the Month feature (read about our December 2014 Alumni of the Month, a HAESF alum who founded a nonprofit to encourage STEM education for girls). 

We’re working on more ways to build the CIEE alumni community: follow us on Twitter and on our (just-launched!) Instagram @CIEEAlumni. We’d love to hear about your CIEE experience – how did your CIEE program impact your life? Share your story via e-mail at or by tagging #CIEEAlumni on social media.

Skool - Google

Thank you again for being part of our growing CIEE Alumni Global Network. We deeply appreciate the support and enthusiasm we received in 2014 from CIEE alumni around the world. We are glad to have you as part of the CIEE family and look forward to hearing from you in 2015.

Our best for a happy, healthy year ahead,

The CIEE Alumni Relations Team