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Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Irfan Tahir

Interview with Irfan Tahir from Pakistan (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)

Barcelona Match

What made you interested in doing an exchange experience in the United States?

When I was 15, I was fortunate enough to be selected for a one-year high school exchange program to the U.S. Since completing that program in 2017, I’ve been on a lookout for a program exactly like CIEE Work & Travel – something that will allow me to visit the beautiful country I adore, give me a chance to make new friends from around the world, and give me a taste of a real job. It’s fair to say that the Work & Travel USA program exceeded expectations! I didn’t know every single day in my host state of New York would be so eventful and exciting. Without a doubt, it was one of my best decisions to date. 

What is the most important thing you learned at the Civic Leadership Summit?

The most important thing that I learned at the Summit was something that I have always been aware of, but it was the first time I saw it in action in such a close proximity – that we are all the same regardless of our differences! At the Summit, I saw an Armenian girl conversing with a Turkish man, and I saw my Serbian friends mingling with my Kosovan friend while we explored D.C. together. It was beautiful to experience such a profound acceptance of each other despite our ideological, political, and social differences.

CLS 2017

How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

I was deeply motivated by the passion of my fellow participants of the Summit. Just by hearing the fellows’ stories and their ideas on how to change their communities, I realized that they were the people who will one day become politicians, leaders and changemakers in their communities. They gave me hope and motivation to create a lasting impact in my community.

Where are you now? What are you doing now?

Currently, I am in my last year of university studying mechanical engineering in Ankara, Turkey. Thanks to my summer exchange in the U.S., I can’t stop dreaming about doing my graduate studies in the U.S. Hence, it’s busy season here applying for universities and sitting for an endless string of exams.

What makes you a changemaker?

I have been working with a Connecticut-based organization called Level Up Village since the past year as a graphic designer and social media manager. Level Up Village delivers STEM-based courses to students in the U.S. and around the world with a global aspect. So essentially, students in grades 3-6 learn new and exciting things about science and build projects with their global partners in another country. I want to find a way to bring this or a similar program to schools in Ankara. I believe this is one of the best ways we can initiate change in the community – by instilling a sense of global citizenship in the students at an early age. 

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Javed Shadan

Interview with Javed Shadan from Afghanistan (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2015)

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My name is Javed Shadan. I was born in Afghanistan but spent most of my adult life in Turkey. I graduated from Karadeniz Technical University of Turkey with a degree in Civil Engineering. I am currently in Toronto, Canada and a step closer to starting my master’s degree. I am also a member of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute in California.

What made you interested in doing an exchange experience in United States?

I grew up in Afghanistan, a country where multi-ethnic cultural differences are a big tension. It was always a big question for me, why diversity can be the power of most countries but not in Afghanistan. The curiosity and wish of having a diverse-united country motivated me to go and find an answer for my question by visiting a multi-cultural country like the United States. Besides, I believed that when I experience a different culture through educational and cultural exchange, I would gain a deeper understanding of myself and those around me – deepening my knowledge of foreign cultures, strengthening international relations, and, the most important of all, making a personal development. I then made my way to the United States in 2015 to participate in the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

What is the most important thing you learned at the Civic Leadership Summit?

I heard the ideas and thoughts from leading experts in the summit that increased my leadership abilities. It allowed me to sharpen and gain new skills. Later, when I was back at school in Turkey, I found my skills much useful for my activities in university. In 2016 and 2017, I was chosen as the team captain for Karadeniz Technical University at the Seismic Design Competition that was held in San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, respectively. The leadership skills I learnt at the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit helped me gain a great achievement for my university at the competitions.

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How has the civic leadership summit impacted your life?

When I compare my present time to the years before my participation to Civic Leadership Summit, I feel a huge positive change in myself. I feel like I don’t just belong to the country I was born, I am now a citizen of the world. I am now working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make a difference and be a changemaker in the world.

What makes you a changemaker?

