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33 posts categorized "Work & Travel USA"

Becoming three best friends in just three months: Catalin, Irem, and Matt's story

By Catalin Iova, Irem Bagdatli, and Mohammad “Matt” Nejmeddin (CIEE Access Scholar), CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017 participants from Romania, Turkey, and Palestine

Catalin from Romania is twenty-five and studies Media Communication and Advertising, İrem from Turkey is twenty and studies Industrial Engineering, and Matt from Palestine is nineteen and studies Marketing. We came from different countries and different cultures with one common purpose at the beginning of summer 2017: discovering the unknown America and having an extraordinary summer. We all had our dreams and hopes, but the friendship we found during the summer was beyond our imaginations. It may be really hard to build a friendship that is honest, real, and life-long in such a short time, but we were able to do it, and that is unbelievable even today, months later.

Group shot lake
Catalin, Irem, and Matt (l-r)

We still remember, like it was yesterday, our first time hanging out together. It was a rainy summer day in Wildwood, NJ, and we were all stuck in our houses, when one of our colleagues asked everybody if they wanted to hang out. It was a last minute call, and we were the first ones to reply and be willing to go, which was one of the first signs that we were alike. In the end, a lot of our colleagues decided to go out with us, and we went to the beach and then to the park, just to spend time together. We ended up gaining memories that will last forever. Out of everyone, we were the craziest and enjoyed the same things. That night was a blast for each one of us, because that was the moment when we realized that we were alike and wanted to hang out more. After that night, we all started to hang out more and more until we had lost track of time and the days together.

Wildwood Sign
The Wildwoods sign, Wildwood, New Jersey

The night that made us really close was the night we went to Atlantic City. We originally didn’t have a plan, but we knew that we wanted to hang out, so when Catalin suggested going to A.C., we said yes immediately. Matt and Catalin made the plan and included some friends. After we arrived in A.C., we had to come up with a new plan because we arrived late, so we just wandered around for a while and then went somewhere to have a drink and relax. The time passed by so quickly and we didn't realize that the sun was already rising and our night was over. We were having fun and we weren't ready for the night to be over. It was a crazy and fun night, just like us.

With a group of their friends
The friends in Atlantic City, New Jersey

On one rainy day in Wildwood, all three of us were sent home early that day. No reason to be upset, because on that day, our friend Bern turned thirty, and we were able to prepare a surprise birthday party for her. Later, we found out that it was her first surprise birthday party in her life.

Selfie Party Hats
Birthday party selfie

During the party, we dyed our hair with white spray paint, took crazy and silly photos, and had lots of fun until early in the morning. When the party ended and we were going to our houses, Matt and Catalin led Irem to her home because it was far away. They didn’t mind despite being tired and wanting to go home. They did it without asking because that’s what real friends do. They care and they protect you from the possibility of a danger.

Group shot with prizes
The trio of friends with game prizes at work.

After our friendship became much stronger, we started wondering what it would be like if we ran the same game together at work. We started looking for chances to work together. One day, when we all were supposed to work at different games, we tried to find a way to work together. We ended up working together in the three-point challenge game. It was one of the most tiring days of the summer for Irem, but we all realized that while working with friends is fun and good, working with best friends is the best.

The best days we spent together were the ones from our trip through the U.S., which took place during the last days of our summer. An unplanned trip, this is how our journey around the northern states in the U.S. started. It ended with many memories that will live forever in our hearts. We all had different plans, but after Catalin and Irem had to cancel their plans, they decided to take a trip together. In one night they planned all four days’ trip and hit the roads in the morning.

Catalin Irem Amish Village
Catalin and Irem at Amish Village, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

It was a four-day trip, passing through five states, driving five thousand kilometers, endless roads, sleepless nights, countless shopping bags, a bunch of amazing photos, and countless unforgettable memories. It made our friendship stronger and it helped us form an unspoken bond.

Mardi Gras
Dressed up in Mardi Gras theme

After spending so much time together, we came to a point where we realized that, even though there are thousands of kilometers between us and we have different lives, our friendship is not a temporary but a lifetime one. However, knowing was not enough for us; we also wanted to shout our love for each other to the world, showing how unique and beautiful our friendship is.

When Catalin came up with an image of a bracelet that we could customize as we wished, the decision was made. We bought three bracelets that have our names on the front: “♥Catalin, Irem, Matt♥” and “2017 Wildwood” written on the back. While we were having a video call from our home countries, we started remembering the day we got them and how happy we were. We were showing them to everybody and telling everyone how and why we got them. It has been nearly two months since we first got them and we are still wearing them every day and will continue to wear them.

