ciee - council on international educational exchange

Professional Internship Program

BAFF News Blog

Learn more about the organization and past events.


Kitija Krumina's internship at SAP Labs, Palo Alto California


About a year ago I came to California with a lot of inspiration to learn and experience things in America. So I had an internship in big enterprise software company SAP. I worked in one of the offices which is called “SAP Silicon Valley Innovation Center”. It is a place where a lot of interns work on exciting projects using newest technology. I got to work on multiple projects where I learned to listen, communicate and do my programming work with team members. Thanks to smart and interesting people who come to California from all over the world, this internship has made me more confident and has improved my perception of life - now I see much more opportunities in my future career.

As I have been in SAP about a year – I have seen how hard is the competition for interns to get internships, so I am very thankful to BAFF program, that gave the funding to make this internship to happen much easier!

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Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit, by PIP intern, Mariliis Eensalu

The Ocean, unlike countries, has no borders, hence it is called Our Ocean. Working toward a sustainable future whilst trying to end polluting the ocean has resulted in collaboration between many countries with the intention to increase the amount of maritime protected areas and focus on having One Future despite a widespread problem in the form of the Tragedy of the commons.

On September 15.-16., 2016, I had the pleasure of attending Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit hosted by Secretary of State, John Kerry in Washington, D.C. ( An important part of the Summit was to engage the next generation of political leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, and civil society to identify solutions and commit to actions to protect our ocean so it can continue to sustain us all in the future. The Leadership Summit at the Georgetown University was held in parallel with a high-level Ocean Leaders’ Summit at the U.S. Department of State.

The first day started off with a welcoming panel by Joel S. Hellman (Dean, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service), Judith G. Garber (Acting Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Ambassador to Latvia from 2009-2012) and Evan Ryan (Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State). The panelists gave a warm welcome to the young participants and congratulated everyone on their success in making a real difference in regard of protecting Our Ocean. After that the competitively selected group of 150 university students and young professionals representing over 50 countries was divided into six groups for breakout sessions.

Young professionals and student participants in front of Healy Hall, Georgetown University

The first session I attended was called "Moving Policy Forward" and presented by Anne Merwin (Director of Ocean Planning, The Ocean Conservancy), the second one "Business and Entrepreneurs for Purpose" by Mark Kaplan (Co-Chair, mFish Initiative). Anne Merwin has been working towards addressing the maritime issues on a higher level, and gave good insight to the work that she has been doing for the past several years. Mark Kaplan shared valuable aspects of running a start-up while working with fishermen.

Shortly after there was an intermission with Philippe Cousteau (Co-Founder and President, EarthEco International) and Ashlan Cousteau (Journalist and Filmmaker) followed by a session with Dr. John Holdren (Assistant to the President of Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology) on “Meeting Ocean Challenges through Effective Policy and Leadership”, Dr. Silvia Earle (National Geographic Society Explorer) on “Igniting Public Support for Ocean Conservation” and Dr. Jonathan Pershing (U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change) on “Climate Impact on Ocean”. The Cousteaus are very passionate about the sea and they told a story about how they were tagging sharks that much to their surprise ended up being illegally caught. It sounded like quite an adventure that they had been on and was absolutely moving.

Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, a trailblazer of marine biology and ocean exploration was absolutely one of my favorite speakers at the panel. She has been rightfully addressed as "Her Deepness" by the New Yorker and New York Times, having lead over 100 expeditions and spent more than 7,000 hours underwater. She is also the founder of Mission Blue ( One of her favorite expressions to use at the conference was “the nature of nature”. Her message was loud and clear that the nature of nature is changing having seen it up close for many decades now.

Participant Mariliis Eensalu and Dr. Sylvia Earle at Our Ocean conference, Harry Truman Building, U.S. Department of State

Our Ocean Concert was a perfect way to end the first day of the summit. The U.S. Department of State hosted an amazing concert at the Kennedy Center, Eisenhower Theater featuring a rock musician and Grammy nominated recording artist Grace Potter, ABC’s Scandal and Tony Award Nominee Norm Lewis and Grammy-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre along with short inspiring remarks from John Kerry, David Rubenstein (Chairman, Board of Trustees, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts) and Adrian Grenier (Actor and Environmentalist, Co-Founder of  the Lonely Whale Foundation). The performances were all water-oriented and enhanced the message of the Summit quite well.

Day two of the Leadership Summit began at the Riggs Library, Georgetown University. Three Youth Summit participants shared their thoughts and ideas for their ocean pledges that was followed by an enlightening speech by a very special guest, Admiral Robert Papp (Special Representative for the Arctic, U.S. Department of State). The admiral spoke of his 40-year career and emphasized that the changes Our Ocean is going through nowadays are truly worth focusing on. He told a vivid story of how the sea has changed and where it had led him. It was truly inspiring.

Admiral Robert Papp and participant Mariliis Eensalu at Riggs Library, Georgetown University

 The event continued on at the Gaston Hall with a High Level Foreign Government Panel with Ségolène Royal (President of the COP21 and Minister of Environment, Energy and Maritime Affairs, France), Isabella Lövin (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, Sweden) and Susana Malcorra (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Argentina), moderator Thomas Banchoff (VP for Global Engagement, Georgetown University). The participants had an extraordinary opportunity to gain insight to the high-level work done by these Ocean ambassadors.

