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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.

Category archive for: Alumni

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.

CETUSA Alumni: Alina from Peru

Posted in Alumni, CETUSA News, and Trainee/Internship

As always, we love to hear any and all feedback from our participants about their time on the program. Recently, we’ve been reaching out to program alumni to see what they thought about their time with CETUSA and discuss their experiences. Last week, I had a chance to speak with Alina from Lima, Peru.

Alina was an intern at Scripps Research Institute in Southeast Florida. While she wasn’t allowed to explicitly say what her research project was, Alina was able to tell me that it was focused around nutrition and aging. According to Alina, the work was very intense and mentally demanding, but ultimately fulfilling. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at now without my internship through CETUSA,” she explained, “it really reaffirmed that this was what I wanted to do”.

After finishing her program, Alina returned to Lima to finish her B.S. in Biology. She has since moved on from academia and is working in research and development at a food company in Lima, though she may want to return to school to earn her Master’s in Food Science and Technology.

I asked Alina about what she remembered most about her time in the US and her face instantly lit up from the happy memories. The first thing she mentioned was going to see the blue moon on a beach at night. Interestingly enough, her other favorite memory involved going to the beach as well, going to see giant sea turtles laying their eggs in the sand. “They bury them so deep!” Alina exclaimed as she was describing the experience to me. Overall, she has very fond memories of the United States. She told me all about how polite Americans were during her time here and how she enjoyed talking to people every day.

Alina Soto-Obando - flyroom (1)

Alina developed a good relationship with her supervisor during her time at Scripps. She told me that the person in charge of her research group was one of her closest friends while she was in the US. The two have stayed in close contact even after Alina’s program ended. “A few papers we worked on together are being published so we have to talk because of that,” Alina tells me, but then goes on to explain that they had been in touch besides that as well. In fact, Alina even told me that when the company she works for now had to travel to California for an industry exhibition, she made a point to stop in Florida just to see her supervisor as well as another friend she had made who was still interning at Scripps.

It’s clear to see how beneficial this program was for Alina. She was able to get fantastic real world experience while also becoming familiar with a completely different culture from her own. This is exactly what we love to see come out of the program, participants who are able to take the knowledge they gained from their training or internship and apply to their careers. We would like to wish Alina all the best in her career.

 
Are you a CETUSA Alumni and would like to share your story? Please send an email to kody.linscott@cetusa.org for more information.