Friendship bracelet and Skype
The friendship bracelet; Staying in touch with Skype chats

You could say that maybe it was a blessing, good luck, or just a coincidence that we became best friends in just three months. Well, we are not sure what it was, but we do know that it’s as real as our heart beats and it’s as eternal as the air we breathe in because even now, after a month since we said one of the hardest goodbyes of all times, we are three best friends who are separated from each other by thousands of kilometers, but still talking nearly every day, looking for the other’s presence everywhere, and wishing we were together to share more of the best moments. We are best friends and will be best friends because we know that the distance between us is just numbers that give us a reason to travel more and the days we are spending apart exist to make us appreciate the days we will spend together in the future.

Group shot flamingo
Best friends

Summer Photo Contest Highlights - Part 4

This is the time of year when summer starts to feel like it will be here before you know it! Here are some highlights from our Summer 2017 photo contest to help us all get into the summer mindset. 

Hungry for more travel photography? See parts 1, 2, and 3

59a0cce03210a-SummerMemory (Maria)

“These are my travelling colleges, my friends, the family that I built here, in Santa Cruz, California. We are on one of the typical cliffs of Santa Cruz. You can see the sea and also the amusement park where we work. Along this amazing experience we had the chance to know people with different nationalities and their cultures. On the map that we are holding, you may see pushpins all over it. Participants of this program put them in to show where their countries are located. It is incredible seeing how we all are from different places, no matter how far we come from; however, it is more incredible knowing that all these places do have something in common. They are sharing, right now, a same time and place. This is why this picture is my favorite one; because of them, I'm having the best summer ever.” – Maria Gonzalez, from Spain
"We celebrated the birthday of our manager” – Bayram Bagbekov, from Turkmenistan
“Day (off) in life! We are trying to enjoy every single day in the U.S. as much as we can - our first trip to Richmond, VA - got a little bit crazy :D” – Justyna Zybert, from Poland
“Amazing zipline!” – TzuChing Lin, from Taiwan
“Home is where the passport is... The trip on which this photo was taken was my best summer memory, because I did what I love (traveling) with whom I love (my boyfriend) in the most beautiful place I've ever seen - in Yellowstone!” – Adrianna Rutkowska, from Poland

Changemaker in Action: J-1 Exchange Program Inspires Political Career

Bruxelles EP Traineeship

This post originally appeared on the CIEE Alumni Blog 

When we interviewed three-time CIEE Work & Travel USA alumnus and Civic Leadership Summit alumnus Paul Runcan from Romania last year, he was pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and advocacy after his exchange experience convinced him to switch from a career in law to politics. His thoughts were, “…even though practicing law would allow me to help those around me, it would only affect a small number, and mostly one at a time. It would take too long to create real change…” Paul made a commitment to politics in order to be the kind of leader that the future depends on. Having an international exchange experience was the catalyst for change.

“I've had a mild interest in politics and public administration for years now, but I was lacking a... call to action, for lack of a better expression; something to get me going. I was, as most people do, watching corruption spread through the administration, thinking that there wasn’t anything I could ever do about it and that's just the way the world works. Even in law school I had colleagues who were very open about wanting to go into politics because ‘that's where the money was.’ It was really frustrating at the time and in a way contributed to the apathy I had towards politics.

“The Civic Leadership Summit was the first time I actually ran into like-minded people – young adults who still had that drive to change things for the better. It showed me that what I wanted to do wasn't a losing battle, that there are plenty of others out there who wanted the same thing I did – a better tomorrow for themselves and for their community. It inspired me to sort of turn my back to the legal system, which was where I aspired to work in until that point, and instead focus on public policies and politics.”

“I strongly believe that international experiences are one of the big keys to solving many of the problems that plague today's society.

Paul has since graduated from West University of Timi?oara with a master’s degree in public policies and advocacy and completed a comprehensive analysis of tendencies of transparency in the decision-making process in Romania for his thesis. As a part of his work on transparency, he collaboratively published a political map of the distribution power in the Romanian Parliament that has been an excellent resource to help journalists, interest groups, politicians, and the general public understand who holds power and influence in the country. He is now working as an intern with the General-Directorate for the Presidency at the European Parliament in the transparency unit. Aspects of the role include dealing with Parliament’s relations with interest representatives, working on implementing the Parliament’s transparency policy and helping prepare negotiations on its evolution, and helping to manage the Joint Transparency Register run by the Parliament and the Commission. Paul credits his time in the U.S. as a major inspiration to where his career is today, and believes that it’s an experience that can change the world for the better.

