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J-1 Alumni Meetup in Madrid

CIEE alumni gathered in Madrid for a networking event with CIEE staff, employers, and representatives from the U.S. Department of State. Conversation flowed as new connections were made. The group also enjoyed a speech from a CIEE Internship USA alumnus about his amazing internship experience. We look forward to hosting alumni meetups in other global locations!

  Madrid Alumni Event - 9
Madrid Alumni Event - 9
Madrid Alumni Event - 9
Madrid Alumni Event - 9
Madrid Alumni Event - 9
Madrid Alumni Event - 9
 

The J-1 internship that launched my career: Peter's story

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

By Peter Sima, 2014 CIEE Internship alumnus

Hello everyone! My name is Peter Sima, and I come from the beautiful country of Slovakia. This small country is located in the very center of Europe, we speak Slovak and pay with Euros. Ever since I was little, I have always been fascinated by US culture, its natural beauty and, of course, heroic blockbuster movies. A few years later, when I was about to graduate from the University of Economics in Bratislava with a degree in International Management, I got an opportunity to sign up for a year-long professional internship program in the U.S. through the Slovak-American foundation and CIEE. I made it through competitive selection process and landed a placement in the online marketing department of one of the world’s leading antivirus companies – ESET. I could not be happier when I got a final confirmation. Or wait, maybe I could – the moment I found out that ESET North America is based out of sunny San Diego!

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Peter Sima, CIEE alumnus and Non Profit Marketing Consultant

American business culture is certainly different from what I was used to in Slovakia. My feeling is that it is, in a sense, more aggressive and more competitive yet also friendlier and more collaborative. I know, it is hard to connect those two worlds together, but what I mean is that US business professionals are very much focused on their career development and the development of their business, working hard utilizing every opportunity that comes by. At the same time they are also laid back, friendly, open and cooperative in relationships with their subordinates or business partners. They make sure people on all levels of corporate hierarchy are competent, motivated and reward for their contribution to overall business success. This was the first impression I had when I started my internship and I pretty much still share the same opinion.

There are a number of things I have learned during my stay in the US. I intentionally did not say “during my internship stay” simply because I think the whole cultural experience outside of work has changed me a lot as well. From professional side I was able to acquire and/or improve my campaign planning, management, web analytics and website optimization skills. Additionally, ESET gave me the opportunity to participate on number of industry-leading conferences and even financed one semester of marketing studies at University of California San Diego.

Besides the improvement of my hard skills and professional qualification I feel that I got much better in number of soft skills as well. I have significantly improved my business English, networking capabilities and, what I consider the most important, also got better in understanding of American business environment. I have learned to think at scale and got the business drive essential for every start-up entrepreneur. Last but not least I have met many outstanding professionals and very friendly people at the same time, who have helped establish myself while in San Diego and continue helping me now in my business with U.S.-based organizations. 

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Exploring Google's Silicon Valley campus

During my internship in San Diego, besides managing online marketing campaigns for ESET, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing non-profit organization called Securing Our eCity (SOeC) Foundation. This organization primarily focuses on educating teenagers and senior citizens on the topic of online security. They asked me to help them out with setup and management of Google Ad Grant campaigns, text ads that appear in Google search results. This organization and many other US-based non-profit organizations were at that time receiving free advertising credit worth $10.000/month to showcase their cause online – and I did not even know such a thing existed. 

Soon after I started working on SOeC’s campaigns we were utilizing the entire grant, driving thousands of new website visits and hundreds of subscriptions to webinars and other educational events. When I saw the potential of Ad Grants program for this non-profit organization I started digging deeper. I found out that almost all non- profit organizations are eligible to participate (schools, hospitals and state-run organization are exceptions) and what was even better, Google just opened the program for additional 50+ countries.  

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Peter at the ESET office in San Diego

When talking to other organizations I found out that this program is not well recognized and even those, who use it, find it often difficult to use it to larger extent. At this point I got the idea to set up my own consulting business focused on helping non-profits implement and meaningfully use the Ad Grant from Google. I decided to name my business AboveX Digital and created its website. Up until now I have worked with dozens of U.S. as well as European non-profit organizations and managed to get the agency to Google Partner program. None of this would have been possible neither without my internship experience nor without very supportive team at ESET and Securing Our eCity Foundation.   

Just like last few years, I expect 2018 to be quite a busy year. Professionally, I would like to focus on developing the online presence of my agency, create more helpful content and expand our service offering. This will not be possible without hiring new people. I would also like to deepen my cooperation with Google, speak on their events and become sort of an ambassador of Ad Grants program. Lastly I would like to continue delivering high added value to non-profits of all kinds, helping them do even more good in this world, because ultimately, enabling them to fulfill their mission is the most rewarding part of my job. Outside of my job I would like to explore few more countries (South America is up next on my list), attend more conferences and networking events and, when I have some time left, start pursuing MBA degree. 