Afghanistan’s turbulent modern history has been shaped by decades of internal conflicts and extreme natural disasters. These years of war and severe poverty, combined with poor security, have left a huge knowledge gap for the children and youth in Afghanistan. Children in rural areas have been kept far from schools due to the lack of educational facilities. They study in open-air classes with no access to libraries. It is a matter of grave concern that Afghanistan is lagging behind in the education sector and exposes many children to various forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse. Saving the children in Afghanistan by making schools, libraries, and re-opening schools in rural areas with campaigning across the country is one of my most important plans that I want to pursue by starting a volunteer organization after I complete my graduate school.

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Valmira Xharavina

Interview with Valmira Xharavina from Kosovo (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)

Valmira2

What made you interested in doing an exchange experience in the United States?

It is obvious that being a student nowadays is not easy. We constantly deal with ideas that our life is a mess and we’re always thinking of what we should do to refine it. This kind of feeling always follows us and there will come a time when you will need to change it. The perfect solution to this would be an exchange experience. Why? Because it will definitely be the best experience of your life. You will be independent. You will have the chance to explore a country and its culture that is completely different from your own. Most importantly, you will make the most amazing friends who will make you feel like home. However, the real question is, “why should you do an exchange experience?”

In 2017, it was my first time that I took an exchange experience, and in the beginning, I have to admit it wasn’t easy. You will get in a lot of arguments with yourself. I constantly had thoughts such as “You’re too young, you don’t fit in here, you will be lost of time…” going on in my mind. When I look back at it, I see that it was the greatest decision I could have ever taken and here are some of the reasons why:

  1. It’s an amazing way to learn and improve the English language. When I was in the U.S., I used to live in a dorm and it was the perfect place to advance the language. Talking over and over not just advances the language, but enhances your communication skills as well.
  2. You are young. As we know, the younger you are, the easier it is to learn new things. Things like going alone in the other countries needs more attention. Booking, searching, and exploring will help you to invest in yourself more than you think. I realized that I was being more independent and I did not need anyone else to help me. In other words, you will open a new road to your own life.
  3. You get to know yourself on a level you could not possibly have imagined before. Staying in the U.S. for 4 months made me appreciate everything from my family to the way things are organized in real life. I made friends for life and, from now on, I have the door open almost everywhere. The most interesting things that come from doing an exchange experience in the U.S. is that you will learn the most random, little things that yet in some moments of your life you will use it again and you realize that it somehow all had a purpose.

What is the most important thing you learned at the Civic Leadership Summit?

EMPATHY. While I was in Washington D.C. during the Civic Leadership Summit, we learned how we can be a changemaker. The term changemaker is simple to understand, just from the words it's made from. But how can you be a changemaker? This is the most sensitive part which we learned and we were taught how to share it. If you want to change the world, you can do it by gathering knowledge and resources and having the motivation to keep going. But, why do we need empathy? As we know, empathy is important because it helps us understand how others are feeling so we can respond appropriately to the situation. Empathy will make a huge difference in the world. So, if you want this to happen, start from your own self.

Valmira1

How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

It changed the way I see things. Surrounded by brighter minds makes you feel motivated and confident. Discussion and sharing ideas made me clarify the way I see things and how they really are. This summit made me motivated and taught me that one person can make a difference if we just go for it. Therefore, we will always be the solution to every problem.

Where are you now? What are you doing now?

The knowledge that I gained from my personal experience in the United States, especially at the Civic Leadership Summit, will definitely be useful for my upcoming opportunities, as well as academic and professional career. Returning to Kosovo, I noticed that there are just so many things that I can do using the ideas and conceptions I have attained and I feel utterly motivated to begin a new journey here. I am currently trying to organize my plans and see where they fit the most. Moreover, I am now in the third year of my studies for speech pathology and therapy and I am trying to give my best to be a great doctor as our community needs. Additionally, I am continuing to be a volunteer at Down Syndrome Kosovo to help people with Down syndrome to have a better life. Ultimately, I am also continuing my recent research on adolescent knowledge about emotions.

What makes you a changemaker?

