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29 posts categorized "Work Exchange Alumni"

When an Exchange Experience Turns Into a Career

The Alum of the Month for July is Wilka Nascimento. You might remember her from the Alumni Voices feature “How I Became a Global Citizen” on the CIEE Alumni Blog, in which she talked about her experience in the CIEE Work & Travel USA and Internship USA programs. Working in the hospitality industry in the U.S. while on these programs was an opportunity to learn about American culture, improve English skills, and gain international work experience. For this feature, we checked in with Wilka to learn more about how she turned an internship into a career.

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Wilka recently accepted a position as a senior sales manager at Hotel Wales in Manhattan, and formerly served as a director of sales for hotels, allowing her to work with a variety of major brands in the industry such as Hilton, Marriott, and IHG – crediting her CIEE program experience as a strong influence on her career path. Two months after earning her bachelor’s degree in business management focused on hotels and tourism, Wilka returned to the United States to pursue the CIEE Internship USA program:

“I was studying hospitality management in Brazil and I wanted to improve my English so I could communicate with international tourists in Brazil. During my first year of college, I had the opportunity to participate in the CIEE Work & Travel USA Program for four months. After the program, I still felt the need to improve my English, so I decided to come back after I graduated from college for a deeper understanding of the hotel industry in the United States.”

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Working at the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland, Wilka had the opportunity to rotate through different departments such as housekeeping, accounting, and sales. The majority of her time was spent as a front desk associate cultivating her skills in patience, leadership, and communication while gaining valuable English language experience. The internship was an open door into the hospitality industry the United States, presenting new opportunities to engage deeper in her line of work. In fact, it was her internship experience that gave her the connections to get a job working for Holiday Inn Express Baltimore Downtown. Since then, she has worked in sales and marketing for a number of major hotels in the U.S. “During my internship in Annapolis, I fell in love with the sales department, which inspired me to pursue this field in my career and become a sales manager because I love to network, prospect, and close business, but beyond all I love to serve my guests.” To this day, Wilka continues to provide positive hospitality experiences for all visitors who come her way.

“I’m a pioneer in my family’s world.”

Beyond building a career, coming to the United States also meant visiting new places, meeting new people, and exploring the world without any fear. Her fearlessness even had an impact on family back in Brazil, inspiring her sister to take part in international exchange too. In a personal LinkedIn article, Wilka writes, “Actually I can say that I have two homes, two different worlds that I love to live in. I go to Brazil every year, and I love that I'm always learning something new about the United States. It brings me joy that my younger sister wants to explore and travel as well. Everything that I have done and been through it's worth it. I did build my own legacy in my family and that brings me joy.”

Interested in having a career-building internship of your own? Learn more about CIEE Internship USA today!

Winning Video from the CIEE's 70th Anniversary Alumni Storytelling Contest

By Atenea Rios Buezo (CIEE Work & Travel USA, Montana, 2015)
*This video was a winner in CIEE's 70th Anniversary Alumni Storytelling Contest.

 

 

CIEE Work & Travel USA Alum Receives Prestigious IREX Scholarship

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

Amir Ammar is a 2016 CIEE Work & Travel USA alum, Civic Leadership Summit Fellow and Access Scholar from Tunisia. Amir is the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship through IREX, and will be studying Business Administration in the United States for the 2017-2018 Academic Year.

My name is Amir, and I was blessed by the opportunity to work in the United States during the summer of 2016, in a resort on Lake Powell in Arizona. I was the first Tunisian to be selected for the CIEE Work & Travel USA program as an Access Scholar, a CIEE scholarship that allowed me to come on the program.

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Amir at the Grand Canyon

My job was in a restaurant as a busser. I worked with many international students, and I met my friend Martin from Russia. Every time we finished work we would sit down by the lake and chat. Martin asked me once about my religion, Islam. He had a very negative perception of Muslims because of depictions in the media. I told him that Islam is all about love, peace and compassion, and that we are open to all religions and accept them as they are. My friend apologized to me and told me that he is more eager to know more about Islam and will never believe something without proof anymore. He said he will say proudly that he has a Muslim friend, and that’s something that really touched my heart.