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Peter at a San Diego Chargers game



Be prepared to have the best summer of your life: Conor's story

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

By Conor O'Rourke, CIEE Camp Exchange USA 2017 participant

“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then makes you a storyteller” - Ibn Battuta

Hey! My name is Conor O’Rourke, I’m 21 and from Wiltshire, England. I am currently studying Sport Development at Cardiff Metropolitan University in my third year! This is the story of my summer adventure working at Camp Vega in Fayette, Maine.

Camp sunset
Echo Lake at sundown – a spectacular sunset was just part of the schedule at Vega


Six months on from my summer adventure and I am still sharing my stories with anyone who will listen! I’m thrilled that I get to tell some more in this blog! It all started by making a decision, a decision that I nearly didn’t make but a decision that I would now make over and over again.

Picture this: It’s a cold and wet Thursday in January. I was still at home with my family for Christmas but had a lot of work for University. For the past few weeks, my mum had been trying to get me to sign up to the BUNAC Summer Camp USA program. At first, I refused to even look at the website! I didn’t think I was ready to commit to a whole summer away from friends and family. It was a risk in my eyes and I was sure that it wasn’t for me. But I decided to take a look at the BUNAC website and I found a list of Camps that would be present at the recruitment fair in London. For 6 years I had been working at my local tennis club back home in Wiltshire. I started playing tennis at the age of eight and fell in love with the sport, I couldn’t stop the urge to be out on the court! It was no surprise then, that when I was offered a volunteering role by the Head Coach at the club I immediately accepted!

Three years into my coaching role at the club I had completed my Level 1 and 2 Lawn Tennis Association Coaching qualifications. This meant that I could take control of my own sessions, which included planning and coaching three to four sessions per week. This was amazing experience but taking my coaching philosophy stateside would be just unbelievable! Looking on the website, I was happy to see so many tennis positions available! I scrolled down the list and found Camp Vega. Instantly, I clicked on the link and it took me to their homepage, I was greeted with: “Be prepared to have the best summer of your life”. I then watched their promotional video and that was it, my heart was set on Vega. Ten minutes later and I was doing my research and preparing my application for the recruitment fair.

Camp Vega
The gates to my summer home – I’d leave here a more complete person


From a young age I had always dreamed of travelling to America. My dad definitely influenced me from early on. We used to love watching Westerns when I was a kid, ‘How the West Was Won’ with John Wayne was our favourite! The ambition to travel stateside was always there, although I was slightly disappointed to see that there were no ‘Cowboy Ranch Camps’ available like there were in the movies! That being said, I will never forget the feeling of leaving the recruitment fair with a job at Camp Vega! I wore the biggest smile for the rest of the day and I could not wait to fly out to America!

I will never forget the day I arrived at camp. Having watched the Vega videos at least 16 times I thought I knew what to expect. I was way off. The lake was so much clearer, the trees were taller and the road was much bumpier than I imagined! When travelling down that stunning lakeside road, never did I think that I would leave here a different person: more complete, more confident, more of the person I wanted to be. From the beginning we were made to feel so welcome, smiling seemed to be a part of the uniform here. You couldn’t help but smile, it was infectious! The campgrounds must have had something to do with it because they were just spectacular. Situated on Echo Lake, Camp Vega had it all! Waking up to the spectacular sunrise and going to sleep under the glistening stars, it became part of the daily routine. A daily routine that I love and miss so much!

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The view from the Vega shoreline over Echo Lake


My job role at Camp Vega was with the tennis team. Being a part-time coach back at home, I had plenty of experience going into the summer, but one of the things that I was most looking forward too was the opportunity to work with coaches from across the world with different cultures, languages and coaching philosophies! It was a challenge that I was so ready to tackle. Luckily for me, Camp Vega has a large International field of staff. For example, the tennis team was made up of staff from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, The Netherlands, America and Ireland! So it’s safe to say that I had an amazing opportunity to work and develop my coaching with the help of everyone’s personal experiences from their cultures. Being able to work with these people who are now my friends is also a great networking opportunity! I am still in contact with a lot of the team and we are able to keep up with each other’s achievements throughout the year!

Manitou Roommates
Manitou Left Roommates


Participating on the Camp Exchange USA Program has given me so many opportunities that I am so grateful for. My time at Vega was only 59 days. 59 days, that’s all I got, in the most beautiful place in the world. But in those days I was swimming in Echo Lake, tanning on the tennis courts and stargazing under the most spectacular stars I have ever seen! All those memories wouldn’t be the same without the people I spent them with. I made friends this summer that I will keep forever. With these friends, the miles between us don’t matter, we have a special bond, a bond that can’t be broken. We were all opposites, our upbringings, beliefs and accents were different. Yet, one thing brought us together, Vega. We all spent every day together and on days off we went on new adventures, we were free! I will always be thankful for their friendship and I will hold it close to my heart forever.

