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24 posts categorized "Work & Travel USA"

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.



Naoel's Work & Travel USA Journey

by Naoel Cherif, 2017 CIEE Work & Travel USA alum and CIEE Access Scholar from Tunisia

My name is Naoel and I am from Tunisia! I worked this past summer at Morey's Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey in Water Park Admissions and as a Game Operator. I was part of a team of 17 people from 8 different nationalities so I was exposed to a difference of culture and traditions every single day. One of the main reasons I participated in Work & Travel USA was to learn more about others and their perception of the world, and hearing about all of their stories, their lives, and their countries was very enriching. Every Thursday I used to go to a party called "international cafe” that was held by my American friends for international students. We would chat about life, religion, food…and eat s'mores (my favorite American snack!). 

Naouel Cherif Smores

I met some amazing people that are now my friends and will remember those nights forever.

In Wildwood, I made friends with whom I traveled with around the U.S. after I finished working. Living and experiencing the American life is completely different from what I was expecting even though I have been to many places around the world. One thing that I was astonished by is how nice people are! They also smile a lot, even if they don't know you!  

In my journey, I was chosen to participate in the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit in Washington D.C.! I don't even know where to begin to describe how life changing those 4 days were. Cultural understanding was one of the things that marked me forever. I realized how important it is to educate others on those aspects. It gave me the passion, drive and motivation to continue to be involved in my community. I was inspired with many ideas that I could implement in organizations that I am involved with in Tunisia. I want to lead a future generation and help them acquire the sets and skills they need to become creator and innovators and contribute to our country's development.

  Naouel Working on Pitch CLS

This experience opened my eyes and inspired me to take part in my country and be a leader.

I took part a year ago in a social enterprise called Young Tunisian Coders Academy. Its main goal is to develop young kid's technological skills by teaching them coding, robotics and entrepreneurial skills. This helps us become creators of technology and not only consumers. I am currently the external relations manager of this group and having this responsibility is great. It enables me to build a professional and personal network and work to maintain relations with other organizations and NGOs. We constantly try to identify opportunities to build partnerships and evolve to become known in the whole country.

Our group recently competed at the 2017 Social Impact Awards regional competition that was held here in Tunisia. The first time I pitched an idea like this was at the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit. I don't know if I would have been able to help my Coders Academy team if I hadn't learned how to pitch an idea at the Civic Leadership Summit. (Thanks to my Civic Leadership Summit team leaders and the whole CIEE staff!). One of our team members was able to travel to Serbia to attend the SIA Summit where we were awarded funds and development assistance to support our project in Tunisia. (You can watch their SIA Tunisia 2017 Finalist: Youth to Youth video here!)

Naoel Presents

I had the chance to help create our pitch (which was in French) and it was only my second time working on a presentation like this!

This experience truly changed me. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity and I encourage anyone that hasn't experienced an exchange program to get out in the world and do it! I really believe it changed me for the better!

Naouel and Friends CA

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

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


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


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

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


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

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



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


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


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


Dylan's International Summer in Yellowstone

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

Be sure to check back next week to read more about Dylan's experience!

 I am a gift shop worker in Yellowstone Snow Lodge. My job is ringing people up, making sure the store is clean and neat, and restocking merchandise.


The most challenging part of this job is to understand what the customers want when they cannot speak English or their accent is strong.  My favorite part of the job is interacting with customers from all over the world, especially Japanese and Americans, as this allows me to practice my Japanese and English. The best part about living in the U.S. is that Americans are so friendly compared to my country. In Malaysia, it is unlikely to make friends by sharing a table with strangers during lunch or dinner, as they not as outgoing.


I took a road trip from Yellowstone National Park to Rocky Mountain National Park with two of my friends, Joe and Thomas.  It took ten hours for us to reach there. It’s a long and tough drive but it was worth it as we saw moose, a grizzly cub and some other wildlife, too. We also drove up to the highest peak of Rocky Mountain. It was a spectacular view indeed.


This photo was taken in our employee recreation hall.  It was a farewell party for American college students. The reason I chose this picture is because it best summarizes this summer and it reminds me of the things that we have done together. I met people from countries all around the world such as America, Thailand, Taiwan, Czech Republic, Singapore, and of course my fellow countrymen from Malaysia.  Meeting Americans and other international students from all over the world and hanging out with them are the times I enjoyed the most in America.

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:"

“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

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

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

“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 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.


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.


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!


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.



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.


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:


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!


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!


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!

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

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. 

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.

Rehoboth 1
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.


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


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

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

Grese (2)

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.

Summer in the City: Sorin's Journey in Photographs

By Sorin Dobroiu, CIEE Work & Travel USA participant from Romania.

Sorin 1

My name is Sorin, and I am from Romania. I am living this summer in Boston and working at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Here are some photographs of my time in the United States.

Sorin 1.5

This photo I was taking while I was discovering the city in my first days of American experience, and it’s just across from the Boston Harbor Hotel, where I am working. I was trying to find a place to relax. I chose to share this photo because we all try to post photos doing different activities, in the middle of the cities. This is while I was doing nothing, just watching the view and relaxing my mind, because at the end of the day, we all need peace in mind and soul.

Sorin 6

Here is a photo of my Zen place during the day. Me, my memories and my thoughts! About living in Boston, I can’t say something specific, but I can say something about the entire experience that a student can have while working and traveling in the USA, which is that beautiful things aren’t measured according to the place you are in. If you are positive and look forward to meeting new people and enjoy walking around, going out and so on, even just sitting somewhere and watching people doing stuff, it will make you feel good.

Sorin 3.5

Boston seen under an umbrella’s perspective. It doesn’t’ matter if it’s sunny or rainy, we move on!

Sorin 5

I am a server at Boston Harbor Hotel, and my favorite part of the day is interacting with a diversity of cultures, starting with the people working at the hotel, also guests, managers and CEOs. The most challenging times are the moments when I have to keep my calm and handle many tables all at once. I am working to take care properly of every single person and giving the 5-star service.

Sorin 3

I believe that the most surprising aspect is that I learned that I can be a way more hard working person than I thought I could be. The entire working environment showed me that I have to be more responsible, and I am extremely happy that now I apply this responsibility to everything I do. I now expect 150% from the activity I am involved in…the best! The time in the U.S. will help me in the future with the goals of becoming a better, dedicated person, and expecting more from myself day by day.