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11 posts from September 2015

Alumni Voices: 12 Reasons Going Abroad Should be Your Next Step After College

This post was written by CIEE Teach Abroad alum Bryn Rudy. Bryn studied abroad in Seville, Spain during her junior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and returned to Spain to teach English after graduation.

12 Reasons Going Abroad Should be Your Next Step After College

Before I graduated, strangers, family, and friends told me to stay in school as long as possible, and everybody urged avoiding the “real world”. We’re raised dreading the 9 to 5 life, yet society also pushes on us the need to graduate high school, go to college, get a good job, get married, and have kids. They like to call it the “American Dream,” but I have a hard time believing that’s what everybody dreams of these days.

Yes, I’m your typical twenty-something constantly working to narrow my focus and delve into what gets me up in the morning, and while I didn’t go for a “victory lap” in college, I have been successful in avoiding the “real world.” While older generations may not agree, I appreciate that millennials put more importance on traveling and cultural awareness, and want an appropriate work-life balance. That’s not to say I don’t believe in hard work, but I think it’s okay to take a couple transitional years and work on figuring out you. I studied abroad my junior year in college, went back and taught English in Spain after I graduated, and recently just returned from working in New Zealand.

Having your life figured out by age 22 is pretty unrealistic, especially in today’s job market. I don’t think there is a perfect formula to life’s order or how to “find yourself”, but I think studying, teaching, and/or working abroad is a great place to start. All of my abroad experiences have better prepared me to enter the real world, and the skills I’ve gained make me stand out from the crowd and be confident in what exactly it is I’m looking for (which is why I want to help others travel abroad, too!). These are 12 reasons going abroad should be the next step after college:

1. Get out of your comfort zone  Kayaking Milford Sound

Kayaking on Milford Sound. Photo: Bryn Rudy

Obvious, but incredibly important. Taking risks and challenging yourself is the best way to grow and evolve.

2. Time away from family & friends

Just like society puts pressure on us to do certain things or behave a certain way, so might family and friends whether you realize it or not. It can be good to get away and really focus on you and what you want.

3. Learn new skills  Teaching English in Spain

Bryn with her class in Spain.

Traveling abroad builds character. You have to be patient, adapt to new situations, and learn how to live in an entirely different place. It also gives you a chance to hone skills you already possess.

4. Explore career options

Don’t know what to do with your life? Going abroad gives you time to think about what’s important to you and allows you to explore new options. It might even broaden your mind to a career path that might never have crossed your mind.

5. Experience better than a classroom  View from Mrs. Macquarie's Chair in Sydney

Bryn in Sydney, Australia.

Try something you haven’t before, and even if you don’t like it, at least you figured that out and probably learned some valuable skills along the way.

6. Cultural awareness & acceptance

We live in a diverse world, and learning to work with all types of people is key.

7. Communication

Just like we need to learn to interact with people from different backgrounds, it is imperative that we communicate effectively with coworkers, clients, and managers. Another great thing about abroad is learning to cope without your phone 24/7. Internet is not always available and reliable everywhere, so getting back to communicating face-to-face is something to appreciate.

8. “Emerging Adulthood” stage

In a human development class I took in college, my professor described emerging adulthood as a new developmental stage during the late teens/early twenties. Spending a part of this period abroad helps you to take those steps toward adulthood.

9. Resume-building

On top of Rocky Mountain Summit in Wanaka

View from the Rocky Mountain Summit in Wanaka. Photo: Bryn Rudy

Whether you study, teach, or work abroad, employers will be impressed by your international experiences.

10. Build language skills

Bilingualism is an incredible skill to have, and spending time in a new country is the perfect way to become fluent in a new language.

11. Reflect on your priorities

In Spain, it’s common to live with your parents until you’re 30. In Australia, it’s the norm to take a gap year after college. What do you want? What’s important to you? Do you want to travel? Do you want to have a family? Do you want to become CEO of a company? Being far from home allows you to reflect on these ideas and set specific goals for yourself.

12. Less things tying you down

Another good reason to go abroad after college? You’re young. You have fewer responsibilities. If you plan on having a family, it’s not as easy to pick up and move halfway across the world with kids. You never know what the future holds, so if you have the chance to travel now, do it.

Ask an Alum: How to Pursue a Career in International Education

CIEE alum Sarah Kate Hartt is a Study Abroad Program Manager  at the University of Colorado Boulder. She manages programs in Latin America and Spain, supervises peer advisors, and works on access and inclusion initiatives. In addition to her semester abroad in Seville, Spain through the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program, Sarah Kate has also studied in Delhi, India and traveled in Europe, South America, the Dominican Republic, Nepal, and Australia. We spoke with her about how she came to pursue a career path in the field of international education: 

CIEE: What led you to your decision to pursue study abroad as a career field?

