Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

CIEE Alumni Blog

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

5 posts from December 2016

Alumni Voices: Amy Sininger

Video interview with Amy Sininger, CIEE Teach Abroad and CIEE TEFL alumna.

CIEE Alumni Interview: Amy Sininger

My Two Favorite Places to Visit in Tokyo

Even though I spent four months abroad, I wasn’t able to visit every part of Tokyo - let alone many places outside of it. However, I was able to make great memories in the places I did. Here are my two favorite places in Tokyo that anyone travelling to this city should visit:

1) Shibuya


Those who know even a little bit about Tokyo definitely know about Shibuya, one of 23 city wards of Tokyo, and the famous crossing there. Shibuya has a multitude of shopping malls, restaurants, and all things in between. Shibuya station is by far one of the craziest stations in all of Tokyo because of the many lines that run through it given its central location. The crossing itself, which actually isn’t as big as I had imagined it to be, is busy any time of day with people flooding back and forth. Once you exit the station and zig around the mass of people to get to the crossing, the flashing ads will probably catch your attention - that is, if you are looking up. Shibuya has several large screens by the crossing advertising the newest brands or promoting new TV shows or music releases, all accompanied with blasting music. It is hard to escape the pure chaos of this part of town, but there is something not so crazy about it as well. For me, being in similarly crowded areas in the U.S., namely New York City, has always followed with headaches and a wanting to leave. I never felt that way about Shibuya. Maybe because it was so novel to me or that everyone minds their own business to the point where it doesn’t feel as crowded. There is something about the energy that is so exciting, especially at night, where you really feel what the energy in Tokyo is like. I loved to go to Shibuya and try to grab a spot at the Starbucks overlooking the crossing (which is rarely a success) or head out at night to wander around with friends. Shibuya has always been a special place to me, so much so that I have a postcard of it right above my bed. Every time I look at it, I remember all the fond memories I made by myself and with friends. With the Olympics coming up in 2020, the station is undergoing major construction and I can’t imagine more people being there than there already is! Nevertheless, Shibuya is most definitely an icon of Tokyo and its fantastic energy.


2) Harajuku

Tokyo’s colorful and fashionable youth thrive in Harajuku, my second favorite spot in the city. Harajuku is known for the super kawaii (“cute” in Japanese) and super trendy shops that line Takeshita Street, the main attraction in this part of town. My first time here, I was amazed by the crowds that packed Takeshita Street and surprised by some of the costumed people that made their presence very clear out in front of the crowds. You cannot go to Harajuku without noticing the crazy number of crepe stands that always have people waiting to grab a snack. You might think that crepes are quite an odd Japanese dessert, but Harajuku’s sellers have found ways to add a unique spin and make it their own. Crepes in Japan are packed full of ice cream, brownies, and other sweet things that make them very unique.


One of my favorite spots in Harajuku was actually slightly away from the chaos of the stores – the Meiji Jingu (Shrine). Meiji Jingu dates back to the era of Emperor Meiji and was established in 1920 to commemorate his death. The shrine itself is a large area surrounded by traditional Japanese shrine buildings. My favorite part is the walk to the shrine, passing the large Torii gate that symbolizes the entrance of the shrine. The walk to the shrine is a wide road covered by the overarching trees – an image straight out of an old Japanese folktale. Only in Japan would you find such an amazing shrine right next to the bustling shopping crowds in Harajuku.


My ultimate spot in Harajuku, and definitely in my top places that I would like to go back to, is the Nescafé Café. Nescafé, known of course for their coffee and coffee machines, has their own physical café in Harajuku. Inside is a modern environment with calm music, large windows, and a beautifully designed interior. Not to mention, the coffee and food are amazing! The café is also a technological experience – ordering happens on an iPad and the very kind servers bring your food out to you. The big chairs and sofas make it a great study place – my friends and I took advantage of this on several weekends! The best part is the central area which has a selection of Nescafé coffees and coffee machines where you can make yourself a cup. I had never been in a café like this and really miss studying and chatting with my friends there. I really hope I get a chance to open a café inspired by this spot someday!


