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7 posts from March 2015

Ruchira Gupta, Anti-Trafficking Activist, Speaks at Justice for Women Lecture Series 2015

As part of our annual Justice for Women Lecture Series, anti-trafficking activist Ruchira Gupta spoke at CIEE headquarters in Portland, Maine. An audience of more than 150 staff and community members attended the event, and CIEE alumni around the world tuned in to watch the event via our live stream.

Missed the live stream? Watch Ruchira's full talk here

Gupta has dedicated her life to fighting to end human trafficking in all its forms by highlighting the link between trafficking and prostitution laws, and lobbying policymakers to shift blame from victims to perpetrators.

From her early days as a journalist to the creation of the Emmy-award-winning documentary, “The Selling of Innocents,” she has embarked on a noble, and often dangerous, journey to give a voice to India’s women. In 2002, her dedication culminated in the founding of the grassroots organization Apne Aap Women Worldwide, which has helped nearly 15,000 women lift themselves out of the sex trade by providing a safe place to live and access to education.


Ruchira at CIEE Headquarters in Portland, Maine for the Justice for Women Lecture Series. 

“Education and collaboration – these are the cornerstones of the work Apne Aap Worldwide does,” said Gupta. “Girls who become educated are becoming models for their communities, where prostitution has been practiced for centuries. We’re changing the whole ecosystem. I can see it happening before my eyes.”

This event was presented in partnership with the Justice for Women Lecture Series and Girl Rising. CIEE is honored to support the Justice for Women Lecture Series for a fourth year.

Learn  more about CIEE's partnerships with community organizations and initiatives, including Justice for Women, Diversity Abroad, the Institute of International Education, and Mobility International USA.

Volunteer Superstar and Innovation in Raising Awareness: Alumni Ambassador Award Winners

March Alums of the Month:

the 2015 CIEE Alumni Ambassador Award Winners

For this March Alumni of the Month, we're highlighting two alums from our CIEE Alumni Ambassador program. The CIEE Alumni Ambassador program is a leadership development program that identifies and develops CIEE alumni to be ambassadors of study abroad on their college campus. After each semester, CIEE recognizes the contributions of two of our Alumni Ambassadors:

  • The Volunteer Superstar Award is given to the student who most exceeds the requirements and expectations of the position.
  • The Innovation in Raising Awareness Award is provided to the alum who best utilizes their own creative abilities to promote CIEE and study abroad on their campus.

Marie Bebear of Colby College was the recipient of our Volunteer Superstar award. Marie went above and beyond the expectations of the Alumni Ambassador position being involved with five different events on campus. She assisted at her school’s study abroad fair, put together a PowerPoint presentation about her time on our Buenos Aires program, spoke at several different information sessions held on campus, and talked about the benefits of study abroad while addressing parents and students during Colby’s parents weekend.


CIEE Alumni Ambassadors at a campus study abroad fair. 

Elizabeth Winchester of the University of Rochester was awarded CIEE’s Innovation in Raising Awareness Award. As an alumna of our Prague Film Studies program, Elizabeth made use of her experience by putting together a great video incorporating both personal images of her experience abroad as well as those from other CIEE alums from the University of Rochester.

Marie Bebear and Allison Gjeltema at Colby College during the 2014 study abroad fair

Marie Bebear with Allison Gjeltema, CIEE Events and Marketing Senior Coordinator, at Colby College during the 2014 study abroad fair.

Each of the students will be receiving a CIEE alumni branded bicycle.

Congrats, Marie and Elizabeth, and thanks for all of your hard work as CIEE Alumni Ambassadors! 

"Third Culture Kid" - CIEE Study Abroad Chile Alumna Alexa Schwartz

Alexa Schwartz grew up travelling and living in different places in the US and abroad, but her study abroad semester was an experience that shaped her both personally and professionally.  Read her story (below) about her semester with CIEE in Santiago, Chile – and about how she turned her passion for international exchange into a career.