The panel was followed by an intro by John J. DeGoia (President, Georgetown University) and a conversation with Adrian Grenier and John Kerry, moderated by Joel S. Hellman. Much to my surprise one of the few questions answered by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was the one that I came up with on the previous day. My question was: "What has been the most challenging part of dealing with ocean protection?" and Kerry’s answer was quite evident – the two main key phrases that he emphasized on were "people’s ignorance" and "trying to use science as a proof of what is actually happening". All in all this summed up how quite many participants at the summit felt. Nowadays that there is too much information about everything, it is hard for anyone to filter out the scientifically proven reasons for what has caused Ocean to change, unless the person knows exactly what to look for.

Adrian Grenier, John Kerry and Joel Hellman at Gaston Hall, Georgetown University

The second part of the day began with sitting in at the main Our Ocean conference at Harry Truman Building, U.S. Department of State, where Ségolène Royal, Dr. Kristy Kroeker (Assistant Professor, University of California Santa Cruz) and representatives of many different Ocean related institutions introduced their Ocean pledges. During breaks the attendees could take a tour at the Our Ocean Conference Exhibit hall.

Shortly after I had the pleasure of joining Lynette Evans-Tiernan (Public Affairs Specialist, Office of Policy and Program Support, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State), Kevin G. Saba (Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State) and five other exchange students for dinner at The Garden Café in D.C. The dinner was an amazing setting to exchange thoughts and views about different programs as well as getting to know the participants in person. It was also a good way to discover the effort that the U.S. Department of State has put in to giving an opportunity to experience living, working and/or studying in the U.S. to so many young and talented people. Each year around 300,000 participants from over 200 countries and territories visit the U.S. on J-1 visas through one of thirteen different types of privately-funded program categories.

Dinner at The Garden Café in Washington, D.C.

After the dinner most of the participants proceeded on to FACTO (French American Climate Talks on Ocean) at the French Embassy in D.C. At this particular session Ocean Preservation and Scientific Cooperation was discussed after the screening of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s movie Secret Ocean. The panel featured Ryan Hobert (Senior Director for Energy and Climate Change, United Nations Foundation), Fabien Cousteau (Aquanaut, Oceanographic Explorer, Environmental Advocate), Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Margaret Leinen (Director and Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego) and Dr. Françoise Gaill (Scientific Committee Coordinator of the Ocean & Climate Platform) along with a PhD candidate Grace Young from Oxford University and Bertrand Delorme from Stanford University discussing maritime related problems.

It has been an absolute privilege to have been selected to attend Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. Having all these young professionals and students together made many of us understand that we all work for the same goal and that of how our research fits in to the bigger picture. As Secretary of State, John Kerry said, comprehension of scientific facts is the first step towards understanding climate change. Therefore, all those young people will hopefully help see it through that data provided by the scientists will be adequately used in policy-making.


Latvian Intern Anna Plaudina at Tech Stars in Seattle

Anna plaudina tech stars


Journalist PIP, Jurgen Klemm, reports at KALW

Estonian PIP, Jurgen Klemm, reports for KALW radio in San Francisco

 Survey: National Parks need to reach out to non-white communities 

 National park

Photo courtesy of KALW

Bay Area residents voice their views on the upcoming presidential election

Presidential election
Photo courtesy of KALW radio
 StoryCorps: A mother remembers growing up in India

  Story corps

Photo courtesy of KALW


CIEE Exchange Foundations Director visits Researchers at the University of Rochester

Research Scholar, Arturas Jukna, and  CIEE Exchange Foundations Director, Laura Lyons
Research Scholar, Arturas Jukna, and his supervisor, Dr. Roman Sobelewski, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Leadership Academy DC excursion: Day 5, In the words of Elis Toim

On the very last day of our journey to USA we got to spend some time in Washington before heading to airport to fly home.

After we had packed our suitcases and loaded them to bus, we got to see Thomas Jefferson Memorial, which we were really impressed of. Then we went to National Mall, where we had opportunity to visit some really interesting museums, for example National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History and National Air and Space Museum. The time that we had to visit these museums quickly flew past, because there were so many interesting rooms in each museums and so much information that everyone wanted to gather!

Soon we had to go on the bus to go to airport. There was a long flight ahead to get to Europe, Frankfurt. When we arrived to Frankfurt, we finally realised that soon we have to say goodbye to each other. Luckily we all had about four hours to hang out together before our next flight.

Eventually we had to step on separate planes. Saying goodbye to each other was really emotional. It was so sad to go our own ways, after we had spent an awesome month together and basically grown together by that time. I am sure we are all going to miss that amazing time we got to spend in US, but I am sure we all got so many memorable moments during this journey that we will, for sure, never forget.