He will say proudly that he has a Muslim friend, and that’s something that really touched my heart

But that’s not all, I was also selected to be a part of the 2016 CIEE Civic Leadership Summit, a week in Washington D.C. that changed my life forever. It give me the motivation to plan to be a very active global citizen in the future by being an ambassador of the Tunisian goodwill and culture to the world. I want to give the world a glance of our amazing traditions, and the first step is to start local and then go global, we need to educate people about international culture and how to manage across cultures.

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With friends at the 2016 CIEE Civic Leadership Summit in Washington D.C.

 My experience in the United States supported my academic success, and I am inspired to reach position where I can make decision that will contribute in the building of the sustainability of our emerging global world. I want to reach the level of education where I can accurately analyze the different roles everyone is taking and be a great leader to solve conflicts related to management to maintain the evolution of globally effective organizations.

By participating in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program and the 2016 Civic Leadership Summit, I now have the skills and tools to be a very effective global citizen and contribute in the solving of the world problems. Through living and working in a nation that is known as the most diverse nation in world, this experience opened the doors for me to study more cultures and learn how to manage to adapt to a culture different than mine. I encourage everyone to participate in an exchange program because it is just the right opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and open the doors for you to explore this big world. 

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Building bridges at the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit

This fall I will have the opportunity to follow my dreams to pursue higher education through the IREX scholarship. I tried one part of the American life and now I need to explore the other side and that’s studying in the U.S. I’m committed to the evolution of my country and trying to make the future look brighter for our future leaders which are us, you, and me, hand by hand we can change the world to a better one.

 

Learning to Embrace Different Cultures: Irish Student Experiences Life in the U.S.

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CIEE Work & Travel USA alumnus Andrew Ralph from Ireland spent the summer of 2015 working at CIEE’s global headquarters in Portland, Maine. During his time at CIEE, Andrew had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the very program he was on and gain a deeper understanding of the J-1 Visa process in the United States. We saw on Twitter that Andrew is a proud CIEE alum so we interviewed him to find out what gives him pride in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program and hear what he’s doing now!

What makes you proud to be a CIEE Work & Travel USA alumnus?

I am extremely and vocally proud to be a CIEE Work & Travel USA alumnus because CIEE profoundly benefited me. The three-and-a-half months I spent in Portland, Maine on the program and working for CIEE were three of the best months of my life – I do not want to praise CIEE and the work that it does in just words – I want to do what I can do for CIEE in practical and active ways too. Looking back on my time at CIEE and on the program, the pride that I have has manifested itself into motivating me to be an ambassador for CIEE and for the program to my peers and to my fellow countryman and countrywomen here in Ireland.

What inspired you to apply for the CIEE Work & Travel USA program?

I applied for the CIEE Work & Travel USA program because I wanted to immerse myself in the American cultural experience; I wanted to truly discover what it is like to work and live in the United States and how that differs to my own country and culture, I wanted to get the opportunity to travel within the United States and see the sights, meet the people, try out the cuisine, and experience all the things that help shape what the United States represents and the image it projects around the world. I was 18 years old when I enrolled in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program. The United States had dominated my life up to that point, and since. Coming from the Anglosphere, or English-speaking world, the United States had an indelible cultural impact on my upbringing, from pop culture to politics to the economy. I was very keen, eager, and interested to finally visit and finally see it and, most importantly, to finally experience it.

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What did you do for work at CIEE’s global headquarters in Portland, Maine?

In Portland, Maine, I was a Work & Travel USA participant services coordinator for CIEE and this was an extremely exciting job. I had the opportunity to use the Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) system, register visa participants on the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database, assist visa participants that had employment issues or healthcare problems that were required to make insurance claims, chaperoned high school exchange program participants in the New York/New Jersey area, and more. Working in the participant services department at CIEE offered me a great deal of valuable insights into the workforce, educational exchange programs, and providing with top quality customer service.

What else did you learn from your experience?

From my experience, I learned to embrace and open my eyes as well as my mind to different cultures, to different ways of doing things, and to people of various nationalities, races, and creeds. After participating in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program, I returned to Ireland in September 2015 having developed and improved my interpersonal skills, my education and knowledge on the world (especially the United States), and my workplace skills. My exchange experience was holistic and multifaceted. It wasn't just about the work that I did – it was also about the people I met, the places I visited, and the lessons I learned. They all positively improved my attitude to life and rendered me a better, stronger, wiser, and more well-rounded person at the end of it.

