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Being a Part of the News in Washington D.C.

By Eline de Zeeuw, CIEE Internship USA participant

My name is Eline de Zeeuw, I am 24 years old and a student from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. As of this January I am a proud (temporary) resident of Washington D.C, where I am doing an internship with NOS Dutch TV & Radio. NOS is the leading news organization in the Netherlands.

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Up to now my experiences here have been kind of surreal: I am living in the capital of America – where all the news seems to happen these days – and I am working with journalists who I consider the crème de la crème in their expertise.

One of my main jobs here is to come up with ideas for stories and produce items for our daily news shows. Besides that, I had the chance to write a lot of articles for our website. Even though I have lived in the United States before – I studied in upstate New York in 2013 and traveled around the country – working at NOS gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people and I got to help cover historical events.

My experiences here have been kind of surreal: I am living in the capital of America – where all the news seems to happen these days – and I am working with journalists who I consider the crème de la crème in their expertise.

For example, I covered Inauguration Day for NOS News’ Snapchat. The next day, I experienced the insane masses at the Women’s March myself. I also wrote a story about a barber from Iraq whose family was affected by the recent executive orders on immigration. My work in these past few months has touched on some of the most high-profile news stories in the country, and I feel lucky to be witnessing history first hand.

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Opioid Crisis
One of the most eye-opening stories I got to write at NOS was about the opioid crisis in the United States.

Carin, a mother of 4, welcomed us into her house in Frederick County, Maryland to speak about the situation she and her family were caught in. Both her husband and her son became addicted to painkillers and heroin. Both her husband and son are doing relatively okay now, but the county she’s living in is suffering. In one week she lost three people she knew to heroin.

Every American seems to have a bigger plan for their future. Even if they are homeless, they don’t give up.

I was really impressed by the way Carin told us her story. As she was sitting at her kitchen table, speaking so openly and honestly about it, the only thing I could hope for was that writing her story down would at least help create awareness for this problem.

The article I eventually wrote was featured on the NOS website as ‘recommended by our editors’. Carin even got back in touch with us and said that she had received many positive messages from people in the Netherlands. That made me quite proud. It sure was one of the most memorable moments of my internship to me.

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The Clichés are Real

I will only stay in DC for one more month, and then I’ll be heading back home. The experience has been real. I won’t deny it, the clichés are true: living in another country and meeting people from other cultures and nationalities really broadens your perspective. In addition, even though living in America has been a dream come true, being away from your family, friends and home country gives you a new perspective.

I feel very lucky as a Dutch person that I have access to health care and that we have a federal safety net to fall back on when we lose our job, and that basically everyone has access to affordable high quality education. Oh and I have to mention… how I’ve missed a Dutch sandwich with some good cheese (come on Americans, what you sell in the store for cheese is far from the real deal)!

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But there’s a lot of lessons to take home too. Even though the problems of wealth disparity and social inequality are evident in America, I feel like there’s a vibe we sometimes miss in the Netherlands: one of hope and belief. Every American seems to have a bigger plan for their future. Even if they are homeless, they don’t give up.

I talked to a homeless person for example, who assured me that one day he would have a house again and is going to start a coffee bar. And an Uber driver in D.C. is never ‘only’ driving an Uber, it’s a man or woman making the money they need to chase their dreams. I met one guy who is trying to get into a prestigious college but he doesn’t have the money to pay the tuition, so he drives at night. And I met an Ethiopian man that wants to bring his family to the States, so he takes extra shifts on the weekend in addition to his job at a law firm.

All these encounters have inspired me to follow my own dreams and to work hard to achieve them. Please go chase yours!

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Highlights from the 2016 CIEE Civic Leadership Summit

As we approach the May 15th application deadline for the 2017 Civic Leadership Summit, we wanted to revisit some of the highlights from the 2016 Summit. Consider applying to be part of this wonderful group of changemakers!

