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6 posts from April 2015

4 New Ways to Stay Connected to CIEE

Whether you have recently finished a CIEE Work & Travel USA position, or you studied abroad with CIEE decades ago, participating in a CIEE program means that you have a lifelong membership to the CIEE Alumni Global Network. We’re always working to better build the CIEE alumni community and serve the needs of our alumni network.

Here are four new ways to stay connected:

1. Attend a CIEE alumni event

Alumni Events Image

This year, we launched CIEE Alumni Local Chapters in ten cities around the world. We have upcoming events in Beijing, Shanghai, San Francisco, New York, and Washington D.C. We’re working on planning more events in the future, and on growing the local chapter network. If you’re in one of the ten initial chapter locations, join the chapter Facebook group to connect with other CIEE alums in your area.

If you want to grow the CIEE alumni community in a new location, send us an email to let us know where you are located. 

2. Follow our newest social media profiles


We’re new to the world of Instagram. We’re posting snapshots of CIEE alums, as well as travel photos from CIEE blogs. Follow us at @CIEEalumni – or, better yet, tag your photos with #CIEEalumni to let us know what you’re up to! We also share information about alumni stories, upcoming events, international education articles and resources, and more on Twitter: @CIEEalumni.  And, of course, you can still find us on LinkedIn and Facebook – be sure to follow us there too.

3. Contribute to student campaigns on Indiegogo

Indiegogo campaigns_041615

Reflecting on your time with CIEE brings back memories – of friends you made, of travels to new places, of connections to a new community. We’re continuously impressed with and inspired by the ways that CIEE participants get involved with their communities during their time abroad. Through our new partnership with Indiegogo, an online crowdfunding website, we’re working to support and highlight student-led community initiatives – for things like a local books library for youth in Cape Town, or a Franco-American youth partnership. If you feel an affinity towards one of the featured student campaigns, please consider making a contribution – CIEE will match donations up to $1,000 for campaigns that receive the most donations. 

4. Read our monthly alumni update

April Update - Blog Image

There are a lot of things going on in the CIEE alumni world – wish you could get a summary delivered to your inbox at the beginning of each month? You can! Just visit to verify that we have your updated email address.

Monthly features include alumni of the month, CIEE news, upcoming events, and more. Check out last month’s update here.

Thank you for being a part of the CIEE alumni global network!


The CIEE Alumni Relations Team

Dan Olds, Sarah Robbins, and Brittany Jezouit

Celebrating 50 years of international exchange in Japan


CIEEJ 50th Logo

This September, CIEE is celebrating the 50th anniversary of U.S.-Japanese exchange programs. We’re excited to mark this milestone with a 50th anniversary event for CIEE alumni in Tokyo on October 2, 2015. 

Japan student - blog post image

Help us to mark this important milestone in CIEE history! We're gathering alumni messages for the CIEE Japan anniversary website, Share a message of congratulations and support for U.S.-Japanese exchange. These messages will be featured on the website and at the 50th anniversary event. 

Share your story via email at

Please include your name, CIEE program information and year, a photo, and 3-4 sentences in support of international exchange in Japan. All messages should be submitted by Monday, May 11. 

CIEE Alum Christina Williams, Empowering Youth in Chicago as a McCain Institute Next Generation Leader

CIEE alum Christina Williams is currently a Next Generation Leader at the McCain Institute for International Leadership. An advocate for human rights, Christina joined us at CIEE headquarters in Portland, Maine for our 2015 Justice for Women Lecture in March. 

Photo Import 031915 077Christina Williams with Dan Olds, director of Alumni  and Constituent Relations at CIEE. 

In 2004, Christina studied abroad in Brussels, Belgium on our Business, Communications, and Culture Program. She chose Brussels because of her interest in international work, as well as a desire to become fluent in French. After her semester abroad, Christina spent time volunteering in Sri Lanka, where she taught English to youth in war-affected areas and became involved in human rights advocacy work.

"I'm passionate about empowering marginalized youth and providing them with the tools necessary to both understand their rights and to safeguard them," says Christina.

Christina’s background includes a diverse array of international experiences, and she says she’s always been drawn to the field of human rights. Throughout her career, Christina has worked with grassroots organizations and ethnic minorities around the world on the rule of law and its importance in creating just societies. Christina graduated from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law in 2012, and in September 2014 she began her fellowship with the McCain Institute for International Leadership. The fellows in the Next Generation Leaders Program hail from all over the globe, each one with their own unique area of interest; out of the 12 fellows in the 2014 cohort, Christina is the only American fellow.

The 2014 #NGLNYC New York module concludes today. Learn more about the NGL program at

Christina’s fellowship placement is in Chicago with NGO Cure Violence. Cure Violence takes a unique approach to violence by treating it like a health issue, and approaching it from a scientific point of view. They were recently ranked among the top 20 NGOs in the world by Global Journal. During her fellowship year, Christina will explore how violence impacts youth and how 'traditional' rule of law programs could be adapted to address community violence. She is also working on developing a partnership between the violence prevention program and attorneys who would provide criminal and civil legal services to disempowered youth. 

To learn more about Christina’s work with Cure Violence, read her most recent blog post, Empowering Unlikely Leaders: Building Rule of Law in Chicago’s South Side. 

Alumni Update - April 2015

Check out the CIEE Alumni April Monthly Update for news, upcoming events, stories, and more. 

If you're an alum of a CIEE program, sign up to receive our emails by verifying your contact information on our alumni directory:

April Update - Blog Image


Welcome to the first issue of the CIEE Alumni Monthly Update! This new monthly update will help you stay informed on recent news, upcoming events, alumni stories, and more. Be sure to look out for it in your inbox at the beginning of each month! 

Best regards,

Dan Olds
Director, Alumni and Constituent Relations
CIEE Nanjing '95


Indiegogo Partnership

From providing library books for youth in Cape Town to advocating for community rights in northeastern Thailand, CIEE participants are impacting their local communities in positive ways while abroad. CIEE has partnered with the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to support and spread the word about these student-led community initiatives. View our partner page to learn more and support these student campaigns.

CIEE Alumni Local Chapters

Last month, we launched CIEE Alumni Local Chapters in ten cities around the world. This is a brand-new initiative for the CIEE Alumni Global Network, and a great way to continue your connection to CIEE. Find your chapter here

Spotlight: Peace Corps

In honor of Peace Corps Week, we highlighted the work of six CIEE study abroad alumni who are making a difference around the world as Peace Corps volunteers. Read the story on our alumni blog

Justice for Women

CIEE hosted activist Ruchira Gupta at our headquarters in Portland, Maine for an inspiring talk about her work towards her lifelong mission to end human trafficking. Watch the video


Alumni Quarterly Virtual Meetup | April 15, 12-1 p.m. ET

Connect with fellow CIEE alumni from around the world at this special online event! Share your experiences, exchange career tips, and build your global network. 

China Chapter Events | Beijing: April 23, 6-8 p.m. & Shanghai: April 26, 12-4 p.m. CST

Join CIEE alumni and staff for a happy hour networking event at Home Plate BBQ in Beijing, or a dim sum brunch event and walking tour in Shanghai. This event is presented in partnership with 100K Strong, a foundation that works to expand and diversify the number of Americans studying abroad in China. 

San Francisco Chapter Event | April 29, 6-8 p.m. PDT

A happy hour kickoff event for the San Francisco chapter. Connect with CIEE alumni in the Bay area and learn about chapter leadership opportunities. Presented in collaboration with the Academic Internship Council (AIC).

New York City Chapter Event | May 5, 6:30-8:30 p.m. ET

Meet fellow CIEE alumni in NYC at the kickoff event of the NYC local chapter. Presented in collaboration with the Academic Internship Council (AIC) and the Center for Social Innovation, this event will feature a short talk by two leaders in social entrepreneurship.

Washington, D.C. Chapter Event | May 20, 6-8 p.m. ET

Meet the new leaders of the DC local chapter and fellow CIEE alumni at this informal happy hour kickoff event at Mission Restaurant in Dupont Circle. 

View all upcoming events>>

In partnership with 100K Strong, we're highlighting alums who are strengthening US-China relations. David Weeks is co-founder of the largest foreign-language high school debate league in the world - and his journey towards a career in international exchange began with his semester in Shanghai with CIEE. 


"Study abroad changed me as a person, and I think I have the career trajectory I do because of my decision to live in Jordan." 

- Lindsey Leger, CIEE Amman '11, from her recent interview with CIEE

On social media? So are we! Follow us on Twitter or Instagram @CIEEAlumni, and join over 16,000 CIEE alumni on our Linkedin group. 

Don't forget to update your information to receive important communications and alumni news. 
 Career Resources |  News |  Contact Us  

CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange | 300 Fore Street Portland, ME 04101

1-207-553-4000 |


Move over, Millennials: Three ‘Generation-Z’s who are changing the world

They’ve been called “Globals,” “The Next Great Generation,” “Digital Natives,” “Post-Millennials,” and “iGeneration”. However you refer to them, Generation Z – defined loosely as those born in 1995 to 2012 – are making a difference in today’s world. They’re founding nonprofits and think-tanks; they’re focused on understanding other cultures and challenging traditional ways of thinking.

Today, we’re highlighting three young CIEE alumni who have demonstrated a passion and commitment to improving the world around them. 

Eli Wachs, age 16

CIEE High School Summer Leadership Academy, Nanjing, Summer 2014
President and Founder, High School HeroesX

Eli Wachs with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter while I was attending the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit

Eli Wachs (left) with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. 

High School HeroesX is a youth organization that works to give high school students a platform to effect meaningful change on their communities. Eli Wachs, a current junior in high school, is a testament to the fundamental concept behind the organization: that his generation has the fresh perspective and the technological know-how to identify innovative and creative solutions to community problems.

Eli formed the concept for High School HeroesX after he read Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis (founder of the X PRIZE Foundation). “I became enthralled by the book's central thesis that so many of the world's great challenges are being overcome by a combination of innovation and growing access to technology,” Eli recalls. After reaching out to Dr. Diamandis, Eli decided to create High School HeroesX as a platform for high school students in the Philadelphia area to address issues such as poverty, education, and environmentalism. Meanwhile, Eli is combining his passion for social entrepreneurship and other cultures: he’s currently working on the upcoming launch of High School HeroesX China.

Eli Wachs with the class he taught in China this past summer on CIEE program

Eli Wachs with the class he taught in China this past summer during his CIEE program.

Eli’s participation in CIEE’s High School Summer Leadership Academy furthered his desire to become a global citizen. “Given the connected world in which we live, I think it is imperative to be aware of the world around us and embrace different cultures, languages, and customs,” Eli says. “My study abroad immersion programs in China have been remarkably rewarding experiences.”  

Eli is combining his passion for social entrepreneurship and other cultures: he’s currently working on the upcoming launch of High School HeroesX China.

As he looks forward to college, Eli plans to pursue an area of study that combines his interests in innovation and social entrepreneurship, and to return to China to study abroad. His writing has been published on Huffington Post Impact.

Xiong Her, age 18

CIEE High School Summer Leadership Academy, Nanjing, China Summer 2013
Gates Millennium Scholar Recipient


Xiong Her with CIEE Alumni Relations Director Dan Olds at the CIEE Annual Conference at a 100K Strong Foundation event in Washington, DC.

Xiong Her is a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, an prestigious award given to individuals from diverse backgrounds who have demonstrated excellence in academia. This fall, Xiong began his freshman year at Marquette University, where he plans to study international affairs with the goal of pursuing a career at the U.N. or U.S. State Department.

Xiong spent much of his childhood in an impoverished refugee camp called Wat Tham Krabok in Thailand. In a recent interview with the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Xiong describes his time in the refugee camp in two words: no hope. Xiong has worked to overcome his difficult past and pursued extra courses throughout middle and high school to advance his education and English language abilities. 

“My experience with a Chinese host family opened my eyes to the true cultures of China,” Xiong says.

Xiong says that his CIEE High School Abroad program sparked his interest in majoring in International Affairs and continuing to study Chinese history and language. “My experience with a Chinese host family opened my eyes to the true cultures of China,” Xiong says. “I had the opportunity to tour and immerse myself into the rich historical sites: the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, famous local mansions, and temples.” Xiong is also an ambassador for 100K Strong, a foundation focused on strengthening US-China relations through study abroad and language learning. He connects with students from his high school, as well as high school students in Marquette University’s Upward Bound program, to encourage them to seek out international education opportunities. Xiong’s own study abroad experience isn’t over – he plans to spend the next academic year in China. 

Tuongvan Le, age 19

CIEE Business Language + Culture Program, Shanghai, China, 2014
Founder, IM Venture

Tuongvan Le is a current sophomore at Harvard College who participated in the CIEE Business, Language and Culture program in Shanghai, China in the summer of 2014. She is the founder of IM Venture, an enriching cultural and skill development program connecting Vietnamese students studying abroad to Vietnamese local students through a trip across Vietnam. Le lived in Vietnam until the age of 12, and she started IM Venture to reconnect with her Vietnamese identity, and to have meaningful experiences through interactions with local Vietnamese students. 

Anh truoc dai noi

Le also launched “Students to Service”, the first online magazine focused on student’s activities in Vietnam. Much of her work is focused on youth empowerment and cultural exchange. ”It helps me connect with my homeland, continue being aware of the community that I grew up in, and feel fulfilled to be able to make a tangible impact in the country where I grew up,” says Le.


CIEE is a proud partner of the 100K Strong Foundation, an organization that works to strengthen US-China relations through study abroad. CIEE has over a dozen study abroad programs in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, in addition to our Teach in China programs and programs for high school and gap year students – check out all of our programs on our website

April Alum of the Month: David Weeks, Co-Founder of NHSDLC

In support of CIEE’s signature partnership with the 100,000 Strong Foundation, we are highlighting the stories of CIEE alumni who are playing a role in strengthening US-China relations. This month, we’re sharing the story of David Weeks, who studied abroad in Shanghai, China with CIEE’s China in a Global Context program in the fall of 2008.  Weeks is co-founder of the National High School Debate League of China (NHSDLC), the largest foreign-language high school debate league in the world. 

Asia Sociey-Panel discussion

In February 2015, NHSDLC partnered with the Asia Society in New York to host War of Words with High Schoolers from China, a debate tournament between four top Chinese and American high school debaters. (Photo: NHSDLC)

The origin story of NHSDLC began over a decade ago, when Weeks met two fellow debaters – and his future co-founders of NHSDLC – at a debate tournament. During his semester in China, Weeks taught English at a Chinese university and spent a few years in the field of finance before deciding to pursue debate and international education as a career. They began NHSDLC with debate tournaments and free debate training in Beijing; after just three years, NHSDLC has become a significant presence in the world of debate in China. They host debate tournaments in about 30 Chinese cities, and train approximately 50,000 students a year, with in-person training in every province in China.

“China’s growing culture of debating is a bright spot in the discourse about China in general.”

Chinese debate teams from NHSDLC have excelled in national tournaments against teams at U.S. higher educational institutions like the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University. “These are Chinese kids who are well-spoken enough to beat a native speaker of English – American debaters – on American soil,” says David. He recounts the story of one NHSDLC alumnus, a Chinese student who made it to the final round of the NHSDLC National Championship, who caught the attention of a judge who travelled to Beijing as a representative of the Yale Debate Association. The judge wrote the student a recommendation letter for admission into Yale, and the student now attends Yale on a full scholarship.

Weeks says that NHSDLC’s success and rapid growth in China is directly related to the increasing popularity of debate culture in China. Weeks believes that this is due to the growth of intercultural education, and a relative scarcity of English-language extracurricular activities in China. Debate integrates a more active, dialogue-focused learning style into the lecture-oriented Chinese education system. As Chinese education officials look for ways to increase experiential learning in the classroom, debate has emerged as a solution.

Asia Sociey-Panel discussion2

As a result of debating in English, there is more freedom in the debate topics. Students have debated subjects such as foreign policy, the death penalty, environmental laws, and standardized testing. Weeks says that the fact that the debates are held in English enables them to discuss more sensitive topics. “It’s more of an educational exchange activity than a cultural revolution,” says Weeks, “and the knowledge [of the Chinese students] brings a fresh, more nuanced perspective, which enhances the experience for the American students.” 

“Debate is a step in the right direction, one piece in the puzzle that is part of the solution.”

Week’s semester abroad with CIEE was his first experience living in Asia and being in China, and he says that without that experience, he would not have had the confidence to pursue NHSDLC as a career.  “If I had gone to China on my own, I would have retreated into an expat bubble,” Weeks says. “CIEE made me more comfortable talking to people in Chinese, because I knew there was a supportive community to come back to.” In the future, Weeks’ plan is to expand NHSDLC, as well as to grow separate organizations that focus on business, entrepreneurship competitions, Model United Nations, and robotics competitions across East Asia. 


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