What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future?

I have just completed my undergraduate degree in journalism. I’m currently working for the “Dublin People” newspaper and I am pursuing a master’s degree in politics and international relations. I hope to have a career in the media or politics someday!

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Do you have your own story to share? Email alumni@ciee.org to get started!

CIVIC LEADERSHIP ALUM FINDS FUN IN DIVERSITY

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

This year marks the 5th annual CIEE Work & Travel USA Civic Leadership Summit, an opportunity for 60 participants from all over the world to gather and increase cultural understanding and leadership skills. We asked Surosh Esmatullah, a 2014 Civic Leadership fellow from Afghanistan, to reflect back on his experience and share his goals for the future.

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Surosh, I am originally from Afghanistan, but I am living in Turkey. I am doing my Master’s program at Uludağ University in International Relations. I was in the United States in 2014 for the Work and Travel Program, and I also attended the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit in Washington DC. It was a very exciting program for me!

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How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

Well, through the Summit, I recognized a lot of problems in my own society in Afghanistan. Afghanistan contains many ethnicities, and the biggest problem right now is those ethnicities are sometimes fighting with each other. I recognized the problem, and I was so inspired. I think that like American people we can also live in peace although we are coming from different ethnicities.

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The biggest lesson I have taken from CIEE’s Civic Leadership Summit is that more variety means more fun. For example, assume that all of those students were from the same country. I believe it wouldn’t be as exciting as it was, because we were coming from different countries and different cultures, and there was many things to share with each other, to talk to each other about.

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What are your dreams for the future?

I am studying for a Master’s degree in International Relations at Uludağ University in Turkey. I hope to do a PhD program after my Master’s, and it will be great if I can do it in the U.S. I have a plan to work with the UN if possible, or if I stay in Turkey, I have a plan to create my own student exchange agency.

For the short term I would say I do not plan to return to Afghanistan, because first I have some plans to fulfil, but then yes [I would like to return]. As I said I have always believed myself to be a world citizen: no matter who you are if you need my help I will help you, or at least I will try. I believe the people in Afghanistan need me more than anyone and I can help because I know the society [there].

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What advice do you have for CIEE Work & Travel USA participants?

What I recommend to all those students who are doing the Work and Travel program currently is to travel and explore America, because there are a lot of great places to see and there are also a lot of things to learn about US society and US culture. My other advice is to live with an American family instead of living with foreigners if it’s possible, because it can help you to learn better about American family structure and relationships between family's members also it can help you to improve your English better as well.

A Small International Village: How Experiencing Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Inspired CIEE Work & Travel USA Alumnus to Make a Difference

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This winter, we connected with Ebrahim Sabry, an Egyptian national, Access Scholar, and CIEE Work & Travel USA alumnus. Through the program, Ebrahim worked as a lifeguard at Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks in Wildwood, New Jersey. In an interview, he shares his experience and greatest takeaways of the program:

Why did you decide to come to the United States for the CIEE Work & Travel USA program?

I was listening to music on YouTube and the sidebar popped up recommending I check out the CIEE YouTube Channel, so I did! I watched a video called “my work and travel experience in America” and was curious why so many people were thanking CIEE in the video. I decided this was an experience that I wanted. I am a person who wants to know about other cultures and different mentalities. I live in a small part of a large world and I wanted to know how other people lived (daily routines, even) and what their interests are (sports, travel?). The U.S. is one of the leading countries so it was exciting for me to go there to learn how people lived, work, interact, perceive things, react to situations, spend their holidays, take their vacations, what food they eat… everything!

What did you learn about U.S. life, culture, and society during the program?

It was amazing to see the huge number of different races and mentalities in one place. In the United States, to me, you can find a huge number of different cultures and people living in the same spot. This is what makes the U.S. so great. I saw it everywhere – at work, in the community, and when I traveled (Boston, NY, Florida). My employer was a small example representing the whole. Morey’s Piers was like a small international village. I met not only Americans, but people from all over the world. You don’t have to travel to these places, they are all in Wildwood!