This August a select group of 62 students from the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program gathered at American University in Washington, D.C. for the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit, a three-day event that brings together passionate, young leaders from around the world for a dynamic exchange on leadership, social entrepreneurship, and cultural understanding. Chosen from 2,000 applicants, this elite group of Fellows represented 33 countries from three different designated J-1 sponsor organizations. Funded by CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange, the Summit featured sessions led by Ashoka’s Youth Venture, ‘Girl Rising’ filmmakers, the World Justice Project, and Street Law. During these sessions, Fellows explored perspectives around social issues, democracy, the rule of law, and cultural understanding.

A highlight of the Summit was a daylong workshop called the ‘Be a Changemaker Challenge’ led  by Ashoka’s Youth Venture, an organization that inspires and supports teams of young people to launch and lead their own community benefiting initiatives. During the Challenge, Fellows identified their passions to create change for social issues, and then worked in groups to develop plans for launching their own social ventures in their home countries.

Inspired by their J-1 experience and transformed into leaders following the Summit, read these first-hand accounts from the Fellows themselves.

From N’Dwayne Davis a SWT participant from Jamaica who had this to say of his Summit experience: You've all renewed my hope in mankind and it was a blessing to my soul to have been a part of this platform. I know I have grown personally from the short 3 day sessions; I believe in myself more and I am going to step out into the world in a bold fashion. The best is yet to come! Be the change.

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From Grese Koca a SWT participant from Kosovo who had this to say of her Summit experience:

I feel very rich. Rich with knowledge for some countries that all I knew was their name, rich with new friends and rich with new contacts to develop projects with. You are all leaders and changemakers, and I can’t wait to see those changes take place!

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Inspired by his Father’s international travels, Alaa Elyamany a SWT participant from Egypt shared:

I want to travel like you, Dad!’ I said.

‘You will go there one day, I promise.’ he replied.

‘And I’ll make your dreams come true, young leader.’ CIEE whispered.

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From Saray Quirant a SWT participant from Spain who had this to say of her Summit experience:

It’s impressive how 3 days in the correct place and with the right people can change your life. On the one hand, I've met the most amazing people ever from 33 countries. People who really touched my heart and inspired me with their lives, experiences, and reality of their countries. People I even called family in just 2 days. On the other hand, this experience has helped me to actually believe I can be a changemaker who this world’s needs. Even being from different countries we all share the same problems, and how I’m sure this cannot end here. Now I’m sure there are at least 62 people looking forward to coming back to our countries and being the change we want to see in the world. I’ll never forget the incredible people who empowered me to believe change is possible. with their lives, experiences and reality of their countries. People I even called family in just 2 days.

On the other hand, this experience has helped me to actually believe I can be a little changemaker who this world needs. Even being from different countries we all share the same problems, and now I'm sure this cannot end here. Now I'm sure there are at least 62 people looking forward to coming back to our countries and being the change we want to see in the world.

Thank you CIEE very much for letting me live the best experience this summer, meeting incredible people I'll never forget and empowered me to believe change is possible.
Saray

Capturing a Winter in the Mountains on Camera

By Lucas Mira, Work & Travel USA alum, Argentina

I’m Lucas Mira and I’m a filmmaker. I don’t even go to film school, I actually study Naval Engineering. 

Years ago, I started with a couple friends a production company called REC IT, and we are based on the city that I was born and raised, Mar del Plata, Arg.

I decided going back to Colorado, to live again in the mountains and to experience another season from the inside.

Meeting awesome human beings is always fulfilling, different and unique every single time. 

To learn about other culture by living, meeting, hanging out with people that have stories and experiences to share with you it’s always worth it, you grow up, you change. And of course, you make really good friends.

This film was a mix of moments along the season. I wanted to express how would you remember that travel you made, that person you met, those memories that will be with you forever and how they shape in time.

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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Civic Leadership Alum Finds Fun in Diversity

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 Esmatullah Surosh, 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 Esmatullah 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 fulfill, 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 CIEE Work & Travel USA Experience, In Photos

This post originally appeared on the CIEE Alumni Blog.