Political map snapshot
snapshot of collaborative political map work 

“I strongly believe that international experiences are one of the big keys to solving many of the problems that plague today's society. Racism, bigotry, homophobia, and so many more, these are all the product of fear and a deep lack of understanding of other cultures. Growing up, most of us are used to living in our own private bubble, our comfort zone and almost never have to leave it. It prevents us from seeing the beauty of the world as it actually is, and makes us uncomfortable with everything that we're not familiar with.  To a certain extent, I understand that it's normal to fear what you don't understand. It's part of human nature. But at the same time, it's the 21st century. We can have access to almost any culture with a few clicks of a button, or a 12-hour flight at the longest. It's impossible to get accustomed to people who are different than you if you don't expose yourself to them, and staying in that safe and cozy bubble you call your comfort zone won't ever let you experience the true beauty this diverse world has to offer. I know it's hard to do so, because I've been through it, but my humble piece of advice is this: Get out, seize every opportunity life puts in your path, force yourself out of your comfort zone and explore the world. The only way we'll ever even begin to solve this world's problems is through mutual understanding, and the only way we'll reach mutual understanding is through international experiences. As cheesy as it sounds, we're the future. It's up to us to make sure we leave this place better than we found it.”

What does mutual understanding look like when on an exchange program? Paul experienced it himself on his first visit in the United States through the CIEE Work & Travel USA program. “Before that, all I knew about it [the U.S.] was from TV, books, and the internet. Somehow, I never met someone from the U.S. before that. Obviously, when I first arrived, it was a bit of a culture shock for me. But once that passed, I began understanding American values, the American work ethic, and I think most importantly the American people. Those I ended up working with began to understand me. Most of them were college students – some fresh out of high school, some had never left their home state, and most had never left the U.S. Of course, they knew about the rest of the world, but in the same way I had known about the U.S. – from books and the internet.”

Working closely with Americans was a big part of Paul’s cultural exchange experience. Friendships were made, cultures were shared, and knowledge was transmitted across a multi-cultural group. “We had traditional meals together, we shared stories and life experiences, and a few friends even started learning Romanian and made plans to visit. […] All of us were different, but we were brought together by, if nothing else at first, the fact that we were open to new experiences.” It was first the exposure to people of other cultures in the workplace and housing that laid the groundwork for mutual understanding, then the willingness to share and receptiveness to learning that made understanding happen.

What Paul learned by staying open to new experiences has changed his behavior and will accompany him on future travels around the world as a global citizen. “[Americans] amazed me by how welcoming they could be to a complete stranger from the far side of the planet. Not once while I was there did I ever feel that I didn’t belong there, and the kindness they showed me there, I now do my best to show to everyone around me. In the end, I think that’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the U.S. – kindness towards others will lead to acceptance, which will bring the world together.”

Find out how you can have a life-changing international experience of your own Visit: https://www.ciee.org/in-the-usa/work/work-travel-usa

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.

Collage 2

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. 


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.

ExEgypt Volunteers_Blog

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.

Alaa with ExEgypt Sign_blog

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.

Prof. Aziza Omar  ExEgypt_Blog

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.

ExEgypt Activity_Blog

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?

Recycling _ Planting Sessions_Blog

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.

2nd Children Green Camp_Blog
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! 

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.

Irfan Hampton Jitney
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.

Brooklyn Bridge
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!

Irfan Global Citizens Festival 2
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.

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.


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



Dylan's Takeaways from America: Surprises and Lessons Learned

By Dylan Lo, CIEE Work & Travel USA participant from Malaysia

Click here to read Part 1 of Dylan's story.

 Participating in this Work and Travel program really benefited me. I improved my English and communication skills a lot through this program and this aspect alone will allow me to have better chances to secure jobs. The next thing I learned is leadership skills. American managers have good leadership skills. They are role models and do the tasks to lead the team instead of asking someone else to do it or being demanding, like Asian managers. Lastly, being independent is another important lesson I have learned. Being so far away from my family means that I have to do everything on my own, especially because I was traveling alone, too.

Independence Day celebration in Yellowstone

The most shocking part of living in America is that you can drink water directly from the tap!! When I first arrived in America, drinking tap water was a huge surprise for me. I was skeptical about drinking the tap water for the first month. Do that in Malaysia and you will get sick on the very next day.

A campfire night with my fellow coworkers and a mini farewell party

The biggest revelation and life-changing experience in the USA is that I can actually survive without internet! As someone who is so attached to technology, internet is a crucial part of my life. Being able to survive without internet is really a big change of perspective for me, as I can read some books or go hiking instead of spending the whole day looking at my phone or laptop.  When we do not have internet access or the internet is way too slow to be able to do anything, we gather and decide what to do together. Most of the time we go hiking together when it’s morning and play some games at night.

A normal day in Yellowstone with my friends