Postcard memories
 “Postcard memories only picture of how you are in one place at a time” (Drew Holcomb)


I fell in love with America, the people, the way of life and the endless exposure to so many different cultures. Maine will forever be a haven for me, the crystal lakes, green pines and lobster roles, it was all part of my summer experience! Without the Camp Exchange USA program, my summer adventure just wouldn’t be possible! This program has allowed me to meet my friends from all over the world. Camps like Vega depend on staff from all over the world to make up their culturally diverse staff. Believe me, I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to work abroad, I have gained many work and life skills from my experience. But perhaps more importantly, I have had a more personal reflection. I am more confident that I can approach any new challenge knowing that a positive outcome is always possible and that meeting new people is a privilege and any opportunity to do so should be taken because each person can offer something unique that will most likely change you for the better. Without this program, I wouldn’t have been exposed to this “extraordinary world”. I hope that all the opportunities that this program can currently offer will continue because it’s changed my life for the better and it will continue to do so for thousands of people like me.

When I arrived back home, I contacted BUNAC to share my amazing summer with them! I was asked to attend a Camp Fair in Cardiff to share my summer experiences with potential Summer Camp USA applicants! I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to speak to people who were in my shoes this year, being able to share my summer experiences with them was an amazing opportunity. Being an applicant, you want to be told that taking that risk of travelling to a different place, new cultures, different languages and new people is the right decision for you. At the end of the day it’s up to you. It’s your decision, it’s your summer it’s your lifetime memories! Believe me, take that decision for yourself because it’ll be the best decision you ever make. The countdown is on to return and I cannot wait to carry more stories with me back home!

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“It’s goodnight and not goodbye”



Changing professional perspectives: Carolin's year as an intern

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

By Carolin Richly, CIEE Internship USA participant 2015-2016

Carolin 1
Hi there. My name is Carolin, and I would like to share with you what I’ve experienced during my internship in the U.S and how I came to be an intern at one of the global leaders in water microbiology.

First, I would like to introduce myself. I am originally from Germany and grew up in a small town in Bavaria, which is located in the southern part of Germany. I studied at Julius-Maximilians-University of Wuerzburg, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology/microbiology in August 2015.

From there, it didn’t take me long to come across IDEXX, my American host company. I first did an internship in a microbiology laboratory at a company in Munich called “Stadtwerke Munich”, which turned out to be a customer of IDEXX. It was through a series of connections, and collaborating with the study abroad and intercultural exchange organization, CIEE, that I found myself working at IDEXX’s headquarters. Due to my experience in the microbiology field and connections to the Water business, IDEXX offered me a temporary position in the Water R&D department for five months, starting in October 2015. This company mainly focuses on veterinary diagnostics for companion animals, livestock, poultry, dairy, and drinking water quality. Its headquarters are located in Maine, the most northeastern state of the US, with various locations spread all over the globe in nearly all parts of the world. Unlike many other interns at this company, I was the only one coming from abroad.

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What I accomplished as a result of the J-1 visa program

At IDEXX, I worked on projects that allowed me to be creative and to work independently. Mainly, I was tasked with the development of new and innovative IDEXX Water Testing Products by finding technical solutions, creating new experiments, analyzing scientific data, and using proper scientific documentation. Within this internship, I was able to apply and intensify my scientific knowledge and develop new technical skills. What I enjoyed most was experiencing how research works in a business environment. Unimaginably, this whole internship had already entirely grown on me after 3 months. I strangely felt like I belonged, and like I was home. Therefore, I decided to extend my internship from what was initially five months up to eleven months, since exchange students on a J1-visa like me may stay up to one entire year in the United States.

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Types of meaningful cultural experiences I had while working in the United States

All in all, it wasn’t just professional knowledge and practical laboratory experience I gained; my internship went much further. Staying over the summer in Maine allowed me to participate in many activities offered by my host company, like summer parties, lobster bakes, scavenger hunts and American sport games. Meeting and connecting with other interns and getting to know many of my fellow coworkers was such a valuable experience. I made lots of good friends, who even invited me to their family dinners, Thanksgiving, and Christmas celebrations.

Carolin Grand Canyon
While in the US, I did a lot of traveling. I explored many places along the East Coast, like Boston and New York City, and parts of the West Coast, too. If you ask me, there’s no place more beautiful in the U.S. than Maine. It’s not really about the place; it’s more about the people you spend your time with. I even bet that not many people are aware of Maine, a place I only got to know accidentally. What I like most about Maine is the fact that everyone I met was American, which usually happens rarely when going abroad. There’s no better place to get involved with the American culture than Maine.

Carolin and Rachel
During my stay in the US, I even got to participate in an Intern Leadership program funded mainly by CIEE and other sponsors like the U.S. Department of State. It was one of the most valuable experiences I have ever had. This workshop is called “ILEAD”, an “Intern Leadership and Development” program, in which fifty participants from more than twenty different countries were invited to the U.S. capital for five days. In this workshop, we were challenged to collaborate and brainstorm about diverse topics and problems. It is unbelievable how people coming from different backgrounds and cultures with diverse perspectives are able to work together in a team and create innovative concepts.

ILEAD Washington DC
Why I decided to come to the United States for an internship and how my experiences in the United States shaped and changed my opinion of America

To be honest, I didn’t really plan on doing an internship in the U.S.; it just happened. All I knew was that I wanted to take some time off from my studies. It could have been any country in the world, however, it happened to be the United States.

