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Summer Photo Contest Highlights - Part 1

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! In the coming weeks we will be sharing some of our favorite photos.  Check back  to see parts 2, 3, and 4 of this series.

Winner, "Day in the Life:"

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“Fortunate to have this awesome view of the Wildwood beach everyday single day working as a lifeguard in Morey's Piers.” – Jing Sern Phua, from Malaysia


596da7384959f-received_1400680933331401_Joseph Rattigan“Doing a CIEE while I'm at work. Yes, doing a Cultural International Educational Exchange with my co-workers. Learning the American culture as well as other countries' cultures is one of the best experiences ever. Teamwork accomplishes any difficult task. #CIEEWorkTravelers” – Joseph Rattigan, from Jamaica


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“Husky homestead at Denali National Park!” – Yordan Andreev,  from Bulgaria

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“An amazing sunset followed by an amazing night, camping with my favorite people near Snowbowl, Arizona” – Maria Dimitrova, from Bulgaria

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“On my first days as a gift shop assistant at Izaak Walton Inn, this colleague from the front desk was very nice to me and answered all of my questions, so I was integrated really fast in our team.” – Ionut Avramescu, from Romania

The Summer at Camp that Stole Marie's Heart

Marie Salova spent this past summer as a counselor in the CIEE Camp Exchange USA program. When she returned to her home in Ireland she wrote us a beautiful thank you note sharing her experience. This is Marie's story.

I am writing to thank you for making this summer one of the best ones of my life. I made more memories and friends than I can even count. I just wanted to share a little bit of my experience with you all.

This summer I was working at Camp Pinecliffe in their Arts and Craft Department. I was hired at the first CIEE hiring fair in Dublin in the very first session, admittedly knowing very little about what was to come. I went through all the orientation procedures and decided on some dates for my flights and finally got my health check done. As the date of departure was arriving, a fellow counselor set up a Facebook group chat for us where we shared all our concerns and goals for the summer to come. We met at the airport by the gates. We joked about the summer ahead. Once in Boston we met Annie, a CIEE representative. She was telling us not to be nervous or scared but by this point none of us were any more, we were all eager to get to camp and start the summer of a lifetime. We explored Boston that night with some serious jet lag. 

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Once at Pinecliffe, we worked with an amazing group of both staff and campers. The eight weeks to follow were filled with laughter and enjoyment. The work at camp never felt like a job. This year was Camp Pinecliffe’s 100th anniversary. The summer was filled with all sorts of special events, trips and shows. So much happened during the summer that I could not tell you about it if I had another 100 years.

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Each day was special, each week had its own mood. We sang song by the camp fire, we took a trip to Canada, we ate lobster for Pinecliffe’s birthday, we held sports events and socials, we worked with people from all over the world, we went to the funfair and we survived visiting day and alumni weekend. We had the most amazing view every morning and the best days off. We ate good food and enjoyed milk and cookies every night. The traditions at this camp will stay with me forever.

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As camp drew to a close, they hosted a banquet. Hundred Acre Wood was the theme for the night, the girls spoke about their summers at camp, their memories and friends, their traditions and bunks. Spending the summer working with the eldest age group made this last night especially difficult as they knew their summers at Camp Pinecliffe had come to an end. In the dark, we were filling jars with things that capture the essence of Pinecliffe.  Later the girls sat in a circle and confessed their camp secrets over the last six to eight summers. They will forever be Pinecliffe girls. 

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This photo was taken of the Irish staff prior to the final Banquet. We were dressed, like the girls, in all white. Wearing our special anniversary t-shirts. The amount of emotion that followed this photo is unbelievable and I would have never thought I would have something so special that makes saying goodbye so hard. Pinecliffe will forever hold a special place in my heart. 

All of this came before an unforgettable experience traveling along the east coast. For this experience I will forever be grateful and would do it again in a heartbeat. 

Thank you for all your hard work and commitment throughout the years, 

I will never forget all you have done.

 

Regards,

Marie Salova

Camp Counselor, Summer 2017, from Ireland

The Aurora, the Night Shift, and Moose: Hsinying's Summer in Alaska

By Hsingying Wu, CIEE Work & Travel USA participant from Taiwan

Alaska is extremely beautiful. A place you need to come to at least once in a lifetime.

