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CIEE Teach Abroad Alum Leads Girls' Health Project in Kenya

The Alum of the Month for October is CIEE Teach Abroad alumna Alyssa O’Connor. After graduating from Cornell University, Alyssa taught English in Thailand in 2013 to first, second, and third grade children in Chanthaburi. She now looks back on her experience as a time of growth and cultural immersion as she is about to embark on her next adventure abroad.

Alyssa with students in Thailand
Alyssa with students in Thailand

“Looking back, teaching English was the best decision I could have made for myself and I am so grateful for this organization. I enjoyed the chance to live and work abroad, immersing myself in another culture versus just traveling through it. At the end of my program, I found myself asking, 'Did I come to teach? Or did I come to be taught?' I learned so much from my kids, as well as my fellow Thai teachers, that I knew working internationally was the direction in life I wished to proceed. Taking the confidence and skills I gained from CIEE, I started working on my next opportunity to go abroad and am so happy to share this project with you.

"In January, I will be going to Kenya for three months as a menstrual health management project leader with Cross World Africa, a non-profit dedicated to ending inequality in East Africa. All over the world, menstruation persists as a taboo subject that is not discussed within the home and is largely skipped over in school. When girls reach puberty, many are left confused and scared about what is happening in their body. To make matters worse, many girls can't afford sanitary products and resort to using improper materials, like mattress stuffing and old newspapers, which leads to infections and missed school. Lack of education on menstrual hygiene management, as well as lack of access to sanitary products, are just two parts of a vicious cycle that negatively affect girls who already face enough barriers to their education and empowerment. This summer, Cross World Africa secured a partnership with Ruby Life Ltd., a socially-minded, menstrual health company that makes a product called Ruby Cup. Working together, the goal of this project is provide educational workshops and a menstrual cup to empower girls to make healthy decisions for their bodies.”

In just a few short months, Alyssa will be traveling to Kenya to lead the three-month-long project - Ruby in the Rift - in the Rift Valley. Though it will be a challenging time for Alyssa with new language barriers and cultural barriers to overcome, she has already developed the skills to adjust through her CIEE Teach Abroad experience in Thailand. Alyssa is ready for her next teaching experience abroad on a new continent - a great new adventure. Learn more about the project and read the CIEE shout-out on her project leader page!

Three CIEE Study Abroad Alumni to Participate in IIE Summit as Generation Study Abroad Voices

This year, three CIEE Study Abroad alumni were invited to participate as Alumni Voices in the 2017 IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad in Washington, D.C. from October 1-3. The Summit is part of the Institute of International Education (IIE)'s Generation Study Abroad initiative, of which CIEE is a partner, that aims to double the number of U.S. students studying abroad by 2020. The theme for this year's Summit is "Navigating a Changing World: Building Talent with Global Experience." Studies show that graduates with an international experience find employment faster and are more prepared than those without it, yet less than 10% of U.S. college students graduate with global experience. The Summit will bring together leaders and practitioners from education, business, and government for discussion on global workforce readiness to spark new ideas and creative collaboration to work towards expanding study abroad participation.

As a Generation Study Abroad Alumni Voice, these three CIEE Study Abroad alumni will be contributing their experiences, thoughts, and ideas as individuals who have gone from a study abroad student to a member of a global workforce. Combined, they present skills in photography, advocacy, business, marketing, writing, editing, and more. Click on their bios below to learn more about them, what they plan on contributing to the Summit, and what access to study abroad means to them:

RACHEL MALONE

Rachel

STUDIED IN:
Dublin, Ireland

EDUCATION:
B.A. in Travel and Hospitality, Minneapolis Business College

CURRENT POSITION:
Brand Ambassador, Sand Cloud

BREANNA MOORE

Breanna

STUDIED IN:
Legon, Ghana

EDUCATION:
B.A. in International Relations and African Studies, University of Pennsylvania

CURRENT POSITION:
Founder and CEO, LaBré

THOMAS ROSE

Tom

STUDIED IN:
Lisbon, Portugal

EDUCATION:
B.S. in Professional Writing, Champlain College

CURRENT POSITION:
Freelance Writer & Editor

 

 

 

IIE Summit Participant: Rachel Malone

Rachel Malone

CIEE Study Abroad in Dublin, Ireland, Summer 2016. CIEE/MIUSA Access to the World Scholarship. Minneapolis Business College graduate.

Rachel is a strong advocate for disability rights with insatiable wanderlust and goals to compete in the Paralympics someday. She has put her degree in travel and hospitality to good use by travelling to more than thirteen countries using a wheelchair. She also studied American Sign Language and is an award-winning, exhibited, and published photographer. Rachel is an advocate for disability civil rights and works closely with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related programs in her hometown community in Minnesota. Her experience travelling abroad has offered a unique opportunity to compare and contrast accessibility in other countries. A true global citizen, Rachel has a strong sense of wanderlust and adventure that is sure to take her on many more travels to come. Her globetrotting experience offers great knowledge for the international education community in learning about accessibility differences worldwide. Learn more about Rachel:

IMG_0180
"Myself and paralympic wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden in front of her image on the stairs of the National Portrait Gallery, during ADA 25/40 celebrations.Washington, D.C."

What made you interested in studying in Ireland with CIEE?

I attended the ADA 25th Anniversary celebrations in D.C., and when I returned home I saw that there was a scholarship being offered to 25 students with disabilities from MIUSA and CIEE called "Access to the World," so I applied and received it. I was asked where I'd want to go and why, and I said Ireland because I have part Irish heritage and my disability is most prevalent in Ireland. So, I wanted to see what life would have been like if I had been born with my disability in Ireland had my family not created the Irish colony where I am from in Minnesota.

