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8 posts from July 2015

Alumni Voices: 6 Ways to Build a Global Network Abroad

Stephen Szypulski is a CIEE alumnus who studied abroad at the Warsaw School of Economics in Poland during the spring of 2011, while an undergraduate at Georgetown University. He recently graduated from Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, where he concentrated on Russian and East European studies, and previously was a Fulbright scholar in Poland from 2012-2013.

After a weeklong scholarship trip to Poland during my sophomore year at Georgetown, I knew immediately that I wanted to return again, this time for a semester the following year. As it turned out, my semester with CIEE in Warsaw was only the beginning of my travels to the region, and I credit my time spent with the group as having contributed to my decision to become a Russia and East Europe regional specialist.

In addition to the typical benefits of studying or working abroad—that is, making friends from around the world and spending my free time visiting cities with such rich histories—I also found my times spent abroad to be ideal opportunities for building my network as a young professional and global citizen interested in foreign affairs.

For those still deciding what their next international study or research destination will be, or for students who already have their departure date scheduled, here are a few tips that I found useful for expanding my own network abroad and how you can as well:

1. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone

Though I had significant international travel experience before my semester abroad in Warsaw, I still had to adapt to my new city, meet new people, and learn the daily workings and hotspots of locals. To do this, you need to step out of your previous routine and away from the assumption that ways of doing things at home will also apply in your new city. You’re only abroad in this new culture for a set period of time, so make each moment count and spend it like a local.

2. Volunteer or intern

CIEE Abaphumeleli

CIEE Study Abroad Cape Town alum Chris Grava co-founded a nonprofit in the South African community of Khayelitsha after his time abroad.

Study abroad programs have a funny way of socializing you to spend the majority of your program with the group you arrived with. My 2011 CIEE group was a great bunch of people; we spent a lot of time together, and are still in touch to this day. But, your new country and city is filled with amazing people with their own inspiring stories. Go meet them! One way is by volunteering with a local NGO. Introduce yourself prior to arriving and show an interest in offering your time. Chances are, they would love to have you visit even for an hour a week and, in the end, you will have met more locals, learned about your city, and added something to your resume to stand out to future employers—all for a worthy cause.

3. Leverage your home network, school alumni database, and professors.

No matter how distant your new home is from the US, there are tons of groups and individuals abroad that can serve as a resource to build your network abroad. The country’s embassy and consulate, American Corners, American Chambers of Commerce, or the American Studies departments at universities are just a few of those places you can reach out to. Find alumni from your school now living abroad or ask for contacts of your professors; a shared background makes it easier to reach out and gives you a good conversation starter. More likely than not, mutual connections are happy to help you build your own in-country network or acclimate to the city.

4. Cold call or message people in your field of study or profession


 CIEE Study Abroad in Thailand alum Kamila Lambert reached out to another CIEE in her pursuit of social entrepreneurship and urban farming. 

Is there a business or civic leader you read about or an academic specialist you studied in your classes that you always wanted to meet? Did you read a really interesting magazine interview featuring them? Do you want to work in the same field as certain individuals in the future? Reach out and set up a coffee. Of course, be brief, respect their time, and have a real connection that validates your intent to meet up. You will be surprised at the positive responses that result from being proactive and reaching out.

5. Start an initiative or event

You may not be there for a long time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leave a footprint on your program, group, or host country’s local community. Work with a school or environmental group to organize a park cleanup, work with a school to organize an “America Day”, food potluck, or other cultural event to share your own interests with the community. As with volunteering or interning, building a global network is easiest when you share interests and show a willingness to contribute to your temporary home abroad.

6. Don’t let the end of your program mean the end of your network


CIEE Study Abroad Warsaw alum Stephen Szypulski speaking with students at a high school in Radom, Poland during his Fulbright year in Poland. 