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I'm a prep cook at McKinley Chalet resort. I do much of the preparation for the dishes that are served. This includes chopping vegetables, grinding meat, weighing and mixing ingredients, preparing vegetables, storing food, and more. My favorite thing is mixing ingredients. It's kind of like an experiment. I need to measure seasoning and follow the instruction on the recipes precisely. I cook many foods different from Taiwan. It's very interesting for me.

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But doing the routine and day-to-day tasks are challenging. It's easy to get tired of it. I started to challenge myself to cut vegetables or form patties faster, to talk to coworker to know their country or life better, to make some lovely cards for coworkers to make their day beautiful. It did work. It made my days more fun!

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The best part about living in Alaska is that I'm embraced by Mother Nature. The view is remarkable! All the trees start to turn yellow and red in September.

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In addition to this, you can see a lot of wilderness in Alaska. I saw a couple moose on the way to work. They were just on the side of road. I also saw many caribous, grizzly bears, marmots, rabbits, squirrels and so forth in Denali National Park and Preserve.

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The very best part of Alaska is the aurora! I work the PM shift so I get off work around 1 AM, which is the best time to see the northern lights. I can't forget the first time I saw them. I walked out of the kitchen ready to take a shuttle to go home. I looked up sky and there was some brightness at the sky. I thought it was the galaxy but all of a sudden lights started to dance. I realized it was the aurora at that moment.

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I couldn't believe such a beautiful and amazing thing was actually happening above my head! I was speechless. I stood on the ground to enjoy this gift the universe gave to me. It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget.

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This photo was taken on the way to the Triple Lakes of Denali National Park and Preserve. Triple Lakes Trail is the longest trail in Denali. It could take about 5 hours for one way. I hiked a lot when I was in Taiwan. Therefore, I challenged myself to complete the round trip in 5 hours. It was an impressive trail to me. It was not because it's tough. It's because not so many people go to this trail so there were a lot of animals on the way. I saw many different tracks from moose, sheep, birds and so on.

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I took this picture at one of the beautiful spots on the mountain. I stood on the rock and enjoyed the astonishing view of Alaska. It was totally breathtaking. My favorite part of this picture is that my backpack has Taiwan's flag that I stitched on it. It reminds me that I'm not just representing myself but also my country. I'm an independent, strong, gentle, kind, thoughtful, loving woman. So is my homeland. A fantastic Taiwanese woman was brought up by an amazing Taiwan.

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To be a participant in the Work & Travel USA program was the perfect chance to improve myself in many ways. I became a more independent, positive and loving woman. This characteristic will help me a lot as I'm a nurse. It can help me to solve problems on my own, keep faith when things don’t go the way I want, care and empathize with my patients. It has been an amazing experience that will affect all my lifetime. 

I'm happy I can share my story and photo with everyone. I know there is power in letters and images. They can make people cheerful, excited, joyous, even want to achieve their dreams too! That's exactly what I want to do: help people live the life they really desire.

J-1 Programs Join People of the World: Bingjie's Experience

by Bingjie Wang, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017 participant

My name is Bingjie Wang. I'm from China. I'm working as a housekeeper at Kingsleigh Inn in Southwest Harbor, ME. My duty is to keep our inn neat, and my greatest pleasure in my work is to make the messy rooms clean and tidy, which will make me feel a sense of accomplishment. After I get off work, I often participate in some local activities or hang out with my friends. These are some pictures about my experience:

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In this picture, we were enjoying the fireworks on American Independence Day! My employers Pamela and Byran, my neighbors Lori, Joe, and Lori's mother and I drank wine, ate snacks, and discussed differences between China and America. We together have witnessed this wonderful day in America!

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In this picture, at that morning, Pamela and Byran told me that there were native flamingo parades in our main street and they brought me to watch the parade. Everyone wore pink costumes and some decorated themselves and their vehicles with flamingos. I was surprised at such a special parade. In China, parades are not common. But I enjoyed the relaxed and happy parade, and everyone seemed very comfortable. Flamingos are very beautiful. I asked my employers where I could see the real flamingos - they told me I could see them in Florida. It was an amazing day!

