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8 posts from March 2016

Learning About Food Security with Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda

The fifth annual Justice for Women Lecture Series took place this week at multiple sites in Maine. For the past four years, CIEE has welcomed the Justice for Women Lecture Series to our headquarters and broadcasted the lecture to alumni and overseas staff. Although we weren’t able to host this year, our Alumni Engagement Coordinator attended a lecture at Deering High School in Portland, Maine to listen and share with you on the blog.  Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda

This year’s speaker for the Justice for Women Lecture Series was Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda, a global leader in the sustainable farming movement with a passion for ending food insecurity and hunger in Africa. Dr. Sibanda, originally from Zimbabwe, is the CEO and Head of Mission for the Africa-wide Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) with a portfolio in policy research, advocacy programs on food policies, rural livelihoods, climate change, and agricultural productivity and markets. Her main focus is to achieve food security by coordinating policy research and advocacy programs across multiple countries. Dr. Sibanda encourages us to think, “What can agriculture do for nutrition?”

The auditorium was filled with Deering High students and guests eager to learn about food security, agriculture, and nutrition. Two students joined Dr. Sibanda on stage to ask a series of questions that helped the audience learn more about her and the significance of her work. After hearing about the poverty in Africa and thinking critically about poverty here in Maine, students wanted to know, “how do we get rid of poverty?” Dr. Sibanda answered that we need education and good leadership to lift one another out of poverty. Part of that good leadership is recognizing the challenge of climate change and finding ways to adapt to it, creating policies that address fundamental needs, and investing in the research and implementation of new agricultural technologies. The lecture was a great learning experience and offered students the opportunity to ask questions to one of the most influential African women in agriculture. You can learn more about Dr. Sibanda’s work by visiting the FANRPAN website.

Although we weren’t able to host an event at CIEE headquarters this year, we look forward to next year’s Justice for Women Lecture Series and will keep alumni posted about ways to take part in the lectures as well!

Living and Working in Orleans, MA

This week, we interviewed CIEE Work & Travel USA alum Ilirjana Hyseni to learn more about her Work & Travel USA experience. Ilirjana is from Pristine, Kosovo and holds a bachelor’s degree in Management. She currently works as a cashier at a bank in Pristine. Read the interview below to learn more about Ilirjana and her experience. Not only does she share some great travel tips with us, but she also shares great photos as well!

During your time as a CIEE Work & Travel USA participant, where did you work and what kind of job did you have? What did you learn from that job?
When I was in the U.S., I worked as a cashier at Shaw’s Supermarkets in Orleans, MA. What I learned during this time at Shaw’s is the ability to stay calm in stressful circumstances, which I never thought I would be able to do. Also, what is really important is the experience handling cash, debit, and credit card transactions. But the most important thing I learned is that the customer is always right—even when they aren’t! I learned how to communicate in a professional and polite manner with all clients.

How did your experience prepare you for work or school in the future?
Life isn’t all about school and work, though. It’s about that independence you will get while you know what paying rent is, what going to the grocery every week is, what paying bills every week is! But, besides that is the awesome memory you’ll get for a lifetime! Visiting all those places like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Niagara Falls was just like a big dream. And that visit to Harvard University—nobody in Pristine can have that trip! So I can truly say that the U.S. experience prepared me for how life in the future must be treated!

Lana3 Lana24

What did you like the most about the program?

Definitely living with my amazing American family—those great mornings when everybody is busy making quick breakfast and going to work, those amazing nights when everybody came back from work with different stories of the day, those after-work drinks in the karaoke bar, and those amazing days off that you did with your roommates. P.S.—I never thought I would love outside showers in the middle of the night but guess what? Now I miss that!


What did you like the most about Orleans, MA?
Oh, well it’s a place just like in the American movies. The first thing I was amazed about was the awesome neighborhood, with those amazing yards with hammocks, and that amazing Nauset Beach that I truly loved.

*Ilirjana’s recommendations for must-see spots and must-do activities around Orleans:

• Nauset Beach • Skaket Beach
• Rock Harbor • Whale watch
• Karaoke night at Land Ho! bar every Wednesday • Kayaking
• Nantucket Island • Hyannis (and their amazing malls)
• Visit Hot Chocolate Sparrow at least one time a day! • Watch a baseball game
• MUST be there for 4th of July! • Provincetown

What was the most shocking thing about America?
The most shocking thing… that American life from the American movies is REAL!

