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10 posts categorized "High School + Gap Year Alumni"

VLOGGING ACROSS AMERICA: NICK'S STORY

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

 By Nikita Bazhenov, CIEE Work & Travel USA participant and CIEE High School USA alumnus

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Hi, my name is Nikita Bazhenov. I am from Russia and I am on a work and travel program this year. In Russia I am a third year student in Higher School of Economics studying Sociology. I work as a cashier at Adventure Aquarium in Camden,NJ, just across the bridge from Philadelphia, PA. Another fun fact: I have a daily vlog. Yes, here on the program, I try to create a movie every single day, sometimes I fail and have to catch up but I still have not missed a day.

I’ve already been to the US, I lived here for a year and went to Santiam Christian High School in Oregon. That was five years ago, and this time I came to get an experience of adult life in the U.S. Being a kid in high school in the U.S. was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about the culture of the United States, and my host family shared a lot of knowledge with me, so this time I knew what to expect from this country.

I never thought I would visit US as an exchange student ever again, and that was a totally spontaneous decision made by me and my girlfriend Anastasia this winter. To give you some context, I love filming events, parties, pretty much anything in this world, but I never took time to do it. Mostly because I was busy working and studying at the university at the same time. Moreover, I was in desperate need of equipment (like a camera at least) because the one I was using was a 2013 Canon, bought by Anastasia, so it was not even mine. With my salary at that time I would have taken a couple of years to save up for a decent camera, so we decided to come here, to work, travel, and share our experience with other people who might want to join us on our journey.

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Another point was that my English level really went down at that time. Compared to my English level after attending high school in the U.S., I had forgotten a lot, and I had to fix that problem as fast as I could. I knew the CIEE office in St Petersburg from my previous FLEX experience, so I was able to go with CIEE.

As for the skills and knowledge I got during this program…there are 2 parts of this question. If we are talking about making movies – I learned way more this summer than I’ve learned in the last 3 years shooting. The other thing is, I value travelling more than anything, it’s a great way to learn about the world you live in. There is no way they would teach you how people behave themselves in the U.S. and why they are always friendly in university, you have to go the country by yourself and figure it out. ONLY then you will be able to understand life in another country.

If you have an opportunity to go to the U.S. and spend your summer working with amazing people somewhere in this great country – TAKE IT. It is worth more than anything else – experiencing another country and learning new every day. Don’t stress out about your language skills – I know some students that are here right now, who were not very confident speaking when they came here. In only two months their skill rocketed to the place when they can have a conversation with their coworkers and understand fluent English. And this is my second point – the purpose of learning a language is not to write tests or essays – it is being able to talk to other people and understand them. There is not as much attention given to speaking while learning a language in high school or in university and this program gives you a chance to fill this gap.

The entire experience really means a lot to me, as it gave me an opportunity to do something that I really love – make movies. My hope for the future is that after this program I will be able to fulfill my ultimate dream – be able to share my ideas, my country and my life with other people via making videos. This summer got me really close to the point when I am able to do that, and I can’t wait to see where I can go with it.

Watch Nick's video about his trip to Washington DC here:

 

Winning Photo Entry from CIEE's 70th Anniversary Alumni Storytelling Contest

By Francesca Perticarini (CIEE High School Exchange USA, 2014-2015)
*This photo entry was a winner in CIEE's 70th Anniversary Alumni Storytelling Contest.

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1. I'm Ghana

It’s not a quick picture you get of someone when you visit a tourist attraction. “I’m Ghana” is the name of the short film I shot at the top of the Hancock Tower with my host sister, Fatahiya (in the picture), from Ghana. She is one of the best people I’ve met in my life, and thanks to the CIEE program I had the opportunity to listen to her story and learn something from it. The short film had a huge success (it was also shared by upworthy.com), and even now, it still inspires thousands of people from all over the world.

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2. Pacific Ocean

My “American grandparents” took this picture of me when I first saw the Pacific Ocean. Touching all of the oceans in the world is on my bucket list, and I was finally able to check off “Pacific Ocean” from the list. For the first time I was able to be so close to the ocean. I live right in front of the sea back in Italy, and I’m not used to seeing something so immense and blue.