Sarah Kate: I studied abroad with CIEE in Seville, Spain on the Advanced Liberal Arts program track. I took classes at the CIEE study center and at the Universidad de Sevilla. My primary goal was to develop Spanish fluency, and I’d say I got pretty close in just six months’ time.Photo1Plaza de Espana in Seville, Spain. (Photo: CIEE High School Summer Abroad blog)

When I returned from my semester in Spain, I applied to work as a student peer advisor in the CU-Boulder Study Abroad Office. I was interested in learning more about the field and saw the peer advisor role as a great way to gain exposure. I also saw it as an opportunity to stay connected to my experience abroad and work with like-minded colleagues and students.  

I think especially now, when things seem ready to bubble over in every corner of the globe, it’s imperative that students travel, gain exposure to new ideas, new forms of diversity, new ways of life.

After working a year as a peer advisor, I chose to study abroad for another semester in India. That’s where I spent my last semester of college and it was the best decision I could have made. When I returned from India I was fortunate to land a temporary advisor position with CU Study Abroad, and when a full-time position opened up, I jumped at it. That was in 2012. I’ve since worked in a number of roles within the office. Currently, I manage a portfolio of programs in Latin America and Spain and supervise our team of peer advisors.

How did your CIEE program inform or influence your career path?

SK: My CIEE program opened my eyes to a new way of living in a new part of the world. I felt challenged every day, and it was refreshing. When I returned, I couldn’t stand the idea of students graduating without ever having had that opportunity.Photo2Photo: CIEE Study Abroad in Seville Newsletter

I think especially now, when things seem ready to bubble over in every corner of the globe, it’s imperative that students travel, gain exposure to new ideas, new forms of diversity, new ways of life. Exposure cultivates understanding, and understanding creates a world we can all feel less cynical about.

What do you like most about your position as a study abroad program manager?

SK: I love a lot of things about my job. Each day is different and you never really know what to expect when the phone rings. Working on the university side of things, I appreciate how much contact I have with students. It keeps me feeling connected and serves as a constant source of ideas for how to improve access, communication, processes, or develop programming.  Photo3Photo: CIEE Study Abroad blog.

What advice do you have for CIEE alumni interested in a career in international education?

SK: This is a dynamic, fast-growing field. There are lots of ways to get involved and lots of opportunities for growth.

If you’re a student and your campus study abroad office hires student employees, apply to be one of them. This can be a great way to get your foot in the door early.

Gain more international experience. Fulbright, Peace Corps or CIEE Teach Abroad are just a few opportunities of many. Explore resources available through NAFSA, the Forum on Education Abroad, or International Educator magazine to form opinions on some of the hot topics in the field. Network and ask questions. Be creative; look for opportunities with universities, study abroad organizations, government institutions.


Want to network with CIEE alums in the field of international education, higher education, and primary/secondary education? Sign up for our Industry Networking Event on September 18. 

Ask an Alum: Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Ulyanovsk, Russia

Kathleen Cohen graduated from Tufts University with a degree in international relations and learned Russian during her four years there. After studying abroad in St. Petersburg with CIEE for a semester, she knew she wanted to learn more about Russia than one semester could offer. Kathleen applied for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Russia and got placed in Ulyanovsk, a provincial city on the banks of the Volga and birthplace to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. She decided to continue teaching at a local language school there for a year after her Fulbright ended. Hoping to continue her connection to the region from the U.S., she is currently working in communications at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University.

Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright scholarship?

After studying abroad in St. Petersburg, I really wanted to get a more in-depth view of everyday life in Russia outside of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Fulbright was the perfect opportunity for this since they place grantees all over the country. I also really wanted to improve my Russian to a near fluent level.With Teachers from the kafedra

Kathleen (second from right) with teachers in the linguistics department at Ulyanovsk State University.

How did your CIEE program influence your decision to apply for Fulbright?

I think my interest in Russia would've faded out after college had I not gone to St. Petersburg. I don't think I would have thought to apply to go to Russia.

What was the focus of your Fulbright scholarship?

I completed a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA), so my main focus was teaching English to students at my placement, Ulyanovsk State Technical University. A professor at the university invited me to help her translate a book from Russian into English, so that's how I became copyeditor of "Life of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin" for the V.I. Lenin Memorial Center, Ulyanovsk. IMG_1718

Kathleen with her host mom during her CIEE program.