I lived with some guys from Spain and Venezuela and we became great friends. It was hard at first to communicate with them because of the language barrier, but by the end of the summer their English really improved! We had so much in common; I wasn’t expecting that. Even if you are living so far away, you still have something in common. The main difference that we talked about was religion and politics. But, at the end of the day, we were open to other ideas and respected each other’s differences. People may assume I’m Muslim because I’m from Egypt, but I used to be Catholic, and now I’m not practicing any religion. We talked about religion and it was great that we could express our thoughts and ideas to each other and not worry about what each other really thought, you know? It was safe. It’s hard in some of our [Egypt's] cities to say, for example, “no I’m not religious,” or “no I’m not Catholic,” because where we live that may not be accepted. It’s like we could share these secrets with each other. The difference and similarities we shared… all of it makes me more passionate about getting to know more people.

I also learned that if you can get engaged in that type of open society and be productive and proactive, that would be great because at the end of the day you give back to the community and it gives back to you. With this experience, you feel like you are a positive member in the society. Everyone I met was welcoming and positive. It made me want to be positive and be as open to people as they were being to me. That positive spirit makes you feel better and makes you go the extra mile. That is why I’m so excited to go on the program again but this time to explore the West Coast.

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What does your CIEE Work & Travel USA experience mean to you?

The first thing is that it made me believe that, even though I live in a small part of the world, there are a lot more parts of the world that deserve to be discovered. It has made me so motivated to travel everywhere and get to know more people. When I saw how developed and organized things are in the U.S., it made me think about how I would develop my city or country and what I could do to make things more positive/developed in my community. I work for STAR (Student Action for Refugees) in Egypt and I teach English language courses on a weekly basis at the university. We are trying to initiate a national organization so that we can connect all the small STAR organizations together and make a national organization called “STAR Egypt.”

I feel like I have a great level of education that makes me feel responsible for people who don’t have the same opportunities. I think of the refugees and their situations and the difficulties they face in their life and it’s my responsibility to give back to them, to my community, to help them. If people that have the tools to help them don’t help them, then who will? The refugees are from Syria, Africa, Ethiopia – everywhere in the world. CIEE Work & Travel USA showed me how I can make a positive impact. This is my response to when people ask me why I do STAR. When I attend the graduation for these refugees and you see their smiles and in their eyes how happy they are, you start to understand that you’ve done something great and have done something positive that changes lives and communities. These refugees now have jobs, travel, and are continuing their education. To me, this is impact. 

What was the single most influential and meaningful experience of your program?

Part of my experience was working too! It was not just about getting to know more people. It’s about learning how to be a responsible person, maintain good standing at work, and follow the rules of the job. I was a lifeguard and remember that I had to watch after young kids in the pool. There was a small boy who was trying to get out of the water and was starting to drown; I jumped in, got him out of the pool, and saved his life. His mom came to me and said, “thank you for what you did.” At that moment I felt like I was doing something meaningful. It was a hectic and difficult job but, at the end of the day, I realized that by doing a good job that I was contributing to the community.

What advice would you give to others who are interested in coming to the U.S. for the CIEE Work & Travel USA program?

I would say that it is so, so, so amazing to be in the U.S. and work with so many different people. You don’t have to visit a huge number of countries – they are right there for you. The experience is one that will change you. Once in a lifetime. I can’t wait to go back!

Ebrahim will soon graduate from the American University in Cairo with a major in construction engineering and a minor in music technology. He plans on working for his family's business, which involves construction work, and creating techno music. In the future, he would like to get involved with the United Nations and continue his community development journey. For now, he is getting ready to spend another summer with CIEE Work & Travel USA!

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A CIEE Work & Travel USA Experience, in Photos

"This exchange experience meant that I have open doors all over the world, only I just have to knock on them."

CIEE Work & Travel USA alum Viviana González decided to work in the United States because she wanted to show her Venezuelan culture to the world and learn everything she could about others. Her ambition for international exchange started when she was 15 years old, when she was offered the opportunity to continue her English studies at Centro Venezolano Americano del Zulia (CEVAZ) with the help of the English Access Microscholarship Program (Access). Access is a U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs exchange program that offers English language learning to 13- to 20-year-old  non-U.S. students in over 85 countries, hosted through local U.S. Embassies. Surprised and honored that she was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, Viviana took the program as an opportunity to grow professionally as she began to study law and international relations. It was during her studies that Viviana decided to apply for the CIEE Work & Travel USA program.

