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50 posts categorized "Work Exchange Alumni"

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Yehya Mamdouh Hassan

Interview with Yehya Mamdouh Hassan from Egypt (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2013)

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

In my opinion, the United States is still the most aspired to and most influential country in the world. Its soft power extends all over the globe. Movies and music produced in the United States shapes the life of youngsters all over the world. I dreamed of visiting the United States and seeing the sites that are featured so heavily in pop culture like the Statue of Liberty and Times Square in New York! Like the Seven Wonders of the World, all of those locations in the U.S. were ingrained into our minds since we were young. Many other youngsters all across the world dream of visiting such locations but they do not all have the means to achieve this. I consider myself privileged to have been able to experience the United States first-hand!

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

The Civic Leadership Summit was a truly outstanding experience. For the first time in my life, I had the privilege to listen to the problems facing other enthusiastic and proactive young people from all over the world, from Ireland to China! I learned a lot by interacting and discussing problems with them. One of the greatest things I managed to grasp from such a forum is that many of the problems that are endemic to developing countries are actually quite similar, despite the existence of borders and different cultures. It was interesting to talk about and hear how different nations deal with issues of child illiteracy, underage marriage, pollution, and human trafficking.

How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

The Civic Leadership Summit installed a wanderlust in me that I am not able to quench to this very day. In my free time, I just have to travel and experience new places and meet new people!

Where are you now? What are you doing now?

I am currently in New Zealand working on my PhD in international law and peace and conflict studies.

What makes you a changemaker?

After I finish my degree, I have several planned projects in mind that I would like to enact once I return to Egypt. Unfortunately, the current authorities do not look favorably on those who run civil projects and NGOS that are outside of the state jurisdiction and supervision. They view all human rights and NGO work as forums for dissent and places to breed conspiracy against the regime. Four years ago, when I returned from the U.S., I tried and succeeded in forming an NGO dedicated to fighting sexual harassment, which is rampant in the streets of Cairo. We developed an app where users can place a mark on the map were they experienced harassment and share their story on the online map so that other people will be aware. However, our headquarters were closed down, all of our assets were confiscated by the state, and the app was banned. I hope to try again once I finish my postgrad degree!

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit

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The CIEE Civic Leadership Summit was founded in 2013 in order to bring together passionate, young leaders from the CIEE Work & Travel USA program for an exchange on leadership, social entrepreneurship, and cultural understanding. At CIEE, we believe that a single person can make a difference and, through the Summit experience, each Fellow has potential to have a positive impact on their community, country, and world at large. By taking part in engaging workshops, participants share their world perspectives and discover ways to make a difference in their community. As we begin applications for the sixth year of the Summit, we look back on the past five years to share stories of growth, inspiration, and changing the world:

2013"The Civic Leadership Summit was a truly outstanding experience. For the first time in my life, I had the privilege to listen to the problems facing other enthusiastic and proactive young people from all over the world, from Ireland to China! I learned a lot by interacting and discussing problems with them."  -Yehya Mamdouh Hassan

Read Yehya's story

2014

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“The Civic Leadership Summit was the first time I actually ran into like-minded people – young adults who still had that drive to change things for the better. It showed me that what I wanted to do wasn't a losing battle, that there are plenty of others out there who wanted the same thing I did – a better tomorrow for themselves and for their community." -Paul Runcan

Read Paul's story

2015

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

2016

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“The Civic Leadership Summit was, with no doubt, the most meaningful experience during my program. It was such an important opportunity getting to connect with other leaders from all over the world with a similar idea of what the world should be like and how they are going to work in order to make it get at least closer to it. I got to share my ideas, my thoughts, my principles about life and the world with a lot of inspirational people that are definitely working to make their own countries a better place to live in.” -Ariana Sánchez Barrios