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In this picture, we were having a hot pot party! Ten of us gathered - six from Malaysia, two from China, one from Macedonia, and one from Bulgaria. We are all J-1 students. How wonderful it is that we have met each other in the United States from different countries! On this night, we cooked hot pot with the hotpot seasoning which I have brought from China. I also drank a mixture of coffee and wine, which tastes strange, and I tasted cookies cooked by the girl who is from Bulgaria. After dinner, we watched "The Mummy" with a projector. We talked about the different laughing points in different countries and shared interesting things about different countries. It is the Summer Work Travel program that gives us the opportunity to know each other so that we can be able to sit in the same place and freely communicate.

By communicating with people in many other countries, I have a different view of many things. And now I can use different thinking to look at the problem, which is my greatest achievement. For the future, I think it helps me communicate better with people from different cultures. Thanks to CIEE, you helped me to participate in the Summer Work Travel program, which let me have the opportunity to see the difference between the world personally and it breaks my limits of thinking. This will make me better. I sincerely hope that the Summer Work Travel program will continue to be maintained so that students around the world can have the opportunity to experience American culture personally!

A Summer to Remember: Bulgarian Student Experiences an American Summer Camp

By Ruzanna Sahakyan, CIEE Camp Exchange USA participant

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My name is Ruzanna Sahakyan, I was born in Armenia but grew up in Bulgaria. I graduated from the National High School of Humanitarian Science and Arts and I am currently one state exam close to getting my bachelor’s degree in English and American studies. I live in the most beautiful city in Bulgaria - more precisely the sea capital, Varna - and right now I am doing my camp exchange program in the USA.

Visiting the USA has been one of my biggest dreams since I was 16 and now that I am in the USA it feels too surreal. Currently I live in Winthrop, ME where I am a counselor at the YMCA Camp of Maine. Camp comes to an end soon and my time in the USA is almost up. When I go back home my first priority will be to take my state exams and become an official bachelor’s graduate. Then I will start a job in order to save some money for yet another adventure. I will apply for a master’s degree in American studies in Bulgaria, however, I will spend the full academic year abroad as an Erasmus exchange student. Afterwards, when I am done with my job, master’s degree, and the exchange program, I will most likely enroll in some other type of exchange program. The thing I love the most about all those exchange programs is that a person gets to travel to different destinations without having to spend a lot of money.

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I’m so grateful I got the chance to do my exchange program in the USA as it was one of the most affordable ways to come here, and I ended up having a great summer. I decided to be part of the CIEE Camp Exchange USA program for 2017 because, as I mentioned above, it has always been a dream of mine to visit the U.S. Also, I love traveling, I love teaching yoga and other sports and crafts, and now I know that I like working with kids as well. My responsibility at camp is to take care of the kids 24 hours, be their role model, their encouragement, their inspiration, and their teacher.

I have spent 1 month and 29 days at the YMCA Camp of Maine here at the Pine Tree state and I will have to leave this amazing place soon with a very heavy heart. One of the many interesting things about camp is that we have counselors, campers, and other staff members from all around the globe: Spain, Canada, China, UK, Ireland, Wales, Turkey, Italy, Poland, Russia, and Vietnam. I am very happy that the camp finally has Bulgarian and Armenian representatives. Not only do we have an amazing staff from different parts of the world, which makes the kids more open minded and enriches their culture, but also we have a very wide range of activities for the kids. Some of the activities include: Aqua Friendship Bracelet Making, Arts and Crafts Around the World, Mad Scientist, Improv, Lacrosse, Zumba, Yoga, Tennis, Ultimate Frisbee, Creature Catching, Challenge, etc. We make sure that our kids are never bored and that they will learn many new skills to show to their parents and friends.