Retrospectively, staying in Maine was the best decision I could have made. People in Maine were friendly, open-minded, and welcoming. Although I cannot speak about Americans in general, since I have learned that every single state has its own cultures and traditions, based on my experiences, the U.S. truly is a great place to live. It is amazing how fast you can fall in love with a new place and call it your second home. My favorite part of the United States is the people and their mindset. I especially like their optimism and their generally positive attitude. Even though I came all the way over to the U.S. without knowing anyone, I haven’t felt lonely for one single moment. My working group and all the friends I made in Maine were a perfect temporary replacement for my family back in Germany. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy living in Germany and I would never leave my home country for good, but the U.S. is a lovely place to live, too.

Carolin 4
The impact my experience had on my life now that I’m back home

After my internship, I moved back to Germany to continue my studies. I am currently doing my Master’s in Biology and I just started another Master’s program in Management. This, I would have never thought of before coming to the U.S. My former American supervisor encouraged me to look into new domains and, especially, to think outside the box. The experiences I gained in the United States changed my professional perspectives quite a lot. Who can say that he/she spent almost one entire year living and working in a foreign country all by him-/herself?

Wrapping up

I will never forget the great time I had in the U.S. and the amazing people I met. It was an unforgettable year for me, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I am very grateful that I had such an outstanding opportunity. I know, some people might say you lose one year, but actually it is worth much more than anything else. It is an experience that shapes you and your future, personally and professionally.

Carolin 6

Alumni Update - March 2018



NEWS THIS MONTH

CIEE Launches New College Counseling Program

CIEE is excited to announce the launch of a new program, CIEE College Counseling, for students who want to attend university in the United States. This program helps students from around the globe build school lists, perfect their essays, and submit competitive applications. The best part? All students are eligible for a free one-hour session with CIEE’s dedicated college counselor! If you or someone you know is interested in attending university in the United States, click here to get started and get accepted.

Exciting New Job Opportunity at CIEE

CIEE is hiring a Sales Manager for the CIEE Entrepreneurship Lab (ELab) - a soon-to-be-launched innovation space for recent university graduates from around the world to gain hands-on experience as entrepreneurs. Go global and take your sales experience to the next level in this role managing international customer contacts and worldwide sales measures. This position may be located in: Berlin, Germany; London, England; Portland, Maine; or Boston, MA. Learn more and apply!

Relive Your Wildest Food Experience with These Witty Study Abroad Stories

A new issue of the online magazine "Common Ground," a student-led project at CIEE Khon Kaen, released in March. Students from CIEE Study Abroad programs in Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai, and Wollongong contributed content to make this issue particularly interesting. The multi-site collaboration encouraged students to experience their host cities in a new, immersive way, examining the common theme of food and culture in their respective study abroad locations. Read about eating insects, unicorn-colored desserts, the most addicting hot sauce in China, and more in "Common Ground" Issue No 3.

New Connections Made at First CIEE Alumni Event in Malaysia

CIEE Work & Travel USA alumni gathered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the first-ever CIEE Alumni event in the country. The event consisted of intercultural exercises and networking with CIEE staff, host employers, and other exchange alumni. Alumni reflected on their experiences in the United States, the independence and new skills they gained, and how their career paths were impacted by living and working in another country. It was an excellent event - we look forward to gathering CIEE alumni in even more locations!




UPCOMING EVENTS 

Stay up-to-date with alumni events by:


ALUM OF THE MONTH 

The Alumni of the Month for March are Vivian & Eli Masket - a mother and son CIEE Alumni duo! Vivian studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1992. The lasting memories and life-changing stories of her experience were then passed onto her son, Eli, inspiring his passion for language and culture. In 2017, Eli had his own international exchange experience on the CIEE Global Navigator High School Study Abroad program in Shanghai, China. The experiences of these two alumni represent the continued innovation and long-standing commitment to international exchange that CIEE has embodied for over 70 years. Read their story and learn more about how the stories of a study abroad experience can change the lives of those around you.


Do you have your own story to share? Email us: alumni@ciee.org


ALUMNI VOICES

Excerpts from recently published alumni stories:

"After taking part in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program, participating in the Civic Leadership Summit, having the privilege to meet 62 young leaders from all around the world, and getting to know the CIEE staff, I was inspired to launch an organization concerned with environmental and public health issues." -Alaa Mahmoud (CIEE Work & Travel USA, 2016)

"Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really amazing summers. However, nothing can top spending my summer in New York City, living with 30 exchange students from all over the world, travelling to more than 10 states in the U.S., and making so many of my dreams come true." -Irfan Tahir (CIEE Work & Travel USA, 2017)

"Getting out of my comfort zone, learning a lot of new things (especially when everything is in English), meeting a lot of great people, visiting so many beautiful places, living in the nature for almost two months and experiencing the American lifestyle was something unforgettable." -Modestas Ciparis (CIEE Camp Exchange USA, 2017)

"People in America like to express themselves directly and be friendly. That impressed me. I can know their true thoughts immediately with no need to guess how they feel. When they express love and appreciation, they like to hug or speak love out loud. It's very different from my country, China." -Peiyi Lin (CIEE Work & Travel USA, 2017)


@CIEEALUMNI 



From left: Motivated by the skills gained at the Civic Leadership Summit, CIEE Work & Travel USA alum creates ExEgypt, an initiative to turn youth into leaders; a snapshot of the amazing summer Peiyi had working in Death Valley National Park; CIEE Study Abroad alum Duncan returns to the CIEE Lisbon center to visit beloved staff from his semester abroad in 2015.