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3. Reflections

This is probably my favorite picture of all time. My coordinator from CIEE, who quickly became my host mom and my dearest friend, took this picture. She and I got along pretty well and we shared some of our favorite things: waking up early before the sun rises, having espresso in the morning and seeing beauty in nature. We left the house pretty early because everything was covered in fog. We both love nature so we drove around the area and took some pictures. Out of all the pictures we took, this one is the one that I cherish the most because it reminds me of how lucky I was to have her as my mentor.

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4 & 5. Old Wild West

These pictures are from the camping trip my host family organized. We spent 10 days camping in the middle of nature and for the first time, I set foot in Wyoming and North Dakota.

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6. Leaving Home to Go Back Home

I took a picture of a plane that was flying above my head as a reminder of all the planes I took during my exchange year. Traveling has been my favorite hobby now, and I keep taking planes to visit new places because of the amazing experience I had with CIEE. I will never stop traveling because it would mean to me that I don’t want to learn anymore. The concept of home changes when you are an exchange student. The United States has become my home, although I know I was used to associating the word “home” with my country.

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7. Cold Chicago

Chicago has been my very first American home. For the first time, I had the “honor” to live in freezing temperatures and experiencing what it means to live in the snow. I love the skyline and I love it even more when it’s covered in white.

CIEE Global Navigator High School Program in Cape Town Teaches History and Humanity

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Students overlooking Cape Town. Photo by Cameron Conolly.


This past summer was an exciting and educational one for CIEE Global Navigator High School alum Diego Mendoza. Diego embarked on a long journey from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Cape Town, South Africa for a summer program that’s packed with excursions, volunteer work, and cultural activities. He chose this program so he could visit Africa for the first time while also having a meaningful experience. Two activities that Diego really enjoyed were climbing Lion’s Head, a popular mountain that’s a favorite hiking spot for locals and tourists seeking incredible views of Cape Town, and the FoodJam, where participants worked in teams to cook traditional foods that resulted in a fun dinner party.

Cape Town, a vibrant, multicultural city that’s full of history, gives students the opportunity to trace the impact of colonialism and apartheid through excursions and service projects in partnership with local communities. For many, the environment is politically inspiring. Diego says, “I’ve known for a while that I’ve wanted to study international relations and politics, but coming to Cape Town and gaining a new global perspective on one of the issues our world faces (socioeconomic inequality) simply re-emphasized my dream to become a diplomat.”

Diego mentions that the most difficult part of his trip was to figure out how to connect with locals despite their differences – a challenge that many travelers face. He credits Ubuntu, an idea from the Southern African region that stands for humanity towards others and is suggestive of a universal bond that connects us, for his success in connecting with the people of South Africa. “I do believe it was Ubuntu that made this trip so enjoyable,” he says. “…Ubuntu helped us mutually recognize that instead of feeling pity or jealousy among one another, we were just human teenagers who wanted to talk and have fun. It made us realize that as long as we were all willing to recognize, appreciate, and enjoy the common human essence all of us have, our well-being and happiness can flourish.”

Diego was able to capture his eye-opening exploration of Cape Town in the video below, where you can get a sense of his experience learning about local culture and history, visiting must-see destinations, and making life-long friends both from the U.S. and from South Africa:

Move over, Millennials: Three ‘Generation-Z’s who are changing the world

They’ve been called “Globals,” “The Next Great Generation,” “Digital Natives,” “Post-Millennials,” and “iGeneration”. However you refer to them, Generation Z – defined loosely as those born in 1995 to 2012 – are making a difference in today’s world. They’re founding nonprofits and think-tanks; they’re focused on understanding other cultures and challenging traditional ways of thinking.

Today, we’re highlighting three young CIEE alumni who have demonstrated a passion and commitment to improving the world around them. 

Eli Wachs, age 16

CIEE High School Summer Leadership Academy, Nanjing, Summer 2014
President and Founder, High School HeroesX

Eli Wachs with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter while I was attending the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit

Eli Wachs (left) with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. 

High School HeroesX is a youth organization that works to give high school students a platform to effect meaningful change on their communities. Eli Wachs, a current junior in high school, is a testament to the fundamental concept behind the organization: that his generation has the fresh perspective and the technological know-how to identify innovative and creative solutions to community problems.

Eli formed the concept for High School HeroesX after he read Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis (founder of the X PRIZE Foundation). “I became enthralled by the book's central thesis that so many of the world's great challenges are being overcome by a combination of innovation and growing access to technology,” Eli recalls. After reaching out to Dr. Diamandis, Eli decided to create High School HeroesX as a platform for high school students in the Philadelphia area to address issues such as poverty, education, and environmentalism. Meanwhile, Eli is combining his passion for social entrepreneurship and other cultures: he’s currently working on the upcoming launch of High School HeroesX China.