Independent of whether you spent a semester abroad or a full year on a Fulbright, make sure that you keep in touch with new friends, professors, and professional contacts long after you’ve left.  The availability of social platforms means there’s no excuse for not following up with an occasional email, asking a study abroad professor for a recommendation in the future, or reaching out when you’re both in the same town again. Use your contacts as a resource going forward and be willing to offer to return the favors in exchange.

If you use your limited time abroad smartly, your experiences and growing network will benefit endlessly.


Want to read more articles written by CIEE alumni? Check out all of our Alumni Voices posts. 

Celebrating 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

July 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which gives civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities. The ADA and the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) assure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities for access to business, employment, transportation, and state and local government programs.

Why is this related to international exchange? CIEE is proud to be a partner with Mobility International USA (MIUSA), an organization that empowers people with disabilities to achieve human rights through international exchange and international development. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, CIEE awarded 11 Access to the World Scholarships for 2015-2016 CIEE study abroad programs.

Today, we’re highlighting the stories of CIEE alumni who have overcome challenges to pursue study abroad opportunities, and how their time abroad had an impact on their lives: 

“I realized that I can survive traveling alone internationally, since this was my first time ever traveling fully across the Atlantic Ocean and going to Europe. I really learned a lot in the class on European Integration on the politics, policy, law and on the culture of France and the E.U."


“The teachers were very in tune with the material. I loved the way they were able to put the information together in ways that I was able to retain, via readings out loud, smart board, videos, conversations, and more. I felt that knowing the politics and culture really helped me understand France more while I was there.”

                - CIEE Study Abroad in Toulouse, France alum and Access the World scholarship recipient


“Studying abroad in general is an incredibly humbling experience. I learned so much about myself through both challenges and incomparable adventure. My goal while I was abroad was to have an experience like the rest of my peers. I lived with a host family, took classes at the local university, and traveled with my friends on holidays. I took risks and embraced challenges and took advantage of every opportunity that allowed me to make the most of my time in Rennes."

             - CIEE Study Abroad in Rennes, France alum 

Lauren Distler

 My favorite memory of the whole trip was when we were in Wadi Rum (which translates to "Rock Valley"), this place in the desert that used to be the floor of an ocean millennia ago… After nightfall a couple of friends and I hiked back out of the camp and climbed up one of the rock formations (I got a couple of nice scrapes and bruises from that but it was worth it). There was the road in the distance, and a couple of camps dotting the landscape below, but other than that there was no source of light pollution for miles and miles. Laying back on the rocks there were so many stars above that it was difficult to pick out the familiar constellations from among the thousands of glowing pinpricks.”

            - CIEE Study Abroad in Amman, Jordan alum and Access the World scholarship recipient  Lauren Distler


“During Caroline’s time abroad with CIEE – both in Korea and in Tanzania – she felt an ‘automatic acceptance’ into the new cultures and ways of communicating. ‘[Caroline] says that she finds a certain level of automatic forgiveness with being abroad,” she explains, “and it’s changed her world, she’s become more sure of herself, and just makes her want to see more and do more and learn more languages and meet more people.’” 

           -  Joanna See, mother of CIEE Study Abroad in Tanzania alum Caroline See

Learn more about CIEE’s partnership with MIUSA and the history of the ADA

Alumni Voices: Anna Lane, High School Abroad in Germany

CIEE alum Anna Lane spent an exchange semester in Germany through the CIEE High School Abroad program. She reflected on how her experience with CIEE has impacted her life in the two years since her program:

It has been almost two years since I left for my exchange semester in Germany. Although a significant amount of time has passed since my program ended, I find myself carrying my experience abroad everywhere I go.

I have noticed new habits and am much more confident in a variety of things. For example, I now eat with both a fork and a knife; I have Skype dates in another language; I have an abundance of stories to share with my friends. I talk to my cats in German, friends come to me for travel advice, and public transportation is a walk in the park. Additionally, I am eager to learn about new cultures, try new foods, meet new people, and explore. I am now comfortable in all sorts of situations. Last summer, for example, I went backpacking with my sister and a friend through Europe. This summer I traveled to Iceland and Ireland completely on my own. 