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Generations of Exchange: A Mother & Son Share Their CIEE Experiences

Viv_eli_collage_2We know that an international exchange experience can have a tremendous impact on a person’s life. We’ve seen alumni go on to have inspiring careers, create change in their communities, become advocates of exchange, and talk about their experiences for years. But did you know how much of an impact a CIEE experience could have on the people around you?

At the Masket household, study abroad is generational. Stories of Vivian’s cultural encounters in Russia were passed onto her son Eli, building the foundation for his life of wanderlust. Further inspired by a few international travels with the family, Eli took the first opportunity he could to have a study abroad experience like his mother. It was through the CIEE Global Navigator High School Study Abroad program that Eli had his own international experience to talk about for generations.

St Basil's Moscow

It started in 1992 when Vivian Masket studied abroad with CIEE in St. Petersburg, Russia. At that time, the country had just begun to open up after decades of communist rule. Her summer was an immersive experience that brought assumptions, biases, and misunderstandings to light to form true connections between Americans and Russians during a delicate time in history. And was, ultimately, a period of immeasurable personal development. She remarks, “I learned that I had to dive in and be vulnerable in order to figure things out, whether it was approaching a stranger and using my language skills to ask for help in planning a subway route or mustering up the courage to bargain with a street vendor to buy the perfect nesting doll set to bring home as a gift. I also learned that studying a country’s language, culture, and history is no match for the learning that comes from immersing yourself in that country, experiencing life there firsthand, and hearing the stories of those for whom that country is home.”

Vivian at Peterhof
Vivian at Peterhof Palace

Many memories were created in Russia – experiences with a lasting impact that turned into stories told for decades in the household. So much so that, even after 25 years, the memories of Vivian’s time abroad are strong. She recalls, “It was really a fascinating time to have been in Russia. We lived in dormitories with the other American students on the program, so had to seek out opportunities to interact with Russians in order to practice our speaking and listening skills outside of our classes and group excursions. […] One day, a friend and I were returning to the dorm from the nearby metro station and were stopped on the sidewalk by an elderly gentleman who spent well over half an hour sharing his experience as a ‘blockadnik,’ a resident of St. Petersburg who had survived the German blockade of the city during World War II.” It was through study abroad that Vivian recognized the value of travel and language-learning in developing a deeper understanding of the world – a sentiment she later shared with her son, Eli.

The household conversations of cultural understanding, language learning, and adventure inspired Eli to develop a passion for languages and cultures of the world – especially China. He chose to attend the Denver Center for International Studies so he could begin Chinese language studies in the sixth grade and, after a few trips with his family, was ready to go abroad on his own. Like Vivian, Eli wanted something more out of his international travels this time – an immersive experience that facilitated personal growth and strengthened language skills.

Vivian knew that for Eli, studying abroad was more of a “when” than an “if.” She wasn’t surprised when he approached her about the CIEE Global Navigator High School Study Abroad program in Shanghai. “I talked to my Chinese teacher about summer abroad programs, and she recommended CIEE to me. I went home to speak with my parents about this program, and my mother told me she had gone to Russia in college with CIEE,” he said. “I had been dreaming of studying abroad for many years, and I finally could!”

Vivian was excited for her son to have a study abroad experience himself, especially with the enhanced cultural immersion practices of CIEE’s programs today. “When we investigated the program, I was thrilled to learn that he would have an even richer experience than I did, given the homestay aspect of the program.”

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In the summer of 2017, the time finally came for Eli to have a study abroad experience of his own, and it was the kind of transformation he was hoping for. “Through my study abroad experience, my vocabulary improved, as well as my overall comfort level with the use of Mandarin. I also became a more outgoing person. At the beginning of my experience, I felt as if conversation with local residents was awkward and forced. However, I later learned that there was nothing to fear, and being outgoing can only benefit a situation. By becoming more outgoing, I grew as a person and became more independent.”

Vivian noticed this transformation in her son when he returned. She says, “Eli has always been very independent and studying abroad fed that side of him, providing him with the opportunity to be on his own and to navigate a new place geographically, linguistically, and culturally.” Like Vivian experienced in St. Petersburg, Eli’s time in Shanghai solidified for him the opportunities for growth and understanding that come from experiencing another culture and an unfamiliar – a now multigenerational understanding in the Masket household.

Needless to say, study abroad is already on Eli’s mind again. Although he is years away from college, Eli is eager to build upon his knowledge of international cultures and languages, specifically in China. In the future, he hopes to spend a semester abroad in China to experience the country and culture in greater depth. He’s also begun studying Spanish in hopes to experience studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country as well.

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For all our readers out there thinking about studying abroad in high school, Eli and Vivian have offered their advice from the perspective of a parent and a student.