Read Cheryl's story

2017

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"Now I truly feel like I have a responsibility to my community and my country. The issue we have is that young people are not motivated to study, to learn, to think, to change things for better, or fight for what we believe in. We were only six brave Nicaraguans in CIEE Work & Travel USA during the summer of 2017, and that was because I personally saw a lot of young and capable people backing off and claiming that they didn't want to step out of their comfort zone. I am sure I can be an example and set standards to a lot of young people of how good it feels to work for something and achieve what you want." -Cheryl Pablo
Read Cheryl's Story

 

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

Read Valmira's story

 

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

Read Irfan's story

 

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"It was an amazing feeling to know that I, a girl from Romania, can have so many things in common with a girl from Nicaragua. We bonded over what seemed a simple question – “If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?” It was an awesome feeling to know that if you are willing to open your mind and let go of prejudices, you can make friends with people from all over the world." -Andra Dolana

Read Andra's story

 

Life after cls

We checked in with other Civic Leadership Summit alumni this past year to see how they're finding meaning and creating impact around the world. Here are some of the adventures they're having and projects they're starting that show how life can change after participating in an inspiring event with other young leaders:

 

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I’m in LA traveling after I finished my job. I’m going home to Palestine next week and I have a lot of ideas, thoughts, and things to do. Wish me luck! -Ahmed M. Lafi

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I'm currently back in Tunisia, back in school, and have only one and a half years left before I graduate from my university. I also currently serve as the external relations manager for a social enterprise called Young Tunisian Coders Academy. We recently won the Social Impact Award that was held here in Tunisia! It was only my second time pitching in front of an audience. This was time it was in French, not English! Within our social enterprise, we aim to evolve and become a startup. -Naouel Cherif

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I was accepted to the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship Program to study one full academic year at Emporia State University in Kansas. I have also been selected to be the Hult Prize campus director at ESU and was accepted as a delegate for the Model United Nations at Harvard University. All thanks to the CLS and all the amazing CIEE staff! -Amir Ammar

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I participated in the Civic Leadership Summit in 2016 and when I came back to Egypt (my home), I was selected to be the director of international affairs of my faculty (medicine) and now I have my own startup! I created a new association about the environment and empowering youth potentials and talents called ExEgypt. I’m the founder and CEO and I’m really happy that the CLS made a new character of me. I’m no longer called a doctor, I’m a real CHANGEMAKER! Many thanks to my CIEE family” -Alaa Elyamany

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The CLS was one of the best opportunities of my life. When I went back to Turkey, I founded the first student nutrition magazine in the country. I started to study business on a full scholarship and involved a reverse mentoring program at Unilever. Thank you for all the hospitality and amazing days in Washington, D.C.! -Pinar Batmaz

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After the CLS, I went back to Italy (where I was studying) and got my master’s in international business and finance. I then moved to Spain now live in lovely Barcelona where I work at HP as a financial analyst for the 3D Printing Solutions. Still playing basketball and, meanwhile, I learned how to dance salsa! -Polina Peltekova

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I am back in Jamaica completing my degree in microbiology. Currently, I am serving as the director of membership and new generation for the university's Rotaract Club (a partner club of Rotary), where my job is to motivate members of the university population and surrounding high schools to be more active in community service.  -Ackime Thomas

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I’m in Mexico studying business management and am a leader by founding the student society at ITESO (a higher education institution), joining CEENI congress programs. I am actually trying to push my CIEE idea from the CLS into reality and some other little projects! -Emmanuel Monroy

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Andra Dolana

Interview with Andra Dolana from Romania (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)

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What made you interested in doing an exchange experience in the US?

It was my second time coming to the U.S. and I decided to participate in this experience for the same reasons I did the first time – the desire to be a part of a different culture, to see how the people of one of the greatest countries in the world are, to get to know people my age from different cultures and, of course, to travel. The American culture is everywhere and I wanted to experience a Fourth of July holiday, eat burgers and Philly cheesesteaks, talk with Americans, and visit one of the most amazing cities in the world – New York.