What advice would you give to CIEE alums interested in applying for a Fulbright scholarship?

Take advantage of your university's resources, even if you're an alum. Your university wants to have Fulbrighters from there, and they have scholarships advisers who will be able to help you through the application process. The Fulbright application can be particular, so it helps to have the advice and support of someone who has helped students in the past and is familiar with it.

Do you have advice for the CIEE Alumni Global Network? Email

Alumni Voices: How I Became a Global Citizen

CIEE Work & Travel USA and Internship USA alum Wilka Nascimento decided to participate in international exchange programs in order to improve her English skills, gain global career experience, and learn about American culture. She has spent the last ten years working in the hospitality industry in the U.S., and credits her CIEE program experiences as a major influence in her career path.

Photo7 Times Square

Wilka writes:

Participating in an educational exchange program is much more than just travel. I was a 19-year-old Hospitality Management student in Brazil when I decided to sign up for the Work & Travel USA Program. I accepted the housekeeper position in Lake Placid, NY. It was December and very cold, but beautiful! I was very excited to experience the winter and all of the fun activities, such as ice skating, and watching ski jumpers in Lake Placid. Lake Placid allowed me to experience a new culture, a new language, and a new work environment. Every day I would wake up excited because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I stayed in the U.S. for the entire length of the program (4 months), and traveled to New York City, Washington D.C., and Miami. 

Photo4 I Heart T Shirt

Credit for all photos: Wilka Nascimento

“My second visit to America was in the winter of 2005. This time I went to Stowe, VT – a drastic change from 95F degrees in Brazil to the freezing temperatures of the Northeast! This time I was a veteran and already hit the ground running. I did a little bit of everything: fast-food cashier, waitress, and housekeeper. I loved to work in the restaurants because I could speak with customers all day long and make people feel welcomed. I stayed for 3 months and was able to connect again with my friends from upstate New York from my prior experience. I returned to Brazil to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Business with one idea in mind: to enroll in the CIEE Internship USA program for recent graduates so I could experience and learn more about the hotel business in the U.S. for a longer, 12-month term. 

Photo6 Times Square

To be an exchange student in America means being welcomed by each individual that you meet. I learned how to cultivate the American culture without ignoring my origins. If there’s something that I learned that helps a lot in a new country, it’s to always have a positive attitude. Suggestions: have a big smile, open mind and be willing to work hard to develop your full potential. Without passion, I would never get up in the morning. I have enjoyed my time in the U.S. so much that today I celebrate 10 years of working in the hospitality industry in America."


Share your own career story throughout the month of September with #CIEECareerMonth

Beyond ‘It Was Awesome’: Talking About Your Experience Abroad

Having an international experience on your resume is a great way to demonstrate your intercultural skill set to employers. However, many returnees struggle with how to effectively communicate the benefits and abilities gained from an overseas experience; therefore, it’s important to take some time reflect on the value of your time abroad.

Alisa Jackson, a study abroad advisor at Loyola University, studied abroad with CIEE in Peru during the fall of her junior year, and again in Spain during the spring of her junior year. According to Alisa, the experience was invaluable in her career path towards international education. 

IMG_5711Photo credit: Alisa Jackson

Upon her return to campus, she found herself wanting to talk to other students about the value of her program experience, which led her to ask about opportunities within the study abroad department at Loyola. She encourages recent study abroad alumni to do the same. “The biggest thing I would say is ask questions. We always tell students it’s not just study abroad; we have incoming international students, we have an intensive English program, and so it’s about asking questions to figure out what your interest would be, and also getting involved,” she says. “Keep pushing and be open, not just to study abroad – a lot of people in international education spent time abroad, and lived abroad – it’s realizing what else is out there, like working with international students or teaching English abroad.”


Alisa advises her undergraduate students to practice their ‘elevator pitch’ about their time abroad. “Continue to improve how you talk about your experience, because that’s ultimately what it comes down to. Continue to branch out and continue improving; move beyond ‘It was awesome!’”

Study abroad advisors agree that learning to talk about your experience is an essential step in the study abroad reentry process. Sarah Kate Hartt, the program manager and lead advisor for Study Abroad at the University of Colorado Boulder and an alum of CIEE Study Abroad in Seville, tells study abroad returnees to “think about how you will articulate your CIEE and other international experiences beyond ‘it was a great time’,” and ask themselves questions about their experience: What did you learn about yourself? In what ways were you challenged? What transferable skills did you develop?

Additional resources:


Follow all of our career tips throughout the month of September with the tag #CIEEcareermonth.