I have come to realize that a lot of aspects in my life had changed because I had gone to Germany, and I am continually grateful because of it.


Photos: Anna Lane

I have literally been given another family, which has been the best gift of my life. I cannot describe how lucky I am. After spending a wonderful semester with my host family, I knew I had to go back and visit; last summer, that is exactly what I did. As the train pulled into the train station, I saw my host family waiting for me, and it felt just like before. After my visit, my host sister, Lina, flew to Wisconsin with me and stayed for 5 weeks. She had done so much for me in Germany: explaining words, showing me around town, introducing me to friends, and being an all-around amazing sister. I was thrilled to finally be able to return the favor, even if only for a short while. This summer I went back to visit again. My friends were graduating, and my host family had invited me to go on vacation with them, so how could I say no? Going back has showed me that I have not only gained a new family but also made lifelong friends (one of whom is coming to visit the U.S. this summer!).

Anna Lane Family1

Finally, my experience abroad played a big role in my college decision and my career plans. I just finished my first year at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota and could not be happier with my choice. I chose Macalester College because of their well-established International Studies and German programs. After taking two excellent German history classes, meeting other exchange students, and getting the opportunity to live in the German House next year, I am thrilled to be a German and International Studies major. Because of studying abroad, I have decided that career that allows me to travel is a must. 

Anna Lane Family2

The opportunity that CIEE gave me to study abroad in Germany has shaped my life in indescribable ways, and I am so thankful. 

Ask an Alum: Attending Graduate School in Spain

Fallon Wagner taught in Spain with CIEE in 2014. Her move to Spain led her to pursue a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in International Education at the University of Alcalá in Spain.

We asked Fallon about her experience with teaching in Spain and pursuing a graduate degree abroad:

CIEE: Why did you choose to teach in Spain with CIEE?

Fallon: I was working in San José, Costa Rica as an English teacher when I heard about the CIEE Teach Abroad program. Since I had spent some time in Central and South America (I studied abroad in Argentina during my undergrad), I knew that I wanted to gain some experience working in Europe. I was also interested in the program because I would be working in public schools in Spain. This was radically different from my previous teaching experience, so I was excited for the opportunity.    Fallon_Masters

My cohort for Master’s degree in International Education.

Why did you decide to pursue a Master’s degree in International Education at the University of Alcalá in Spain?

When I moved to Spain, a friend from my undergrad was enrolled in the Master’s program at the University of Alcalá. After researching the program, I learned that it was a free bilingual Master’s degree that only takes one year to complete. I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in study abroad and higher education, and this program was an excellent fit for me. Half of my classes were taught in Spanish and half of my classes were taught in English. I knew this would be a great way for me to advance my Spanish skills, particularly in writing. I chose the Master’s degree in International Education because this program was geared towards students who plan to be directors and administrators for international schools. Therefore, this Master’s degree would be especially useful if I plan to work in study abroad.     Fallon_UniversityUniversidad de Alcalá de Henares

What was the process of applying to graduate school outside of the United States like?

It was not as difficult as I originally anticipated. The process was very similar to what I had to do to get my student visa for the CIEE program that I completed the year before. Much of the process is the same as applying to a program in the United States. I needed to provide my official transcripts, a copy of my Bachelor’s degree diploma, my resume, as well as my application and internship form. My GRE scores were not needed. Since this was a program outside of the U.S., I also needed to provide a copy of my passport and fill out a health questionnaire. Once I was accepted to the program, I then needed to renew my student visa, which can be done in Spain. While the renewal process can be tedious, we had a program coordinator to help us with any complications.    

Can you explain a little more about your graduate school program?

There are four different tracks to choose from in my program: Master in International Education, Master in Bilingual Education, Master in Teaching, and Máster en Aprendizaje y Enseñanza del Español como Lengua Extranjera.

While my Master’s program is technically “free,” this is only possible through our internship as a Language and Cultural Assistant. Normally, Language and Cultural Assistants receive a €1000 monthly stipend from the Spanish Ministry of Education. In our program, we receive between €580 and €750 monthly stipend depending on our number of internship hours. Therefore, the rest of our stipend is applied to our Master’s degree program fees.Fallon_design course

 In one of our classes, we practiced different methods to create second language acquisition through project based learning. In this project, Group 1 had to describe to Group 2 how to position themselves to recreate the “rock star” picture above without showing them the picture.

Do you have plans to stay in Spain after your graduate school program?

Many students opt to stay in Spain or work abroad elsewhere after the program is finished. If students stay in Spain, they have the option to stay with their school for another year, or they can move to a Spanish public school. Other students will pursue teaching careers in Asia and the Middle East, as some require a Master’s degree to enter their specific teaching program. Since I now have three years of teaching experience as well as my Master’s in International Education, I plan to return to the U.S. and pursue a career in work or study abroad in higher education.   

Do you have advice for CIEE alumni who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree abroad?

While I highly recommend pursuing a graduate degree abroad, students should know that the accreditation process for a Master’s degree outside of the U.S. is a long and tedious process. I will not be able to request my official transcripts until September, and then I have a long process of having them translated, apostilled, and accredited by a third party provider.

“The most important characteristics needed to complete a Master’s degree abroad are open-mindedness and flexibility. With these two traits, no challenge is too great to overcome.”

Overall, I still highly recommend it. It takes hard work and dedication, but completing a Master’s degree is a great career move no matter what industry you plan to pursue. There are certainly cultural barriers that I have encountered during my two years in Spain, but this has also provided me with a way to better develop my intercultural competence. The most important characteristics needed to complete a Master’s degree abroad are open-mindedness and flexibility. With these two traits, no challenge is too great to overcome.  

Want to learn more about teaching in Spain? Check out Fallon’s blog for the CIEE Teach Abroad program. 

Public Radio in the United States & Latvia: BAFF alum Artjoms Konohovs

Artjoms Konohovs is an alumnus of the Baltic American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) Professional Internship program, a CIEE fellowship program that matches citizens of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia with internship positions in the United States. Artjoms began his internship with previous experience in the journalism field: he worked as a public radio journalist for 6 years at Latvijas Radio, and had just completed a Master’s degree in European Communication Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He was looking for a way to learn from the field of radio in the U.S., and found the opportunity to do so through BAFF. In 2012, he began an internship with KALW, the NPR affiliate station of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Artjoms Konohovs Linkedin

During his time at KALW, Artjoms focused on local stories in the Bay Area. Because the U.S. presidential election campaign was underway, he also helped to coordinate coverage of the election and of state-wide propositions in California. One of his assignments was to cover the story of the Republican Party throughout the election, which he refers to as a ‘rare breed’ in San Francisco, a city in which the majority of voters are Democrats. 

San Francisco Republicans Respond to Election ResultsListen to ‘San Francisco Republicans respond to election results’ on KALW.

Artjoms also worked on stories about culture, arts, and local businesses. “It wasn’t the experience of bringing coffee or doing basic things,” he says of his internship experience. He learned about the creative use of sound in radio, and new ways of audio storytelling. Artjoms says that the standard for journalism was high at KALW, and that they were focused on ‘evergreen stories’ – stories that aren’t time-sensitive breaking news – which was a departure from his experience with Latvijas Radio. “The concept of interviewing a place was very prominent at KALW news – to help make the imagination work with a piece,” he explains. 

Artworks in SF Listen to 'A destination for art at San Francisco International Airport' on KALW. 

Today, Artjoms works as the Brussels correspondent for Latvijas Radio. To listen to more of Artjoms’ work from his BAFF internship, visit the KALW website

50 Years of Cultural Exchange: The History of CIEE in Japan

CIEEJ 50th Logo

This September, CIEE is celebrating the 50th anniversary of U.S.-Japanese exchange programs. Learn more about the history of CIEE Japan through these photos, and if you’re in Tokyo, attend our event at American Center Japan in October 2015.

CIEEJ group photo2

Photo credit for all photos (unless otherwise noted): CIEE Study Abroad in Japan blog


 CIEE’s office in Tokyo opened as the second CIEE overseas office in March 1965, in order to develop exchange programs for world peace and understanding between the U.S. and Japan. It received strong support and cooperation from prominent organizations, including the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the America-Japan Society of Tokyo (AJS), and International House of Japan. The first program jointly co-sponsored and administered by AJS and CIEE for the following thirty years was named ‘Summer Study in America’(SS).


Some of the organizations that CIEE Japan has partnered or collaborated with since 1965.

 In this program's first session, a charter flight took off for the U.S. early in the morning.  Included among the passengers were 102 young Japanese students participating in the new program. It consisted of English language learning sessions at U.S. universities and post-session cross-continental travel. The participants experienced the vast landscape and warm hospitality of host families during homestays on their way to the departure city.

Responding to the rapid growth of potential participants, the program was re-designed for university students and young business people separately in 1971.

CIEEJ blog_group photo statue


The third United States-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON) emphasized the need for increased travel opportunities for Japanese scholars of America, American scholars of Japan, and teachers of both languages. The American Embassy in Tokyo encouraged CIEE to develop plans for an in-service training program for Japanese teachers of English. CIEE Japan then submitted a proposal in 1967 to the Ministry of Education, whose officials quickly approved the plan and wrote a letter of recommendation to all the prefectural boards of education.


165 teachers from Japanese junior and senior high schools departed for the U.S. to take part in a two-month program. This initiative lead the Ministry of Education to launch sponsored training programs, with CIEE’s assistance, in 1978, and these programs have continued to the present day.

Girl arm raised host family


CIEE introduced School Exchange Services (SES) to Japan. SES was created in 1970 in a joint effort by the U.S. and France in cooperation with the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages for high school students. It rapidly expanded to other countries in Europe in the following year.


CIEE took over the initial work done by the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission (JUSEC) and assisted the Ministry of Education in the national Mombusho English Fellows (MEF) project, which later grew to become the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) in 1987.

CIEE Japan’s work not only including programs for sending Japanese citizens to go abroad, but also for bringing international students to Japan, as a true exchange organization. In the 1970's, in cooperation with the Japan Society in New York, CIEE administered a program in Japan for American educators. The two-week program consisted of a homestay, a ryokan-stay, Kabukizazen, and a five-day intensive study of Japanese society and culture in cooperation with the faculty of Kyoto and Doshisha Universities.

Sophia sign


The Cooperative Japanese Business and Society Program (CJBSP) for U.S. university students started at Sophia University this summer.


Sophia University and the CIEE Study Center continue to work together to host more than 150 students from U.S. universities annually. Read what CIEE alumni have to say about their experience with CIEE in Japan: 


“Never before has my wanderlust spirit felt so energized as it does now. Even as I sit here writing this, I still cannot believe this will be my home for the next four months. And, despite only being here for one week so far, I already feel like this is where I am supposed to be.” – Shelah Larson, CIEE Study Abroad in Tokyo student


Photo credit: Teresa Fong

“As a recent alumna, I have been so influenced by my time in Japan with CIEE. I decided to go into international education because I realized how important study abroad is!”-Teresa, CIEE Study Abroad Tokyo Alum, JET program English Teacher


“I was quite fortunate and grateful to have had the opportunity to study in Japan. Because of this, I learned a great deal about a completely different culture from that of my own.”-Daniel, CIEE Study Abroad Tokyo Alum, Teacher in Asahi, Chiba, Japan


If you're a CIEE alum in Japan, attend our 50th Anniversary Alumni Event at the American Center Japan in October 2015.

Alumni Update - July 2015



The Growth of STEM in International Education

There is a growing trend towards increasing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs in international education. According to the Institute for International Education (IIE), students majoring in STEM fields outnumber study abroad students in other major fields for the first time. Check out our roundup of recent articles highlighting STEM in international exchange. 

Meet the CIEE Alumni Summer Interns

Last month, 11 recent study abroad participants arrived at our Portland headquarters for the start of the CIEE Alumni Summer Internship. They'll be working on strategic projects across CIEE's family of programs during their 9 weeks in our office. Meet this year's class of alumni interns

CIEE TEFL Online Certification Course

If you're interested in teaching English abroad, CIEE offers an online Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification - the credential most often required by overseas employers! We offer two levels of internationally-recognized certification developed by TEFL professionals. Participants of the TEFL program receive lifetime job assistance, career resources, and access to the CIEE TEFL alumni group. In addition, CIEE alumni receive a discount on the TEFL courses! To learn more, sign up for a free informational webinar or visit the CIEE TEFL website. 

Photo: Teaching in Thailand with CIEE. 


In-Person Events:  

We're in the process of planning events in July and August for CIEE Alumni Local Chapters in ChicagoSan FranciscoNew YorkWashington D.C., and Istanbul. If you're in one of those locations, send us an email to indicate your interest in the event, or visit our Alumni Events website.

Virtual Events: 

Our next Alumni Quarterly Virtual Meetup is on July 15. Connect with fellow CIEE alumni around the world to share your stories, exchange career tips, and build your global network. Click here to RSVP. 

The Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) is holding a Virtual Admissions Fair on July 21, in collaboration with more than a dozen internationally-focused graduate schools. If you're interested in pursuing a graduate degree with a global focus, register for the event here


James Roldan, Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) 2014-15

How did you document the highlights of your exchange experience? CBYX alum James Roldan chose to showcase his experience through music. Roldan's CBYX ambassador project, 'Warburger State of Mind,' is a music video highlighting his favorite aspects of life in his host town of Warburg, Germany. As a result of the music video's popularity, Roldan was asked to perform at the German Chancellery for Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. Ambassador John Emerson, and the entire CBYX group. 

P.S. Want to host an exchange student in the U.S.? For U.S.-based CIEE alumni, hosting an international exchange student is a great way to facilitate international exchange and learn about a new culture. Host a high school student from another country this year and continue your global experience! Learn more here


  • Sustainability and entrepreneurship: CIEE Thailand alums create urban farm companies for communities in Colorado & California
  • A lifelong pursuit of adventure: CIEE Costa Rica alum on NBC's The Island with Bear Grylls
  • CIEE Study Abroad alum Sara Hess reflects on how her semester in Dakar has helped in her professional career

We're looking for contributors for the CIEE Alumni website. Do you have a story, personal essay, or photo to share about your CIEE experience and how it impacted your career path? Email 


“I participated in the USA High School program in the south of Arkansas, where I graduated in 2010. I'm now on my third year of medical school in Argentina. Being an exchange student changed my life and my host family was the best gift that year could give me, I went back to visit them once and I have plans to do it again." 

-Ana, USA High School alum, on the CIEE Alumni Global Network LinkedIn group.

Visit the CIEE Alumni Linkedin group to connect with over 18,000 alumni to discuss your CIEE experience, get career advice, or serve as a mentor for other CIEE alumni in your field! 

Don't forget to update your information to receive important communications and alumni news from CIEE. 

Celebrating 50 Years in Japan

CIEEJ 50th Logo

 In 1965, CIEE opened our overseas office in Tokyo, Japan. For the past 50 years, CIEE has been working to promote world peace and understanding through our cultural exchange programs in Japan. 

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

CIEE Anniversary Alumni Event


If you're in Tokyo this fall, come celebrate this occasion with us at the American Center Japan, and meet alumni from past CIEE programs. Spots are limited, so please RSVP if you plan to attend the event. 

History of CIEE in JapanLearn-More-History-Image-CIEEJ-Event

Learn more about the legacy of CIEE in Japan, including collaborations and partnerships with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the America-Japan Society of Tokyo, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), Sophia University, and more.