What advice would you give to future Work & Travel USA participants?


D.C. Chapter's February Brunch

At the end of February, members of the CIEE Alumni Washington D.C. Chapter met for brunch--their first event of the new year--which also served as a chapter meeting. Members met at Tonic, a popular D.C. brunch spot, to discuss what events they'd like to plan for the year and to eat some delicious food. Check out these great photos from the event!





Did you miss the event? Are you a CIEE alum in the D.C. area but not a member of the chapter? Join the CIEE Alumni Washington D.C. Chapter group on Facebook to connect with fellow CIEE alumni located in D.C.

Questions? Email

Memories of Studying in Seville

Amanda Grant is a senior at Western Washington University studying English literature and Spanish through the Honors College. In 2014, Amanda participated in CIEE’s Study Abroad program in Seville, Spain.


Why study abroad in Spain?
I’d wanted to study abroad for as long as I could remember! I thought it’d be a great way to explore the world while still in college, so I decided to make it happen the summer after my sophomore year. I studied Spanish in high school and college, and knew I wanted the ability to travel around Europe during and after my program, so Spain was on my radar from the start! Once I did some research into the area, I knew I wanted to visit. Spain sounded like a beautiful country filled with amazing people, and that’s exactly what it turned out to be!

What shocked you the most about living in Spain?
I come from the Pacific Northwest where it rains all the time and 70 degrees is considered blisteringly hot. I’d been warned, but nothing could prepare me for the HEAT southern Spain is famous for! I was there in July and August, the hottest months of the year, and it was usually over 90 degrees on my walk to class in the morning. Fortunately, though, my host mom lived right above an ice cream shop!

What was your favorite activity to do on the weekends?
Each weekend while my program was in session, CIEE took all of us traveling somewhere. The first weekend we went to Córdoba, the second Granada, and the third my group went to London, England. At each spot, we had guided tours as well as free time to explore the area. I loved these little excursions, since they showed us areas of Spain (and England) I might not have gotten to on my solo travels!

When you weren’t studying, did you travel at all?
I first traveled on the CIEE organized trips. The last weekend of the program, my friends and I went to Cádiz, a small city on the southern coast of Spain, to explore the beach. After my program ended, I traveled solo for a week, then visited family friends in Valencia and Barcelona before meeting another friend in Madrid. That same friend and I spent another week exploring Portugal before my flight home! I loved the additional traveling I got to do—there was a new adventure every day!

What do you miss the most about Seville? 11imgsvr.ashx
Oh man. I think what I miss most is the daily exposure to a history and culture so different from the one I’ve grown up with. On my first day of class, my professor casually walked us past a site of Roman ruins, explaining that they were actually a problem for construction workers in the city. It was impossible to go anywhere without running into ancient ruins, amazing buildings, and such incredibly friendly people! I spent most of my time adjusting to Sevilla, walking around, looking up and around me, and taking in the insanely cool surroundings.

(I also miss churros con chocolate, tapas, and the magical creation that is the siesta.)

How has studying abroad helped you in your education?
Studying abroad showed me a self-confidence I didn’t know I had. Going into my trip, I researched everything I possibly could and planned out as many parts of the trip in advance as possible. But once I got there, not everything went exactly according to plan, and I learned that that was okay! I could carry everything I needed for two months in one backpack, I could learn a few words of Portuguese to communicate with the locals in line for the ferry, and I could realize that the bus to the next city left three hours before we thought it did and still make it. (Incidentally, that’s when I learned that it is in fact possible to sprint three blocks in 90 degree heat with a massive hiking backpack on). This self- confidence has been very useful in my education. Not only is my Spanish way better, but I’m now more likely to speak up for myself and be my own best advocate in the classroom and beyond!