Eli Wachs with the class he taught in China this past summer on CIEE program

Eli Wachs with the class he taught in China this past summer during his CIEE program.

Eli’s participation in CIEE’s High School Summer Leadership Academy furthered his desire to become a global citizen. “Given the connected world in which we live, I think it is imperative to be aware of the world around us and embrace different cultures, languages, and customs,” Eli says. “My study abroad immersion programs in China have been remarkably rewarding experiences.”  

Eli is combining his passion for social entrepreneurship and other cultures: he’s currently working on the upcoming launch of High School HeroesX China.

As he looks forward to college, Eli plans to pursue an area of study that combines his interests in innovation and social entrepreneurship, and to return to China to study abroad. His writing has been published on Huffington Post Impact.

Xiong Her, age 18

CIEE High School Summer Leadership Academy, Nanjing, China Summer 2013
Gates Millennium Scholar Recipient

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Xiong Her with CIEE Alumni Relations Director Dan Olds at the CIEE Annual Conference at a 100K Strong Foundation event in Washington, DC.

Xiong Her is a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, an prestigious award given to individuals from diverse backgrounds who have demonstrated excellence in academia. This fall, Xiong began his freshman year at Marquette University, where he plans to study international affairs with the goal of pursuing a career at the U.N. or U.S. State Department.

Xiong spent much of his childhood in an impoverished refugee camp called Wat Tham Krabok in Thailand. In a recent interview with the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Xiong describes his time in the refugee camp in two words: no hope. Xiong has worked to overcome his difficult past and pursued extra courses throughout middle and high school to advance his education and English language abilities. 

“My experience with a Chinese host family opened my eyes to the true cultures of China,” Xiong says.

Xiong says that his CIEE High School Abroad program sparked his interest in majoring in International Affairs and continuing to study Chinese history and language. “My experience with a Chinese host family opened my eyes to the true cultures of China,” Xiong says. “I had the opportunity to tour and immerse myself into the rich historical sites: the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, famous local mansions, and temples.” Xiong is also an ambassador for 100K Strong, a foundation focused on strengthening US-China relations through study abroad and language learning. He connects with students from his high school, as well as high school students in Marquette University’s Upward Bound program, to encourage them to seek out international education opportunities. Xiong’s own study abroad experience isn’t over – he plans to spend the next academic year in China. 

Tuongvan Le, age 19

CIEE Business Language + Culture Program, Shanghai, China, 2014
Founder, IM Venture

Tuongvan Le is a current sophomore at Harvard College who participated in the CIEE Business, Language and Culture program in Shanghai, China in the summer of 2014. She is the founder of IM Venture, an enriching cultural and skill development program connecting Vietnamese students studying abroad to Vietnamese local students through a trip across Vietnam. Le lived in Vietnam until the age of 12, and she started IM Venture to reconnect with her Vietnamese identity, and to have meaningful experiences through interactions with local Vietnamese students. 

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Le also launched “Students to Service”, the first online magazine focused on student’s activities in Vietnam. Much of her work is focused on youth empowerment and cultural exchange. ”It helps me connect with my homeland, continue being aware of the community that I grew up in, and feel fulfilled to be able to make a tangible impact in the country where I grew up,” says Le.

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CIEE is a proud partner of the 100K Strong Foundation, an organization that works to strengthen US-China relations through study abroad. CIEE has over a dozen study abroad programs in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, in addition to our Teach in China programs and programs for high school and gap year students – check out all of our programs on our website

January Alumni of the Month: Chloe Maxmin, Gap Year Abroad

CIEE Alum Chloe Maxmin is making a big impact in the world of climate activism. Although she is only 22 years old, Chloe began her work as a climate activist more than ten years ago, when she took action against the development of the North Maine Woods at the age of 12. In high school, she founded her school’s Climate Action Club and led campaigns to improve environmental issues in her local community, such as reusable bags and solar panels for schools. 

