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4 posts from November 2015

Internship USA Alum Founds Health App for Eating Disorder Recovery

Our December alum of the month, Ekaterina Karabaskeva, is a Bulgarian citizen with a passion for social change, German culture, and international experiences. After completing a bachelor’s degree in Media Studies from the University of Trier in Germany, Ekaterina interned at Goethe Zentrum Atlanta, a German Cultural Center in Atlanta, Georgia, through the CIEE Internship USA program. Her internship focused on marketing, communications, event management, and teaching German language and literature.

1. Ekaterina Karabasheva%2c founder of JourvieCredit for all photos: Ekaterina Karabaskeva

Ekaterina says her internship experience in the U.S. gave her confidence to deal with new and challenging situations. “It opened my eyes to several operations practices that I knew would be valuable in my home country and for my future professional development,” she says. After completing her internship in the States, Ekaterina returned to Germany to complete a master’s degree in communication studies at the University of Arts in Berlin, and then focused her career on digital health and social innovation.

4. Food diaries are usually filled out on paper%2c but the Jourvie app offers a different approach_Photo by Felix Strosetzki

In 2014, she founded the health start-up Jourvie, an app that supports people with eating disorders during the recovery process. The goal of Jourvie is to support patients during the treatment process by solving the problem of tedious paperwork, lack of moral support, and motivation. Jourvie was inspired by Ekaterina’s personal experience with an eating disorder, and uses established therapy methods in a new, digital, accessible way. “Through a smartphone app we provide [our users] with the tools they need for a more successful recovery, such as a food journal, coping tactics, and motivation,” says Ekaterina. Just over a year after its launch, Jourvie has received positive press from a wide variety of news outlets, including a feature in Wired, The Changer, Mashable, and several German websites. PEP Germany, a social entrepreneurship program made possible by Ashoka and SAP, was the first partner that supported the project.

5. In May 2015 Jourvie received the Aspirin Social Award by the Bayer Cares Foundation_Photo by BayerIn May 2015, Jourvie received the Aspirin Social Award by the Bayer Cares Foundation. (Photo credit: Bayer)

Jourvie continues to grow, and have expanded their partner network to include clinics and therapists. In the future, Ekaterina hopes to expand Jourvie not only in Germany, but on an international level. When she’s not working on Jourvie, Ekaterina is working on digital healthcare innovation at Pfizer Germany, where she looks to create collaboration opportunities between Pfizer and digital health startups in Germany.


Our Job is to Listen: From CIEE to Peace Corps

CIEE alumni Andrea Edman, Stefanie Smith and Isabon Thamm are current Peace Corps volunteers around the world. In honor of International Education Week, they shared their stories of how their study abroad led them to pursue the Peace Corps: 

It’s been about two years and nine months since our plane arrived in Dakar, Senegal. None of us had ever been to Africa, and no matter how much we read online, we had no idea what to expect. Spring 2013 with CIEE turned into a semester we would never forget.

Andrea Edman, Peace Corps Cambodia

My name is Andrea Edman and I am 24 years old. I am an Education Volunteer with the Peace Corps, currently serving in Cambodia. Some of my primary projects include English teaching at the government school in my village, as well as English private classes. Some of my secondary projects are to improve the sports curriculum at my school and health of village members through a newly constructed all-purpose sports court, to educate students about environmental awareness through peer education and an environment club, to facilitate an arts club focused on music and dancing at my school, and to organize a 3-day arts camp for Cambodian High School Students country wide. I also have also participated with my students and led both a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) and BUILD (Boys United in Leadership and Development) Camps in my province and intend to attend both again this coming year.