Where do you want to go next?
For my next trip, I think I’d like to go back to Europe. I spent one day swimming in the Mediterranean, but that wasn’t nearly enough time! I’d like to go back to Spain as well as visit France, Italy, and Greece. My family is from Scotland, so I’d love to visit there too! Ideally, I’d do another epic European adventure—visiting more countries on my list! After that, who knows? 2imgsvr.ashx


Alumni Update - March 2016




Celebrating 25 Years of CIEE in Budapest

CIEE alumni, staff, partners, and friends gathered at Corvinus University in Budapest, Hungary on March 4 for a special celebration of the 25th anniversary of CIEE study abroad in Budapest. For one week leading up to the event, the CIEE Alumni Global Network engaged in a virtual celebration of the anniversary. Here's what some of our alumni had to say:

"While I was there, I lived with a three-generation family in a beautiful apartment in the 13th district by Margaret Bridge. And ever since then, I have considered myself blessed to have a Hungarian family to go home to every time I visit Budapest.” -Amy Liu, CIEE Budapest, 2000

“If I had to describe my experience in one word it would be unforgettable.” –Marissa Kramer, CIEE Budapest, 2013

Read more stories from Budapest alums and learn about the history of the study center on the blog.

Global Immersion Programs for High School Students

CIEE offers great programs for U.S. high school students to help them become global citizens in today's interconnected world. Opportunities such as CIEE Global Navigator High School Programs, CIEE High School Abroad, and CIEE Gap Year Abroad foster cultural exploration through activities, excursions, a homestay experience (in most locations), and unique community immersion. CIEE alumni and children of alumni get a 10% discount on any of these programs. Registration discounts ($250) also apply for Gap Year and High School Abroad students who apply early!

On the Blog: "Life Lessons Learned from Studying Abroad"

"Studying abroad taught me the value of independence and comfortability in my own autonomy." Tyler Davoren, CIEE alum who studied abroad in Brussels, Belgium during the summer of 2014, shares with us some life lessons learned from studying abroad. He is now working as a Chapter Support Specialist for the national office of Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity, where he regularly seeks opportunities to travel and live every day to the fullest. Visit the blog to read the full story.



CIEE Alumni Bay Area Chapter Event

On March 10 from 6-10 p.m., CIEE alumni in the Bay Area will gather at the Exploratorium for a night of educational fun. Connect with fellow CIEE alumni in the area while checking out interactive experiments throughout the museum and participating in a free fungi tasting! Learn more and RSVP today.




Stephanie Fodor

Stephanie Fodor, our March Alum of the Month, participated in CIEE’s Tokyo, Japan study abroad program in her junior year of college. She is an accomplished actress and entrepreneur that has recently appeared on the hit NBC television show, “Grimm.” Visit the blog to read more.



From left: A group of CIEE Senegal Fall 2014 alumni reunite in Washington, D.C.; CIEE Teach Abroad alumni and applicants meet for an informational dinner in Boston; and CIEE Budapest alum Emelie and friends remember their challenging hike in Transylvania while studying abroad.

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Alumni Share Memories of Studying in Budapest

To mark the 25th anniversary of CIEE in Budapest, we asked alumni to share their stories and photos of their study abroad experience with us. Read about these amazing alumni and how studying abroad with CIEE in Budapest has impacted their lives.

Emelie kem2

“One of my favorite Budapest memories was climbing (not hiking—CLIMBING) the mountain in Transylvania. It was the hardest and scariest outdoor activity I have ever done to date. I won't lie, I was definitely on the verge of tears throughout the 3 and a half hour excursion. But instead of having a major breakdown, we laughed and we sang and we persevered through. It was the moment I realized how great so many people in my program were. It was tough, but exhilarating and totally worth the dirt and sweat that covered my body.”

-Emelie Kem, CIEE Budapest, Fall 2015


“If I were to describe my CIEE experience in one word, it would be humbling. I learned so much about myself, I learned so much about Hungarians, and I learned so much about people in general. It was a like a 24/7 real time classroom experience. And if I were to describe how CIEE has affected me professionally, it allowed me to appreciate the politics, the economics, and the culture of Hungary and central/eastern Europe. I’m currently writing a book about the Chinese migrants in the region and without a doubt the CIEE experience provided me with the necessary foundation for doing my research. The CIEE experience has also impacted me on a more personal level. It would be impossible for me to talk about my experience there and not mention my 4 months living with a Hungarian host family. While I was there, I lived with a three-generation family in a beautiful apartment in the 13th district by Margaret Bridge. And ever since then, I have considered myself blessed to have a Hungarian family to go home to every time I visit Budapest.”