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I have heard many negative comments about the USA like that the kids are very spoiled, the nature has been wiped off from the face of the USA, the food is bad, and the people can be rude. Interestingly, I was glad to find out that all these things turned out to be so far from the truth. There are many factories and skyscrapers, indeed, but now I know from all the road trips that the nature here is incredibly rich and beautiful too. One can find spoiled kids almost everywhere and one thing is for sure - I didn’t meet any spoiled kids at camp! People in the U.S. are so gentle, kind, willing to help, and courteous. I was warned that the food here is mostly genetically modified, filled with sugars, carcinogenic ingredients and artificial coloring; these types of foods can be found in almost every place on the earth, not only in the U.S. Fortunately, here at camp, the people in charge make sure that the kids have access to healthy and nourishing foods and some treats for when they have a sweet tooth; the kitchen staff provides food for all the people who are vegetarian, vegan, gluten and lactose intolerant, allergic to certain nuts, and so on. In the end of the day, it was up to the kids whether they will reach for a fruit or go for the burgers, and we always encouraged them to drink water and have a few pieces of fruit.

I love everybody at camp because every single person is so kind and nice to the others. Not to mention how kind and sweet the directors and unit leaders, are which makes us feel all equal. Hands down, my most favorite people are Kim (aka the “Camp’s Mom”), Jeff Gleason’s wife, Lester who is the program director, and Natalie (aka “The Glitter Queen”) who is the arts and craft director. These people and everybody else made us, the counselors, feel at home away from home.

I have learned so many useful skills here at camp which I can easily put into use in my life; I learned skills which made me a better person. I have improved my communications skills, I have learned how to behave around children, how to be their role model and moral support, I have learned new skills and became more comfortable leading sport classes. I have experienced so many “first time” things like first time kayaking, making s'mores, eating Swedish Fish, being at a camp, seeing chipmunks, watching Netflix, etc. All these things combined made me more confident, which is something I have always lacked.

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The past two months have been filled with so much laughter, positive energy, learning, dancing, singing, road trips, Game of Thrones nights with the staff members, camp fires, etc. I write this with a heavy heart because there is only one day left  until the end of camp. Camp has been a place for me to spend my days with no stress, anxiety, negative energy, drama, worries, and all the other things from the reality. I will definitely miss the YMCA Camp of Maine and now it has a huge spot in my heart. My exchange program here at the YMCA Camp of Maine means a lot to me as it taught me how to be more responsible, honest, caring and respectful- the four core values we teach the kids here at Ycamp.

My advice to those who are interested in coming to the U.S. on CIEE Camp Exchange USA is to decide which part of the U.S. they want to live in - west, east, south, etc. - and then decide on a camp. Once you know that you want to work on the East Coast, for example, then it is going to be easier to decide on a camp. Secondly, if you do end up choosing a camp on the East Coast but you are completely sure that you want to travel on the West Coast post-camp, then I highly recommend buying plane tickets in advance as it is going to save you some money. Thirdly, if you are a big train enthusiast, then you should definitely buy in advance one of Amtrak’s train journeys. In general: make sure to bring your laptop, have some extra cash on you, plan your post-camp trip in advance, install the Hostel World app on your mobile device, as well as the MapMe app, prepare some amazing camp appropriate songs, stories, jokes, dances, and more ahead of time, and you will be ready for a summer filled with positive energy, laughter, swimming, sports, dances, and travels.

Civic Leadership Alumni Organize First Annual Green Art Festival in Kosovo

By Guxim Klinaku and Grese Koca, CIEE Work & Travel USA  and Civic Leadership Summit alumni

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Grese and Guxim at the 2016 Civic Leadership Summit

Grese and I are cofounders of an environmental NGO in Kosovo called Keep It Green. The idea for the Green Art Festival was created in 2014 and developed even more at the Civic Leadership Summit last year. The CLS was an extraordinary help to the project. The group work on the summit was a great push for the idea and the project in general. The lessons and activities of CLS had a huge impact on developing and strengthening the skills needed to get back and do community service.

The first annual Green Art Festival was held in Obiliq in 2016. We wanted to raise the voices of young artists through a festival that shows the huge environmental problems that our country deals with. Obiliq is one of the most polluted cities in Europe according to the World Bank report published in 2016. We envisioned a green festival in the backyard of power plants raising awareness through art about the hazardous levels of air pollution in the area. This was our first year, and we faced a lot of problems, but personally I think we learned a lot from the experience. The true challenge of organizing a festival is managing the human resources, and working in detail to make it fun for the audience and the participants. The festival was supported by the U.S. Embassy in Prishtina, Kosovo United States Alumni, and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs. 