Photo credit: Andrea Edman

I am originally from Tacoma, WA and I attended University at The George Washington University in Washington D.C. I majored in International Affairs with a concentration in International Development and a minor in Theatre.  In my free time (which comes and goes as a Peace Corps Volunteer) I enjoy reading, running around my village, drinking coffee and chatting with people, learning the guitar, meeting with my students, and watching TV shows under my mosquito net (guilty pleasure, I know.)  A fun fact about myself is that my host family here in Cambodia got a puppy about a month into my service and we named him Gigi. Gigi has come to be one of my best friends in the village. Most Cambodian dogs are very independent and Cambodians don’t treat their pets like we do in America, but Gigi is a different story. He follows me around and greatly accepts my petting and praise.  He brightens up everyday.

The phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” takes on a whole new meaning for me in Cambodia as Cambodians will reuse everything until it can’t be used any more. 

If there was something you wanted Americans to know about your country of service, what would it be? Cambodians are probably the most resourceful people I have ever met.  They reuse almost everything, fix problems with ingenuity, and never stress about the little things.  It is not uncommon to see a moto piled high with goods for selling in the market.  Even though the seller can’t afford a truck, they will figure out a way to get the goods there.  Or the way my family used to pump water from our pond before we got a well. They had an ingenious invention of PVC pipes and a motor that once a week my host uncle would hook up in the rice field across the road and suddenly it would be like a waterfall at my house.  The phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” takes on a whole new meaning for me in Cambodia as Cambodians will reuse everything until it can’t be used any more.  I think Americans could definitely take a leaf out of the Cambodians book to cut down on unnecessary waste.


This is a picture of my students and I in front of the mural we designed and painted about protecting our environment.  Cambodia has a very big trash problem and these students who participated in Camp BUILD and Camp GLOW wanted to share what they learned about protecting their environment with their peers!

Stefanie Smith, Peace Corps Senegal

My name is Stefanie Smith and I am also 24 years old. I am a New Business Development volunteer in Senegal. Yes, I came back for more of this country. I primarily work with the Chamber of Commerce at the business creation office. My main project concerns the sexiest topic of all: trash. My town (with a population of over 40,000) does not have a trash collection service, so you can imagine the amount of it on the streets. We have developed a sustainable waste management system using local resources; and though it’s a long term vision, we are hoping that our trash collection system, along with our environmental education initiative, will make our city cleaner. My other primary projects include teaching entrepreneurship to youth and financial literacy to illiterate farmers. My secondary projects are teaching English and Math to children, as well as girls’ camps, empowering them to become the next leaders of the future.

My main project concerns the sexiest topic of all: trash.

I was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. I majored in International Business and French and minored in German at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. Different languages and cultures have always interested me, so I studied abroad for 2 out of my 4 years at university. I was a product of a Mexican mother and an American father, so in my mind, I was destined to travel the world. I grew up trying to perfect as many languages as possible, starting with English. French was initially useful in Senegal (it is the official language), but to truly integrate myself, I had to learn Wolof, the local language. I do not always have free time, but when I do, I enjoy reading and hanging out with my host family. A fun fact about myself is that I had only biked a few times in my life before becoming a Peace Corps volunteer, and now I bike to work all the time. I am still a little clumsy at it, but I keep improving everyday.


Photo credit: Stefanie Smith

If there was something you wanted Americans to know about your country of service, what would it be? Senegalese are always willing to give, no matter how little they have. It is not rare that people will walk inside houses to use the restroom or to eat. Children will share anything they are eating without hesitation, even lollipops (health volunteers’ worst nightmare). Shoes and clothes are practically interchangeable; everyone is “allowed” to use each other’s things, even when there are 40 people in a house. My Peace Corps experience in Senegal has been extraordinary so far. This country opens your heart and your eyes, and it teaches you more about yourself and the world than anything else could accommodate.

StefanieThis picture was during an Open Field Day in a small village in Senegal. We engage in cross-sectoral collaboration. Farming techniques are taught by agriculture volunteers, nutritional values by health volunteers and financial management by community and economic development volunteers. Financial management courses allow farmers to make conscious decisions of their spending, especially during the famine season.

