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6 posts from April 2016

Lebanese Student Experiences Two New Cultures While Studying Abroad in Prague

This year, CIEE Study Abroad alum Paula Naoufal had her article “Three Cultures, One City” published on Go World Travel. Paula wrote about the cultural experience of being a Lebanese student among Americans on a CIEE Study Abroad program in Prague. As the only non-American student attending the program that session, Paula was able to experience American culture as well as Czech culture. We interviewed Paula to learn more about her article and semester abroad:

Why did you decide to study abroad in Prague?

At first I wanted to go to Barcelona, since it is my favorite city. But I felt like I had to do something daring/out of the box and go somewhere I haven’t been before—to a completely new culture to benefit as much as I could from the experience. And surely I had heard so many good things about the country.

What surprised you the most about Prague?

Having been to a great number of European countries, I felt Prague was very different in its culture, its people, and its architecture. But what mostly captured my attention is the liveliness yet calm environment of the city. It felt so alive, yet so tranquil—it was a bizarre combination that I constantly enjoyed.

What was it like to be the only non-American student attending the program?

It was actually a lot of fun. I enjoyed being intertwined between two different cultures—Czech and American. Also, I wanted to escape from the Lebanese culture so it was ideal for me. And frankly I have never been to the U.S., so in a way the U.S. culture came to me.

Was studying in Prague your first experience with American culture? How do you think it’s different from experiencing American culture in the United States?

It was my first experience with American culture. I have several friends that are half American/half Lebanese, but the Lebanese in them always overcame their American culture, so I never sensed that American aspect of them. It was exciting for me to be surrounded by fully American people.

It is different in a sense that the Americans I met through CIEE were also trying to explore a new culture and they were out of their comfort zone, which I felt was a positive thing since you learn the most from people who are out of their routine. This made us, in a way, on the same path, wanting to explore and engulf as much as we could.



Why did you decide to write the article “Three Cultures, One City”? What kind of response have you received from it?

Most of my friends were writing journals while in Prague, yet I felt so detached from that. I just wanted to live in the moment. But weirdly, when I came back to Lebanon, I felt homesick for a place that was my home for just a month. I spoke about my trip 24/7 and whenever I would think of it, I would smile. This drove me to write about my experience.

I have received positive responses from all three cultures. It was a new kind of perspective to have three cultures interconnect in one city, especially when one of the cultures was an Arab culture, each culture was from a different continent, and surely each was very different.

Your article mentions that everyone was eager to know more about your culture. Did you find that people expected you to know everything about Lebanon? Did you feel a struggle to serve as the ambassador of your culture while abroad?

Surely people in one way or another expected me to know everything, but I felt that I didn’t disappoint. I felt a sense of ease serving as the ambassador for my culture while abroad—it always gave me joy to talk about my hometown and to clarify to people what Lebanon really is. That also encouraged me to write my second article that spoke about why one should visit Lebanon.

To learn more about Paula and her multicultural experience studying in Prague, read her article “Three Cultures, One City” on Go World Travel.

Have your own CIEE story to share? Email to get started.

February Alum of the Month: Dana Roberts

In the fall of 2010, Dana studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain through the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program. She is the co-founder of "Plant Based Traveler," an online travel series dedicated to showcasing a vegan travel lifestyle. Back in November we shared her story on the CIEE Alumni Blog and now we are excited to feature her as Alum of the Month! Dana and her partner Lou have been busy working on new content for "Plant Based Traveler" in the new year, including their first vlog and a great video on how to make vegan curry (yum!). Previous vegan travel adventures have included Paris, New York, Lima and Cusco but 2016 is all about Berlin.

Congratulations on a new year of "Plant Based Traveler," Dana! We look forward to more vlogs from you both!

Dana roberts

Spending a Day in D.C. with CIEE Alumni

There were still some signs of cherry blossoms on April 2nd when the CIEE Alumni Washington D.C. Chapter had their day-long event. Alumni met up at the Newseum for three hours of learning and exploring together. If you've ever been to the Newseum before, you'd know that you could spend much longer than three hours there! Our Alumni Engagement Coordinator journeyed from CIEE Headquarters in Portland, Maine to spend a day getting to know some of our awesome D.C.-based alumni.

The day started off with a brief 4D movie experience in the museum before alumni enjoyed looking at preserved newspapers from the 1800s, innovative media exhibits, and a live interview with Kelly McEvers, co-host of NPR's "All Things Considered." (Click here to listen to the interview that CIEE alumni watched live!)



After the museum, several more alumni joined the group for a walk to the Tidal Basin, where there were many tulips and a few cherry blossom trees still in bloom. To re-fuel after walking all around D.C., everyone had dinner together and shared stories about their CIEE program experiences — what a great way to reconnect with old friends and make new ones! 


