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3 posts from December 2015

Why Study Abroad in Ferrara, Italy?

The idea of studying abroad in Italy usually evokes images or Rome, Florence, or Venice – but what about Ferrara? Located in the northeast region of Italy, Ferrara is often described as a ‘charming, small fortress.’ This small city is full of art, history, and authentic Italian culture.

We asked alumni from the CIEE Study Abroad in Ferrara program to explain why they chose to spend their study abroad in Ferrara: 

I can summarize my Ferrara experience in three words: food, family, community

I chose the Ferrara program because it was among the smallest and most intimate cultural immersion experiences I could find. Once there, I found myself in a thousand-year-old city surrounded by a medieval wall and boasting a Mario Brothers-looking castle with a moat at its center. Every day I rode my bike from my apartment in Piazza Sacrati, past the Castello Estense, and on to Universita di Ferrara, where my classes were conducted. I studied art history and the Italian language. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like studying a Botticelli painting and then hopping on a train to Bologna or Firenze to go see the actual work. Even the pinacoteca in Ferrara boasts impressive medieval works from some of the Italian Renaissance masters.


I can summarize my Ferrara experience in three words: food, family, community. Even though I didn't have a home stay, I befriended another student's home stay host family and they became an essential part of my experience. The extent to which the Italians as a culture are open to meeting new people and welcoming you into their home for a meal cannot be understated. Italians are lovers of humanity and of the human condition, and so whomever among us strives always to be in a locale of authenticity, you will find ample such places in a certain sunny southern European peninsula.

        - Nate, CIEE Study Abroad in Ferrara, Spring 2006 

I really wanted to be immersed in the real Italian culture

Check out this video response from CIEE Study Abroad in Ferrara 2014-15 alum May Kim – including insights from other CIEE alumni, and interviews with CIEE staff. 

Coming back to Ferrara always felt like coming home

Steven Walter (2)

Photo credit: Steven Walter

I chose to study in Ferrara because I knew next to nothing about it before I left. I wanted an adventure, an experience, and the program delivered in so many different ways. I felt a connection to this town that I doubt I would have gotten had I chosen to go to a bigger city like Rome or Florence. Ferrara was perfect for visiting those cities, and indeed, my friends and I traveled frequently. But coming back to Ferrara always felt like coming home. The time I had there was unforgettable, and I wouldn't change a single thing about it. 

        - Steven, CIEE Study Abroad in Ferrara, Spring 2007

The environment in Ferrara was perfect for developing my language proficiency

My decision to study abroad with the CIEE Ferrara program was not an easy one.  I studied Italian for two years prior to embarking on my journey.  Both years, I listened to the recruiters come into the classroom and give their spiel about why everyone should do it while displaying inspirational pictures from past students' experiences.  I never bothered to take a flyer though, because I knew that I would never have the money to do anything like that.  I was a first-gen. college student and my parents would never support me studying abroad because it was hard enough to convince them that I needed to go to a university rather than a community college.

Cassie Messerle (2)

Photo credit: Cassie Messerle

I had made a lot of friends in my university's Italian program, and by the beginning of our second year of language study, they were interested in going abroad.  My friends and the instructors were very supportive and pushed me to stay positive and just go for it knowing that everything would fall into place so that I could go.  So I filled out the application and submitted it to the international affairs department!

“I want to become an EFL teacher and CIEE Ferrara has played a major role in making this a more attainable career for me.”

I was really worried about money and my grades weren't as great as they could be, but as everyone said, I stayed positive and dealt with everything one at a time.  My parents were very unsure about my decision at first, but my mom came around and helped me find a private loan to cover the expenses.  As time went on, my study abroad advisor informed me that everyone in the program would be getting a $1000 scholarship just for participating, and they even gave me a travel loan within a few weeks of applying so that I could purchase my flight ticket before the prices went up.

