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The CIEE Work & Travel USA Experience: Andrada Birla's American Adventure

My name is Andrada Birla and I am from Timisoara, Romania. Last year, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in systems engineering and since have been working in a small company here in Timisoara.

I always dreamed about going to the United States. When I became a student, I saw advertisements for CIEE Work & Travel USA around campus and knew it was my chance. In my first year at university, I was afraid I would not be able to deal with exams and also prepare for an American adventure, so I missed that chance. The second year came and I was confident; I already knew what I would do next summer. The idea of getting out of my comfort zone terrified me but at the same time I was excited to go and experience what we call "the American dream." I always loved the idea of getting in touch with other nations, which attracted me the most to this experience. Going in a foreign country and working with people, dealing with everyday situations, celebrating with them… I believe this is the good way to learn about a culture.

When in Maine, eat lobster.

So once the summer came, the adventure began. I got a job as a shop assistant in a small shop near the beach in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. I consider myself so lucky. At a glance you would think that there aren’t so many things to do there, but believe me, the beach, the city, and the state are just perfect for a wanderer’s soul. It was hard in the beginning – I had to learn all about American money and coins, I had to be patient with the customers, I learned a little bit of Russian and Bulgarian because of my roommates, and I became fluent in "American language,” as my boss would say. I became good friends with my roommates and my co-workers, so every day at work was a pleasure. No matter how tired you come home after a day at work, we would still go to international parties or simply talk with other CIEE Work & Travel USA participants in the house.

On our days off we would go out for dinner or shop in Freeport, or just wander around in Portland. At the end of the summer, a Russian friend and I decided to travel together on the East Coast. We visited Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Everything went smoothly. We had the best summer!

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As I mentioned before, I became good friends with my roommates and my co-workers, so we kept in touch after we all got back home. The next day after landing in our hometowns, we decided to return to Maine for another summer. The second year was even more amazing; every week we would travel to some beautiful place nearby (Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, Acadia National Park, Moxie Falls, and the list goes on). We were known as the “magic 4”: me, the Russian girl, the Bulgarian girl and the American girl. I must admit, I fell in love with "Mainers" and Maine’s landscapes.

At the end of the summer I decided to visit the West, so I took my backpack and my friend from Atlantic City and we visited L.A., Las Vegas, and San Francisco. I believe the Grand Canyon is a destination that everyone must see at least once in a lifetime. We had a perfect end to the summer! We were barely back home before we planned to see each other in the winter; the four of us did a trip in Bulgaria and Romania. I am looking forward to our next meeting.

The most I think I learned was about myself.

I can say that America had a big influence on my life. I got back home with my suitcase full of dreams, positive vibes, new friends, and memories. The experience gave me confidence and the power to follow all my dreams. I learned to manage my time and money efficiently, and I improved my communication skills – my English is way better since working in the U.S. The most I think I learned was about myself. I learned to deal with daily problems and, at the same time, to enjoy every little moment in life.

Now I work in a company whose headquarters is located in Washington, D.C., I get in touch daily with people from America and in this way I still get positive vibes in my life. I am looking forward to visiting the U.S. again. I am so grateful for those two summers spent in Maine, and I would advise every student to take advantage of this great opportunity. Go to the United States and live on your own – live the American dream, experience new things, be open to a new culture, and you will become the richest person.

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