Where else in the world have you traveled?

I've mostly gone on cruises, but in total I have been to 13 countries and 32 states – Jamaica, Haiti, England, France, Denmark, Iceland, Mexico, Italy – to name a few.

What does being a global citizen mean to you?

Learning about others’ beliefs and customs and respecting our differences. Contributing when you feel you are able to offer something of value, and being open to trying different things.

The Summit revolves largely around making study abroad accessible to everyone. What are your thoughts on this?

As a person with a disability who has an educational background in travel and hospitality, I took the difficulties I faced in my study abroad in Ireland and our Intercultural Comparative Experience (“ICE”) weekends in Spain and Germany, and it made me want to look for ways I can contribute to making the lives of Europeans with disabilities, and lives of others like families and caregivers, easier where I see significant flaws. The trips made me want to find ways to make their lives better, which would in turn make the lives of everyone with a disability better. Seeing the difficulties that they face and that I don't deal with in the U.S. made me want to meet more of them, to look for a possible committee on accessibility, understand if they see a change being needed, and to offer them ideas or advice which I think may help.

Jux1
"A photo of the ADA Legacy Tour Bus, during ADA 25/40 celebrations, as many of us with disabilities marched with NCIL, from the Grand Hyatt a rally at the U.S. capitol. Washington, D.C."

What thoughts are you excited to contribute to the IIE Summit?

How better accessibility and removing barriers would greatly improve the quality of life for their citizens with disabilities in Ireland, and give those citizens more opportunities to shine. Better access for the country would mean a greater tourism boost and a better economy. Disabled visitors to the country would be able to get a better understanding of the Irish, their history, and the country itself. If accessibility needs are understood and barriers are removed, everyone would benefit; more people with disabilities would be able to travel independently in the country, and more citizens of the country would become self-reliant rather than potentially feeling like a burden or charity to caregivers. Quality of life for not only the disabled but those around them would be greatly improved with access. Europe has great adaptive equipment inventions, and if I were to run a country with that distinction, I would want to have people with disabilities front and center showing off our achievements.

IIE Summit Participant: Breanna Moore

Breanna Moore

CIEE Study Abroad in Legon, Ghana, Spring 2014. Michael Stohl Research Scholarship. University of Pennsylvania graduate.

The immersive experience of living and studying in Ghana exposed Breanna to the vibrant artisan communities, stunning Ankara fabrics, and traditional Kente cloth that inspired her to create her own clothing line – LaBré. LaBré is a fashion-forward West African-inspired clothing company that employs Ghanaian designers, seamstresses, and tailors, who are primarily women, to create African-inspired, modern products for exposure to the international market. Her entrepreneurial pursuits aim to increase economic growth in the country through job creation – supporting those who are often disenfranchised. Based in Philadelphia, Breanna continues to grow the fashion line and build on the large, preexisting network of African-focused organizations in the city. Breanna’s semester in Ghana represents the powerful intercultural connections and economic development opportunities that are found through exchanging our world. Learn more about Breanna:

FullSizeRender

What made you interested in studying in Ghana with CIEE?

The summer prior to studying abroad in Ghana with CIEE, I studied abroad for one month at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology through the International Development Summer Institute where I taught mathematics to elementary and middle school students in Adanwomase, Ghana. That experience motivated me to come back to Ghana and explore the country through a semester-long program with CIEE.

Where else in the world have you traveled?

I have traveled to South Africa, Togo, Barbados, and Grand Cayman Island.

What does being a global citizen mean to you?

Being a global citizen means not being confined by political, man-made borders. It means accepting people from other cultures as your human family, knowing that "foreign" is only one translation away from realizing we all share a common experience, culture, and bond.

The Summit revolves largely around making study abroad accessible to everyone. What are your thoughts on this?

I agree wholeheartedly that it's vital for youth to have the opportunity to travel, learn, and expand their mind. Traveling teaches you not only about other people and their cultures but also about yourself. It's necessary that steps are made to prohibit financial or other disadvantages from hindering youth from getting the life-changing experience of global citizenry through travel.

How do you think study abroad prepares young people to become global leaders?

Once you realize, through travel, that the world is bigger than your street, your neighborhood, your city, your state, your country, you'll able to care more about how global systems affect people everywhere. You will be able to lead being driven by the motivation to have a positive impact on all communities and not only try to find solutions to issues that affect you and your community directly because you'll realize that we are all connected and until everyone in the world is from free oppression then there is no progress.

Gh

How has your study abroad experience shaped who you are as a person and leader?

Studying abroad in Ghana caused me to pick up better values and treat people better. I loved certain parts of the culture and adopted it into my own. I began to share more with people. I asked people how they were and how their family were with genuine care. I talked to people more directly. I became more relaxed, appreciative, and less stressed. I listened more and grew from being in and observing the culture.

How did study abroad equip you to be a part of the global workforce?

Studying abroad allowed me to make connections with people who I desired to do business with. I learned more about the market and fashion industry that I now participate in. I learned the importance of international travel and international business. Studying abroad equipped me to become an entrepreneur.

What thoughts are you excited to contribute to the IIE Summit?

I'm excited to contribute to the IIE Summit how studying abroad can, and will, impact you past the tone experience – how you can take what you learn and use it to propel you towards your interests and passions.