Isabon Thamm, Peace Corps Costa Rica

My name is Isabon Thamm, and I am quickly on my way to 24. I am a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) volunteer currently serving in Costa Rica. My primary projects include co-teaching at the high school, teaching community classes to local artisans, and preparing for a JumpStart (intensive English) camp to be held in January 2016. Side projects include co-leading a local youth group focused on environmental conservation and leadership, and giving the family dogs the love they deserve.

While Costa Rica is most well-known for being a surfer’s paradise with a thriving ecotourism industry, it’s indigenous communities remain remarkably hidden on the international stage.


Photo credit: Isabon Thamm

 A year and a half ago, I graduated from Georgetown University with a French major, Spanish minor, and certificate in African Studies. I was born in Germany and, like Stefanie, to multinational parents. I figured out early on what it means to be a third-culture kid, and found out later that it comes with some pretty awesome perks - like feeling comfortable in a great gamut of cultural contexts. After having spent many years shouldered with the responsibility (financial, academic, etc.) of living in the nation’s capitol, I have come to Peace Corps to search not only for greater understanding between myself and my host country nationals, but also for my own inner Peace. To that extent, I spend much of my free time (which I always make sure to keep on hand) catching up on movies, reading, updating my Instagram (@imthamm), and exploring the surrounding mountains on foot.

If there was something you wanted Americans to know about your country of service, what would it be? While Costa Rica is most well-known for being a surfer’s paradise with a thriving ecotourism industry, it’s indigenous communities remain remarkably hidden on the international stage. Boruca is one of many reservations, and one of the better known with tourists. Though a very quiet mountain town eleven months of the year, its annual Festival de los Diablitos attracts enough visitors to provide 70% of the yearly town income through sales of traditional masks, woven arts, and food and lodging. In a world where economic viability rules, Boruca has sustainable means to protect its culture. Unfortunately, not all communities are so lucky.


This picture was taken while in technical training back in spring 2015. Tourism and call-centers are the primary employers in Costa Rica, and a passing grade on an English exam is needed to graduate high school. To this end, though the smiles with my current high schoolers are fewer, my sentiments remain the same.

A Path to Peace Corps

We began to think of Peace Corps as a career path at different times in our lives. It had been a life-goal of Isabon since high school. For Andrea, it was always in the back of her mind throughout college, and Stefanie, growing up in Mexico, didn’t know of the Peace Corps until her semester in Dakar. But it wasn’t until our experience studying abroad in Senegal with CIEE that we realized it was an important step in our lives. We have all been very fortunate to travel all over the world (thanks to supportive parents, school requirements, and/or different service opportunities) but it wasn’t until our time in Senegal that we really understood the value of fully immersing ourselves in another culture. There is so much to be learned from the world around us and Senegal was the first glimpse into the rich and vibrant melting pot that is our world.

We have all been very fortunate to travel all over the world, but it wasn’t until our time in Senegal that we really understood the value of fully immersing ourselves in another culture.

During our CIEE experience we had a week of rural visits. We chose to spend the week with currently serving Peace Corps volunteers (PCV) and this was when our decision to apply for Peace Corps was solidified. Different PCVs let us into their lives for a week and we saw not only the positive effect they had on their community but more importantly the positive effect their community had on them. They had formed strong relationships during their service and breached cultural barriers through communication, love and a deeper understanding of the language. We wanted that experience, we wanted to learn more about a country and its people the way those PCVs had.  One thing that really stuck with us from Senegal was the phrase “Jamm Rekk” or “Peace Only” in English. This is something that is uttered in almost every conversation as you pass your peace on to others and accept their peace in return. After Senegal, we realized we didn’t want to stop searching for that Peace. We wanted to pass along a small offering of our own Peace as well.