By: Ria Jagasia (CIEE Study Abroad, Tokyo, Japan, 2016)

Alumni Update - December 2016



A Message from CIEE on the U.S. Presidential Election

Following the U.S. presidential election, there have been many questions about the future of J-1 visa programs. Two statements were released by CIEE that address those questions and frame expectations for the future:

"Reflections on the U.S. Presidential Election"Read here.
"CIEE Statement on Status of J-1 Visa Programs"Read here.

Destination TEFL Debuts in Vietnam

The CIEE TEFL team facilitated the inaugural cohort of their newest travel practicum program, Destination TEFL, this November in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Five trainees spent two eventful weeks honing their English teaching skills, exploring intercultural theories, and working with mentor teachers at YOLA, CIEE TEFL’s partner school. The program offers participants the opportunity to complete two weeks of practice teaching in another country after 11 weeks of online training. CIEE TEFL plans to facilitate three more cohorts this spring in Vietnam, Thailand, and Spain. Learn more.

Job Opportunity for Arabic, Japanese, Italian, and German Language Teachers

Do you have a passion for supporting high school students in their pursuit to study abroad? Use your language and teaching skills abroad next summer with CIEE! We are hiring Global Navigator High School Program Leaders committed to the process of education, cross-cultural learning, and leadership development for the Global Navigator High School Summer programs in summer 2017. Apply to be based in one of 20+ countries where you will facilitate intercultural, experiential opportunities for high school students visiting the host country. Applicants with Japanese, Italian, Arabic, and German language skills are especially encouraged to apply. Apply online.

Teach in Spain Fall 2017 Applications & Portugal Program Now Open

Applications are now open to teach in Spain with CIEE in fall 2017. Expand your Spanish language skills by living and working in the pueblo, urban, and rural areas in the Community of Madrid and Castilla y León. Learn more and apply.

Also, CIEE now offers a short-term three-month volunteer teaching opportunity in Portugal. Serve as a Language and Culture Assistant helping local teachers in a public school while living in cost-free accommodations and engaging in meaningful cultural exchange with your host family. Be a part of Portugal's nationwide initiative to expand bilingual education as an English teacher and learn Portuguese yourself as you explore this beautiful country. Learn more and apply.

Not sure if teaching abroad is right for you? Hear from CIEE Teach Abroad and CIEE TEFL alum Amy Sininger about her experience in both programs:

CIEE Alumni Interview: Amy Sininger



Stay up-to-date with alumni events by:

Read about the most recent CIEE Alumni Local Chapter events on the blog.





The Alum of the Month for December is Alexandria Polanosky. Alexandria studied abroad in 2015 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The Ohio University student, who studies photojournalism and environmental studies, spent her semester exploring the area and blogging about her adventures. She continued to share stories about study abroad as a summer travel blogger for College Tourist, writing about topics like sustainable travel, financing study abroad, and travelling with dietary restrictions.

We interviewed Alexandria to learn more about her article on the challenges of reentry, titled "It's Okay to Come Home", which encourages study abroad returnees to find beautiful moments anywhere they go. Read her story.

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


Excerpts from recently published alumni stories:

“My Peace Corps experience thus far has been an incredible roller coaster, but overall so worth it and one of the greater experiences of my life." -Anna Poruks (CIEE Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, 2014) Read her story.

"It is only years later, after being immersed in post-graduation life, that I have come to appreciate the lessons I learned and the long-term impact that living in Ghana had on me. [...] Going abroad changes you; no matter where you go or what career you end up pursuing, you will be a better employee, co-worker, and leader for having had to push your boundaries and learn to adapt while abroad." -Hannah Smalley (CIEE Study Abroad in Legon, Ghana, 2011) Read her story.