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Grese, Guxim, and Keep it Green Council Member Muhamed Sallover at the 2017 Green Art Festival, Obiliq, Kosovo (l-r)

Now we are working on the Green Art Festival 2018 to make it even bigger next year. We are also submitting project proposals to a couple of organizations with concrete projects that would make significant changes in our communities. We have established a firm partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo and American Corner here. From CLS 2016, we started to believe that everyone has the power to make a change in their community, no matter how small you start. We learned that by taking smaller steps first, one can make the huge jump in the future.

Apart from our week in Washington DC, we worked as ice cream specialists in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We dipped and served ice cream in a small store near the beach, talked to locals, made new friends and had the chance to explore the American lifestyle. For us it was extremely interesting to learn about a new culture and share bits of our country with Americans. For us, this exchange was not about working in the States, it was about creating bridges of friendship and understanding between two countries at a level that only a program such as Summer Work Travel can provide.

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Riding bikes in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware


This exchange experience has been life changing for us. It helped us be more independent and shaped our personalities for the better. We were able to take the good examples of the United States and bring and implement them in our country. We are glad that we made the most of this experience and beyond thankful for the opportunity.

See more from the Green Art Festival in the video below. To learn more about how to support Grese and Guxim and their nonprofit Keep it Green, visit their Facebook page or GoFundMe.

 

A Summer to Remember, a Chapter I Won't Forget

By Angela Adap, CIEE Work & Travel USA alumna from the Philippines

In my twenty-one years of existence, my exchange experience changed me a lot, and trust me, it’s for the good, I became and I am my best self because of it. A lot of things happened in my two-and-a-half month stay in the US, each moment is priceless and I got tons of memories inside my head that I wouldn't trade for anything. I gained knowledge about so many things, like the American culture, dollars, businesses, what happens inside a hotel, housekeeping and more. Other than that, I found friends that I will keep forever. In my exchange experience, I found myself, I became stronger, wiser and independent and I love who I am now.

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Angela and coworkers at Brett Robinson

Being a Filipino with a lot of beliefs, it was pretty surprising to me how free and independent the Americans are. We have a lot of differences when it comes to the culture. I was inspired that the Americans at a very young age of 15 are already working their part time jobs in a souvenir shops and restaurant. It is not a usual thing in my country, and that is why I admired the teenagers there for acting more than their age, and I think being mature in this present era is something else.

I have so many memories of my time in the U.S., but one that stands out the best is the Fourth of July. My first time in America and I was celebrating one of the biggest holidays, and I am grateful for that. My friends from different countries (Romania, Moldova, Turkey and Bulgaria.... yes, me and my friend Grace were the only Asians) gathered at the beach to watch the fireworks, and it was a blazing, loud and wonderful. Red, white, and blue stand out in the dark sky. There's no perfect way that could describe what we saw and that we were all together made it special as well.

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On the beach on the Fourth of July

It is not only outside of work that I had fun, at work as well. To be honest, at first I didn't like my job. I never saw myself in housekeeping. But I went out of my comfort zone and gave it a try. It was challenging and hard at first, but when you get used to it, it's just a piece of cake. To me, the best thing about my job in Brett Robinson is that we gave people the high quality and satisfaction of service. We didn’t settle for just an average rating for guest experience but we always loved to hear "I had the best time in here! And I am surely coming back."

I learned that we shouldn't define people from the mistakes that they make, in fact, we correct them and allow them to start over and move on.

I wouldn't be who I am now without the help of my ever loving supervisor, Glenda. When I first met her, I was intimidated. In her eyes shows a woman with strong personality and I like it. Getting to know her made me discover that behind the toughness that she has, lies a very soft and puffy heart.

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Angela with her supervisor, Glenda

I was not a perfect housekeeper, but she molded me and trained me with patience in the best way that she could. Each day, she inspired me to work at my hardest without any pressure that I felt. I grew, I evolved and just like a butterfly out of my cocoon, I became the best worker that I could be. I worked with integrity, passion and love for the rooms that I cleaned and the guest that we give service to.

From Ms. Glenda, I learned that we shouldn't define people from the mistakes that they make, in fact, we correct them and allow them to start over and move on. She kept our office a blame-free environment, and this was very important and helpful to us housekeepers.