We each arrived to our countries at different times. Andrea arrived in Cambodia 16 months ago, and 8 months ago, Isabon and Stefanie arrived in Costa Rica and Senegal. And as our service continues, we learn something new everyday. We learn about ourselves, the language, our host families, our students, and the food… We see the hardships that our host country nationals face, and even though they are not always the same as the hardships witnessed during our semester in Dakar, we understand that we all face difficulties in this world. We see happiness too, all over our countries. We see births, weddings, smiles, learning and laughter which always rise above the hardships. But most importantly we see that we are all just living in this world together and it is our responsibility to try to understand the lives of others in order to respect each other and show compassion. Countries all over the the world have more in common than one may at first believe, especially as they try to find their voices on a stage dominated by countries to the north. Thus, our job is to listen. 


Read more stories of CIEE alumni and their path to the Peace Corps here


Being Vegan Abroad

Dana Roberts studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain in the fall of 2010 through the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program. After her time in Barcelona, she co-founded Plant Based Traveler, an online travel series dedicated to showcasing a vegan travel lifestyle. Dana created Plant Based Traveler with her partner, Lou, who she met during her CIEE program. Dana has this advice to share for any vegans or vegetarians who are travelling abroad:

Cusco, Peru, was the first place my partner, Lou and I traveled to as vegans. I have to admit we were a bit intimidated. Up until that point, so much of our travel experiences had been centered on seeing a city through the cuisine. The off-the-beaten-path guide books always tell you to eat where the locals eat and then you’ll really understand the culture—whether it’s the finest steak in Buenos Aires or a hot dog in NYC, food is completely interconnected with a city’s identity. Travel was actually what brought us together in the first place. We met back in 2010 on a CIEE program in Barcelona. One of my favorite memories from our time in Spain was traveling to Mallorca together and eating seafood paella at a beachside restaurant. So after we changed our lifestyle drastically by watching a documentary called “Earthlings,” we needed to figure out a way to alter the way we travel while still hopefully feeling connected to the local culture. Luckily for us, as we began to explore Cusco, we realized that going vegan not only changed our day to day life for the better, but it also made traveling so much more interesting! 

Cusco Peru -

Dana and Lou in Cusco, Peru.

Start up a conversation with your waiter; get to know the owners of the store; ask the chef about his/her favorite places in the city.

So this is where I want to start my advice for someone who is vegan/vegetarian and looking to go abroad. Firstly, it is going to be a little tricky and takes the patience to do a little research before you land – maybe even brush up on your language skills (even just the key food words) if you’re going a place where you are not a native speaker. The easiest place to start your research is, which is a site that is basically the veg version of Yelp. But hands down the best advice is when you go to these newfound restaurants and stores you must make friends. Start up a conversation with your waiter; get to know the owners of the store; ask the chef about his/her favorite places in the city. Whether it’s restaurant advice, where to get the best groceries, or their favorite hiking spot, interacting with locals is truly the best way to get to know a city quickly. 

For Episode 1 of Plant Based Traveler, Dana and Lou head to Cusco, Peru to discover Peruvian cuisine and culture.

I have to be honest the only reason that I got the nerve to start chatting with all these strangers was because we were filming the first episode of our new, self-produced travel show, “Plant Based Traveler.” This forced me to be brave enough to use my Spanish and make friends, so that we could share their stories with the world. Once I got over my initial hesitations, I quickly realized that talking to local business owners is something everyone should do. The outcome from those simple conversations was so much more than I ever expected. We’ve gained lifelong friendships with the people we worked with while in Cusco—one of which is a chef who runs GreenPoint, the only 100% vegan restaurant in all of Cusco. GreenPoint also happens to be one of the highest rated vegan restaurants in the world! Fabi showed us the best markets to go to and his restaurant turned into a second home for us. We even learned some amazing cooking techniques – did you know that you can make vegan parmesan cheese by just grating brazil nuts and adding a little salt?

A Vegan Love Story: Sana Vegan Café in Lima, Peru. A feature produced by Plant Based Traveler. 