Viviana was placed to work at Morey's Piers & Beachfront Water Parks in Wildwood, New Jersey. She says of the experience, "Most of the cultural experiences I lived were while working. Once a week, the water park admissions team would gather and the supervisors would point out which people did an outstanding job that week, and what aspects of our job we could improve. Then, we would have integration activities, where we would talk about our countries, our cultures, and what we were looking forward to when we came back home. Also, I learned a lot from the people that worked around me but weren’t on my team (lifeguards, water park operations people, and food services)."

To tell us more about her employment and cultural experience in the United States, Viviana shares a series of photos with captions:

In order for us to experience American holidays, Morey's Piers organized a 'Thanksgiving in July', where all workers could go and have a dinner with food that's normally eaten on Thanksgiving. We used pilgrim hats and had a session of pictures where we were dressed as American football players. Also, I remember that during the event, we were visited by a CIEE representative who expressed to us their happiness because it was the first time that someone from Venezuela was participating in the program.

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In the following pictures, I got to visit Niagara Falls. It was such an amazing experience to witness the beauty of that place and see the falls so close. I learned so much about the history of the place and its connection to native people. Actually, I never knew that the falls were called "Niagara" because that is how the tribes there called them, and I must say that the story of Lelawala ("Lady of the Mist") is one of the most interesting you learn there. It reminded me somehow of my home because I live in a state where we are in contact all the time with the Wayuu people, and that most Venezuelans are descendants of Venezuelan natives alongside Spanish and African people.

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Here is my trip to Washington, D.C. I was so excited to see the monuments and the White House. Also, the fact that I could visit the Smithsonian Museums and not have to pay entrance was exciting. But I got really happy when I got to see the Organization of American States because, as somebody who loves diplomacy, that's one of the places I would look forward to working in.

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I visited Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. At the beginning, I thought that I would never understand New York, but in the end I loved it because it is so filled with different cultures. I swear that people who were around me weren't just speaking English, but any language that exists in the world! For me, New York City is really the capital of the world.

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I also went to Philadelphia. I never thought it was such an important city before. There is the Liberty Bell and, also, it was the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Philadelphia is also home of the United States Constitution. The rhythm of the city reminded me of Maracaibo, the capital of Zulia state (the state where I live), so I really felt at home.

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Morey's Piers workers visited a local preschool. I was surprised to learn that now the schools are teaching in both English and Spanish because the Latino population has grown very fast. I remember kids got excited because I told them that in my city there are a lot of coconut trees, and they had just read a story about a coconut tree. Also, I spoke in Spanish because teachers wanted kids to hear the way I spoke and have them interact in that language.

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Morey's Piers organized an end of the season party. Since I worked as a game operator in my second job there, all of the Venezuelan team was there. Jorge brought the Venezuelan flag with him and took a picture with Jordan Morey, who is a supervisor in the parks.

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This was my last day at Ocean Oasis, the water park where I was assigned. Pictured is part of my team as well as my supervisors. I admit that I really miss them, even though I keep in contact with them. They are incredible people and so easy to work with; I remember that I cried with the closing announcement.

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This is the Morey's Piers Mariner's Pier entrance. Definitely, the park gives a great vibe to Wildwood's Boardwalk. It's an unforgettable place.

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Last but not least important, there is the Wildwoods sign. It's a must to take a picture there. I lived so many good experiences in Wildwood, NJ and I hope that someday I can come back and make new memories.

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Overall, the impact this program had on my life was huge. I can say I’m not the same person I was before going to the United States. Now, I’m more interested in joining groups where I can take action to help people. Also, I have a great desire to start working, even though my schedule, and the fact that I have to commute everyday from my hometown to the city where my university is, makes this difficult, but I can say there is no more rewarding sensation than earning things through hard (and well done) work.

WHEN A DREAM COMES TRUE IN THE GREEN STATE OF CALIFORNIA

By Safia Dworjack, CIEE Intern

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

When I learned that I had landed the position to work on an environmental program for the City of San José in California, it was a dream come true.