-Amy Liu, CIEE Budapest, Fall 2000

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“If I had to choose one word to describe my study abroad experience in Budapest, I think it would be metamorphosis. My time in Budapest was meaningful on a number of levels. My great grandparents emigrated from Hungary so my study abroad experience was a very special opportunity to explore my roots. Travelling and living abroad in my early 20s also instilled in me an appreciation for other cultures, customs, and points of view that I never otherwise would’ve had. My experience, over 20 years ago now, would not have been nearly as meaningful without Dr. Elizabeth Simon, who was not only our professor and resident director, but also our mentor, cultural liaison, and perspective-giver. Thank you Elizabeth and thank you CIEE for an amazing experience that helped to shape my life.”

-Brian Vohrer, CIEE Budapest, Spring 1995


“If I had to describe my experience in one word it would be unforgettable. Budapest is so different from the rest of Europe, it was just a very unique experience—the history is just fascinating. What does being abroad for the semester in Budapest mean to me? Well, I have continued learning Hungarian and I actually just applied to grad school in Hungary, so clearly I want to continue to live and work in Hungary and move throughout Europe, so it just has helped me realize how much I want to study and work on international education policies.”

-Marissa Kramer, CIEE Budapest, Fall 2013


“I studied abroad with CIEE in Budapest in the spring of 1994, when the program was still relatively new. In one word, the experience was transformative. I came to Hungary expecting to better understand the political and social transition that former eastern bloc countries were undergoing, but I left with lifelong friends and a love for all things Hungarian. I was determined to return, master the language, and assist in at least some small way with Hungary's development journey. Also, I wanted regular access to langos (fried dough) with sour cream, cheese, and garlic. And also galuska (egg dumplings). And zsiros kenyeret (bread with lard) with red wine from Villany. Any American who starts craving bread with lard as an after-hike food knows that they've been fundamentally changed by living in Hungary! IMG_0222 (002)

All joking aside, I did return—in 1996 for a Fulbright fellowship, in 1997 for a graduate internship while working on my master's degree in international development, and from 1998 through 2000, when I had the great pleasure of living in Budapest while working for a local Hungarian USAID partner organization assisting in community and civil society development. I was proud that I had achieved near native fluency in Hungarian—it was such a window into the culture, history, and perspective of Hungarians. And it's such a lyrical, beautiful language.  

In the years since I left Hungary, I've continued to meet Hungarians all over the world—in the U.S., Nigeria, and even in South Sudan, where I’m currently serving as the Senior Conflict Advisor for USAID at Embassy Juba—and I always feel an instant kinship. I still sing Hungarian rock songs in the shower and love Hungarian food and wine. Hungary will always occupy a special place in my heart as a second home, and that started with Elizabeth's passion and the CIEE program—she was so committed to making study abroad a rich and positive experience, and it was. So much of what came later for me was shaped or influenced by my study abroad experience and I am grateful!

Congratulations to CIEE and to Elizabeth for 25 great years in Hungary!”

-Carrie Gruenloh, CIEE Budapest, Spring 1994

Alum of the Month: Stephanie Fodor

Meet March’s Alum of the Month, Stephanie Fodor. Stephanie participated in CIEE’s Tokyo, Japan study abroad program in her junior year of college. She is an accomplished actress and entrepreneur that has recently appeared on the hit NBC television show, “Grimm.”

Why did you decide to study abroad in Tokyo with CIEE?
I was born and raised in Kailua, O’ahu, Hawaii, and grew up surrounded by a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. I was always fascinated by Japan and I loved the food—my friends would come to school with homemade bentos or sushi boxes! I began studying Japanese in seventh grade, fell in love with the language, and decided that I would visit Japan one day. It took me until my junior year of college to get there, but I did it!