IIE Summit Participant: Thomas Rose

Thomas Rose

CIEE Study Abroad in Lisbon, Portugal, Spring 2016. Champlain College graduate.

Thomas Rose spent spring of 2016 exploring the culture of Lisbon, Portugal – analog camera in hand. During an art history class, he befriended an Austrian creative with a bold idea to document the culinary wonders of their host city. The result? “Salt & Wonder” – a passionate print magazine exploring the culinary startup culture of Lisbon. They have proudly released their first issue and Thomas returned to his study abroad team in Portugal to share in celebration. He continues to serve as the editorial voice for the magazine while back in the United States. Thomas’ study abroad experience is an example of the unique, life-changing opportunities that studying abroad offers to intimately discover a new city, country, and culture. Learn more about Thomas:

Photo credit: Tim Waltman
Photo credit: Tim Waltman. "Tim's photo was taken during my return to Lisbon a year later for the Salt & Wonder Release party. Here, facing Lisbon and the Ponte 25 de Abril from across the mighty Tejo River, (from left to Right) Me, Chris, and Anna review one of Chris's photos while Luca takes another photo. Traveling with four photographers is quite meta, as exemplified by this photo of someone taking a photo of three people reviewing a photo just taken."

What made you interested in studying in Portugal with CIEE?

My father's side of my family came off the boat from Portugal a couple generations back. I wanted to explore that heritage, and I also wanted to choose a less traveled study abroad destination. Dublin, Rome, Montreal, Barcelona, and London all seemed very popular for study abroad at the time, and I like to be different, so Portugal was perfect.

Where else in the world have you traveled?

In high school I did a week-long exchange program in the Italian alps, based out of a city called Cles, but I stayed in a small mountain village called Rumo. That was my introduction to travel. In high school, I played drums for a band that saw some underground success. Through that I was able to tour with the band down the East Coast twice, as well as around the entire United States during the summer after my freshman year of college. Finally, during my semester in Portugal I took three trips: an Easter break backpacking adventure through Amsterdam, Bremen, Hamburg, Prague, Auschwitz, Krakow, and Paris; a weekend trip to Dublin; and another weekend trip to the Azores, specifically the island of Pico, where some of my great-great-grandparents came from.

Photo credit: Thomas Rose
"This photo is taken during my weekend trip to the island of Pico in the Azores. My friend Avi and I had just hiked down from Pico Mountain after being turned away from the summit, which was too dangerous to climb that day. Here, A woman walking her dogs stopped to let them play in a tide pool. In the background you can see Faial, another of the Azores Islands."

What does being a global citizen mean to you?

Being a global citizen means I can go anywhere in the world and not just survive, but learn, appreciate, and enjoy the setting and the people who call it home.

The Summit revolves largely around making study abroad accessible to everyone. What are your thoughts on this?

The more people who are able to travel, the better. One of the biggest downsides of attending any multiple-year program at any school is that you have to stay there, and usually at a time in a young person's life when they should instead be seeing and experiencing as many things different and new as possible. Study abroad is one remedy to that. Uprooting from home and discovering a new place and its people grants perspective, from which derives understanding. In order to be a leader, especially on a global scale, you need to not only understand your own people, but all people. The wild thing about going to another place and experiencing its culture is certainly the differences, but it's also the similarities. People are people wherever you go. Everywhere people dance. Everywhere people sing. Everywhere people work, and everywhere people struggle. To travel and share these experiences is how we can learn as a globe. I believe that's what they call cultural exchange, and that's why study abroad should be accessible to everyone. Personally, study abroad allowed me to test myself – to learn how to interact in a place where I was fresh, knew no one, and couldn't speak the language. Consequently, I was able to meet some fantastic people, have some incredible experiences in far-off places, and make connections between places that are still granting me opportunity to this day.

What thoughts are you excited to contribute to the IIE Summit?

I'm excited to offer my voice as one who was bettered immensely by my time abroad and explore how it's possible to give more people that opportunity.

Photo credit: Thomas Rose
"This photo was taken in a small bar in the Barrio Alto district of Lisbon. The bar is called Vou de Camões, after the famous Portuguese poet. I stopped in for a drink after riding into the city and was lucky enough to get this shot. Lisbon is a very romantic city, this shot captures that."

Stories from St. Petersburg: Celebrating 50 Years

23230_Study Abroad_St Petersburg_St. Petersburg_RLP_RASP_Catherine_s Palace _Fall 2006_

This year marks 50 years of international exchange in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1967, CIEE contracted Soviet Union representatives and negotiated the first educational exchange that ever took place between the two nations. Since then, thousands of American students have participated in eye-opening exchanges in St. Petersburg to practice Russian language, learn about Russian history, and foster mutual cultural understanding.

To celebrate 50 years of exchanges, the CIEE Study Center in St. Petersburg is hosting an anniversary program from September 21 to September 24. CIEE Study Abroad students, alumni, staff, partners, and friends will enjoy a long weekend of Russian cultural events including trips to the State Hermitage Museum, a 'Swan Lake' ballet at Mikhailovsky Theatre, a Russian-themed costume ball, and an excursion to Peterhof. A number of distinguished alumni will speak at the event including a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, a former CNN correspondent, and a columnist from "The Moscow Times."