"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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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.

My American Winter Photo Contest Highlights

Starting back in December, we asked winter CIEE Work & Travel USAs to take photos of their time in the United States and share them with us using the hashtag #CIEEWorkTravelers. We asked about favorite winter memories, volunteering in the community, and enjoying the great outdoors. Submissions came in from winter communities all across the United States. See below for the overall winner and highlights!

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"We are here at Snow King Mountain! These are part of the J1 who I met, they are lovely and sweet! Gonna love them to the moon and back!" - Yee Xuan Kon, Malaysia

The overall winner and recipient of an iPad Pro was Yee Xuan Kon from Malaysia! Congratulations, Yee Xuan Kon!

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“A place where dreams come true.. where your family are your true friends.. where the footprints of the people who walked together are never erased.. #NorthStar #WinterSnow” - Diana Quibajo, Peru
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“One of the best times was when we took our onesies to the ski resort and laughed with all the people.” - Julian Ojeda Ton, Argentina
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“Ticos Taking Angel Fire” - Carlos Molina Cordero, Costa Rica
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“In Gallatin river. Discovering new places, with home always in my heart.” - Maite Lopes, Brasil
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“Sharing experiences, life moments and an excellent night with filmmakers from USA, and Thailand, at Keystone.” - Lucas Mira, Argentina
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“It was an awesome day #OkemoMountainResort #Skating #JacksonGoreInn #GreatDay #LoveIt #Happy #Wonderful #Friends #CIEEWorkTravelers” - Sandra Luyo, Peru
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“The best experience of my life :D” - Ivanna Chacon, Costa Rica
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“Volunteering at Community Dinner at Silverthorne, Colorado.” - Andrea Mezarina, Peru

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.

Expanding Horizons in New York City

By Laima Eglite, Baltic-American Freedom Foundation Intern

When I arrived at the beginning of my program, it was my first time in the United States. and from the minute I landed in JFK airport still everyday something surprising and new appears in American culture. The biggest difference from my home in Latvia was the size of everything. Buildings, cars and scale of everything that Americans do.

My first month here I visited MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to attend a Coldplay concert. I had never seen such an enormous complex built mainly for sport events. Also its not correct to compare to my home country because the population here is different by tens of millions of people.

I found that in America everybody I met was super friendly and open. People tend to give compliments on streets or on trains just to express their opinion. It’s much easier here to start conversations with strangers and find new fantastic addition to your friend group.

Laima 2
In front of the Brooklyn Bridge


I have been in the United States for four months now, and I can truly say that I have become more open minded and accepting of different nationalities and their cultural background. I didn’t always have this before because my home country is not very diverse, I would guess only 5-8 nationalities living there. Here in U.S. it’s the opposite, especially New York. There are so many communities and international people. It’s always a big honor to meet new people and listen to their story about how they ended up in U.S. and what life they have now. I really hope that my story will inspire other young people to try this program.

I had several reasons for coming to the U.S. Mostly it’s in my character: I’m a person who cannot sit in place for long, and I love challenging myself. I love living out of my comfort zone and this feeling keeps me going. Since I was a little kid I have always wanted to spend time in the U.S., especially to New York, and try my luck here. The rest is history and I can truly say that every single day I have to pinch myself to believe that I’m really living my dream now. And I can only say that I love it and enjoy it very very much.

Laima 3
On the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art


I feel very lucky to be working in my field, clothing manufacturing and fashion industry management. People I meet at my work are remarkably inspiring. I see how hard they work and how much they sacrifice to succeed. This feeling and the environment pushes me every day to be better person and never give up on my own dreams.

My main goal when I come back is to inspire people, mostly young professionals. So many young people are scared to try this opportunity, to step out of their usual work/study schedule. I want to be an ambassador and give public speeches at universities and schools sharing my experience and the intellectual growth of my journey in the United States.

What I would say to other students in my home country is, just apply! This experience will change your life for the better.

Laima 4
On one of my trips outside the city