When it came time to choose a city, Tokyo seemed like the perfect combination of it all—full of history and important cultural sites, urban energy, many dining and entertainment options, and accessibility to smaller cities for day trips. I chose CIEE over other programs because we’d get to do a homestay and take classes with local students at Sophia University. I was so excited to stay with a Japanese family and be among Japanese classmates. It made my experience so much richer and authentic, and helped me immensely with my language skills.

IMG_0454What skills did you learn through study abroad that you utilize today?
My study abroad experience was truly one of the very best decisions of my life. I remember being nervous and scared when I left Hawaii and travelled alone internationally for the first time. I was excited, but I also didn’t know what I was in for! Studying abroad taught me to be independent, get out of my comfort zone, take risks, and welcome the unknown. Not only did my language skills improve, but my awareness of the world around me expanded and I developed a more mature outlook on life. Studying abroad boosted my confidence in so many ways and made me realize that I could do anything I set my mind to!

Did your study abroad experience change your life in any way? Stephanie2
Yes, it literally changed my life. I met Jimmy the first day of my Tokyo program. He was already there doing the one year program when I arrived for the spring semester. As it turned out, we began dating during that time. Fast-forward several years later and we ended up getting married! I also made some lifelong friends from my CIEE program; a group of us regularly stay in touch, and we’ve been to each other’s weddings and do group trips when we can. Also, I had such a kind, wonderful host family. It’s been many years since my program but we keep in touch on Facebook!

What type of acting/performances have you appeared in over the years?
I’ve been acting professionally since I was eight years old. I’ve had the great opportunity to act and perform in a wide variety of projects such as commercials, plays and musicals, film, television, voice-over, and even video game motion capture! It’s always been a big part of my life, but I also believed in being a well-rounded person with a variety of interests. To that end, I decided against going to London to study drama and instead went to Tokyo to study international relations.

Describe some of your entrepreneurial pursuits.
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, even when I was young, and I’ve loved being my own boss. In Japan, I taught English privately on a weekly basis to a few regular students. It was a great situation, as it allowed me to interact with Japanese locals and have my own little tutoring business! Being an actor requires you to be an entrepreneur, as you are your product—you need to market and sell yourself to industry buyers who will hire you! Jimmy and I also recently launched our own e-commerce business,, where we sell luxe bedding, bed sheets, and home goods that are 100% Made in USA.

What was it like to be on Grimm?
Doing Grimm was a dream come true. It was very exciting to book this role because the character goes through so many emotions in a short amount of time. I was on location in Portland for several days and had the best time working with the cast and crew. Everyone was kind, friendly, and a true pro at their job. I had the best time working on this show. The best part is that family and friends all over the world got to watch the episode. It’s fun that I was able to entertain them on the telly.


What do you have planned for the future?
Acting opportunities and Authenticity 50 are keeping me very busy! We hope to expand A50 into a popular Made in America brand, and I hope to be on your TV screens more as well! I guess I should say, ‘stay tuned’?

Any advice for prospective study abroad students?
DO IT! It changed my life. Literally. I met my husband through studying abroad! I’m not saying you’ll find your spouse through this but you will learn, grow, and mature in so many ways. I encourage everyone to study in another country—get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, learn a new language, and immerse yourself in a new culture. I promise it will change you in so many positive and amazing ways.

25 Years of CIEE in Budapest: An Interview with Resident Director Elizabeth Simon

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In celebration of the 25th anniversary of CIEE study abroad in Budapest, Hungary, we look back at the history of the study center and how it’s changed over the years. To find out more, we spoke with Elizabeth Simon, Resident Director of the CIEE Study Center in Budapest, Hungary.

Elizabeth has an educational background in history and international relations, which led her to working in the field of international education with CIEE. Born in Hungary and eager to return home after studying in the United States, Elizabeth applied for an opening at the Budapest study center in 1992 and has worked there since as a resident director, professor, and overall student mentor. Over the years, she has seen the study center grow, students transform, and new partnerships develop. To commemorate the anniversary, Elizabeth shares with us the history of the study center:

“Budapest is the best kept secret, but now the secret is getting out!”
-Elizabeth Simon

The History of CIEE in Budapest
“The CIEE Study Center opened in 1990 and the first students arrived in the fall of 1990. This happened, of course, at a historic time for Hungary, just after the regime change when Hungary became a free country again with a democratically elected government. So students came at the very beginning of the new era for the country… the region in Hungary was just recreating itself in a way—building a new democracy, changing from a centrally planned economy to market economy—those were very, very exciting times for the American students.”

