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Home Away from Home: Noémi's Experience at Mohonk Mountain House

By Noémi Varga, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017 participant from Slovakia

My name is Noemi. I was born and raised in Slovakia and currently, I am a university student in Budapest, Hungary. My experience with the J-1 exchange program all started with a spur of a moment decision with my best friend. One day after a long day at school and work, we were talking about our summer and we decided to sign up for the Summer Exchange program through Smaller Earth Company. This choice changed my whole world and how I see people around me.


I worked at Mohonk Mountain House during the summer of 2017 in New Paltz, NY. My best friend and I took on this adventure before our last year at university to spend our summer gaining new experiences and meeting people from all around the world. My friend and I are both Communication and Media students at Corvinus University of Budapest. We wanted to develop our communication abilities and expand our social network, and this is what we truly got from this program. We were living on the grounds of the hotel with all of the international staff, who became our friends for life, and we got to experience the American culture through traveling and special programs organized by Mohonk Mountain House.


I was working as a Granary Server during the summer, which gave me the opportunity to work outside and enjoy the main attraction of Mohonk Mountain House: nature. The Granary is the outdoor barbecue restaurant of the House, where our guests could enjoy our daily cookouts and our lobster dinners. The Granary had several stations, and we worked at a different one each day. This changing schedule was the main factor keeping the job more interesting for all of us, as one day you were serving burgers and the other you were scooping ice-cream.


This program helped me grow professionally as well as personally. It has helped me understand people coming from different parts of the world and how their culture is built differently. For me, the biggest culture shock that I encountered is the social acceptance that I experienced from Americans. People are accepting of you however you look, whatever you believe in, and wherever you come from. They are less judgmental and more used to diversity.

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 This probably derives from the fact that the U.S. is built on cultural diversity. It is the melting pot of all kinds of cultures as its population mostly comes from immigration. This acceptance made me realize how much I want the same in my country and in a way this sentiment made me feel at home even if I was thousands of miles away from Hungary and Slovakia. It opened my eyes to how much I truly care about how people perceive each other and how badly it can affect us if someone is judgmental of our religion, skin color, sexuality, etc. The main point that I took with me from this culture shock was to accept everyone around me and to not “judge a book by its cover.”


This was my third time in the U.S. I previously took part in a study exchange program for three weeks in LA and went on a family trip to New York. However, this time it was different, because I got to experience the everyday life of Americans and not just the tourist life. I would say that the best part of these three months were the people I met and got to share all the adventures with. I got to see Niagara Falls, attend an Ed Sheeran concert on my birthday, go to a fashion show during the New York Fashion Week, walk around the Harvard campus, and see the New York City skyline from the Top of the Rock. These are just a few of the amazing moments I got to be a part of during my time in the States, and I hope to gain so many more in the future.

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I can’t wait to go back for the summer of 2018 to get more experiences and to meet more and more people. My biggest hope for the summer of 2018 is to visit Bourbon Street in New Orleans and to visit the campus of NYU, as it is my dream to get in for a graduate writing program in 2019.

All in all, after this summer, I have gained a new home and new family that I will always love. My last and biggest hope for the J-1 visa exchange program is that, once I have a child, they will be able to enjoy the advantages of this program as well. 


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

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. 

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.  

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. 

Peter at a San Diego Chargers game

ExEgypt: How one CIEE Alumnus is Making Change in his Community

By Alaa Mahmoud, 2016 CIEE Access Scholar, Civic Leadership Summit Fellow, and Work & Travel USA participant

Hello everyone! I’m Alaa Mahmoud from Egypt, a CIEE Work & Travel USA and Civic Leadership Summit 2016 (CLS16) alumnus. I’m currently enrolled as a fourth year medical student in Suez Canal University, Egypt.

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Alaa (red shirt, center) with ExEgypt volunteers

 After taking part in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program, participating in CLS16, having the privilege to meet 62 young leaders from all around the world, and getting to know the CIEE staff, I was inspired to launch an organization concerned with environmental and public health issues. While attending the summit, I gained skills that gave me the motivation to create ExEgypt (Exchanging & Empowering Global Youth Potentials & Talents), an initiative involving young children to help create young leaders.