My other piece of advice is to buy a paper map of the place you’re visiting as soon as you get there. Paper maps get a bad rep because tourists often block the sidewalk while trying to find their way around, but if you’re discreet a paper map will enhance your travel experience. First, because you can find your way around without a smartphone using wifi or expensive data, and second, because the people you meet can use the map to show you exactly where their favorite places are located—sometimes the best things can’t be found online! I also find that a map which has all the highlights from my trip marked all over is one of my most precious travel mementos because when you look back even if you forgot to journal or take photos at a certain place seeing it on a map immediately brings up all the amazing memories from that day.

It’s hard to explain in words how amazing traveling as a vegan can be, so please check out our show to see for yourself!


Watch all Plant Based Traveler videos on their YouTube channel here.


Alumni Update - November 2015



Celebrate International Education Week with CIEE

International Education Week, happening this year from November 16-20, is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate international exchange experiences around the world. CIEE is working to innovate and expand opportunities for international education. In the past year, we have: 

  • Awarded over $5 million in scholarships and financial aid to high school and college students and institutions
  • Challenged a group of 64 international students from 30 countries to be change makers at the third annual Civic Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.
  • Created a flexible curriculum model through our Global Institutes in Berlin, London, and Rome
  • Discussed American diplomacy and intercultural learning with over 900 international students at Connect USA events held throughout the U.S. this summer
  • Expanded our programming with new STEM courses and faculty development seminars

Learn more about other new initiatives at CIEE and about our Generation Study Abroad pledge.

We Love Berlin! 

This month, CIEE is hosting our annual conference in Berlin, Germany, home of our brand-new Global Institute. We asked our alumni why they chose to study abroad in Berlin, a city known for its culture, history, diversity, and intellect

What's Your CIEE Story? 

For our new series, #myCIEEstory, we asked Teach Abroad and Study Abroad alum Katrina Boratko to share with us the impact of her CIEE experience, and how it led her to a career in international development in San Francisco. 

Alumni Summer Internship Program

This year marked the fourth year of our CIEE Alumni Internship, a summer internship program open to CIEE study abroad alumni. Eleven interns worked on innovative projects in international education at our headquarters in Portland, Maine. We created this multimedia storytelling piece to highlight the experience of this year's interns. (P.S., if you're a recent study abroad alum: applications for our summer internships open on December 1st!) 

The 2015 Alumni Summer Internship class with Alumni Relations staff. 


Reverse culture shock, or re-entry, is the emotional and psychological state of re-adjustment after a period of living abroad. Everyone reacts to re-entry differently, but the process generally follows this pattern: 

Last month, we hosted re-entry events in two U.S. cities for alumni of our Global Navigator High School programs. Check out our our re-entry resources here


Elaine Capella, Study Abroad in Brussels, Spring 2013

 Elaine's thesis project focused on re-entry and reverse culture shock. In her thesis, she proposes a new model of cross-cultural readjustment, titled 'The Acculturation Model.'Elaine argues that study abroad doesn't end at the reintegration phase. Read more about her research in our interview with Elaine


We love getting alumni submissions for our website. Here are a few excerpts from recently published alumni stories: 

"My second visit to America was in the winter of 2005. This time I went to Stowe, Vermont - a drastic change from the 95F degrees in Brazil to the freezing temperatures of the Northeast! This time I was a veteran and already hit the ground running." 

 - Wilka Nascimento, How I Became a Global Citizen

"Animals with accents? I didn't believe it. That was something I expected to find in Looney Tunes (a la Pepe Le Pew) and Disney cartoons, not during my semester abroad at CIEE's Study Center at Murdoch University. There I was, however, in Perth, Western Australia, and there they were, crows with Australian accents." 

- William Stone, Rude Ravens, Giant Rats, and Unappreciative Seagulls

"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." 

- Bryn Rudy, 12 Reasons Going Abroad Should Be Your Next Step After College

Do you have your own story to share? Email us:


What's it like to celebrate Halloween in the U.S. as a high school exchange student? Check out photos from our current USA High School students: #CIEEBestYearEver