International and cultural exchange has always been a major part of my life. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to travel around the world with my family and live in various parts of the United States. I have never lived anywhere longer than five years! However, the challenges of truly living and breathing another culture emerged when my family moved to Mexico City in the fall of 2005. While the experience was challenging, I fell in love with Latin American culture and truly identified with the "Third Culture Kid" mentality. Having the opportunity to get to meet so many different kinds of people and be exposed to such a range of cultures was an invaluable part of my personal development. When I started college at Tulane University in New Orleans in 2009, I knew that I absolutely wanted to study abroad and have the chance to get to know another country and culture.


Alexa in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

I studied abroad in Santiago, Chile through the CIEE Liberal Arts Program in the spring of 2012. It was a fantastic experience, filled with wonderful friends and memories that will last a lifetime. Studying abroad pushed me out of my comfort zone in all senses of the term, from traveling alone on an overnight bus to Mendoza to interviewing a Chilean family who lost five members of their family during the dictatorship. My semester abroad also afforded me the opportunity to serve as an ambassador of U.S. culture and promote cultural exchange, whether that was through explaining what Mardi Gras was to a fellow university student to discussing typical foods in the United States with my host mother. 

My semester abroad also afforded me the opportunity to serve as an ambassador of U.S. culture and promote cultural exchange.

My semester abroad marked the moment when I realized that I could turn my passion for international exchange into a career. The Assistant Resident Director for the CIEE Santiago office at the time, Elsa Maxwell, was and continues to be an important role model for me, and was one of the first people to encourage me to pursue a career in international education. 


Alexa visits children on a field trip with Fundación Súmate.

Happily, as of August 2014 I am back in Santiago through a fellowship with Fundación América Solidaria, which recently launched its U.S. office in Washington, D.C. I work with Fundación Súmate, an educational nonprofit that focuses on guaranteeing the right to education for students living in contexts of social vulnerability. My familiarity with and love for Santiago that were fostered through my CIEE experience were a critical part of my decision to return to Chile. Thank you, CIEE!

Did your experience with CIEE have an impact on your life? Let us know! Email

Civic Leadership Summit Virtual Reunion

This week, alumni from the CIEE’s 2014 Civic Leadership Summit participated in a virtual reunion event. The Civic Leadership Summit is an annual event for participants from the CIEE Work & Travel USA Program and Internship USA program to focus on intercultural awareness, civics, and social entrepreneurship.

Participants from eight different countries, including Russia, Afghanistan, Ireland, and Turkey, connected to reflect on how their participation in the Civic Leadership Summit had an impact on their lives. Here’s what they had to say:

I have learned how to be self-confident and grasped the importance of standing against some rooted norms and misconceptions. I have urged people to broaden their perspectives.

-Berkay Babaoglu, Turkey


Once I came back [to Bulgaria], I started to be more active around campus. I became a tutor of a couple of courses and then became part of the Phi Beta Delta society. I helped in the organization of the international week at my university, which consisted of several events…I was a team leader in the Panel Discussion event, an event that brought together professors and students with the topic of Culture Shock.”

-Ina Gjika, Bulgaria


Interview: 4 Questions with CIEE study abroad alum Lindsey Leger

Lindsey Leger is a photojournalist and picture editor. She studied abroad in 2011 with the CIEE Language and Culture Program in Amman, Jordan. We spoke with her about her experience as a photographer and about how her CIEE program impacted her career path.

CIEE: How long have you been pursuing photography?


Lindsey Leger: I became interested in photography when I took a darkroom class at the community college I was attending during my senior year of high school. Around that time I realized I had a fascination with, and maybe some small talent for, learning languages, I loved to travel, and I thought that photography could be a way to tell stories and do these other things. Another thing that happened was that I started photographing my brother, who has autism. It became a way for us to have a conversation that didn't need language, and for me to show other people what he was experiencing. 

CIEE: Did you work on photography/media projects during your CIEE program? How did your study abroad experience influence your career path?

LL: One of CIEE's elective course options was to do an internship with a local business or NGO. The CIEE staff paired me up with Viva magazine (a women's lifestyle magazine) and I started writing for them. Under the same publisher was JO magazine, a cultural and political magazine. I met with the editors and they took me on as a photographer, so I was able to keep working in Jordan after my classes finished.  It was sort of a crash-course in working as an international journalist. I'm sure it's helped get my foot in the door for the jobs I've had since then.