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Alaa with the ExEgypt logo

 Since I came back to Egypt, I started thinking with three of my colleagues about how to build something that would have a good impact and make a difference—not only in our community, but all over the world. Therefore, we figured out that society means everything. It's why we started, how we achieve, and whom we'd like to affect. Our practices are directed toward every human being in the society, starting with children and ending with adults. We aim to increase green areas, raise awareness of pollution and public health, and bring to life the idea of recycling and emphasize its significance. We presented the idea to our university administrators and they completely supported us, made some suggestions, and gave us the motivation to start working on that project inside the university and in our city.

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Professor Aziza Omar, ExEgypt consultant and Vice Dean for Environmental Affairs and Community Service

 Thankfully, many professors offered to volunteer with us and to be supervisors of the project, to make sure it went as we planned. My friends and I were completely responsible for our first green children camp and we organized it using our own money, because we believed in every single step we took. After the great impact of the first camp, many people started asking about our program and how could they help us, either by donation or by volunteering themselves. One touching story is that we got a message from one of the parents thanking us for what we did with their children, and that they started becoming more independent and following a healthier lifestyle because of our camp.

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ExEgypt campers enjoying an interactive activity

 ExEgypt activities include organizing educational camps for children to increase their knowledge of fundamental topics such as healthy lifestyle, first aid, and keeping the environment clean by planting and recycling. ExEgypt encourages college students to volunteer in community services, organize camps and events, and spread awareness on topics that have a global concern and must be given attention, such as gender equality and global warming. ExEgypt also focuses on conducting workshops by professional trainers on important skills—mainly leaderships skills and how to be change makers. We also organize seasonal schools in the winter and summer for international students, conducting a scientific medical program and a social program showing them around Egypt. We’ve created a Facebook event for our ExEgypt Annual Medical Summer School--maybe some of our international friends would like to participate?

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Campers learning about recycling

You can find our Facebook page at this link, where you can have a deeper look at our activities:

You can also check out our video on our first Children Green Camp that we organized, which was free of charge.

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Campers and counselors at Green Camp

ExEgypt aims to be the most influential association concerned with environmental issues and public health. This can be measured by seeing our impact on the upcoming generations' behaviors. We also plan to leave a substantial fingerprint on the environment by restoring more green areas and living in a healthier environment.

I am very thankful for the magnificent chance I got from CIEE, which really influenced me as a person and made me a changemaker.  Thank You to all the CIEE Family! 

The Best Summer of My Life: Irfan's Story, part II

By Irfan Tahir, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017 Participant from Pakistan

Make sure to read Part I of Irfan's story here.

The summer of 2017 was a summer of intellectual stimulation.

In August, I got selected to participate in the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit to represent my country, Pakistan. The summit’s organizers selected some of the most talented change makers from 40 countries and gave us a chance to share our ideas together during a 3 days event at the American University in Washington D.C. Being a part of this event was one of most exciting yet daunting experiences of my life. Exciting because I was never in a room with so much diversity before in my life. Daunting because every single person was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Every student was full of ideas on how to make the world a better place. I could envision how these students will grow up to become future presidents, prime ministers and CEOs. My team came up with the idea of a start-up called “Lighthouse” which was a pre-college program for students to help them find their passion. Our team won in our group and then we got a chance to represent our group in the final round. This was a huge boost of confidence for me as we had to come up with the idea under limited time and at the same time make it creative. We also had to pitch our idea to random people on campus and ask them if they’d invest in our start up. That was again, a really interesting experience which made me realize that people will always listen if you have something worthwhile to say.

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Irfan with Civic Leadership Summit fellows and CIEE staff in Washington, D.C.