Having a boss like her is something impossible to forget. Returning here in the Philippines, I still hear her voice inside my head. In times that I am in a caught in the act situation in things that I don’t know how to deal with, in my mind I ask myself, what would Glenda say? Or what would Glenda do? And it became helpful to me and I’d be carrying all the values that I learned from her, the life advice that she shared and taught me when I was in America, it will always be with me in my future endeavors.

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Fun in the laundry room

Just the same when I was young, but with the Work and Travel USA program became strong and made me dream bigger and more. I always wanted to live and work in America, I always have this American dream in me, attached to my soul and my spirit. I don't know what the future holds for me, but I plan on making every day, a day of growth and making steps towards my dream.

This is the story of my Exchange experience, the best of the best time of my life.

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At the beach in Alabama

 

Changemaking in Action: the 2017 CIEE Civic Leadership Summit

During the first week of August a select group of participants from the Summer Work & Travel (SWT) program gathered on campus of the American University in Washington, D.C. for the 5th annual CIEE Civic Leadership Summit. This is the third time two different designated J-1 sponsor organizations (CENET and CIEE) partnered to bring together 45 fellows from 40 countries. This amazing diversity intensified the richness of the Summit experience and challenged the fellows to reach out deeper across country, culture and language borders.

These young leaders competed with over 2,100 applicants for a chance to participate in this year’s Summit. The three day program comprised of a series of dynamic workshops designed to build intercultural awareness, social entrepreneurship skills, understanding of civics and rule of law.

Participants share their stories and observations:

Mahmoud Abdelkareem from the West Bank

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CLS participant Mahmoud Abdelkareem

During the summit I had the opportunity to meet 45 students, innovators, motivators and thinkers from all over the world. The same people all shared one common thing and that is they want to make the world a better place, they shared common grounds and cultures despite being thousands of miles away from each other, they shared respect, thought, innovation and many other attitudes of great world leaders. I made some deep connections with all of them basically, and learned something new about every single one of them. This Summit taught me how to think in a different way, and how a couple of people from different cultures can get together and solve common issues in little or no time, because you don't need time or lots of money, you just need some mutual respect and support, that's what will get us through at the end of the day.

I realize now that this wasn't a trip to Washington DC, this was a trip all around the world, DC was just a connecting flight.

Amy Allen from the United Kingdom

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CLS Participant Amy Allen

It may seem as though the tour of D.C. would be an obvious favourite part of the week, but for me, I loved the cultural development sessions and the other deep conversations I had with the fellows regarding our cultures and global issues. This week has ignited something within me to make a change and difference, as well as travel to all these amazing countries and experience their cultures for myself. “You can make a change if you have a passion, the willingness to take a risk and taking this risk”, (Kevin Saba, 2017).

Gresë Kosa and Guxim Klinaku, Civic Leadership 2016 Alumni from Kosovo

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Gresë Kosa at the Green Art Festival

As the Summit was coming to an end, participants were inspired by the message received from the 2016 alumni from Kosovo, Gresë Kosa and Guxim Klinaku, who shared their changemaker success story about the project they started at the 2016 Civic Leadership Summit. With the support of their fellow changemakers from around the world, Gresë and Guxim took their Summit venture idea, developed it further, and started an environmental non-profit in Kosovo “Keep it Green,” whose primary mission is to develop and create projects that are related to environmental protection. The organization recently hosted its first Green Art Festival to raise awareness about environmental issues among citizens.

Guxium shared his reflections: “Me and Gresë just finished a wonderful project in Obiliq, Kosovo. This idea, was developed in CIEE Leadership Summit last year. We worked with a lot of friends from all around the world to implement this idea that I've had for a long time. Green Art Festival, the first of its kind in my country started its first edition with a painting and photo competition. The CIEE leadership fellas contributed a lot to make this idea perfect. A profound thank you to everyone for their feedback and contribution!!”



Want to learn more about this event? Watch this video and read this blog entry from last year’s Summit.

Jamal's Summer at Camp: Part 3

Last summer Jamal Richardson, a student from St. Mary’s University in the UK, traveled to Pennsylvania to work as a camp counselor. We asked him to reflect on his experience at camp, and will be featuring several posts. Start with Part 1 and Part 2.