Throughout history, CIEE has adapted to change, in this region and beyond, to remain true to their founding mission while embracing new challenges in international education. CIEE is dedicated to providing the highest level of academic and intercultural programs for students from the U.S., and around the world, for generations to come. This anniversary represents 50 years of providing opportunities for Americans and Russians to learn together, exchange ideas, and study language to better communicate across cultures. The experiences of generations of study abroad students in Russia illustrate the impact that these exchanges have had on cultural understanding and the beauty of finding a second home in a world that was once inaccessible for American students. Read these thoughts and memories from alumni to get a glimpse of what exchange in St. Petersburg, Russia has looked like over time:

1967

Exchange programs between the United States and Leningrad, Russia begin.

1969

“[…] Being in Leningrad University, so old, so famous, so prestigious, was thrilling. And then, when we started attending classes, we had two teachers, whose names I still remember, though incompletely. They were Robert Eduardovich Nazarian and Inna Sergeevna, whose surname I unfortunately cannot recall.. [...] And they were the best teachers. They were incredible. They were so dedicated and so effective; they were so technically good at teaching us Russian. And it was so interesting. I remember that Robert Nazarian assigned us a paper about art—specifically about modern art, which is kind of interesting, in the Soviet Union. I wrote my paper about Picasso. […] We had such wonderful conversations with our teachers about really interesting things. And then, privately, we’d go and listen to music with our friends, and talk about life. It was a really fabulous experience.”

-Jill Dougherty (’69, ’71)

  1970

“Having grown up in rural America, I arrived in Leningrad with little exposure to high art and culture. I drank it in. Whether it was watching Mikhail Baryshnikov perform as a rising ballet star, or visiting a different room of the Hermitage each day to do homework, art became a passion. To this day, I am an avid balletomane and always go through the Hermitage when in St. Petersburg to say hello to my favorite paintings. They are like old friends.” 

-Mary Kruger (’69, ’70)

1971

“Because the standard of living was so much lower in Russia than it was back in our home, I learned to get along with very little. I also learned to appreciate what we had. I believe that we all learned to be flexible and to realize that each person has his own set of beliefs. Also, one quickly realizes that when speaking to a person from another cultural and linguistic background, one has to anticipate what that person is really trying to express, in other words, not to take each word in one’s own language at face value, but to try to grasp what the person is actually trying to say. So tolerance would be another skill which one acquires when living and studying abroad. Also one realizes that if things are done differently, then perhaps that particular approach has established itself in response to a different environment. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” 

-Pamela Dougherty (’69, ’71)

1975

“We were grouped into five levels of Russian-language ability based on a detailed written and oral test given at the university. All courses were in Russian and revolved around language, grammar, phonetics and literature. It was serious, intensive language study for hours each day [...]. Classes were long and expert, teachers excellent and disciplined, and we all learned a lot.”   

-Larry Sherwin (’75)

1976

“Leningrad was the first Soviet city I ever saw and the first big city after Washington DC and New York that I knew and ever lived in. It was simultaneously very similar to and very different from Washington, both post-imperial capitals, both military capitals with a lot of military objects and statues of war heroes and a lot of people in uniform. The city was a город-музей, with the 18th-19th century architecture—and was run-down like museum. I have visited Vienna, Paris, and other imperial capitals and I think Saint Petersburg is still my favorite imperial capital. Theaters and museums made me a much more cultured person. The change of season from winter to spring was dramatic. Even now, I often compare cities that I visit with Saint Petersburg.” 

-Mark von Hagen (’76, ’80)

1979

“We had classes in the morning, but after that we spent practically every waking moment with Vasya, Irina, and their circle. Our activities included: throwing a frisbee, hanging out at their tiny communal apartment, cooking and eating, exploring what seemed like every single corner of the city, riding the metro and trolleybuses, going out to the beach on the Gulf of Finland, going to museums, playing guitar and singing in public parks.” 

-Sharon Lee Cowan (’79)

1981

“Two things struck me particularly during my stay. One was the warmth and hospitality of ordinary Soviet/Russian people in private settings; the other was the fact that Russians seemed to know much more about the United States and American culture than most Americans knew about Russia. Russians were much friendlier and more welcoming toward Americans than Americans were toward Russians at the time. Russians did not take the Cold War personally or view us American students as responsible for our government’s policies.” 

-Adrienne Lynn Edgar (’81)

1983

“The summer I spent in Leningrad in 1983 completely changed my life. It was my first trip abroad, and it was the experience that set me on a professional path that I have been on ever since.” 

-Michael McFaul (’83) [Read his story]

1988

“My eyes wide open, I grew in courage and confidence. It’s then that I decided that to learn a language is to transmit knowledge. But what would I transmit or bring to the world? And it was back then that I decided to return to the US to get a medical degree. I subsequently became a surgeon and worked in Africa. To quote the good doctor, [Anton] Chekhov, ‘Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.’” 

-Matthew LeMaitre (’88)

1994

“The quality of language instructions was very, very high, and it has not changed. The teachers were very genuine. I was always treated with a lot of respect by the instructors and the administration. The teachers really cared about the students. I am sure they are still like that.” 

-Darin Menlove (1994–95 Resident Director)

2000

“After studying abroad in Russia, I had a richer, fuller, more real impression of Russians. I learned about their bottomless generosity and strength of will. I learned about their reverence for high culture (poetry, ballet, fine arts) and pride in military accomplishments. But overall I learned that the Russian people are extremely complex.” 