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With CLS friends in front of the White House

 In addition to gaining inspiration from my fellow Work & Travel USA students, I had the fortunate opportunity to interact with a number of Fulbright scholars from Pakistan, who are studying at some of the most prestigious universities in U.S for their masters program on a full scholarship. As this was my last summer before graduation, talking to these scholars (who were friends of a friend) was decisive for me in a number of ways. They provided me with first-hand information about applying for masters programs in the U.S and a lot of valuable advice which is not available on traditional platforms. What added to my positive interaction with them was the fact that many of them had a similar background as me. For example, one of the scholars was conducting his research in biomedical engineering, the same subject I want to pursue my masters in. Or another scholar was from the same exact high school as mine, currently pursuing her masters at Columbia University. Before last summer, I was quite confused on what to do after graduation, but hearing the stories of these Fulbright scholars who have gone through the same road as me helped me a lot in deciding what direction to go in. I live in Turkey so I don’t think it would’ve been possible to meet them anywhere other than the U.S.

Irfan with Columbia Univ friend
Irfan and his friend from Columbia University at Times Square

The summer of 2017 was the best summer of my life.

An avid soccer (read: football) fan, it’s no surprise that I took the first opportunity I got of buying tickets for the International Champions Cup clash between Barcelona and Juventus at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The stadium has a capacity of 82,500 seats! All in all, it was an unimaginable atmosphere! To see soccer legends like Messi, Neymar and Buffon play live was absolutely unreal for someone who comes from Pakistan, where professional soccer is basically non-existent.

Irfan Barcelona Match
Taking it all in at the match

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really amazing summers. However, nothing can top spending my summer in New York City, living with 30 exchange students from all over the world, travelling to more than 10 states in the U.S and making so many of my dreams come true. I will never forget the absolutely enthralling experiences I had. Now that I’m back home, I am profusely emitting positive vibes and I’m super excited to use what I learned during the summer into practice. The interactions I had this summer taught me that there are no limits. No mountain is too high to climb. No ocean too deep. Life, let’s see what you got. I’m ready!

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In Philadelphia living out my “Rocky Balboa” moment!

My Summer of Authentic Cultural Experiences: Irfan's Story, Part I

By Irfan Tahir, CIEE Work & Travel USA Participant from Pakistan

Check back on Thursday for Part II of Irfan's story.

Ever since I left the U.S. as a high school exchange student in 2010, I’ve been searching for an opportunity to return. For those of us who are part of the exchange universe, we understand how rewarding an exchange program can be when compared to being a tourist in a foreign country. The interactions and experiences you have as an exchange student are unparalleled to those of a tourist. This is the main reason why I opted to participate in the CIEE Work & Travel USA program for the summer of 2017. With my job placement at Hampton Jitney in New York, it’s fair to that the program exceeded expectations!

The summer of 2017 was a summer of authentic cultural experiences.

My daily job was that of a trip host person on a bus that ran from Long Island to Manhattan every day, quite similar to a flight attendant. This meant that almost every day I had the good fortune of meeting someone interesting. I met scientists working at leading universities like Harvard or MIT. I met artists, creators, Wall Street investment bankers, immigrants from different countries and a lot of wealthy people travelling daily on our luxury liners. I will forever cherish the conversations we had and the amount of cultural exchange that took place every day between the three-hour bus rides. It was very surprising to me how interested some of the passengers were in finding out more about me. Most of the customers on our first-class bus service were over fifty years old. This meant they brought with them a lifetime of experiences from which I could only benefit. I’d ask about their travels, their first job, their political views or a lot of time we’d end up chatting about music or movies.

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Irfan with Hampton Jitney co-workers

Because of the nature of the job, I was with a different bus driver every day who brought with themselves their own unique life story. I’d always remember one particular driver, Sean. After several trips together, we developed a strong friendship. And one night after finishing our work, he showed me all the places he grew up in New York City and those which meant the most to him. It was moments like these which I think are impossible to experience as a tourist. Living with two Romanian roommates and students from different countries at the same hotel was super fun. We’d organize shopping trips, beach parties, birthday celebrations and travel together on our off days. By the end of the summer, we were really like a family. The CIEE Work & Travel program gave me a chance to have the most authentic cultural experiences and learn more about the American people and those around the world; transparent of any political or religious bias.

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With friends on the Brooklyn Bridge
Irfan Central Park
Exploring Central Park

The summer of 2017 was a summer of concerts.