Advice for Parents, From Vivian:

“While it can be scary to think about sending your child thousands of miles away, possibly to a place you’ve never been, the benefits of study abroad are worth overcoming that fear. Your child will not only acquire language skills, but will become more independent, and will gain a global perspective that is simply not possible to gain without the opportunity for extended living in another country.  Warning: you child might also come home with the ‘travel bug’ (a love for travelling) and ask you when they can go abroad next!”

Advice for Applicants, From Eli:

“To all students considering studying abroad, my advice is to simply do it. Many students have concerns and worries about studying abroad, but in the end, it is so worth it. Worried about cost? CIEE has various scholarships and fundraising isn’t as difficult as it seems. Scared of travelling far away from home? Soon enough, you’ll feel as if your home is abroad. Studying abroad is an unforgettable experience that I would recommend to all students.”

Learn more about how study abroad can impact you, your high school student, and generations of global citizens. Visit the CIEE Global Navigator High School Study Abroad website to get started.

ExEgypt: How one CIEE Alumnus is Making Change in his Community

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

By Alaa Mahmoud, 2016 CIEE Access Scholar, Civic Leadership Summit Fellow, and Work & Travel USA participant

Hello everyone! I’m Alaa Mahmoud from Egypt, a CIEE Work & Travel USA and Civic Leadership Summit 2016 (CLS16) alumnus. I’m currently enrolled as a fourth year medical student in Suez Canal University, Egypt.

ExEgypt Volunteers_Blog

Alaa (red shirt, center) with ExEgypt volunteers

 After taking part in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program, participating in CLS16, having the privilege to meet 62 young leaders from all around the world, and getting to know the CIEE staff, I was inspired to launch an organization concerned with environmental and public health issues. While attending the summit, I gained skills that gave me the motivation to create ExEgypt (Exchanging & Empowering Global Youth Potentials & Talents), an initiative involving young children to help create young leaders.

Alaa with ExEgypt Sign_blog

Alaa with the ExEgypt logo

 Since I came back to Egypt, I started thinking with three of my colleagues about how to build something that would have a good impact and make a difference—not only in our community, but all over the world. Therefore, we figured out that society means everything. It's why we started, how we achieve, and whom we'd like to affect. Our practices are directed toward every human being in the society, starting with children and ending with adults. We aim to increase green areas, raise awareness of pollution and public health, and bring to life the idea of recycling and emphasize its significance. We presented the idea to our university administrators and they completely supported us, made some suggestions, and gave us the motivation to start working on that project inside the university and in our city.

Prof. Aziza Omar  ExEgypt_Blog

Professor Aziza Omar, ExEgypt consultant and Vice Dean for Environmental Affairs and Community Service

 Thankfully, many professors offered to volunteer with us and to be supervisors of the project, to make sure it went as we planned. My friends and I were completely responsible for our first green children camp and we organized it using our own money, because we believed in every single step we took. After the great impact of the first camp, many people started asking about our program and how could they help us, either by donation or by volunteering themselves. One touching story is that we got a message from one of the parents thanking us for what we did with their children, and that they started becoming more independent and following a healthier lifestyle because of our camp.

ExEgypt Activity_Blog

ExEgypt campers enjoying an interactive activity

 ExEgypt activities include organizing educational camps for children to increase their knowledge of fundamental topics such as healthy lifestyle, first aid, and keeping the environment clean by planting and recycling. ExEgypt encourages college students to volunteer in community services, organize camps and events, and spread awareness on topics that have a global concern and must be given attention, such as gender equality and global warming. ExEgypt also focuses on conducting workshops by professional trainers on important skills—mainly leaderships skills and how to be change makers. We also organize seasonal schools in the winter and summer for international students, conducting a scientific medical program and a social program showing them around Egypt. We’ve created a Facebook event for our ExEgypt Annual Medical Summer School--maybe some of our international friends would like to participate?

Recycling _ Planting Sessions_Blog

Campers learning about recycling

You can find our Facebook page at this link, where you can have a deeper look at our activities:

You can also check out our video on our first Children Green Camp that we organized, which was free of charge.

2nd Children Green Camp_Blog
Campers and counselors at Green Camp

ExEgypt aims to be the most influential association concerned with environmental issues and public health. This can be measured by seeing our impact on the upcoming generations' behaviors. We also plan to leave a substantial fingerprint on the environment by restoring more green areas and living in a healthier environment.

I am very thankful for the magnificent chance I got from CIEE, which really influenced me as a person and made me a changemaker.  Thank You to all the CIEE Family! 

The Best Summer of My Life: Irfan's Story, part II

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

By Irfan Tahir, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017 Participant from Pakistan

Make sure to read Part I of Irfan's story here.

The summer of 2017 was a summer of intellectual stimulation.