From left: CIEE Work & Travel USA alumni gather at CheckPoint Café in Moscow for food and conversation with the CIEE Alumni Russia Chapter; Former CIEE Alumni New York City Chapter vice president and CIEE Study Abroad alum Anna Poruks tells us about life in Senegal as a Peace Corps volunteer; and CIEE Alumni Washington, D.C. Chapter members enjoy a networking picnic on the National Mall.

On social media? So are we! Follow us on Twitter or Instagram @CIEEalumni, and join over 20,000 alumni on our LinkedIn group

Don't forget to update your information to receive important communications and alumni news!


Interested in working with us at CIEE? Browse our open jobs.


300 Fore St. Portland, ME 04101  |  1.207.553.4000  |

If you wish to be removed from this group's mailing list, click here


Alumni Voices: the 2016 IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad

Study Abroad Alum Tells Us, "It's Okay to Come Home"

Alexandria Polanosky photo

Studying abroad is an exciting, educational, and transformational experience that changes lives forever. But after falling in love with a new city and country, it can be difficult to return home. Your thoughts and feelings about your life abroad may be frustrating to communicate to friends and family as you experience reverse homesickness (missing people and places from abroad), uncertainty, or maybe even withdrawal. The re-entry period isn’t easy, but there are ways to overcome reverse culture shock.

CIEE Study Abroad alum Alexandria Polanosky experienced this transition period herself and tells us “It’s Okay to Come Home” in her recent article for The Huffington Post blog. The Ohio University student spent a semester in Stellenbosch, South Africa, exploring the area and blogging like a true budding visual journalist. A year later, study abroad is still on her mind as she writes for College Tourist as a Summer Travel Blogger Team Member. We interviewed Alexandria to learn more about her experience abroad and her thoughts on re-entry:

What motivated you to write this article about re-entry, a year after returning from study abroad?

After working in my university's study abroad office upon returning from my time abroad with CIEE, I wanted to continue sharing my travel experiences as well as trying my best to inspire other students to take advantage of the many study abroad opportunities we have available to us. So, this past summer, I was part of College Tourist's summer travel bloggers.

Returning home after traveling has always been something I struggle with, and I spent a long time reflecting on why I should embrace coming home while also appreciating the experience I had. This article was both my way of accepting coming home and sharing these feelings with other student travelers that likely experience the same difficulties.

In the article, you encourage other study abroad returnees to take their spontaneity and curiosity that they had abroad and use it to explore their hometowns. Is this something you did yourself? How do you think this helps with the re-entry process?

If my time abroad taught me anything, it was to embrace the spontaneous side of myself that I previously pushed away. I learned to enjoy every single moment no matter where I was. I definitely adopted this idea at home as I continue to find new places to visit and explore. No matter how cold and cloudy it may get here, I have learned to enjoy it just as much as the sunny, beautiful town of Stellenbosch, South Africa I spent so much time in a few years ago.

Embracing spontaneity and never ceasing to search for new adventures at home can definitely help with the re-entry process. I think a lot of the fear of returning home comes from the thought of facing familiarity after experiencing so many new things and believing that your days won't be nearly as exciting as they were abroad. Overcoming this fear by making an effort to rediscover your hometown can be a great way to deal with re-entry.

What other advice would you give to recently returned study abroad participants?

For any recently returned study abroad students, I would definitely encourage you to share your experiences with others, good and bad! Traveling and studying abroad is a big unknown for many people and can seem scary or unattainable. Sharing experiences and advice, like how to pay for studying abroad, can help encourage other students to pursue such wonderful opportunities. You might also find that many other students struggled with the same aspects of re-entry as you. Also, try to keep in touch with any friends you made abroad; it’s fun to see where everyone's lives take them after the end of the semester or year. For those who have not yet returned home, don't let the return date on your plane ticket scare you. Enjoy every bit of today!

Have something to share about YOUR international exchange or re-entry experience? Email us to find out how you can share your story on the CIEE Alumni blog.