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Council for Educational Travel, USA

CETUSA is dedicated to the mission of "reaching out to encourage a lifelong journey of global peace and understanding." We support this mission through the implementation of exchange programs for high school students - both American and international - and trainee and internship programs for university students/young professionals. This blog space is meant to continue the conversation on the value of education through experience - more specifically the experience of study abroad. There will be guest blogs here as well as announcements of resources for students, parents and teachers to learn more about study abroad and the global perspective.

CETUSA Alumni: Taha from Morocco

Posted in Alumni, CETUSA News, and Trainee/Internship

Every once in awhile, CETUSA reaches out to an alumnus of the Trainee and Intern program to chat and hear what they have been up to since they were participants on the program. Most recently, we had the chance to speak with Taha Zouhair, a Moroccan participant who completed a computer programming internship in 2013.

Taha was eager to share his story with us. When asked why he decided to participate in this program, Taha told me that there were a number of factors that led him to the US, and the J1 program specifically. He was enrolled in university and about to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in computer science. When considering his options for post-graduate education, one of Taha’s friends in the US suggested taking a gap year to travel. Eventually, Taha learned about the J-1 Exchange Program and thought it fit perfectly. Due to Morocco’s close proximity to continental Europe, Taha knew a lot about Western European culture, but next to nothing about America. “Why not?” he thought.

His arrival in New York city was rough. Instead of taking a taxi, he accepted a ride with an “unauthorized” taxi. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and he ended up paying more for the ride than he should have. And, he was not even taken to his final destination. (Looking back, Taha said this was a mistake and he wishes he had done more research on transportation options.)

On a positive note, once his car broke down and a stranger stopped to help him. That stranger became a friend and to this day they continue to correspond.

Through it all, Taha said that participating in the J-1 program through CETUSA did so much for him, both culturally and professionally. He learned a lot about the US and was surprised at how kind many people are. He also said that he learned a lot about managing a company and how to keep it running well. When asked if he would recommend the program, he exclaimed “Yes! I have already!  Any time a friend of mine brings up the idea of studying in the US I mention the J-1 program and CETUSA.”

Taha now works as a freelance programmer in Morocco and says that he applies what he learned during his program every single day.

A Fun Fall Day

Posted in CETUSA News, and Trainee/Internship

Last week, CETUSA’s activity coordinator, Jessica Skluzacek, organized cultural activities with some of our Applebee’s participants in Bismarck. Since fall has begun and it’s close to Halloween, they thought of pumpkins. So Jessica and the five participants, Cyryll, Adam, Louise, Gifford, and Zhongling, headed to Papa’s Pumpkin Patch – voted one of the top 10 pumpkin patches in the country, according to a Travel Channel poll.

As soon as the participants got out of town they were all pleasantly surprised with the change in landscape. The pretty hills and many trees that were turning colors were nice for them to see.

Everything at the pumpkin patch was new to the participants, like the trail ride they went on, the corn maze, and the Clydesdale horses and ponies. Jessica even had to explain what a pony was!

After the pumpkin patch, Jessica took them to Riverside Park, which is where the Lewis and Clark Riverboat is kept. There is a replica of the real boat, bald eagle sculptures, and a dock to stand over the Missouri River. Jessica explained to them all about the Lewis and Clark expedition and why it was so important to the settlement of the Bismarck area.

jessica and participants
Jessica and the participants enjoy a day full of fall activities

The group then ended the day with a reasonable Chinese buffet at the participants’ request. The family who owns the restaurant comes from the same part of China as Zhongling. Everyone loved the food and Zhongling got to speak with the family for some time.

It was an interesting day and everybody had a great time on the trip. Not only did the participants learn about American culture and what the Bismarck area has to offer, but Jessica also got to learn about the participants, where they come from, and what their culture is like. She learned that the participants like to hang out with each other in their free time and like to go to a local sports bar to play pool. Later on in the program, they would like to see some sports games as they realize it is a huge American pastime. Jessica may now have an idea for a cultural activity next time.