CIEE Alumni Industry Networking Week 2015

September 14-18 is CIEE Alumni Industry Networking Week! Each day, we'll be holding virtual interactive webchats focused on different fields of interest. CIEE alumni from all programs, and of all career levels, are invited to attend. 

Continue reading "CIEE Alumni Industry Networking Week 2015" »

CIEE Alumni Career Month

September is CIEE Alumni Career Month! Throughout this month, we’ll be sharing professional development tips, alumni advice, and resources to help you leverage your international exchange experience in your career.

Continue reading "CIEE Alumni Career Month" »

September Alum of the Month: Sercan Uzumcu, Work & Travel USA 2012

At the CIEE Alumni Turkey Chapter event in August, we spoke with Sercan Uzumcu, a Work & Travel USA alum. In 2012, Sercan spent four months in a hotel in Massachusetts, working for the hotel’s maintenance and safety team. 

Continue reading "September Alum of the Month: Sercan Uzumcu, Work & Travel USA 2012" »

What Did You Gain From Your CIEE Experience?

At a recent CIEE alumni event in Istanbul, we asked our alumni: “What did you gain from your CIEE experience?”

Here’s what they had to say: 

Continue reading "What Did You Gain From Your CIEE Experience? " »

Alumni Update - September 2015




How To Leverage Your CIEE Experience In Your Professional Career

It's here: September is CIEE Alumni Career and Networking Month! To kick off this month, we have redesigned our Career Resources page. We've compiled a comprehensive list of helpful tips, links, alumni articles, and tutorials on:

  • How to include your CIEE program on your resume or Linkedin page
  • CIEE alumni mentorship opportunities 
  • Teaching English abroad
  • Jobs and fellowships abroad
  • Careers in international education
  • Graduate school

We'll be posting career tips, alumni interviews, and other resources throughout the month. Follow along or share your own experience on social media through #CIEEcareermonth, and join us on September 14-18 for our Industry Networking Week, a full week of interactive online events. Learn more about upcoming career month opportunities here

What Did You Gain From Your CIEE Program? 

In the spirit of career month, we're asking alumni what they gained from their CIEE program. Whether your answer is literal (a love of new food, a new tattoo) or more abstract (an open mind, a passion for intercultural exchange), we want to hear your answers. Check out the responses from CIEE alumni at our recent event in Istanbul, Turkey:

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

In 1965, CIEE opened an office in Tokyo, Japan. Throughout the years, we have collaborated with a number of well-known organizations - including the America-Japan Society of Tokyo, The International House of Japan, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), and Sophia University - to promote intercultural exchange between the U.S. and Japan. This September, we're celebrating this milestone of U.S.-Japanese exchange with an alumni anniversary event in Tokyo on October 2nd, 2015. Read more about the history of CIEE in Japan

Alumni Events Around the World

Over half of the CIEE Alumni Local Chapters held events during the month of August. CIEE alumni gathered in Shanghai, Chicago, Istanbul, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C., to connect and share experiences from their exchange programs. View event photos and learn more about our chapter events. 


September 14-18 is CIEE Alumni Industry Networking Week!

Connect with CIEE alums around the world at this virtual event - all you need is a computer to participate. We've structured these events by industry, to give you the opportunity to connect with alums in your field. This is a great way to network with fellow alumni in your field of interest and learn about how others have leveraged their CIEE experience in their career.

Join us for one (or all) of the week's events: 

  • Monday, September 14: Marketing, Advertising, Communications, and Design
  • Tuesday, September 15: Entrepreneurship, Business, and Tourism/Hospitality
  • Wednesday, September 16: International Development and Social Entrepreneurship/NGOs
  • Thursday, September 17: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
  • Friday, September 18: Education Management, Higher Education, and Primary/Secondary Education

Learn more and RSVP here



Sercan Uzumcu, Work & Travel USA 2012 

Sercan Uzumcu spent 4 months working in the United States through the Work & Travel program. We met with him at the CIEE Alumni Turkey Chapter event in August to discuss his experience with his program and his future plans. 

Do you have a story to share about your CIEE experience? Email 


"I will be sitting on a panel next semester to discuss my experience in Gaborone, Botswana"

"I am currently planning a new Work & Travel USA experience"

"I'm planning events as a chapter leader for the CIEE Alumni Local Chapter network"

- CIEE alumni on Linkedin discussing their plans to continue their CIEE experience

Have you joined the CIEE Alumni Global Network LinkedIn group yet? Join almost 20,000 fellow CIEE alumni to discuss your experience, share resources, and seek mentorship opportunities. 

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


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