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Emma's Search for Answers at the 2017 Civic Leadership Summit

By Emma Movsesyan, 2017 CIEE Work & Travel USA and Civic Leadership Summit participant from Armenia


I was about to finish my undergraduate degree and celebrate when I understood that everything was pretty good but that there was something missing in my life. I had a lot of goals, but at the same time I had a lot of questions that hindered their accomplishment. I was trying to find the answers to those questions, but it was difficult to do so in Armenia, a small country where the majority of the population holds the same beliefs and ideologies. So I decided to challenge myself, and search for the answers I was seeking in the land of diversity and opportunity.


I was lucky enough to come across the CIEE Work & Travel USA program.  It was exactly what I was searching for. It offered me the three-month opportunity to find the answers to my questions, through challenging myself by working in spheres that I had never experienced before.

The greatest part was that the work experience was really challenging and diverse. It included people from around the world, most of whom came to the U.S. for the same reason I did: to find their inner selves.


My first week of work as a busser, to be honest, was a hard one, as everything was extremely unfamiliar to me. But I knew that I must either deal with it and adapt to new conditions. Going back home was not an option, because that would mean that I would return without answers. Very soon, I was promoted to a cashier in my first workplace, and was working a second job as a housekeeper in the mornings in the hotel.

When I began to understand the essence of caring, I approached my work in a different way. Every day I went to work, I had the responsibility to try to make the day of the hotel and restaurant visitors better with my services. Each day I appreciated the opportunity that CIEE had given me to find so many answers for myself and to meet so many bright people who helped to shape my current beliefs with their intelligence, kindness and empathy. 



More became clear to me when I was granted an opportunity to be a part of CIEE’s great Civic Leadership Summit program.


I applied for it just after finding out about CIEE, because I felt that it would be another great experience that would bring me closer to the answers to my questions. I always thought about life as being an unbound circle, where every decision I make either distances me from or brings me closer to the center, which I consider as the purpose of my life. The more I questioned the different things occurring around me and the more I cared about the things and people surrounding me, the more I felt that I was approaching the center of the circle.


Those three days in Washington, D.C. for the Civic Leadership Summit were life-changing for me, because I found the center of my circle, due to those unique students from 45 different countries, those CIEE representatives, and those guest speakers. We were all different, but there was one thing that united us: we all wanted to make a change. And when I tried to understand what drove those 45 very different students of diverse sexes, races, and religions to make a change, I realized that what drives us all is caring, questioning, and being attentive to the world that surrounds us.