Being an active member of the community will give you tremendous psychological benefits. Involvement will help you feel a part of something bigger and helping to construct a better world makes you feel like a superhero. We are social beings and all we want is to be happy, so getting involved is a great first step. If you want to change something, you can start from simple things that can make huge differences. The change for my community will start in simple ways: looking at what is a primary need for my community, I will take the initiative to build a city cleaning project. But how? As mentioned before, I will start to clean up in front of my home and share the information to everyone who wants to be part of this project. Otherwise, as a student of speech pathology, I know that we don’t have enough resources that we can rely on. While I was in America, I got the chance to buy great books that every student needs. As an active member of the community, my next project is to translate books for students and for parents as well, so they can have something to support and invest in their children’s knowledge. Above all, I strongly believe that changing the world starts with understanding and appreciating others.

Alumni Update - April 2018




NEWS THIS MONTH

CIEE Staff Reflect on their Experience Volunteering in Puerto Rico

CIEE brings people from across the world together in shared experiences that build bridges between individuals and communities. In this spirit, CIEE sent 10 staff members to Puerto Rico in February 2018 to volunteer with local service organizations helping communities devastated by Hurricane Maria. The volunteers packaged food for distribution with Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico, painted a community facility with Asociación Pro Juventud Y Comunidad de Barrio Palmas, and prepped meals with World Central Kitchen. Click the image below for a video of staff reflecting on their experiences:

 

Thank you to our employees from across the globe who represented CIEE in Puerto Rico! In CIEE shirts in the image above, from left to right: Alan McLellan – Portland, Maine, USA; Julie Terzian – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Stacy Sullivan – Portland, Maine, USA; Tian Song – Santiago, Dominican Republic; Alicia Ludidi – Cape Town, South Africa; Tina Lee – Seoul, South Korea; Francisco “Paco” Diez – Alicante, Spain; Oumaima Farik – Rabat, Morocco; Julia Pons – Portland, Maine, USA; Joanna Blanck –  Portland, Maine, USA.

CIEE Hosts Justice for Women Lecture Series Event

On March 29, CIEE hosted a powerful presentation by peace activist Marian Jalabi at our global headquarters in Portland, Maine as part of the Justice for Women Lecture Series – an effort that brings distinguished speakers to Maine from around the world to promote a global conversation about justice for women and girls in both Maine and the developing world. Ms. Jalabi presented the audience with a unique perspective on the crisis in Syria by sharing stories and photos of Syrian women of the revolution. It was an informative event that represents our shared values of bringing the world together. View the recording here.

Leverage Your Knowledge of China into a Career

Do you study abroad in China or study Chinese language? Attend the US-China Strong Foundation's China Careers Summit in Washington, D.C. to learn how you can utilize your knowledge about China for a career. Experts and employers across a variety of sectors are offering talks, panels, and site visits to give American college juniors, seniors, and graduate students practical guidance on the wealth of job opportunities available to those with China expertise. Learn more.

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! See photos from the event.


UPCOMING EVENTS 

Stay up-to-date with alumni events by:


ALUM OF THE MONTH 

The Alum of the Month for April is Peter Sima, who participated in the CIEE Internship USA program in 2014. Peter traveled from his home country of Slovakia to sunny San Diego, California for a year-long internship in the online marketing department at ESET - one of the world's leading antivirus companies. The experience inspired him to start his own consulting business helping nonprofits expand their digital presence. Learn more about Peter's amazing work!



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


ALUMNI VOICES

Excerpts from recently published alumni stories:

"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 and more of the person I wanted to be." -Conor O'Rourke (CIEE Camp Exchange USA, 2017)

"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." -Carolin Richly (CIEE Internship USA, 2015-2016)


@CIEEALUMNI 




From left: CIEE Camp Exchange USA Alum Conor reminisces about the summer of friendship he had in the U.S.; throwback to the first Civic Leadership Summit in 2013 to kickoff application season for this year's event; Announcing the CIEE Teach in Spain Great Grant Giveaway, where two lucky winners will get $250 off a CIEE Fall 2018 Teach in Spain program!

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

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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

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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.

Carolin 2
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.”

China1

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.

China_0177

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.