This summer, I got a chance to make many of my musical dreams come true. Starting from Pink Floyd and Coldplay to John Mayer and Eric Clapton. But there’s one concert which stood out from the rest…the Global Citizens Festival 2017. The festival’s website defines the event as “an action-rewarded, awareness driven free music festival where fans engage with causes in order to win tickets.” Basically, fans can earn tickets by completing specific community service tasks or attending various social events. The free tickets don’t have any sections reserved to them which is why my friends and I decided to purchase tickets online…I wanted a front row seat to live out my musical dream!

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Irfan and friends at the Global Citizens Festival

One of my personal favorites, Alessia Cara, kicked off the festival with a peppy performance of her hit song ‘Stay’. Followed by The Lumineers, Big Sean, The Killers and Andra Day. Amidst all this greatness, there was one band that triumphed over all others : Green Day. It had been one of my biggest dreams to see them live since many years. Nothing screams nostalgia like Green Day. Their music defined my high school years.

The festival was hosted by a diverse set of celebrities and famous individuals and there were powerful messages of peace, equality and change embedded throughout the performances. Music has been a catalyst of change since many decades; music doesn’t see cast, color or nationality. It can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of where they come from or what their background is. To see this first hand in action was an overwhelming experience.

No Wi-Fi No Problem: Modestas' Summer at Camp

By Modestas Ciparis, CIEE Camp Exchange USA 2017 participant

The words – “What you think becomes your reality” fit perfectly for me. When I was a kid, I always dreamed to go to North America, so after I finished my studies, I decided to fulfil my dream and received a work permit for one year to work in Canada at the Olympic Park’s bobsleigh track. After living in Canada and traveling through the United States, I could not stop dreaming about coming back to that continent to experience more of the life overseas. After seeing CIEE’s advertisement on Facebook about working at summer camps in the USA, I thought I’ll give it a try! A couple of months later I was on my way to the beautiful state of Maine to work as a camp counselor at The Flying Moose Lodge in East Orland.

When I arrived, my first thought was – wow, such a wonderful place! The camp is located on the shore of the beautiful Craig Pond, surrounded by forests and far, far away from busy city life, marvelous! Although I liked the place, I felt a little bit anxious, that I would have to live without Wi-Fi, electricity, hot water (and other comforts like that) for the rest of my time there. But that turned out to be even better for me! I think I started to feel more peaceful and enjoy the present moment even more after I stopped checking Facebook every 20 minutes or reading some news website. I began to appreciate new things.

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The Flying Moose Lodge base camp

Flying Moose Lodge is a wilderness camp for boys that provides canoe/hiking trips and outdoor, conservation, and self-reliance skills. Every day was different! We would spend time at the base camp teaching kids camping, canoeing, and swimming skills. We’d have fun playing ping pong, tetherball, basketball or other sorts of games. In the evenings, we would gather by a campfire to sing traditional camp songs and listen to some interesting stories told by the Camp Director. One of my favorite memories was taking a morning dip in the Craig Pond! While at the base camp, the bell would ring and invite us to start our day that way. What an amazing ritual it was.

View of Craig pond from the camps shore
Craig Pond from the camp shore

Every Tuesday morning, a group of campers led by one to two counselors would pack their bags, load them to the vans with other necessary gear, and leave for an average four day trip to experience life in nature. Campers had a chance to test their paddling skills in the fast-flowing river or big lake by having a canoeing trip or test their endurance and patience in climbing mountains and walking on the rough trails by having a hiking trip. Every trip was different but they all had the same process: we were given maps, gear and food and were driven to the beginning point to start a trip. From that point, we were on our own. Every day we had to reach a different campsite, prepare meals for breakfast, dinner and make sure that kids are safe and having a great time. Every trip had its final destination, which we had reach on time. The trips I’ve been on were challenging but at the same time really amazing. Not only did I see so many beautiful places, learned a lot of new things and had loads of fun, but also had to deal with such things as cheering up homesick kids or losing a canoe after flipping it on the rapids. It was an invaluable experience!