In August, I got selected to participate in the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit to represent my country, Pakistan. The summit’s organizers selected some of the most talented change makers from 40 countries and gave us a chance to share our ideas together during a 3 days event at the American University in Washington D.C. Being a part of this event was one of most exciting yet daunting experiences of my life. Exciting because I was never in a room with so much diversity before in my life. Daunting because every single person was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Every student was full of ideas on how to make the world a better place. I could envision how these students will grow up to become future presidents, prime ministers and CEOs. My team came up with the idea of a start-up called “Lighthouse” which was a pre-college program for students to help them find their passion. Our team won in our group and then we got a chance to represent our group in the final round. This was a huge boost of confidence for me as we had to come up with the idea under limited time and at the same time make it creative. We also had to pitch our idea to random people on campus and ask them if they’d invest in our start up. That was again, a really interesting experience which made me realize that people will always listen if you have something worthwhile to say.

Irfan CLS 2017
Irfan with Civic Leadership Summit fellows and CIEE staff in Washington, D.C.

 

Irfan WH 2017
With CLS friends in front of the White House


 In addition to gaining inspiration from my fellow Work & Travel USA students, I had the fortunate opportunity to interact with a number of Fulbright scholars from Pakistan, who are studying at some of the most prestigious universities in U.S for their masters program on a full scholarship. As this was my last summer before graduation, talking to these scholars (who were friends of a friend) was decisive for me in a number of ways. They provided me with first-hand information about applying for masters programs in the U.S and a lot of valuable advice which is not available on traditional platforms. What added to my positive interaction with them was the fact that many of them had a similar background as me. For example, one of the scholars was conducting his research in biomedical engineering, the same subject I want to pursue my masters in. Or another scholar was from the same exact high school as mine, currently pursuing her masters at Columbia University. Before last summer, I was quite confused on what to do after graduation, but hearing the stories of these Fulbright scholars who have gone through the same road as me helped me a lot in deciding what direction to go in. I live in Turkey so I don’t think it would’ve been possible to meet them anywhere other than the U.S.

Irfan with Columbia Univ friend
Irfan and his friend from Columbia University at Times Square


The summer of 2017 was the best summer of my life.

An avid soccer (read: football) fan, it’s no surprise that I took the first opportunity I got of buying tickets for the International Champions Cup clash between Barcelona and Juventus at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The stadium has a capacity of 82,500 seats! All in all, it was an unimaginable atmosphere! To see soccer legends like Messi, Neymar and Buffon play live was absolutely unreal for someone who comes from Pakistan, where professional soccer is basically non-existent.

Irfan Barcelona Match
Taking it all in at the match


Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really amazing summers. However, nothing can top spending my summer in New York City, living with 30 exchange students from all over the world, travelling to more than 10 states in the U.S and making so many of my dreams come true. I will never forget the absolutely enthralling experiences I had. Now that I’m back home, I am profusely emitting positive vibes and I’m super excited to use what I learned during the summer into practice. The interactions I had this summer taught me that there are no limits. No mountain is too high to climb. No ocean too deep. Life, let’s see what you got. I’m ready!

Irfan Rocky
In Philadelphia living out my “Rocky Balboa” moment!



My Summer of Authentic Cultural Experiences: Irfan's Story, Part I

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

By Irfan Tahir, CIEE Work & Travel USA Participant from Pakistan

Check back on Thursday for Part II of Irfan's story.

Ever since I left the U.S. as a high school exchange student in 2010, I’ve been searching for an opportunity to return. For those of us who are part of the exchange universe, we understand how rewarding an exchange program can be when compared to being a tourist in a foreign country. The interactions and experiences you have as an exchange student are unparalleled to those of a tourist. This is the main reason why I opted to participate in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program for the summer of 2017. With my job placement at Hampton Jitney in New York, it’s fair to that the program exceeded expectations!

The summer of 2017 was a summer of authentic cultural experiences.

My daily job was that of a trip host person on a bus that ran from Long Island to Manhattan every day, quite similar to a flight attendant. This meant that almost every day I had the good fortune of meeting someone interesting. I met scientists working at leading universities like Harvard or MIT. I met artists, creators, Wall Street investment bankers, immigrants from different countries and a lot of wealthy people travelling daily on our luxury liners. I will forever cherish the conversations we had and the amount of cultural exchange that took place every day between the three-hour bus rides. It was very surprising to me how interested some of the passengers were in finding out more about me. Most of the customers on our first-class bus service were over fifty years old. This meant they brought with them a lifetime of experiences from which I could only benefit. I’d ask about their travels, their first job, their political views or a lot of time we’d end up chatting about music or movies.

Irfan Hampton Jitney
Irfan with Hampton Jitney co-workers

Because of the nature of the job, I was with a different bus driver every day who brought with themselves their own unique life story. I’d always remember one particular driver, Sean. After several trips together, we developed a strong friendship. And one night after finishing our work, he showed me all the places he grew up in New York City and those which meant the most to him. It was moments like these which I think are impossible to experience as a tourist. Living with two Romanian roommates and students from different countries at the same hotel was super fun. We’d organize shopping trips, beach parties, birthday celebrations and travel together on our off days. By the end of the summer, we were really like a family. The CIEE Work & Travel program gave me a chance to have the most authentic cultural experiences and learn more about the American people and those around the world; transparent of any political or religious bias.

Brooklyn Bridge
With friends on the Brooklyn Bridge
Irfan Central Park
Exploring Central Park

The summer of 2017 was a summer of concerts.