An Oceanside Hike with CETUSA

Posted in CETUSA News, and Trainee/Internship

“Hello All! We’d like to once again bring your attention to another one of CETUSA’s many ocean health related activities. In order to celebrate World Ocean’s Day, CETUSA and one of our representative’s set out to organize a five mile hike along the ocean front in Hawai’i. With this event we wanted to not only to promote the values of environmental stewardship, but also to bring together our participants in Hawai’i so that they can share their experiences in the program thus far. Altogether, there were 20 people that went on the hike including 8 CETUSA participants and 2 CETUSA representatives.

Along the way, CETUSA representative Aaron Watson used his vast knowledge of native flora and fauna to point out interesting sites including an albatross preserve and an endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Other sightings included gorgeous ocean views and a large baby albatross! At the end of the hike there was a picnic lunch in which all of the participants shared their experiences with American culture and their feelings about ocean health and environmentalism.

Participants along their hike.
Participants along their hike.

We heard a lot of great feedback about the hike from participant. One hiker said “I really enjoyed hiking! There was yummy food, cold beverages, tents, and chairs. Thanks for planning this…I enjoyed real nature of Hawaii!”

Everyone was trying to get a shot of the baby albatross!
Everyone was trying to get a shot of the baby albatross!

Another one of our participants noted that it was such a perfect, beautiful day for a nature walk. It would seem the nature sightings are just the icing on the cake!

Did you participate in any ocean cleanups? Are you interested in learning more about ocean health and what you can do to promote it? Let your program administrator know today!”

I-LEAD: One Intern’s Experience of a Lifetime

Posted in CETUSA News, and Trainee/Internship

 

“Hello All! Two CETUSA staff members were lucky enough to be invited to the I-LEAD Conference, an event that is designed to bring together J-1 Interns who are leaders in their community. One of our participants, Shanyque Crewes was selected as one of the few interns that were able to attend. She provided us with a record of her thoughts throughout to conference, read her story below!

‘Day one after I arrived and did registration we did an introduction to the entire ILEAD team as well as the delegates and an intercultural activity to send us off to bed.

Day two we had a presentation on leadership from one of the ILEAD staff, then training on leadership through reflection of our experiences throughout our lives then we had a presentation on the international rule of law with Joel from the world justice project then later down we had dinner and did a few TED talks video on leadership and we discussed it.

 

Shanyque (second from right) and her pitch team"
Shanyque (second from right) and her pitch team

Day three we did activities with the staff and took a site visit on the campus to Startup Hall it’s a hub for Seattles entrepreneurs and we had discussions with startup companies there that shares their experiences in entrepreneurship afterwards we did more training on leadership then watched a film called Poverty, Inc and discussed it over dinner.

Day four we had presenters from the Street Law, Inc then we had a chat with Vice President of CIEE Phil Simon and then they sent us on our own to have dinner wherever and we had a pitch night .

Day five we had presentation by the ILEAD staff then we all went on a tour of Seattle where they took us to South Lake Union Park, Pike Place Market, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Pioneer Square afterwards we had dinner and all the delegates presented on topics which we were placed in groups from before.

Shanyque and other I-LEAD attendees at Seattle's famous 'Gum Wall'
Shanyque and other I-LEAD attendees at Seattle’s famous ‘Gum Wall’

Day six last day where it all ended we basically discuss of experiences throughout the week, did evaluations and spoke with a lady from the office of alumni affairs for the J1 Alumni.

Most favorite thing was the night when they sent us on our own to have dinner and we had the pitch night so basically we had to pitch our idea to a stranger on the street and convince them that our project is something worth taking part in then after for their contribution they had to donate $2 to our cause. It was fun as well as nerve wrecking because I’m not that open up of a person and for me to do that it was brave and I was extremely proud of myself for that and the support that I got from the other delegates was something I will cherish.’

It seems like Shanyque really took a lot away from this conference and was able to learn a lot from her fellow interns. For CETUSA, it was really great to be able to meet Shanyque and all of the other interns in attendance, they are all such a motivated group of young people.”