Cassie Messerle (3)

Photo credit: Cassie Messerle

Just as they'd said, everything worked out so that I could go and I'm so, so glad.  The resident staff, Patti, Richard, and Riccardo, were all great.  They really did everything they could to make sure we had the best experience possible.  They took us all over Italy and organized or informed us about several events in Ferrara as well.  They even treated us to an absolutely grand Thanksgiving feast!  The environment in Ferrara was perfect for developing my language proficiency, as it is a small city and not many people speak English.  Everyone is so friendly too!  If I went into a bar to get some food or a coffee, the employees were always very patient with me and helped me learn to properly order and learn the Italian words for various ingredients and foods.

 I want to become an EFL teacher and CIEE Ferrara has played a major role in making this a more attainable career for me.  My time studying in Ferrara left me feeling so confident, not only in my language skills, but also in my ability to overcome roadblocks that before would have stopped me in my tracks.  I love trying new things now, and I have definitely been bit by the notorious "travel bug."  I made so many connections through this experience that I now have places to stay all around Europe, and I have been back twice now in the two years that have passed!

         - Cassie, CIEE Study Abroad in Ferrara, Fall 2013


Want to learn more about studying abroad in Ferrara? Read the student blog

Alumni Update - December 2015



New Global Internship Programs in 11 Locations

Following CIEE's merger with the Academic Internship Council (AIC), we're offering new Global Internship programs in 11 locations across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. These full-time, 8-week internships will be combined with an integrated academic seminar, where students will develop professional skills and gain intercultural work experience. CIEE's Global Internship programs are offered in spring, summer, and fall, beginning summer 2016. 

International Education Week: Education USA

Last month, we joined international education institutions around the world in celebration of International Education Week 2015. Assistant Secretary Evan Ryan hosted a webchat with Education USA to highlight resources and opportunities for international students to study at U.S. colleges and universities; watch the webchat archive or learn more about Education USA here

Our Job is to Listen: From CIEE to Peace Corps

Inspired by International Education Week, three CIEE Study Abroad alumni shared their stories about how their study abroad experiences led them to join the Peace Corps following graduation. Though Andrea, Stefanie, and Isabon first thought of pursuing posts with the Peace Corps at different points, it was during their study abroad semester together in Dakar, Senegal that the decision to apply was solidified. Read their stories in Our Job is to Listen: From CIEE to Peace Corps

Photo credit: Andrea Edman


According to a 2014 report by the Institute of International Education, less than 10% of U.S. undergraduates study abroad. Of those students, only 7.6% are Hispanic, 7.3% are Asian, and 5.3% are African-American. CIEE is committed to increasing access to study abroad for U.S. minority groups: we've partnered with Generation Study Abroad, and at our annual conference last month, we launched the inaugural Study Abroad Leadership Workshop for Minority Serving Institutions

Want to learn more? Check out this recent article from online publication The Root about CIEE's initiatives to support and encourage college presidents that serve minorities to expand their study abroad programs. 


Ekaterina Karabasheva, Internship USA, 2012


At the CIEE Conference in Berlin last month, Internship USA alum Ekaterina Karabasheva was a panelist at a pre-conference event focusing on international exchange and entrepreneurship. The event, which was co-sponsored by Cultural Vistas and the John F. Kennedy Atlantic Forum, featured four panelists who are all founders of tech startups and former participants of J-1 U.S. exchange programs. Read more about Ekaterina's career and her startup venture Jourvie, an app that supports people with eating disorders through the recovery process. 


Excerpts from recently published alumni stories: 

"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. 

- Dana Roberts, Being Vegan Abroad

"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 onto others and accept their peace in return. After Senegal, we realized we didn't want to stop searching for that peace." 

 - Our Job is to Listen: From CIEE to Peace Corps

"The more I traveled through China, the more I was astonished by that its society is capable of. I was continually impressed by the consistency of Chinese culture and history in each city, yet every place I visited was completely different from the last. My interest in China will never end because there will always be something more to learn - which is why I love to travel in the first place. 

- Allison S., Teaching in China: Authentic Urban Life, Travel Galore, and Lifelong Friendships

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


From left: CIEE High School Abroad students pose for a photo with U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley; U.S. Ambassador to Germany John B. Emerson speaks at the CIEE annual conference in Berlin; U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy participates in a traditional Japanese sake barrel breaking with CIEE staff in Tokyo. 