It's hard to quantify how my study abroad experience shaped my life; I met some of my closest friends, it changed me as a person, and I think I have the career trajectory I do because of my decision to live in Jordan.

CIEE: What subjects do you enjoy most? What’s been one of your favorite projects so far?

LL: The subjects that interest me most are women's issues, religion, health and the environment - all the things you're not supposed to talk about at the dinner table. When I went to Jordan, I knew I had an interest in women's issues, but I really had no idea what to expect, and I wanted to have an open mind. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of news stories related to conflict in the region, but my real interest is in these everyday moments that make up the fabric of communities. I try to look for things that make circumstances seem relatable, and I try to look for things that would be compelling to local viewers - because that means I'm hopefully not just seeing things as an outsider anymore.


Wa'ed al-Houri, 29, stands in front as her other team members help each other put their gear on before heading back into the minefield in Jaber, Jordan, on July 6, 2011. With temperatures in the summer climbing to 40 C and wearing heavy protective gear, taking frequent breaks is essential to their safety. The women work for Norwegian People's Aid on an all-female team clearing a minefield on the Jordan-Syria border. Photo by Lindsey Leger

LL: One of my favorite assignments for JO magazine was photographing the team of women removing land mines on Jordan's border with Syria. They all came from a village called Jaber. They were different ages and had different reasons for being there, but they all spoke about wanting to keep their community safe; many of the mines were just meters from houses and grazing areas, so it was a threat to civilians. One woman's father had been injured by a mine and that inspired her to sign up for the job; another woman had defied her parents' wishes by working there, but they eventually came around and admired her decision; others talked about social stigma and rumors they'd experienced as a result. But it worked because the job was close to home, and it alleviated some of the anxieties they might have about mixed-gender work settings. They also had a strong camaraderie that came from looking out for each other all the time.

CIEE: Do you have any new projects/ventures on the horizon?

LL: I've been working as a picture editor in Washington, DC, for the past few years. I miss being behind the camera too much, so in January I moved to Turkey to pursue freelance work again. I've made trips to Jordan and Turkey over the past couple years, and finally feel like this is the right time for me to make a change and this is the right place for me to be. 


Caption: Iraqi refugees attend literacy courses at a UNICEF women's center near Amman, Jordan, on June 22, 2011. The women's centers, which are set up in Iraqi communities and Palestinian refugee camps around Jordan, provide child care, classes, and a supportive environment for women. The women laughed and talked about how nice it was to have a break from their kids and husbands. Photo by Lindsey Leger

You can view Lindsey’s work at, or follow her at @legerphoto (Instagram) or @leleger (Twitter). 

CIEE alumni: tell us about the work you're doing now, and how your CIEE experience impacted your career path, by e-mailing 


Alumni Voices: Hannah Wishart – The Importance of Studying Abroad

Hannah Wishart studied abroad through the CIEE Liberal Arts program in Seville, Spain in the spring of 2011. She is a graduate of Indiana University, and is currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chiatura, Georgia. As an English teacher with the Peace Corps, Hannah teaches a wide range of students, from grades 3-12. This semester, she is working to build an English room in her school, and she also serves as a member for the Technology 4 Development committee, which focuses on educating Georgians about how to use technology effectively for schools and organizations.

In an article originally published on Admitopia, Hannah talks about the importance of studying abroad, and how her experience volunteering during her semester abroad led her to her decision to join the Peace Corps. 

The importance of studying abroad – by Hannah Wishart

I studied abroad during the second semester of my junior year of college at Indiana University. I chose that particular semester because it was the recommended semester to do so and it fit into my plan for an on-time graduation. I chose to go to Seville (or as the Spaniards say it, Sevilla), Spain, which is in the central southern part of the country, about an hour and a half inland from the coast. Spain was the perfect choice for me because I had been studying Spanish since 7th grade and I felt that I had a good handle on the language. So off I went to live in this unknown country (to me) for 4 months. During my stay with Asunción, my señora, I took classes at my program’s headquarters in the heart of Santa Cruz, the old Jewish neighborhood. On top of those classes, I also took classes designed for foreigners at the University of Seville, which is situated in a beautiful old tobacco factory. As you might expect, my daily walk to class was amazingly beautiful and included a 900 year old cathedral, more orange trees than I could count and old, winding cobble-stone streets.