Are you a CIEE alum in D.C.? Don't miss the next event! Stay up-to-date by joining the CIEE Alumni Washington D.C. Chapter Facebook group, updating your email in the alumni directory, and visiting the Alumni Events page. Questions? Email

Not in D.C.? Join one of our other chapters: Boston, Chicago, Bay Area, NYC, Russia, China

Alumni Update - April 2016




CIEE Announces Tulane University as New School of Record

CIEE recently announced that top-ranked Tulane University will serve as its new School of Record for its high school and undergraduate college study abroad programs. Beginning in summer 2016, Tulane will be awarding credit to CIEE Global Navigator Language & Culture summer abroad programs, and to undergraduate college students on CIEE Study Abroad programs this fall. Read more.

CIEE Celebrates 25 Years in Budapest

In March, the CIEE Study Center in Budapest, Hungary celebrated its 25th anniversary with food, friends, and fun. Many distinguished guests attended the event, including Mr. Edward Loo, the Deputy Chief of Mission for the Embassy of the United States in Budapest, who spoke about the importance of public diplomacy and the role of educational exchanges. You can learn more about the celebration and see pictures of the event by visiting the CIEE Budapest Study Center blog.

Go Abroad Again After Graduation, and Get Paid for It!

CIEE offers teach abroad programs and an internationally recognized Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification for college graduates. CIEE Teach Abroad offers paid teaching positions and volunteer opportunities in eleven countries with options ranging from one month to a full academic year -- so there is something for everyone! Applicants must be native English speakers with a passport from their English-speaking country of origin and a bachelor's degree. CIEE TEFL courses are an amazing way to prepare for professional teaching opportunities and professionalize study abroad volunteer opportunities. Learn more by visiting the Teach Abroad and TEFL websites.



St. Petersburg Alumni Weekend

CIEE St. Petersburg alumni are invited to attend the annual Alumni Weekend in St. Petersburg from May 6th-8th. Throughout the weekend there will be remarkable events, including welcome and farewell reception dinners, the CIEE St. Petersburg annual Spring Ball, a trip to Peterhof, roundtable discussion with current CIEE students, and many more! Two-night accommodations and meals will be provided by CIEE during the weekend. For questions and to RSVP, please email CIEE Student Services Coordinator Ira Vasilyeva by April 7, 2016.






Julia Shafer

April's Alum of the Month, Julia Shafer, studied abroad in Seville, Spain and is currently in her second year of service with the Peace Corps in Madagascar. She organized a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp, which will take place this month, to empower young girls in the community to become leaders. On the blog, Julia talks about the valuable lessons she learned while studying abroad that prepared her to live and work abroad in the Peace Corps. Read her story.


Excerpts from recently published alumni stories: 

“When I look back at it, what I remember most is the whole experience of going somewhere I didn’t know anyone—especially a place that’s sort of in the middle of nowhere (West Virginia) where there was no chance of finding non-English speakers." -Thomas Chenal (Internship USA)  >>Read his story

"Studying abroad showed me a self-confidence I didn’t know I had."  -Amanda Grant (Study Abroad, Seville, Spain)  >>Read her story

"The most shocking thing... that American life from the American movies is REAL!" -Ilirjana Hyseni (Work & Travel USA) >>Read her story  

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


From left: CIEE Work & Travel USA alum Ilirjana Hyseni is featured on the blog; CIEE students studying in Khon Kaen designed a business, the Radical Grandma Collective, to help community partners sell their hand-woven scarves to an international market; and CIEE Alumni Washington D.C. Chapter members meet over brunch to discuss upcoming events for the group.

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From Study Abroad to the Peace Corps: One Alum’s Story

Meet our April Alum of the Month, Julia Shafer. Julia is a CIEE Seville LA alum who is currently in her second year of service with the Peace Corps. We asked Julia to tell us more about her transition from study abroad to living and working abroad through the Peace Corps. Here is her story:

Salama! My name is Julia Shafer. I graduated from the University of Virginia in 2012 with a degree in foreign affairs. While I loved studying in Charlottesville, one of my favorite semesters in college was when I studied abroad with CIEE in the liberal arts program in Seville, Spain. I studied abroad to emerge myself in a different culture and improve my Spanish. My time spent studying abroad really prepared me to join the Peace Corps. I learned how to adapt to a new language and culture through living with a host family and taking all of my classes in Spanish. I also learned how to live outside of my comfort zone away from family and friends. The skills I gained from studying abroad have really come in handy during my Peace Corps service.