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Photo: Chloe Maxmin

Chloe wanted to study environmentalism in different parts of the world. After high school, she participated in the CIEE Gap Year Abroad program. Chloe spent the first half of her gap year in Bolivia and Peru, researching the concept of “Pachamama” – a more spiritual approach to caring for the planet. The second half of her gap year was spent in Shanghai; she chose the city because of its significance to environmental issues, including persistent pollution. In these two different parts of the world, she experienced firsthand the negative impact that climate change was already having on the lives of those in the local communities. “I learned about how a community deals with significant environmental damage when the effects are facing you every day,” Chloe recalls. “I also learned about the tensions between a system and individual behavior change when confronting such major environmental changes.” 

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Photo: CIEE Shanghai/Nicole Eigbrett

Chloe says that her experience in China with CIEE was one of the most difficult experiences of her life, but also the most rewarding – and that she came back to the United States with a new appreciation for other cultures.

Today, she is the co-founder of Divest Harvard, an organization that launched one of the most powerful movements in Harvard history. She is also the founder and president of First Here, Then Everywhere, an online network by and for young environmentalists. She’s received national and international recognition for her work: in 2013, she was named a Green Hero by Rolling Stone magazine, and she was a recipient of the Brower Youth Award (2013), as well as the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes (2010) and the Samantha Smith Award (2011).

Chloe’s post-graduation plans include continuing to work on political organizing around climate and environmental issues. She says that with important upcoming events – such as the Paris Climate Talks in 2015 and the US Presidential Election in 2016 – climate activism is more important now than ever.

Are you a CIEE Alumni working to make the world a better place? We’d love to hear from you! Share your story @CIEEAlumni on Twitter or Instagram, or e-mail alumni@ciee.org

 

High school student learns about Dominican Republic through service work at children's camp

The Mount Vernon Inquirer  highlighted high school senior Natorie Johnson and on her community service work during her international experience on the CIEE Leadership Academy in Santo Domingo. Her service work at a community summer camp and interaction with the local children proved to enrich camp activities and her own perspectives about the Dominican Republic.

Read more here

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Alumna Recognized for Inspiring Social Change

Chloe Maxmin, a current student at Harvard University and a CIEE alumna who attend the CIEE Gap program in Shanghai, China in 2011 was recently awarded the Samantha Smith Award by Maine Women’s Fund. This award "recognizes a young woman who works to promote social change in her school or community, inspires girls to become active in supporting lasting changes, and makes a difference in the community." Learn more.

In 2013, Chloe was featured in Rolling Stone magazine for her devotion and passion for environmental activism as founder of First, Here, Then Everywhere . Watch the video from the 2013 Brower Youth Awards below:

 

 

 

Alumni Fellows from the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit Reunite Online

Alumni Fellows from the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit Class of 2013 gathered together online this week for their six-month virtual reunion. After working together to learn about democracy and driving change during four days in Washington, D.C. last summer, the group, joining from nine countries spanning 13 time zones, logged in to reconnect with each other and share how they’re putting lessons from the Summit into action in their home countries. 

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One alumnus from Cairo, Egypt, is engaged in a legal defense organization to aid jailed students, while another from Ningbo, China, is studying educational policy to increase educational opportunities in rural China. Many alumni have supported CIEE’s partnership with Girl Rising, including a medical student from Brasov, Romania, who worked with the European Medical Students Association to show the film at all medical faculty member organizations across Europe.

“The people who I've met [at the Summit] inspired me by who they are, and their dedication for believing in a better life, together,” noted one from Timisoara, Romania.

 CIEE Civic Leadership Summit alumni continue to forge ahead with mission-driven internships, international exchange work, and studies that range from computer science to hotel management, showing their emergence as promising young leaders.  

Kersti Bayne ('14) Driven to Serve Others

Kersti Bayne, a senior at Freeport High School and a 2014 alumna from the CIEE Leadership Academy in Dakar, Senegal, was recently highlighted by her local newspaper for her committment to serving others.

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 Photo Caption: Kersti in her local neighborhood in Senegal

CIEE High School USA Alumnus Earns National High School Award in Spain

CIEE High School USA Alumni Alberto Excobar Rivas was given Premio Nacional de Bachillerato from the Ministry of Education in Spain.  Please click here to watch his acceptance speech. 

Alberto wil be studying law at the Universidade de Santiago de Comspostela and is a engaged member of the Embassy Youth Council at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid.

For additional information about the award please visit the following link: http://blog.educalab.es/cniie/2013/06/21/el-pontevedres-alberto-escobar-rivas-premio-nacional-de-bachillerato-2011-2012/