-Jarlath McGuckin (’00 student, 2006-13 CIEE resident staff)

2001

“Living in St. Petersburg, everything was right there before me. Russian history? Choose one of the hundreds of museums. Russian arts? Pick a museum or theater–you won’t even come close to getting to them all. Russian orthodox religion? There are cathedrals to tour and believers to talk with. […] But I have to say my best memories came from a hobby I picked up on a whim. I bought an old Russian camera and started messing with it trying to take pictures of St. Petersburg (this is before digital cameras were really a thing). I went everywhere and photographed everything I could: not terribly artistic, but it made for great memories. It gave me something to work on while I was seeing these amazing places like the Summer Gardens, Smolnyi Cathedral in the fall, the Summer Palace, and the Art Institute. I took a particular interest in night photography because I thought the buildings around St. Petersburg were so beautiful, especially lit up at night. My photographic skills were not great (a remote shutter would’ve helped immensely), but walking around St. Petersburg at night and seeing these things in the dark and covered with snow made an already-magical place even more so—and created magical memories as well. I also had the chance to meet people and just talk with them as best my language would allow, and learn more about the city and its residents. Probably it was not the best idea wandering around at night by myself, but memories like that you cannot make any other way.” 

-Andy F. (’01)

2002

“I loved exploring, and St. Petersburg is a city that lends itself to getting deliberately lost along canals and in back alleys. I enjoyed walking with friends through the almost desolate nighttime streets of Vasilievsky Ostrov (where I lived), exploring smaller sites such as the Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad. We also enjoyed the perks of student life, such as getting student prices at the Mariinsky Theater.” 

-Matt Burke (’02)

2003

“In the winter of 2003, four CIEE Russian students set out from St. Petersburg to explore the Caucasus. It was great that the CIEE program gave students a week’s vacation from class in the middle of our program, allowing us to travel farther than our organized excursions to Moscow and Tallinn. Some students went to Poland, Ukraine, or back to the Baltics. Others went east to Lake Baikal. Our foursome decided to go south, visiting Volgograd, Piatigorsk, and Dombai. Armed with a borrowed Lonely Planet guide book, we made our way down to Piatigorsk, asking locals on the train how to get to Dombai. The simple answer was, ‘Don’t get in a taxicab or private car.’ Upon arriving in Piatigorsk, we encountered friendly people telling us about Lermontov’s city, and police officers who took our passports and wanted three hundred rubles in return. We hopped on buses going further south, finally reaching our terminal point with public transportation: a bus stop on the outskirts of Teberda, whose lone occupant was a cow grazing in the lot. With thirty kilometers to go, we took a taxi, against the advice of all the people on the train. Our cab driver drove us up the snow-covered roads, warning us that the ski resort was off-season, and insisting, ‘If we make it only to Dombai, you haven’t really been to the Caucasus.’ We were lucky to have his help, as he found us a place to live with his brother’s family, where we rented a spare apartment. We were able to spend only two days in Dombai, but they were memorable. We went on a four-hour horseback riding trip that took us close to the border of Georgia, and spent the rest of the time eating shashlyk and kharcho at the one open cafe in town. On the way back, we met a youth wrestling team from Dagestan. We arm-wrestled on the train. We also spent time with a soldier who was on leave to return home for his father’s funeral. Our trip was memorable in so many different ways, from vast beautiful landscapes to the countless friendly people whom we met along the way. It was the highlight of my semester in Russia with CIEE.” 

-Andrew Chapman (’03)

2005

“During my program, I stayed with a family of three in an apartment complex on Bolshoy Prospekt. Most of my days were spent riding the metro system to school, with visits to the Hermitage or other landmarks or museums in the afternoons. The family I stayed with was very helpful and for better and worse, they spoke English rather well when I struggled with the Russian language.” 

-Fred O’Hara (’05)

2008

“I think about Inna and Zora [my hosts] a lot when I come up with my lesson plans. The words I learned from them were right in front of me as they showed them to me–immediately useful and necessary: matches, traffic, towel, butter. I try and give my students words that they’ll need and use, rather than vocabulary that has nothing to do with their lives.” 

-Lauren Nelson (’08)

2010

“I really appreciated getting to stay with a host family and to live immersed in the ‘real Russia.’ It allowed me to see what life was like for ordinary people in Russia, to see beyond the perceptions/propaganda we might have been exposed to through the news or other stereotypes.” 

-Lindsay Daniels (’10)

2012

“The most valuable part of my experience was my homestay and interacting with our native teachers. Living in a working-class home in St. Petersburg was very educational and my host’s stories about the country in the early years after the Soviet Union brought my knowledge of the country to life and humanized the issues faced by the rapidly changing nation. Interacting with locals, however, was also the most difficult part of living in Russia. Having been able to read and write in Russian far better than speak or listen, adjusting to living with a host family was probably the most difficult aspect of the program. I often did not understand locals, but quickly learned to find other ways to communicate through hand signals, sounds, and broken sentences.” 

-Will Bezbatchenko (’12)

2013

“Because my first encounter with Russian culture came through the works of Tolstoy, I pictured Russia as an elegant and high societal culture—an expectation I carried with me as I first set out for Petersburg. Though my expectations differed from reality in many ways, I was pleasantly surprised by how steeped in tradition Russia remains, as well as by how much their literature runs deep in the parlance of modern people. While in America, it’s a challenge to find someone able to quote Hemingway or Frost, in today’s Russia, it is harder still to find someone unable to recite Pushkin, and I think that is one of my favorite characteristics of the Russian people.” 

-Rebekah Olson (’13)

2014

“The CIEE had a nice array of classes that complemented my studies of U.S.-Russian relations. Taking classes like Russian politics and Ethnic studies (in Russia) enhanced my degree and gave me a better understanding of the country than I could have received in the U.S. I believe it really made a difference that the professors were locals. They often shared stories of their own Russian experiences while simultaneously answering any questions or concerns we had from what we heard in our media.” 

-Ella Berishev (’14)

2015

“[...] being able to explore the city through a series of excursions was a big advantage of this program, as it provided me with an opportunity to get to know Russian society from all of its angles… My life in Russia revolved around fully exploring the local culture, local museums, parks, watching operas and ballet, etc. I miss being able to simply stroll around the city after classes and admire the beauty of the architecture. I am really grateful for my host family who introduced me to many of their friends and allowed me to become a part of their family celebrations and events.” 

-Dagmara Franczak (’15)

2016

“[...] The city, although different in appearance and in time, is still the same city in which Dostoevsky lived. Through the opportunities given to us by the CIEE, we were able to recognize this and furthermore imagine ourselves in Dostoevsky's time. The first thing we had the opportunity to do is attend a play of one of Dostoevsky's short stories, ‘Сон Смешного Человека’ (‘Dream of a Ridiculous Man’). I had read this story in English a few months before coming here to Saint Petersburg, and so although it was presented in Russian, I was able to understand what was happening. Moreover, it was by far the best stage performance I have ever seen, no exaggeration. There were perhaps only fifteen people in the room, which was decorated with period-style furniture and lit with candles. I cannot overstate the actor’s skill, or the feelings I experienced there. It was absolutely amazing. The CIEE students also had the opportunity to go on a walking tour of all the places in ‘Преступление и Наказание’ (‘Crime and Punishment’). This, I thought, would be interesting and nothing more, but I was wrong. Not only was it interesting, but it even brought the story to life. We were able to see the apartment in which Dostoevsky described Rodion Raskolnikov as living, as well as the places where other various characters might have lived. Frequently, my English translation had mentioned the 'hay market', and only on the tour did I discover that this was an area I had traversed myself multiple times before. Furthermore, we walked the distance on the same streets that Raskolnikov took to the apartment of the pawnbroker, and saw the apartment in which Dostoevsky wrote his novel. In fact, we had to remind ourselves that these people were not real, and that they were only characters in a book, because it was so easy to imagine them as real.” 

-Iain Cunningham (’16)

2017

“Before I arrived here, I thought Saint Petersburg was not truly Russian. Now I can see that perhaps Saint Petersburg is quintessentially Russian. Everyone says that it is Russia’s European city, and that might be true on the surface. But, if one bothers to look even a little closely, one can see through the veil, one can see a heart that is neither European nor Asiatic, but Russian.” 

-Jacob Levitan (’17)

 

CIVIC LEADERSHIP ALUMNI ORGANIZE FIRST ANNUAL GREEN ART FESTIVAL IN KOSOVO

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

By Guxim Klinaku and Grese Koca, CIEE Work & Travel USA  and Civic Leadership Summit alumni

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Grese and Guxim at the 2016 Civic Leadership Summit

Grese and I are cofounders of an environmental NGO in Kosovo called Keep It Green. The idea for the Green Art Festival was created in 2014 and developed even more at the Civic Leadership Summit last year. The CLS was an extraordinary help to the project. The group work on the summit was a great push for the idea and the project in general. The lessons and activities of CLS had a huge impact on developing and strengthening the skills needed to get back and do community service.

The first annual Green Art Festival was held in Obiliq in 2016. We wanted to raise the voices of young artists through a festival that shows the huge environmental problems that our country deals with. Obiliq is one of the most polluted cities in Europe according to the World Bank report published in 2016. We envisioned a green festival in the backyard of power plants raising awareness through art about the hazardous levels of air pollution in the area. This was our first year, and we faced a lot of problems, but personally I think we learned a lot from the experience. The true challenge of organizing a festival is managing the human resources, and working in detail to make it fun for the audience and the participants. The festival was supported by the U.S. Embassy in Prishtina, Kosovo United States Alumni, and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs. 

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Grese, Guxim, and Keep it Green Council Member Muhamed Sallover at the 2017 Green Art Festival, Obiliq, Kosovo (l-r)

Now we are working on the Green Art Festival 2018 to make it even bigger next year. We are also submitting project proposals to a couple of organizations with concrete projects that would make significant changes in our communities. We have established a firm partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo and American Corner here. From CLS 2016, we started to believe that everyone has the power to make a change in their community, no matter how small you start. We learned that by taking smaller steps first, one can make the huge jump in the future.

Apart from our week in Washington DC, we worked as ice cream specialists in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We dipped and served ice cream in a small store near the beach, talked to locals, made new friends and had the chance to explore the American lifestyle. For us it was extremely interesting to learn about a new culture and share bits of our country with Americans. For us, this exchange was not about working in the States, it was about creating bridges of friendship and understanding between two countries at a level that only a program such as Summer Work Travel can provide.

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Riding bikes in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware


This exchange experience has been life changing for us. It helped us be more independent and shaped our personalities for the better. We were able to take the good examples of the United States and bring and implement them in our country. We are glad that we made the most of this experience and beyond thankful for the opportunity.

See more from the Green Art Festival in the video below. To learn more about how to support Grese and Guxim and their nonprofit Keep it Green, visit their Facebook page or GoFundMe.

 

VLOGGING ACROSS AMERICA: NICK'S STORY

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

August Alumni Update

 


NEWS THIS MONTH

Let TEFL Take You Places & Win a $500 Airbnb Gift Card

Have you been thinking about going abroad again but don't know where to begin? Start by getting TEFL certified with CIEE - the first step to teaching English abroad. You can even travel as you complete your certification by taking part in CIEE Destination TEFL's teaching practicum options in Italy, Spain, Thailand, and Vietnam. What more could you ask for? We know - a $500 Airbnb gift card so that you can travel in comfort and style! Enter now for your chance to win a $500 Airbnb gift card and a free 150-hour TEFL Certification Course so you can go abroad again, soon!

Reflecting on a Summer at CIEE as an Alumni Intern

A great group of interns joined CIEE this summer to work on strategic projects in Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts through the Alumni Internship Program. They engaged in research, professional development, networking, and exploration of local culture while working on their strategic projects. Before they left, the interns reflected on their experience to share their main takeaways with you. Read all about it. 

 

The U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania Visits CIEE

CIEE’s Portland Global Entrepreneurship Program, in partnership with the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation, was in full swing this past month with students from Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania joining American students to learn about entrepreneurship in Portland, Maine. Participants are challenged with hands-on curriculum, a case study project with a local minor league baseball team, mentorship from local business owners, and a culminating “Shark Tank”-style business competition judged by a panel of Maine entrepreneurs.

This year the program also welcomed Ambassador Anne Hall, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania, to CIEE’s headquarters to hear the students present on their program experience. Ambassador Hall shared her international experience with the students and answered their questions about global entrepreneurship and diplomacy. The participants were inspired by her words, as well as by the many innovative Maine entrepreneurs and business leaders who gave their advice and time to our passionate students. Learn more about the program.

Open Your Home, and Heart, to an Exchange Student

The CIEE High School USA team is looking for U.S.-based families to host international exchange students. Families of all shapes and sizes are invited to host – the primary requirement is kindness and willingness to learn about a foreign culture. Can’t host but know someone who might want to? Refer them to us and receive a $100 referral bonus for each family who ends up hosting a CIEE student. Students are placed in all 50 states, so don’t feel limited by your local network! Learn more.


UPCOMING EVENTS 

A NIGHT AT THE CHICAGO RIVERWALK

WHEN: Thursday, August 17 from 4:30 - 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: The Chicago Riverwalk (Between Wells St & Franklin St)

Join fellow CIEE alumni in the Chicago area for a night of culture along the Chicago Riverwalk. Unifest Chicago is putting on their last event of the summer so come check it out, meet other globally-minded people, and enjoy music, food, and drinks from around the world! Learn more and RSVP.

Stay up-to-date with alumni events by:

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

 

 


 

ALUM OF THE MONTH 

The Alum of the Month for August is Thomas Austin Rose, who studied abroad with CIEE in Lisbon, Portugal in 2016. During an art history class, he befriended an Austrian creative with a bold idea to document the culinary wonders of their host city. The result? “Salt & Wonder” – a passionate print magazine exploring the culinary startup culture of Lisbon. They have proudly released their first issue and Thomas continues to serve as the editorial voice for the magazine while back in the United States. Thomas’ study abroad experience is an example of the unique, life-changing opportunities that studying abroad offers to intimately discover a new city, country, and culture. Read Salt & Wonder.



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


ALUMNI VOICES

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@CIEEALUMNI 


From left: CIEE Work & Travel USA alumnus receives the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship through IREX and will be studying Business Administration in the U.S. for the 2017-2018 academic year; the Alumni Summer Interns from Boston gather with Portland interns for a successful day of presenting their summer project findings; students enjoying pastries in France as our glimpse into the CIEE Global Navigator High School Summer Abroad program.

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A Summer in Review: The CIEE Alumni Internship Program, 2017

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It was another exciting and engaging summer for CIEE's Alumni Interns in Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. Through the Alumni Internship Program, ten CIEE Study Abroad alumni representing a variety of backgrounds, academic interests, and universities collaborated with staff at two different offices, in the field, and around the world to tackle complex topics in international education. They also participated in weekly leadership seminars to hone their skills and build a picture of their professional lives after graduation. The result was a set of thoughtful presentations and recommendations for future endeavors that contribute to CIEE's work. Here's what they have to say about their experience at CIEE:

"I would say my biggest takeaway from this internship program is what I learned through my 30 Minutes to Mentor sessions. Our generation is turning to a work style where it is more important to try a bunch of different experiences through your professional career, so don’t be concerned about finding the job that can fit your needs for your life right out of college. Also, overall, I developed tremendously both personally and professionally this summer and I’m looking forward to a future career in international education and beyond." -Evan Seder

"My biggest takeaway was connecting with CIEE employees who spent time working abroad prior to beginning at this organization. Their stories and courage have inspired me to want to do the same. These conversations, along with our weekly professional development seminars, helped me better understand what I hope to do following graduation next May. I hope to continue working at organizations with an international focus." -Emily MacLaren

"This past summer at CIEE helped me decide on a potential career path for my post-grad school search. Learning more about the international education field through different mentors in the building allowed me to understand what my options were. I left knowing that I could reach out to mentors at any point and continue asking for advice. Going into my senior year, I know that I am more prepared, professionally and personally, than if I had not been a part of this internship. It was an amazing opportunity to grow!" -Lea Sandoval

"I think my biggest takeaway was coming to understand that you really do get out of something what you put into it. In school, it’s easy to only put in as much work as it will take to get a good grade, which doesn’t always mean actually trying your hardest. In this internship, putting everything you’ve got into a project could be the difference between having our work used and referred to for years to come or having our project sit on the shelf. It was up to us to create a project we were proud of!" -Ellen Lechman

"Over everything else, this internship taught me to take initiative in the workplace. I was never waiting around for a mentor’s directions. Rather, I used my spare time to work on what I saw as important projects for my department. This initiative has definitely paid off, as I can see some of my suggestions being implemented in real time. It’s incredible, and definitely rare, to have that kind of trust as an intern." -Jamie Katz

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"The internship solidified my trust in myself and my abilities. CIEE views the interns as valued assets which gave me the confidence to dive into my project and professional development. I am excited to grow my professional confidence in the future." -Liz Stoppelmann

"I gained a lot of analytical skills with this internship with Excel spreadsheets and financial data, I am now able to apply those lessons to my creative work in graphic design, especially when trying to sell my work or setting prices for freelance projects." -Ciranno Soares

"During this summer I worked on my first personal project which was a bit intimidating. Because I had the liberty of doing my own research, it was sometimes hard to focus on collecting the right information. Luckily, my mentor was great because she helped me stay on track and helped me understand how to digest the information that I had collected. Before this internship, I was interested in analytics but wasn’t sure if it was right for me. However, this internship helped me realize that a job in the analytics field is a good choice for me." -Naeli Elizalde

 "This internship put me in a position to not only learn the skills to complete my projects but to also blossom professionally and personally. I became a mentor, a listener, a doer, a thinker, a chef, and ultimately learned so much about myself and the world due to the connections I've made. My CIEE notebook is jam packed with entrepreneurial endeavors that came to me right at my desk that will come alive in the near future. I am forever grateful for CIEE for allowing me to see things in myself that I didn't know were there!" -Arianna Alleyne

"One of the biggest takeaways from working at CIEE was being able to connect with other employees in various departments through the 30-mins-to-mentor segment of my Alumni Internship. I am so appreciative of my mentor who understood my desire to write and work in international education, and connected me with professionals in these fields. Talking to those with the same interests as myself was inspiring, helpful and by far one of the best experiences. I gained a lot of advice and a network I never had before." -Carmin Wong

Boston in Portland
Boston-based interns visit Portland office with mentor

Though they were hard at work on their projects, our interns also had time to explore Portland, Boston, and many other gems of New England! Here area a few highlights from the summer:

"Summer in Boston was a whole different culture that I'm not used to indulging in as a native New Yorker. I went to my first beach in America, I went canoeing in the Charles River, I played life-size Connect Four (and won), I accidentally joined a running team and the list goes on and on. Boston gave me a lot of 'firsts' this summer as it engulfed me in its own unique culture." -Arianna Alleyne

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"I had never hiked, or basically done anything outdoorsy until I came to Maine, and I loved it! One weekend, all five girls from the Portland office decided to do a glamping trip to Acadia. We were able to explore different parts of Acadia and I pushed myself both mentally and physically. However, the most rewarding moment was being able to see the sunrise after hiking at night." -Naeli Elizalde

"Maine is such a beautiful state! I got to witness it firsthand when we visited Acadia National Park one weekend. Not only did we see the sunrise, but we hiked in other areas and the scenery was just crazy beautiful. I definitely gained a greater appreciation for nature and Portland's coastal feel. The memories created with the other interns throughout the summer were great! Going on random adventures here and there around the area was so much fun." -Lea Sandoval

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"The highlight of my summer in Maine was definitely July 4th. We had a big BBQ in the field outside of our residence hall for all of the interns and CIEE Work and Travel USA program participants. For many, it was their first experience at a BBQ and it was a great way to show them the culture. From there, we went to the fireworks at the Eastern Promenade and watched them as a big group. It was exciting to see the level of happiness between all the different cultures on this fun summer day." -Evan Seder

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"The two highlights of this summer were the people I was able to meet and the places I was able to explore. Aside from meeting and becoming great friends with the other interns, I was able to meet CIEE Work and Travel USA participants from all over the world. Also, I had the opportunity to explore the New England area. My favorite weekend was spent Acadia National Park." -Emily MacLaren

"The level of professional development I received this summer was unexpected and still unbelievable. Since finishing my internship at CIEE, I have landed 3 interviews, and have been impressed by how comfortable I felt going into each. I gained technical skills I never had and I feel confident enough to work in any setting. Furthermore, working in the Boston office was a great setting. I especially enjoyed hearing all the comments and support from those in the Boston office—and elsewhere—after my final presentation. What sometimes felt like a surreal experience became a moment of pride and fulfillment after hearing positive feedback from those I worked alongside the whole summer." -Carmin Wong

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 "My favorite parts of the summer in Boston were exploring some of Boston’s museums and historical sites. This was also my first time on the East Coast (other than a quick family trip to D.C. when I was really young), so I also got to visit New York City for the very first time this summer! Lastly, I loved living and working with the other Boston interns, Carmin and Arianna. They are both such incredible women, and I learned so much from them!" -Ellen Lechman

"The highlight of my summer in Maine was our trip to Acadia National Park. We went ‘glamping’ near the park, half-successfully built our own fires, cooked our meals on a grill, and even woke up for a sunrise hike on Cadillac Mountain. Portland is an awesome city to live in for the summer, but I was thrilled to have the opportunity to experience the 'outdoorsy' side of Maine." -Jamie Katz

Hiking

"Glamping for a weekend in Acadia National Park was a great way to see the beauty of Maine from scaling Beehive to hiking Cadillac to see the sunrise. Also struggling to start a campfire for the needed s’mores experience. Top summer memory, for sure!" -Liz Stoppelmann

"Exploring the city with my bike and tubing in the Presumpscot river were two of the most fun things I have done this summer. Exploring the many different restaurants in Portland was also awesome!" -Ciranno Soares