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

I think the most important thing I learned was that no matter the cultural barriers, or how different our personalities are, there are some things that bring us all together, like our desire to help the environment, our desire to combat corruption, and our overall desire to change the world that we live in. It was an amazing feeling to know that I, a girl from Romania, can have so many things in common with a girl from Nicaragua. We bonded over what seemed a simple question – “If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?” It was an awesome feeling to know that if you are willing to open your mind and let go of prejudices, you can make friends with people from all over the world.

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How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

It made me more sure than ever that I want to make a difference and that I can make a difference. I used to feel that a single person cannot fight against an entire system, but at the Civic Leadership Summit I learned that I should start by helping the people in my community; that thinking small is not bad thing – it’s productive and can help make the world a better place. I learned a lot of interesting information and gained some helpful skills for becoming a changemaker. On top of that, I also met a lot of intelligent, fun, and caring people.

Where are you now?

I am in my country and I am currently on the path of getting my master’s degree in gender studies.

What makes you a changemaker?

Well, I am a journalist, and at the Civic Leadership Summit, I learned that storytelling is an important part of making a change so that is what I plan on doing. Using my knowledge from the Summit and my gender studies program, I plan to find stories regarding discrimination, violence against women, and racism and give those people a voice. My dream is to open a website for young women where they can learn about politics and how it affects their life and to learn about their rights, health, and education.

Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Cheryl Pablo

Interview with Cheryl Pablo from Nicaragua (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)

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

I grew up in a small country with a small family. My dad works out of the country and has a lot of stories about how life is out there. He has a special feeling for the United States because it's the country that gave him a job and an opportunity to start a family, have a home, and fortunately have me and my brother studying and preparing ourselves for life. My life experience, the media, the music I listen to and the way of thinking I grew up with made me want to experience life on my own in the great United States.

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

I learned that everyone in the world could live in harmony if we base our lives on respect and empathy. I met bright young people from so many different backgrounds, but we all had this feeling of respect towards everyone, even though we were different in so many ways. Also, I learned that one person can make a change – one person can be the light to others that would come to you and start a fire.

How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

Now I truly feel like I have a responsibility to my community and my country. The issue we have is that young people are not motivated to study, to learn, to think, to change things for better, or fight for what we believe in. We were only six brave Nicaraguans in CIEE Work & Travel USA during the summer of 2017, and that was because I personally saw a lot of young and capable people backing off and claiming that they didn't want to step out of their comfort zone. I am sure I can be an example and set standards to a lot of young people of how good it feels to work for something and achieve what you want.

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Where are you now? What are you doing now?

 I am in Nicaragua, studying and working right now. I'm saving money to be part of the CIEE Work & Travel USA program again this summer!

What makes you a changemaker?

My main area has to be young people, teenagers in high school, and young people in college. I've been volunteering in projects to help kids learn to read and write, and high school students to find what they truly want to study in college. I think education is very important for us to open our minds to the world and have more sense of how our actions do matter and how much we can help others if we all get together. This is something that I'm doing because, at the moment, it is the only way I can help. But, I am truly putting in effort to get people together with the same motivation – to help others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

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

Where are you now? What are you doing now?

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

What makes you a changemaker?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How has the civic leadership summit impacted your life?

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

What makes you a changemaker?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?

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

Where are you now? What are you doing now?

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

What makes you a changemaker?

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

J-1 Alumni Meetup in Madrid

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

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

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

By Peter Sima, 2014 CIEE Internship alumnus

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

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Peter Sima, CIEE alumnus and Non Profit Marketing Consultant

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

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

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

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Exploring Google's Silicon Valley campus

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

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

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Peter at the ESET office in San Diego

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

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

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Peter at a San Diego Chargers game



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

*This post originally appeared on the CIEE Exchange Programs blog

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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The view from the Vega shoreline over Echo Lake


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

Manitou Roommates
Manitou Left Roommates


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

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


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

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

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“It’s goodnight and not goodbye”