This summer, I got a chance to make many of my musical dreams come true. Starting from Pink Floyd and Coldplay to John Mayer and Eric Clapton. But there’s one concert which stood out from the rest…the Global Citizens Festival 2017. The festival’s website defines the event as “an action-rewarded, awareness driven free music festival where fans engage with causes in order to win tickets.” Basically, fans can earn tickets by completing specific community service tasks or attending various social events. The free tickets don’t have any sections reserved to them which is why my friends and I decided to purchase tickets online…I wanted a front row seat to live out my musical dream!

Irfan Global Citizens Festival 2
Irfan and friends at the Global Citizens Festival

One of my personal favorites, Alessia Cara, kicked off the festival with a peppy performance of her hit song ‘Stay’. Followed by The Lumineers, Big Sean, The Killers and Andra Day. Amidst all this greatness, there was one band that triumphed over all others : Green Day. It had been one of my biggest dreams to see them live since many years. Nothing screams nostalgia like Green Day. Their music defined my high school years.

The festival was hosted by a diverse set of celebrities and famous individuals and there were powerful messages of peace, equality and change embedded throughout the performances. Music has been a catalyst of change since many decades; music doesn’t see cast, color or nationality. It can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of where they come from or what their background is. To see this first hand in action was an overwhelming experience.

No Wi-Fi No Problem: Modestas' Summer at Camp

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

By Modestas Ciparis, CIEE Camp Exchange USA 2017 participant

The words – “What you think becomes your reality” fit perfectly for me. When I was a kid, I always dreamed to go to North America, so after I finished my studies, I decided to fulfil my dream and received a work permit for one year to work in Canada at the Olympic Park’s bobsleigh track. After living in Canada and traveling through the United States, I could not stop dreaming about coming back to that continent to experience more of the life overseas. After seeing CIEE’s advertisement on Facebook about working at summer camps in the USA, I thought I’ll give it a try! A couple of months later I was on my way to the beautiful state of Maine to work as a camp counselor at The Flying Moose Lodge in East Orland.

When I arrived, my first thought was – wow, such a wonderful place! The camp is located on the shore of the beautiful Craig Pond, surrounded by forests and far, far away from busy city life, marvelous! Although I liked the place, I felt a little bit anxious, that I would have to live without Wi-Fi, electricity, hot water (and other comforts like that) for the rest of my time there. But that turned out to be even better for me! I think I started to feel more peaceful and enjoy the present moment even more after I stopped checking Facebook every 20 minutes or reading some news website. I began to appreciate new things.

Base camp
The Flying Moose Lodge base camp

Flying Moose Lodge is a wilderness camp for boys that provides canoe/hiking trips and outdoor, conservation, and self-reliance skills. Every day was different! We would spend time at the base camp teaching kids camping, canoeing, and swimming skills. We’d have fun playing ping pong, tetherball, basketball or other sorts of games. In the evenings, we would gather by a campfire to sing traditional camp songs and listen to some interesting stories told by the Camp Director. One of my favorite memories was taking a morning dip in the Craig Pond! While at the base camp, the bell would ring and invite us to start our day that way. What an amazing ritual it was.

View of Craig pond from the camps shore
Craig Pond from the camp shore

Every Tuesday morning, a group of campers led by one to two counselors would pack their bags, load them to the vans with other necessary gear, and leave for an average four day trip to experience life in nature. Campers had a chance to test their paddling skills in the fast-flowing river or big lake by having a canoeing trip or test their endurance and patience in climbing mountains and walking on the rough trails by having a hiking trip. Every trip was different but they all had the same process: we were given maps, gear and food and were driven to the beginning point to start a trip. From that point, we were on our own. Every day we had to reach a different campsite, prepare meals for breakfast, dinner and make sure that kids are safe and having a great time. Every trip had its final destination, which we had reach on time. The trips I’ve been on were challenging but at the same time really amazing. Not only did I see so many beautiful places, learned a lot of new things and had loads of fun, but also had to deal with such things as cheering up homesick kids or losing a canoe after flipping it on the rapids. It was an invaluable experience!

Camping on the Shore
Camping trip on the shoreline
Paddling during the Moose river trip 1
Camper paddling on the Moose River trip
Me on the top of Kadahdin
Modestas on Mount Katahdin
Appalachian Trail hike 2
Appalachian Trail hike with campers

On our last day of camp, we had an awesome counselor party. I was happy and sad at the same time. I worked with and spent time with these amazing people all summer and I knew I was really going to miss them. I guess it would be right to say that this summer’s trip to the United States and working at The Flying Moose Lodge camp really contributed to my current happy state, because it helped me to feel the joy of life again. Getting out of my comfort zone, learning a lot of new things (especially when everything is in English), meeting a lot of great people, visiting so many beautiful places, living in the nature for almost two months and experiencing American lifestyle was something unforgettable. Now that I’m back home, I find that it’s easier for me to get out of my comfort zone, I enjoy nature more and have really improved my English. I'm really happy to say that I'm glad that I saw that CIEE Facebook ad and had an opportunity to participate in the Camp Exchange USA program!

Modestas
Modestas at camp!