California is a very appealing state with its beaches and its year-round sunshine. It is also, for an environmentalist like me, the state where innovation and challenges make your everyday job exciting. In the heart of the Silicon Valley, I had the opportunity to attend many conferences and workshops to build my skills and knowledge in the environmental field. I took the opportunity to speak to a conference, This Way to Sustainability, at Chico State University, to present the program I was working on.

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With the cohort of young American graduate students in Sustainability

For my job, I engaged local businesses in an energy efficiency program, Step Up and Power Down, to help them reduce their energy consumption. Being so close to the local community and building trust relationships in a culture and a language which were not mine was very rewarding.

I had the chance to work with an awesome young woman 8 hours a day who gave me a deep dive in the American and Vietnamese culture. Thirty percent of the population in San José in Vietnamese, the biggest in the US!

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Ready to go out into the field and engage businesses with my colleagues

I was also able to take part in a graduate program in sustainability. There, I was able to meet 30 American students who shared my passion, and also allowed me to discover the challenges and hopes of my generation in this leading country of the United States.

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With the Energy Champions for the behavior change campaign I led at City Hall

Finally, I had the honor to be selected for the CIEE I-LEAD program in DC, a 6-day workshop with 58 other J-1 interns from 30 different countries. Through workshops and activities, I was pleased to discover many kind-hearted young people which galvanized me in continuing my work to make a difference in my country.

Back in France, I am proud I did that experience as it made me grow as a person, and gave me professional experience that I already see is making a difference on the job market. If you have any hesitations or legitimate fears to live this experience, I would say go for it as it will be an amazing experience that will make you stronger on so many levels!

Transporting to the Future: How a Young Latvian Entrepreneur is Changing How We Fly

"BAFF gives you an opportunity to learn entrepreneurship, to see the world from a different point of view, and to create a network of skillful and talented international friends who you might cross paths with again in your future ventures."

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The Alum of the Month for March is Elviss Straupenieks, former participant of the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) and creator of AirBoard, the world’s smallest manned aircraft. The young entrepreneur enrolled in the BAFF program to gain experience practicing and understanding the relational aspects of leadership on the path to pursuing his personal and business goals. For Elviss, participating in BAFF was the perfect opportunity. “Learning how to focus on gaining concrete leadership tools enabled me to create transparency and direction while at the same time involving individuals and groups of people in meaningful dialogues about goals associated with my business,” he says. “The most important factor that made me interested in BAFF, however, was creating a network of skillful and talented international friends for my future ventures.” Coming to Portland, Maine on the BAFF program offered Elviss an opportunity to make connections and gain the leadership skills needed to take his inventive idea one step further. But that’s not where his story begins.

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Elviss’ interest in entrepreneurship and revolutionizing personal transportation started at a young age. He was only twelve years old when he began to recognize the lack of creativity in personal vehicles and contemplate the future of transportation. In an interview, he tells us, “It was obvious that on top of safety, functionality and ergonomic improvements over the last hundred years, a car still continues to be a metal box with four wheels and the fundamental way we move around has not changed for the better. In fact, many of the roads we used 100 years ago are still present, thus limiting the transport time from point A to B with countless relief projections and ground obstacles. It was clear to me that the future of personal transportation is going to be some sort of flying transport. For such an air transport to be mass-used it should be as simple as possible. Thus, the idea of an intuitive aircraft controlled by shifting the person’s weight (AirBoard) was born.”

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Though technology on the consumer market wasn’t quite yet advanced enough to support Elviss’ idea, he patiently followed advancements in technology such as flight controllers, speed controllers, batteries, small brushless motors, and radio controlled vehicles until, two years later, he recognized that key parts reached a point of advancement and economic viability that would allow for his aircraft to turn from concept to reality. For years, Elviss spent all of his free time after school, on the weekends, and during summer breaks learning about aerodynamics and the engineering principles necessary to develop the aircraft. Then, things started to get serious. “I started computer-aided design (CAD), aerodynamic simulations, stress simulations, renderings, and lift-off calculations with hundreds of different iterations and virtual prototypes.” Elviss considers this determination and strong focus on his business to be the keys to success in his journey creating the world’s smallest manned aircraft, among other entrepreneurial pursuits. However, that’s not the only element needed to be successful, he says. “Having a fast-paced and tremendous work ethic, combined with the ability to overcome obstacles, is hugely helpful in day-to-day challenges, but patience is key for achieving the long-term goals.”