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Alumni Voices: My Twenties as an American Expat

By Richie Santosdiaz, CIEE Buenos Aires, Argentina, Fall 2006

I’ve pretty much spent my entire twenties living overseas. I’ve grown up in my twenties in four countries that are not my native country - and that journey began with my program in Buenos Aires, Argentina back in the fall of 2006.

About me

I flew my first international flight (Chicago -> Tokyo) when I was only two months old! I spent a considerable amount of my childhood overseas with my mom. In fact, there is a term for those like me out there – TCK or Third Culture Kid. A TCK is one who was raised in a culture different from their own. TCKs become good at adapting, and apparently our language skills are phenomenal. After all that, my mom and I returned to Chicago, where we pretty much had your typical suburban American middle class lifestyle, with one twist – I was a first-generation American from a visible ethnic background. As a first-generation American, growing up was very interesting – my family made strange ethnic food and held onto customs that my friends found bizarre.

Why I Chose CIEE Buenos Aires

I knew right away that I wanted to go to Argentina to study abroad. I always heard Buenos Aires was the “Paris of South America” and that there was loads of good quality beef so I was sold.

I didn’t realize this at the time, but my Argentine program made me who I am today. When you are studying abroad it is obviously important to study but never in my life had I learned things outside the classroom that have given me solid interpersonal skills.  Photo1

Enjoying the glacier near El Calafate in Southern Argentina

In addition, my circle of friends changed dramatically during (and because of) my time abroad. Prior to living in Argentina, my friends were largely from the United States. The great thing about CIEE in Buenos Aires was I had the option to live in a “residencia” or dorm, where I met people from various parts of the world. We all ate together, went out together, but importantly grew up together. In fact, I’m still friends with them to this day! This global network I have acquired is valuable not only personally but professionally as well.

Finally, another important skill I learned was to be decisive and bold. As humans, we can be wishy washy, especially with decisions that will lead to dramatic change. My decision to even go to Buenos Aires, against the initial support from those around me, was very decisive and bold. This is so valuable professionally, where I can make those difficult decisions.

The CIEE Buenos Aires program awakened my itch to travel, explore, and learn new things. In Buenos Aires I was totally in my element.

After Buenos Aires


Living in France in 2007

When I left Argentina, I studied in France for a semester and later returned back to Pennsylvania to finish my senior year. Once I adjusted back to life in the U.S., opportunity knocked on my door. I was offered a scholarship to do a business program in Spain, which I accepted instantly. I was young, flexible, and eager to learn. I was determined to make a career for myself overseas and gain international work experience right away. After living in Spain for two years, I thought I was pretty much settled. But it was 2009 and the Spanish economy had started to collapse, so I decided to pursue a Master’s degree.

Graduate School in London


 With guidance from my former study abroad advisor in Pennsylvania, I chose to study at the University of London – School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS).

I came to London on a gamble over 5 years ago. I knew no one, had no job lined up, and took the risk of trying to make my career work here. London is probably the most competitive city in the world. With my experience in international education, I got a job with the University of California while completing my Master’s degree. After completing my degree, I landed a job in international trade & investment, first working with the British government and now for a management consulting firm in London.

As I look back, I realize just how influential and important my time with CIEE has been in my life since then. It wasn’t an easy journey, but I managed to build a career in Spain and London. The actions I took in Buenos Aires, where I was flexible, daring, and at times seemed crazy, have taught me to “go with the flow,” and be flexible and adaptable to my surroundings and with those who I am with. I think it is important that ALL Americans, regardless of social and financial background, have the opportunity to not only go to college but to also have the opportunity to live and study abroad - especially for those from first generation and visible minority backgrounds like myself, and those who are from non-traditional majors (e.g. sciences, medicine).

Recently, I started a new relationship with CIEE, this time as a part-time lecturer for a business course at the CIEE London Global Institute. It’s great to be reengaging with CIEE again nearly ten years later!


Richie Santosdiaz (@santosdiazr2) is a London-based professional working for a management consulting firm, where he focuses primarily on international trade & foreign direct investment (FDI) work. In his free time he is a part-time lecturer at the CIEE London Global Institute (“British Business in a European Context”) and is one of the main organizers for the North American Expats in London social group.