Camping on the Shore
Camping trip on the shoreline
Paddling during the Moose river trip 1
Camper paddling on the Moose River trip
Me on the top of Kadahdin
Modestas on Mount Katahdin
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Appalachian Trail hike with campers

On our last day of camp, we had an awesome counselor party. I was happy and sad at the same time. I worked with and spent time with these amazing people all summer and I knew I was really going to miss them. I guess it would be right to say that this summer’s trip to the United States and working at The Flying Moose Lodge camp really contributed to my current happy state, because it helped me to feel the joy of life again. Getting out of my comfort zone, learning a lot of new things (especially when everything is in English), meeting a lot of great people, visiting so many beautiful places, living in the nature for almost two months and experiencing American lifestyle was something unforgettable. Now that I’m back home, I find that it’s easier for me to get out of my comfort zone, I enjoy nature more and have really improved my English. I'm really happy to say that I'm glad that I saw that CIEE Facebook ad and had an opportunity to participate in the Camp Exchange USA program!

Modestas at camp!

Scenes from a Summer in the U.S.: Anja's Story

By Anja Kadzioch, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017

My Favorite Summer Memory

Contest Submission
In this picture I'm in Central Park with my fiancé. This is my favorite summer memory because it was our second visit to NYC; last time we came here 3 years ago in winter and we couldn't manage to find this exact place. After we went back home, we promised that next time we visited NYC we would find it. This picture shows perfectly that, if you believe in your dreams, nothing is impossible and only "the sky is the limit." We all can do whatever we want, we just have to start believing in our possibilities. Work and Travel gave us this opportunity, to realize our dreams. You can't see it in the picture, but we had tears of happiness in our eyes. For a very long time it was a dream for us to be in this place and be there together. We were so lucky to be in this place, this summer, this year and again together, even closer than 3 years ago.

How I Spent my Summer


My fiancé and I were working for the steamboat company in Lake George, NY. In the beginning we both were working as food runners, but our manager changed our position to wait staff, so we could improve our language even more than expected. I love that in my job I'm busy and that we have to work together as a team. Without teamwork it would take much longer to set up the boat.

Surprising Things I Learned in the United States

I was surprised by the large tips Americans give sometimes. In my country it would be unbelievable, but here it is customary. I have learned that I love helping people and making them feel better. This feeling keeps me smiling.


What I've Taken Away from my Summer Work and Travel Experience


I think that the program will affect my future positively. I am now more open to other cultures and new environments. I am now also more fluent in English; I am not afraid anymore to say something wrong. I'm just trying my best and if I don't know something I now have a lot of new friends to ask about it.


The best part about living in the U.S. is the fact that everything is new, that we have to deal with everything alone and that keeps us busy all the time. It makes each day even more fun.


From Rural Cambodia to Atlanta: Soroth's Year at School

By Soroth San, CIEE Internship USA 2017-2018 Participant

I was born and grew up in a poor village in Cambodia. I moved to the capital city, Phnom Penh, and became a student at the Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL), majoring in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. I was working as Head of School in Cambodia at an elementary school, encountering a ton of challenges including discipline issues, quality of education, interactions with students’ parents. I was eager for an opportunity to look at other parts of the developed world which has gone through and achieved in implementing successful education philosophies.

There are many strong motives driving me to choose the U.S.A. to be my new world and to broaden my horizon through an internship with the Galloway School in Atlanta, Georgia. First and foremost, I have always had a question in my mind about why the U.S. is a powerful country. I think of the education system and society because I hold the strong belief that a vast majority of people’s successes are the result of education. Despite the fact that I have studied English for 15 years, I felt that I needed to improve my English in an English-speaking environment. I love to be around native speakers, and I hope to enormously master my English speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

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The U.S. is also the country of the Sharing Foundation, the organization that sponsored me to study through high school and college. I have known some people there for a long time and turned to them for help and motivation, and felt the U.S. was a home to me even before I came here. I now have a chance to present myself to my generous long-term sponsor and meet donors and board members.

I am so blessed that I have a scholarship to come to America to look at the whole picture of a school. My internship at the Galloway School is in educational administration. I spend my time observing, shadowing, and simple interviewing all the departments of Galloway, including classroom programs as well as administration such as communications, development, and admissions. I write weekly newsletters on what I have learned in comparison to my school in Cambodia.