Since its opening in 1990, CIEE has been able to successfully bring students to Budapest each semester. Over the last few years, there has been an increase in interest for the Budapest study program. While the center marks its 25th anniversary, it also marks a record number of students this semester. Students are particularly drawn to the volunteer work and internships available on the program. Elizabeth notes, “I’m really pleased that an overwhelming majority of students are interested in some kind of engagement outside of the academic work. We have had as high as 70-75% of all students doing either for-credit or not-for-credit internship or volunteer work while they’re here.” Opportunities for students have mostly been in the nonprofit sector but, in recent years, has expanded to include private sector opportunities as well, specifically in startup companies.

The CIEE Study Center in Budapest has not only been a place of learning and growth for students, but also for faculty and administrators as well. For many years, the center has hosted International Faculty Development Seminars (IFDS)—a CIEE program that provides faculty and administrators from institutions of higher education with access to the rich academics, diverse intercultural experiences, and innovative approaches to learning and problem-solving that enhance syllabi, internationalize curricula, and increase global understanding on their campuses.

A True Cultural Exchange
As CIEE’s presence in Budapest continued to grow, so did the opportunities for cultural exchange. CIEE developed a partnership with the Hungarian-American Enterprise Scholarship Fund (HAESF) to create scholarship-based opportunities for talented Hungarians to gain professional experience in the United States, strengthening ties between the U.S. and Hungary. Not too long after, a similar partnership was formed between CIEE and the Baltic American Freedom Foundation as well as the Slovak-American Foundation. Those partnerships helped create a center of true exchange in and out of Budapest and beyond. Elizabeth, who was instrumental in this effort, offers these words, “It’s important to note that the Budapest program is truly an exchange program in that we are not only bringing American students here, but we are also sending talented Hungarians to the United States. For 11 years, we have supported around 430 talented Hungarians. […] This kind of exchange that we are able to do in Hungary has benefitted both sides. Our American students are actually able to do some internships with some of the HAESF alumni that have returned from the U.S. […] and so this has been a wonderful benefit to the study center.”

25 Years of Quality Exchange
“I love what I’m doing and I’m still here after so many years,” says Elizabeth, “The program is running strongly, we have an increasing number of students, and we have an excellent partnership with Corvinus University, our host institution here. I think a wonderful attestation to the quality of the program here in Budapest and what kind of experiences our students are getting from the program is that many of them would like to return eventually, at least just to visit.” Elizabeth shared that her most memorable moments working with CIEE are when students return or reconnect with the study center staff. “When they tell you how much one semester meant to them and what changes the study abroad experience brought in their life… that is truly memorable and it just makes you feel that your work is valuable.”

Many students who studied with CIEE in Budapest have kept in touch, returned to visit, and have even decided to pursue careers in international education. Furthermore, among CIEE Budapest alumni are 6 Fulbright awardees to Hungary. Elizabeth notes, “I think that’s a wonderful record… that we have 6 Fulbright awardees who were previous CIEE students here in Budapest. It speaks highly of the quality of students who are here and it also speaks highly of the program we are able to provide and maintain here in Budapest.”

A Special Anniversary
“It’s a special celebration because we have been able to build a strong organization here with wonderful partners, colleagues, and teachers who have supported us, and stayed with us, for all these years,” Elizabeth notes, “and it’s as much of a celebration of their work as CIEE’s commitment to stay in a country where, at times, there were fewer students.”

CIEE is proud to celebrate 25 years of study abroad in Budapest. We look forward to seeing more students learn, grow, and experience Hungary and the impact of study abroad. As Elizabeth says, “Learning about a new culture, about another country’s history, culture, politics, and society, in the location—that has to be the best way of learning.”

This article is written in celebration of the 25th anniversary of CIEE study abroad in Budapest. An official 25th anniversary event will be held at Corvinus University in Budapest on March 4, 2016. To take part in the virtual celebration, join us on social media @CIEEalumni.