I am currently a second year Education Volunteer in Madagascar with the Peace Corps. I live in a town about 60 miles south of the capital, Antananarivo, in the chilly highlands. I teach English to kids of all ages, from tiny primary school kids up through adults, at a private school and at the local English center. Outside of teaching English, I have been working on organizing a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp to help empower young girls in my community to become leaders. The camp will be for one week in April in the capital. Some of the girls that will be attending the camp have never left our small town before so it is going to be an exciting week. Outside of teaching and the GLOW camp, life is very laid back in my town. I spend a lot of time talking with people at the market, helping my friend at her soup shop, and exploring the big red island. If you ever get a chance, put Madagascar on your must-visit list. Yes, there are plenty of lemurs, but there is also so much more to see.

My two years of service with the Peace Corps is quickly coming to an end (hard to believe). I will be leaving Madagascar in August of this year. While I am unsure what my immediate future holds when I return to the United States, I eventually would like to get a masters in school counseling to continue working with kids and help them better navigate their future. Then eventually I might work abroad again in an international school as a counselor.”

If you have questions about studying in Seville or joining the Peace Corps, feel free to connect with Julia on Facebook or Instagram @juleshafer.



CIEE's Internship USA Program Prepared Student for a Career in Materials Science

Today we’d like to highlight Internship USA alum Thomas Chenal and his career in materials science. Thomas participated in the program in 2012. As a French student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in science, he wanted to gain practical experience in the field while improving his English language skills. Utilizing the connections of his professor and other contacts, Thomas was able to secure an internship and receive support from CIEE through the Internship USA program.

Thomas 2

Why Go to the U.S.?
Thomas’ motives to pursue an internship in the U.S. were to improve English skills and to engage in practical experience relevant to his studies on materials science in Switzerland. The company that he secured an internship with, Constellium, is one of the biggest global producers of aluminum semi-products in the world and a great place to gain first-hand experience in materials science. His previous coursework on the basics of metals, such as crystallography and chemistry, gave him an educational background in materials science that prepared him for an internship at Constellium.

Internship Experience
Internships are a great way to gain a new skill, learn how a company works, and apply university knowledge to a real-life setting. For the first two months of his internship, Thomas worked at the Constellium office in Chicago where he gained valuable skills in customer/technical support by writing technical reports, communicating with clients, analyzing lab data, and participating in internal development. The next four months of the internship were spent in Ravenswood, West Virginia working in the laboratory of one of Constellium’s well-known plants, which is also one of the largest production plants in the world. At the plant, they design alloys and tempers for items such as the Airbus A380. Thomas had the opportunity to engage in production analytics and investigate various production issues at the lab. He says that working at Constellium gave him basic exposure to processing and was a way to “experience how a company works and what it’s like to work there […] it was most interesting to see how the plant works.”

Traveling in the U.S.

“You don’t see the country the same way as a tourist as when you live in it.”

While working at Constellium, Thomas was able to travel around the U.S. a little bit. However, it was after his internship, when Thomas returned to the United States to pursue higher education at Purdue University, that he experienced most of his U.S. travels. He has visited Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Utah, northern Indiana beach, Detroit, Charleston, Columbus, Chicago, California, Miami, Key West, Orlando, and more. Many of these travels were road trips with friends in Camaro and Mustang convertibles—what fun! He’s seen NASA launch sites, gone skydiving over the Wisconsin cornfields, visited many national parks, and driven over the border for a brief visit to Canada.

Most Memorable Experience
“When I look back at it, what I remember most is the whole experience of going somewhere I didn’t know anyone—especially a place that’s sort of in the middle of nowhere (West Virginia) where there was no chance of finding non-English speakers. There is also the overall experience of living in a different culture where you experience things like going to the supermarket to try different brands and products.”

Thomas skydiving

A Career in Materials Science
Thomas currently serves as a Product Development & Processing Engineer for DuPont, an American company in Switzerland with product offerings in the areas of agriculture and crop protection, performance materials, coatings and color technologies, electronic and communication technologies, and safety and protection. In his role, Thomas works on new product development, new processing techniques, and new testing techniques. “Sometimes clients come to me with a project and I have to find the right polymer and design, or they have the materials and they need help processing it.” Although working full-time doesn’t leave much room for traveling, Thomas plans to make time for it. He is currently in Thailand on vacation—who knows where he’ll go next!

Advice for Prospective Internship USA Participants
“The advice I can give is quite simple: Just go, do it, and don’t be afraid of anything. Getting lost and not knowing where to go and what to do is actually one of the best life experiences you can have. Plus, the good thing about the U.S. is that Americans are super friendly and easy to talk to, especially if you are a foreigner.”

Did you participate in CIEE’s Internship USA program? Want to share how your internship helped you in your career? We want to hear about it! Email to get started.