What did you learn at camp?

During Camp, you realize how good you are at things you never know you could do. Camp makes you so open about things, you lose a lot of self-conscious issues there. For example, you may get embarrassed performing, or acting a clown, then suddenly you’re over there with the kids and with your friends, and your dancing around, performing in plays, taking up new skills you turn round and say “if I was anywhere else, I definitely would not be doing this.”

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Camp helps you grow up and realize what you’re capable of as an individual, you’re so far away from your comfort zone, you find your own footing in terms of leadership, time management, looking after others. You realize how independent you are, more so than in Uni, because you’re in a different continent doing these things.

You realize, that at times, especially when the long days start kicking in, especially in the first week, you’re going to find that you have the patience of the saint, and then some! But all these things come together when you find yourself doing new things, that by the time you feel those last few days sinking in, you know you’re going to miss it.

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You go back home and all your doing is telling your friends about the skills you have learnt, that you didn’t know you could do these things, all these dances you’ve learnt, all the kids you’ve met and how they are special and how they have changed. All you’re going to be talking about for ages is camp this, camp that, you will probably be going to get your friends and family fed up of hearing about it and maybe even, decide you want to go again next year!

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Vlogging Across America: Nick's Story

By Nikita Bazhenov, CIEE Work & Travel USA participant and CIEE High School USA alum

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Hi, my name is Nikita Bazhenov. I am from Russia and I am on a work and travel program this year. In Russia I am a third year student in Higher School of Economics studying Sociology. I work as a cashier at Adventure Aquarium in Camden,NJ, just across the bridge from Philadelphia, PA. Another fun fact: I have a daily vlog. Yes, here on the program, I try to create a movie every single day, sometimes I fail and have to catch up but I still have not missed a day.

I’ve already been to the US, I lived here for a year and went to Santiam Christian High School in Oregon. That was five years ago, and this time I came to get an experience of adult life in the U.S. Being a kid in high school in the U.S. was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about the culture of the United States, and my host family shared a lot of knowledge with me, so this time I knew what to expect from this country.

I never thought I would visit US as an exchange student ever again, and that was a totally spontaneous decision made by me and my girlfriend Anastasia this winter. To give you some context, I love filming events, parties, pretty much anything in this world, but I never took time to do it. Mostly because I was busy working and studying at the university at the same time. Moreover, I was in desperate need of equipment (like a camera at least) because the one I was using was a 2013 Canon, bought by Anastasia, so it was not even mine. With my salary at that time I would have taken a couple of years to save up for a decent camera, so we decided to come here, to work, travel, and share our experience with other people who might want to join us on our journey.

Nick 2

Another point was that my English level really went down at that time. Compared to my English level after attending high school in the U.S., I had forgotten a lot, and I had to fix that problem as fast as I could. I knew the CIEE office in St Petersburg from my previous FLEX experience, so I was able to go with CIEE.

As for the skills and knowledge I got during this program…there are 2 parts of this question. If we are talking about making movies – I learned way more this summer than I’ve learned in the last 3 years shooting. The other thing is, I value travelling more than anything, it’s a great way to learn about the world you live in. There is no way they would teach you how people behave themselves in the U.S. and why they are always friendly in university, you have to go the country by yourself and figure it out. ONLY then you will be able to understand life in another country.

If you have an opportunity to go to the U.S. and spend your summer working with amazing people somewhere in this great country – TAKE IT. It is worth more than anything else – experiencing another country and learning new every day. Don’t stress out about your language skills – I know some students that are here right now, who were not very confident speaking when they came here. In only two months their skill rocketed to the place when they can have a conversation with their coworkers and understand fluent English. And this is my second point – the purpose of learning a language is not to write tests or essays – it is being able to talk to other people and understand them. There is not as much attention given to speaking while learning a language in high school or in university and this program gives you a chance to fill this gap.

The entire experience really means a lot to me, as it gave me an opportunity to do something that I really love – make movies. My hope for the future is that after this program I will be able to fulfill my ultimate dream – be able to share my ideas, my country and my life with other people via making videos. This summer got me really close to the point when I am able to do that, and I can’t wait to see where I can go with it.

Watch Nick's video about his trip to Washington DC here: