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7 posts from May 2015

Alumni Photo Essay: Teaching at Anubanchonburi School

Sarah Schu and Saleem Ahmed are photographers, travelers, and CIEE alums. They both taught at Anubanchonburi School through CIEE Teach in Thailand in 2011. Today, Sarah is a freelance photographer and co-founder of Live Seasoned, a nature-inspired lifestyle blog, and Saleem is an adjunct professor at Temple University, as well as a working artist. This photo essay highlights their experience teaching in Thailand, as well as their travels and personal projects after CIEE. 



Students at the Anubanchonburi Primary School shower local monks with food in honor of King's Day. (Photo: Sarah Schu) 

“Saleem and I could not have been happier with our school placement and the teaching situation,” says Sarah. 

SarahSchu_2Kindergarten students from Anubanchonburi Primary School visit a local zoo for a class field trip. (Photo: Sarah Schu)

Saleem - backpack photo(Photo: Saleem Ahmed)

Saleem - students photoStudents from Anubanchonburi Primary School. (Photo: Saleem Ahmed)


After they finished teaching for a semester, Sarah and Saleem traveled to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Nepal, and India. 


Sarah traveling in India adorned with decorative mehndi, or henna. (Photo: Saleem Ahmed)

“We lived out of little backpacks and stayed at $10 hotels most of the trip.”

SaleemAhmed_2 While traveling in Vietnam, Sarah met many friendly locals, from construction workers to tribal guides to the fruit seller seen here.

Saleem - travels

(Photo: Saleem Ahmed)


Sarah standing atop a ridge in the middle of Halong Bay, Vietnam. 


After returning to the US, Saleem began a Master’s program for fine art photography, and started teaching at Temple University as an adjunct professor.

East Philly SaleemImages from a recent project by Saleem, 'East Philly'. 

Last August, he finished his MFA, and has continued his career at Temple, where he teaches multimedia storytelling and editing. When not teaching, he works as an artist and photographer. 

"To this day, I still recommend CIEE/teaching abroad to my graduating students. I think that the life experiences of traveling and working abroad helped me in so many different ways. I was able to build lasting relationships, navigate through new cultures, and also it allowed me the breather I needed after finishing up my undergraduate degree. I still work on projects internationally, and my experience in Thailand only helps with continuing that other work."

- Saleem 

Sarah is the co-founder of Live Seasoned, a nature-inspired lifestyle blog, and a freelance photographer

Sarahnature1Photo from Sarah Schu's blog, Live Seasoned


Are you a CIEE alum with a story to share? Email 

How to Impress Employers With Your Study Abroad Experience

This post is written by CIEE alumna Marcie Waters. Marcie studied abroad with CIEE in Seville, Spain in 2014. She is currently studying art and communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This post was originally published on the UW-Madison L&S Career Services blog. 

How to Impress Employers With Your Study Abroad Experience

More and more students are taking advantage of opportunities to study, intern, and volunteer abroad. These are often impactful and meaningful experiences that stay in their minds for a long time afterwards (over a year later, I’m still driving people crazy by telling them how great Seville is). What not every student realizes, however, is that a study abroad experience is a great asset to the job hunt. In an increasingly global business world, cultural competency is a necessary skill, and an experience like studying abroad provides many talking points to show off that skill and more. If you’re unsure whether you’ve gained cultural competency from your time abroad, consider that a person who has cultural competency values differences, is responsive to diversity, understands the importance of culture in interpersonal interactions, and promotes quality cross-cultural interactions.


Marcie in the gardens in Alhambra in Granada, Spain. (Photo: Marcie Waters

If you’re not sure what other skills you many have gained from studying abroad, think about these:

  • Communication Skills: Did you learn/improve foreign language skills? Did you participate in group discussions with people from diverse backgrounds? Did you communicate with others in stressful or challenging situations?
  • Organizational Skills: Did you successfully juggle multiple demands? Did you have to prioritize? Did you better your time management skills?
  • Interpersonal Skills: Did your appreciation of diversity or cultural awareness increase? Are you now more open to differences, new ideas, and other perspectives? Did you learn to be sensitive to cultural customs and norms?
  • Intrapersonal Skills: Did you take initiative and risks? Did you have to learn to adapt quickly? Did you handle stressful situations? Did you gain self-confidence or independence?

Now that you know what skills you have gained from studying abroad, you may be wondering how you can utilize these during the job search. One way is to effectively include your experience on your resume. For this, you have three options. Pick which ones make the most sense for you.

1. Include in the education section.

You can note a specific skill or skills that you learned through the program, such as language acquisition.


2. Include in the experience section.

This works especially well if you completed an internship or relevant volunteer experience. 


3. Include in activities section.

Note any volunteer experience or special activities you participated in while abroad.


Of course, you can also discuss your experience in an interview. Nearly every employer asks a behavior-based question during an interview, like “Tell me about a time you had to solve a problem on your own” or “When was the last time you took a significant risk and what were the results?”. Chances are you’ve got a study abroad scenario that would be a great example of solving a problem, taking a risk, or making a difficult decision. Just remember to focus on how the skills you gained from the situation are directly applicable to the particular job for which you are interviewing. Depending on the geographic reach of the company and position you’re applying for, mentioning your cultural competency will also be beneficial.

At the very least, a study abroad experience gives you an interesting topic to bring up in an interview if you can’t think of anything else to talk about, and you probably should talk about it!


Do you have advice for CIEE alumni, or a story to share about your experience? Email 


Event Recap: NYC Alumni Chapter, May 2015

Last week, we kicked off the first official event of the CIEE Alumni New York City Chapter at the Centre for Social Innovation in NYC. Thanks to all CIEE alumni who attended this event! 

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The event was presented in collaboration with the Academic Internship Council (AIC). Drinks were generously provided by Allagash Brewing from CIEE's home city of Portland, Maine. 

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Two speakers presented short talks on social entrepreneurship during the event: 

  • Isabel Soffer, co-founder of globalFEST, a groundbreaking global music festival and nonprofit organization
  • Marco Salazar, co-founder of Be Social Change, the largest social impact community in New York City

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"It was a really great way to not only network but make new connections with others that have similar interests to my own."


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Missed this event? Want to know if there are upcoming CIEE alumni events in your city? Check out our local chapters page to view our current chapter locations and upcoming events. 

If you have feedback, thoughts, or ideas for future CIEE alumni chapter events, please fill out our brief survey here

Alumni Update - May 2015

May Update - Blog Image



50 Years of U.S.-Japanese Exchange

This September, CIEE is celebrating 50 years of international exchange programs in Japan. To commemorate this milestone event, we are gathering messages of congratulations and support for U.S.-Japanese exchange. Learn more

Young Alumni Spotlight

This month, we highlighted the stories of three alums in 'Generation Z' - under the age of 20 - who are are making a difference in the world around them. Read the blog post.

Alumni Chapter Events 

In April, we held our first CIEE Alumni Local Chapter events in San Francisco, Beijing, and Shanghai. Check out the photos in our event recap


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

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 Centre for Social Innovation, this event will feature a short talk by two leaders in social entrepreneurship.

Washington, D.C. Chapter Event: Wednesday, May 20, 6-8 p.m. 

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

Ireland Chapter Event: Saturday, June 13, 12-2 p.m.

Connect with CIEE alumni in Ireland for this informal brunch event at 37 Dawson Street Restaurant in Dublin, Ireland,

See all events>>


Sheyla Ventura, CIEE Work & Travel

In 2006, Sheyla Ventura traded the Brazilian sunshine for Chicago snow to work at Sterling Works, a jewelry company, through the CIEE Work & Travel USA program. Today, she is a journalist and project manager in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We spoke to her about her passion for travel, and how her CIEE experience has shaped her personal and professional life. Read her interview on the CIEE alumni blog


  • Jamie Desrosier, alum of CIEE Study Abroad Haifa (2013-14) and CIEE Study Abroad Iringa (2014), has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship for 2015-2016 to Malaysia.
  • Cassandra Ziegler, alum of CIEE Teach in Thailand (2013-14) and Teach in Spain (2014-15), has been accepted into graduate school at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she will be pursuing a degree in International and Multicultural Studies and Education Policy.
  • Sarah Sanderson, alum of CIEE Teach in China (2010) and CIEE Study Abroad Santiago (2006), is the recipient of a Rotary Peace Fellowship in Japan. 

Do you have an update to share? Let us know by emailing


We hope that future study abroad and local students will use the structure that we leave to work together constructively for the benefit of their community.”

-Helen Sharma, CIEE Study Abroad Istanbul, Spring 2015, on her Indiegogo campaign to support Syrian Refugee Maternal Health in Istanbul

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Alumni Voices: Kelsey Wetherbee, Teach in Chile Alumna

This month’s Alumni Voices feature comes from CIEE alum Kelsey Wetherbee, who studied abroad with CIEE in 2008 in Alicante, Spain, and participated in the CIEE Teach in Chile program in Valparaiso in 2011. She is now back in Valparaiso, teaching English to Chilean cadets preparing to become naval officers. 

I’ve always been interested in other cultures. When I was little, my best friends were always from different backgrounds, cultures, and races. In high school, I helped start an international club for exchange students who were studying for a year in the United States. While deciding what college to attend, a strong study abroad program was always an important factor to me. 

DSCN0140Kelsey in Alicante, Spain during her study abroad program. All photos by Kelsey Wetherbee. 

When the time finally came, I chose to study abroad with CIEE in Alicante, Spain. Although well prepared by CIEE and my university, I was terrified and excited at the same time. When I got on the plane, I think I cried all the way from United States to Madrid. The experience in Alicante was eye-opening. They were some of the best, but also most challenging, days of my life. 

My first taste of being abroad had left me wanting more. All I wanted to do was travel again.

When I went home after my semester was over, I felt glad to be in the United States, but unsatisfied by the experience. My first taste of being abroad had left me wanting more. All I wanted to do was travel again. It was not long after I returned from studying abroad that I was already preparing for my next adventure. While I loved Spain, I wanted to experience another country, and still be able to practice Spanish. That is how I decided that Chile would be my next destination.

A few months after I graduated, I found myself on a plane to Santiago, Chile. This time, there were fewer tears and more excitement for the adventure that awaited me. I taught English through the CIEE Teach in Chile program in the historic port town of Valparaiso. I taught at a professional institute, and let me tell you, you don’t know fear until you show up on your first day with twenty students who are the same age as you waiting for you to begin class. But after a few minor mishaps, I found my way as a teacher. During my time in Valparaiso, I fell in love with the city and the country. So much so, that I decided that after my year of teaching English was finished, I was not ready for the experience to be over. I stayed another year. 

Last days in chile 004Kelsey (left) with a Chilean friend in Valparaiso, Chile. 

After my second year in Chile, I returned to the United States to experience professional life in the States. But it was too late; I was already a chilena de corazón, and always felt South America calling me back. So after a year in the States, I decided that it was time to return to my second home, Chile. If it weren’t for the experiences and support that CIEE provided me, I would not have had the courage to commit to a year of teaching English in a foreign country. I would not have experienced the roller coaster ride that is living in Chile. While I still struggle with the language – as many Chileans will tell you, they don’t speak Spanish, they speak “Chileno,” – I love this country. From the crazy fast buses called micros to dancing the traditional cueca during the Independence Day celebration, and everything in between, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

DSCN2087Valparaiso, Chile. 

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

Event Recap: Beijing, Shanghai & Bay Area Alumni Events

We'd like to thank all the CIEE alumni who attended our April events in Beijing, Shanghai, and the San Francisco Bay Area. View pictures from the event below, and be sure to check out our alumni events to see if there's an upcoming event near you! 

Beijing & Shanghai

Beijing Event Group PhotoAlumni in Beijing. 

100K Strong Beijing Event Students


Image3CIEE alumni participate in an architectural walking tour in Shanghai, China. 

Group Photo 2 - Shanghai



San Francisco Bay Area

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CIEE alumni from CIEE Study Abroad, Work & Travel, Baltic-American Freedom Foundation, Internship USA, and Teach Abroad programs gathered in San Francisco, California in April for our first CIEE Alumni Bay Area Chapter Event.

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View photos from all events on our Facebook page


Our next CIEE alumni events are in New York, DC, and Ireland.

If you're in one of these locations, don't miss this opportunity to meet CIEE alumni in your city - RSVP today! 

Surviving Chicago Winters and Becoming a Global Citizen: Sheyla Ventura, May Alum of the Month

Sheyla Ventura, 28, is a journalist and project manager in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2006, Sheyla traded the Brazilian sunshine for Chicago snow to work at Sterling Works, a jewelry company, through the CIEE Work & Travel USA program. 

Sheyla Ventura - Snow

All photos: Sheyla Ventura

When she arrived in Chicago, Sheyla was only 18 years old; the freedom and independence of living in downtown Chicago, alongside other Brazilian and Argentinian exchange participants, was both exhilarating and challenging. She says that one of the most surprising aspects of her Work & Travel USA experience was the cultural diversity of Chicago. “I learned so much about different cultures, and looking at the other side of the U.S. was really empowering for me,” she explains. “I didn’t know I was really into hip-hop!” 

Sheyla Ventura - Newspaper Article

Sheyla says that her time in the U.S. was a formative experience both personally and professionally. Although her work in the jewelry shop was not directly related to her career path – Sheyla was in law school at the time – she notes that the training she got during her job contributed to her professional development. She says that receiving  feedback from her American coworkers was significantly different from her experience in Brazil, and that her English improved during her time abroad. 

“You’re going to feel like you’re not just Brazilian anymore, you’re more of a world citizen, and it is really amazing.”

Sheyla has advice for anyone considering working abroad: just do it! -- and maybe check the weather before you go. She says that her American friends were helpful in her process of adapting to American culture and learning English, and that her program changed her outlook on the world. “Once you return home, you’re going to feel like you’re part of the world,” she says. “You’re going to feel like you’re not just Brazilian anymore, you’re more of a world citizen, and it is really amazing.”

Sheyla Ventura - Chicago

After Sheyla returned to Brazil, she decided to focus her career path on journalism; inspired by her experience and independence in Chicago, she decided to move to Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. Sheyla returned to school for journalism, and went on to earn an MBA in digital marketing. In the past ten years, she has worked in public relations, journalism, and social media. Sheyla is currently working for a startup in product development and project management, and plans to eventually pursue a career in Silicon Valley, California. “It will be a second challenge to go back to the US,” she laughs. “It will be like I’m 18 again!”  


Do you have a story about your CIEE experience? Email