I like almost everything in my internship, and the critical elements tapping to my heart are meeting and learning from new people. I have one-one-one and sometimes group meetings with teachers, administrative staff, school principals and others to study about their job and roles within the school system. How do they perform their work effectively and efficiently? What do they do on a daily basis?

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I have to talk to people in English, which I find very challenging. English. On my first day at Galloway, I was in a very big group and people were talking about something fun like a joke, and everybody was laughing happily while I felt overwhelmed and wondered why they laughed. I was struggling to understand and learned to get used to the language, accent, and intonation. I find myself improving a lot in that area, which means I am somehow acquiring the language, and I am so blissful for what I have mastered in English.

Weather is also one of the biggest challenges ever because I am originally from a hot climate. I find it very hard to adapt to cold weather. I need to wear many more layers than the local people. To me, 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit is cold, but not for the locals, which is hilarious!

Soroth 3
After four months living in the U.S., I have found myself evolving remarkably. I have gradually acquired the taste of food, the accent and nature of language, views on culture, ways of living, eating and communicating. I have built up lots of assertiveness and confidence to express myself in front of big groups of people. I have opened up myself to the world of freedom and human rights. I have learned to be open-minded about the world and accepted things that are different. All things considered, I am able to see the world bigger and more clearly.

Peiyi's Oasis in America

By Peiyi Lin, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017 participant from China

This summer I worked at The Oasis at Death Valley, a resort in Death Valley National Park. It is a very hot place year round but especially in the summer. There was a big sun almost every day so that I could enjoy the amazing sunrise and sunset of canyons and mountains there. I was working in housekeeping.  You need to be strong to make the beds, take the heavy sheets and towels for a long way. The hardest thing is to move very fast. I was not that good at this job at first because I didn't know how to do things. But my co-workers and inspector helped me a lot and that made me feel good and appreciated. The most exciting thing is I am stronger after several months' exercise.


People in America like to express themselves directly and be friendly. That impressed me. I can know their true thoughts immediately with no need to guess how they feel. When they express love and appreciation, they like to hug or speak love out loud. It's very different from my country, China. I like this way of communication because Chinese people like to hide their emotions and sometimes you don't know how other people are feeling. I enjoyed talking with people from different cultures. That made me think in different ways and sometimes it created funny ideas.

I am braver, more confident and more positive than before I came to the U.S. I believe that I can do everything I want.  When I had problems, I pushed myself to deal with them. After I solved many problems, I realized that I am braver and stronger than I had imagined. 


My friends are from many places: China, Taiwan, Poland, Ukraine, the U.S. No matter where they are from, they are nice and like to talk with me and help me a lot, which strengthened our friendship. I am not surprised because I can feel their friendly and beautiful hearts, which made us get closer easily.  We liked to do sports, like hiking and swimming, or have lunch and dinner together so that we had the chance to talk about life in our own countries and learn the differences in thoughts and customs. 



598fb5574aa23-DSC00212 (Peiyi)

This photo was taken at Badwater Basin. It was my first time to go out with my friends at Death Valley. They were looking at the amazing salt flat at the same time as the sun rose and it made a beautiful moment with my friends and the environment. So nice to spend time with them in such an amazing natural view! After this trip, we built stronger friendships than before. Friends and views together make my favorite summer memory.



Summer Photo Contest Highlights - Part 3

This summer we asked CIEE Work & Travel USA participants to share their stories in a series of four photo contests through our Facebook page.  We received hundreds of incredible photos, and we had a hard time choosing the winners, so we have been sharing some highlights on the blog.  Read parts 1 and 2 for more photos!

Winner: "Volunteering:"

“We helped to organize the 4th of July parade with dogs” – Daria Dorofeeva, from Russia
Finalists: Favorite Summer Memory

59973e5dd6022-071817_2 (David)
“Somewhere there is that kind of quiet that you can find only on the mountain paths, with the sound of water falling from the waterfalls, chirps by the birds and the sound of the wind sleeping under a sky full of stars and a full moon. Grand Teton National Park” – David Binzaru Plesa, from Romania

“Wow” – Huan Liu, from China

“Happy day with coworkers “ – Oreoluwa Akinkugbe, from Nigeria

“Buzzards bay” – Busra Kilic, Summer Work Traveler in Cape Cod