Photo for ArcGIs- Hannah

The experience that has stuck with me the longest was my opportunity to volunteering during my study abroad. Once a week, my friend Laurel and I would go to the far side of the city to volunteer at an organization called Gota de Leche (Drop of Milk). This organization provided breakfast and lunch to underprivileged school age students in one of the rougher neighborhoods of Seville. Gota de Leche was run by one woman who bought enough cereal, milk, bread, cheese and meat to serve 10-15 children 2 meals per day. Our role was to help her prepare the food in the mornings and help to serve it to the children as they came in. Oftentimes, she would use her own money to buy the food due to a lack of funding. Her commitment to these kids was astonishing to me. She knew that the food she was providing would likely be the only food they would eat all day. I didn’t know it at the time, but this experience of volunteering at a one-woman NGO would be the first in a long string of volunteering I would do. 

Beyond having a new-found love of travel, my semester in Spain has shaped my life in ways that I could have never imagined at the time.

What does a semester abroad say to an employer? The answer to this question is entirely up to you. You can frame it as a fun time in another country, or you can frame it as a semester-long learning experience, both about yourself and a new culture. Being dropped into a new country and thriving speaks volumes about a potential hire. It says that this person is willing and able to handle what comes at them and they are able to find solutions to their own problems. Self-reliance is a huge plus for a potential employer – no one wants to hold a person’s hand for their entire career. Employers want self-starters who are not afraid to take calculated risks for a potential payoff.


Beyond having a new-found love of travel, my semester in Spain has shaped my life in ways that I could have never imagined at the time. My volunteering experience at Gota de Leche was the first in a long string of volunteering and has led me to a new career choice: joining the Peace Corps. I am a currently serving volunteer in Chiatura, Georgia (no, not the state) and I will be here for the next 22 months. I began my 27 month stint of service at the end of April and will be here until July of 2016. If I had not studied abroad, the thought of travel on this big of a scale would not have even crossed my mind. Living in Spain for 4 months opened my eyes to my potential for a lifetime of travel. Before heading to Spain, I had never been outside of the US – not even to Canada or Mexico. It was a huge step for me to take on my own and I have benefitted for it ten-fold. 

This article is featured in our "Alumni Voices" series, which highlights writing, articles, and other work from CIEE alumni. If you have an idea for an Alumni Voices feature on the CIEE Alumni blog, send us an email: 

Happy Peace Corps Week from CIEE!

In honor of Peace Corps Week 2015 (March 1-7), we’re highlighting the work of a few CIEE alumni who are making an impact around the world as Peace Corps volunteers.


Check out our interactive story journal for photos and interviews from six CIEE study abroad alumni who served (or are currently serving) as Peace Corps volunteers:

Thanks to the following CIEE alumni for sharing their story with us!


Sara Frodge

Education and Youth Development Volunteer, Peace Corps – Republic of Georgia

CIEE Program: Study Abroad – Liberal Arts Program, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Spring 2010


Jenna Berg

Youth Development Volunteer, Peace Corps – Peru

CIEE Program: Study Abroad – Russian Language Program, St. Petersburg, Russia, Spring 2012


Ricardo Espitia

Youth and Families Volunteer, Peace Corps - Philippines

CIEE Program: Study Abroad – Seville Language and Society, Spring 2013


Hannah Wishart

Secondary English Teaching Volunteer, Peace Corps – Georgia

CIEE Program: Study Abroad – Seville Liberal Arts, Spring 2011


Beth Krueger

Community Health and Malaria Prevention Volunteer, Peace Corps – Togo, West Africa

CIEE Program: Study Abroad – Dakar, Senegal Language and Culture, Academic Year 2010-11


Jahtay Teh

Rural Educational Development (RED) Volunteer, Peace Corps - Zambia

CIEE Program: Study Abroad – Seville Liberal Arts, Spring 2011