And then we finally arrived at our homeland. It was good to see our families after all this time. We, Estonians, made a big group hug before leaving and then everyone headed home with their families. And then we finally got to sleep in our own beds again. I can’t wait to see all these wonderful people again and thank you for everything, you were best of the best! Last day Last day2


Highlights from the Leadership Academy New York/DC excursion


New York, here we come!
Ugnius Ramanauskas and Janis Veveris at the High Line walk
Dominyka Gineleviciute and Greta Kriauciunaite

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Tour guide, Steve Saunders, explaining some history about Macy's department store


On the boat to Liberty Island
Ellis Island in the distance
Katrina Aleksandra Bramberga and Mantas Andrasius


Kamile Stankevicute learning from Steve Saunders


A very patient group awaiting their UN visit


Latvians in the UN Assembly Hall
Estonians in the UN Assembly Hall
Estonian song and dance...awaiting the bus.
Grand Central Station
Their visit to Mount Vernon: George Washington's resting place.
On the steps of the Capitol
Reception at The Joint Baltic American National Committee: Jim Goldenstein (the office of Congressman John Shimkus); Kristjan Kuurme (Embassy of Estonia); Karl Altau (Managing Director, JBANC)
Deputy Chief of Mission of the Latvian Embassy, Ilmars Breidaks, speaks to the Latvian participants
Goda Ambrozaite
Rooftop of the Headquarters to the Victims of Communism Foundation
The Victims of Communism Memorial
Onward to the White House
Jorgen Sinka inquiring with the security guard
Henri Kopra,  the Jefferson Memorial
Karolis Spukas
Andri Eric Kulaviir


All checked in to head home...
Saying goodbye to the mascot, Pikachu


Marta Lange's Fall Enrichment Trip Anecdotes

Funny moments to remember

Story 1 Austin enrichment trip recap and funny moments to remember BY MARTA (2)
Elephant Bar greeted us with an awesome music and lovely atmosphere. This jazz bar is famous among locals and was suggested to us by a very nice Uber driver who said that one can really sense the Austin authentic feeling there. In one of the enrichment trip evenings Jelena, Lauris, Balázs and Marta in this particular jazz bar decided not only to have a glass of a good beer, but also to use this possibility and promote BAFF and HAESF. This bar, as you can see, is decorated with dollar bills on the walls and ceilings providing the readers with various random information. 2

On the next pic you see our contribution to the bar and people of Austin. With the help of athletic Jelena the bill was successfully glued on the ceiling and now is spreading the word of the amazing organizations: BAFF and HAESF.

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Active Latvians decided that Austin is the best place where to start sailing class. Well, if not sailing then at least a nice boat trip in the Lady Bird Lake. The weather was just perfect and here five the nature lovers (from the left: Emīls, Lauris, Marta… and two girls who got lost behind the scenes: Anna and Jeļena) decided to take this chance and enjoy a different, less touristic view of Austin, enjoying the skyline and amazing bridges approaching from the water. This particular picture I like because here you can see the typical busy view of the trail near the lake: the amazing guy playing guitar in the background, or to be more precise, “on the top of Emil’s head”, also, the girls jogging with the stroller and others just exercising. This spot under the bridge was magical! The guitar guy was playing really typical Texan songs and had a wonderful voice – basically we enjoyed this private concert sitting in the “first row” in the boats at the wavy water.

As I mentioned we started as five people: Emīls, Marta, Lauris, Jeļena, Anna, but on the way Anna and Jelena mystically disappeared. They had their own little adventure that they will probably tell in another BAFF reunion. Here in the last pic we are all happy together, alive and dry ready to go on the shore and enjoy the wonderful Texan food for dinner.


A trip to Boston: In the words of Henri Kopra

The last Saturday morning in the US started with a quick breakfast before taking the bus to Boston. The first thing we did in Boston was the Museum of Science. The museum in Boston was definitely bigger than the ones in the Baltics. It was a true American version of a science museum. The contents were very interactive and easy to follow. The most popular attraction was the lightning show, whilst the students’ favorite seemed to be the temporary caterpillar and moth exposition.

Dana Miller, Caroly Nisu, Elis Toim, Emily Aalde


After experiencing the American way of science, we took a Duck Tours’ bus to discover Boston. The DUKW is a bus designed during World War 2 to drive on streets and rivers. As our tour guide (professionally a time traveller) said, the DUKW drives faster on land than a ship on a river and faster on a river than a tank on land. Once we were on the river, everyone got to steer the DUKW. The tour was full of history and the tour guide definitely exceeded our expectations. IMG_1854

The most awaited part for many of us was visiting Harvard University Campus. The biggest impression? The neverending groups of Chinese tourists. A 2013 graduate conducted the campus tour for us, so we learned a lot about student life which is full of fun and not-so-serious-at-all freshmen challenges. After touching the grass for the last time to raise our IQs, we headed to the souvenir store, from which many of us purchased T-shirts or sweaters to get a taste of being a Harvardian.

Henri Kopra

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We finished the day off at John Harvard’s Brewery with the best fish and chips we had ever eaten. Thank you to everyone that helped plan a great day trip to Boston!

Andreas Vija, Henri Kopra


Irina Hussainova and Supervisor, Iwona Jasiuk, at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Prof. Iwona Jasiuk and Irina Hussainova