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Determination, contemplation, innovation, and patience. These are the makings of an 18-year-old CEO.

We asked Elviss what it’s like to run a company at this age when most of his peers are going off to college, travelling on a gap year, or just beginning to craft their futures. “In my opinion, being a young, risk-taking entrepreneur is a competitive edge. When you don’t have the baggage from the past, it’s usually much easier to look at things from a totally different perspective.” With this fresh perspective, AirBoard was born despite the odds. “After faced with the challenge to open a business in Latvia at the age of 16, where the legal age restriction is 18, I found civil law Article 221 that allowed me to gain legal majority in the court of Latvia. After 6 months of rigorous paperwork and long processes, I gained the legal majority that allowed me to receive investment, employ people, and sign contracts. To this date, it is the single only case in Latvia where the court has given a positive decision for entrepreneurial reasons.”

“AirBoard is a Segway crossed with a hoverboard” – Daily Mail

Here’s how it works:
“AirBoard is the World’s smallest manned aircraft. It is an all-electric personal air vehicle controlled by shifting weight. It moves in the direction you are leaning. The rider is standing in a vertical position with his feet on the board and both hands holding handles. When turned on, the aircraft starts to hover in constant height from the ground. Pilot can use a button located on the handle in a thumb reachable area to adjust the flight altitude and lean further to accelerate the vehicle. The more a person shifts forward, the faster the vehicle flies forward.”

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“AirBoard Remote App shows important data like AirBoard’s battery life, flight speed, compass, and level. User can control flight level or altitude in which the multicopter is moving. The board can be locked and unlocked with a free mobile application. When the board is locked, power button is inactive and motion detection GPS alarm is turned on. Vehicle can be unlocked without ever taking the mobile device out of the pocket because the vehicle senses when the paired phone is nearby. App allows the customer to update the board software when an update that contains crucial fixes or new features are available.” Learn more about how AirBoard works.

Thank you, Elviss, for sharing your story with us!

Do you have a story to share? Email alumni@ciee.org to get started.

Exchange Experience Inspires Open-Mindedness and Confidence

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Nathan Britton Wunsonti Musah participated in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program in 2008, traveling from Ghana to experience working and living in Oklahoma City as a ride attendant at Frontier City amusement park. Nathan received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. He currently works for the major political opposition party in Ghana. In addition to political work, Nathan exercises his drawing talent in his spare time. We interviewed Nathan to hear more about his experience in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program.

Why did you decide to do CIEE Work & Travel USA?

I decided to do the program because I saw massive changes in my best friends in many ways that I really admired, like time management, confident speaking, and focus.

What did you learn about American life, culture, and society during your exchange program?

I learned that in the U.S., there are different kinds of people and very different kinds of behavior and characters. In a nutshell, there is a diverse group of people living in the U.S. with different cultural backgrounds, and this has allowed me to understand that we are all one with different characters and cultural backgrounds. In order to get along with each other, you’ve got to adopt other cultures to be able to move on and to grow. Knowing this has helped me grow a lot.

What impact has your exchange experience had on your life?

My exchange experience has prepared me to be open-minded in everything I do, wherever I find myself. It has helped me to do things in the right way and maturely with confidence. I learned how to be more disciplined at my work place, how to keep to time especially. It helped in my education also; it gave me confidence in talking in class, seminars, and at juries. It widened my scope of analyzing issues and solving them as well.

Once you learn these skills, it becomes part of you and you apply them without even noticing it. I have been working with a political organization since 2012, and almost everyone down to the flag bearer appreciates my effort and attitude towards work. It has even helped me find myself in places I never thought to be or places people never expected me to reach. So, I believe the program has prepared me for the present.

What piece of advice would you give to others who are thinking about participating in an exchange program like CIEE Work & Travel USA?

I urge anyone who wants to travel to sign up with CIEE. It’s a program that will give you the experience of a lifetime. Travel as far as you can and as much as possible. Work harder to save your money. Take care of your needs instead of your wants. Come out of your comfort zone and find out how other people live and realize that the world is a much bigger place to live in.

By the time you’re done with your program and return home, everything may go back to normal but something in your mind will have changed – that’s the experience you need in this life. That will change everything around you.

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Learn more about the CIEE Work & Travel USA program.