ciee - council on international educational exchange

Professional Internship Program

BAFF News Blog

Learn more about the organization and past events.


Latvian Martins Kruklis interning at Plug and Play Tech Center

Martins Kruklis has been fulfilling his internship in Sunnyvale California at Plug and Play Tech Center. Already in the first month, he has produced an effective and extensive list of Internet of Things themed start-ups. Below: Martins with his team members during Plug and Play's annual company retreat in Napa Valley. Martins at winery


Love at third sight - deep in the heart of Texas: Marta Lange on her internship experience

Admiring the statue of cardiac surgeon Michael E. DeBakey at Houston Methodist Hospital (HMH)

It was a cold and windy December morning as I left my beloved, snowy Latvia and landed in the sunny Texas. Houston greeted me with skyscrapers, palm trees with Christmas lights and a swimming pool in my backyard. This was the range of my emotions on the first day of arriving in Houston - my future Home for one year.

What surprised you the most about U.S. life, society, or culture?

In the so called Lone Star State Texas you can find surprises on every corner. At the beginning for me: a person who comes from a country of 2-million people getting used to Houston was pretty hard. Understanding people, their culture, the size of life, city and food portions was quite a challenge. At the beginning I stubbornly did not want to admit that I have the cultural shock, but now looking back I realize I had it.

Not only me, but also other exchange students come across simple everyday troubles, like finding a regular milk from a cow (not almonds, coconuts, soy beans or just magic) in the big assortment of the supermarkets here. The food is another story here. Also, small talk in the elevators and the fake-smile "how-are-you" culture. To be honest, this positive attitude sticks, and now after a year I can say that I will miss saying "Hi" to complete strangers on the street. The Southern hospitality in Texas is something that a very Nordic person like me will never forget. That is one thing I could not understand at the beginning, but now I like it! That is one of the factors that really made me love Texans: being polite, and really mean it, opening the doors for each other, saying "ma'am" and "sir" to everyone regardless the age. I fell in love with Houston only after two trips away from it. I had to leave it and come back to realize that I love it. The value and magic at the same time is the Texan people. Also the fact that Houston is the Most Diverse In Nation brings in a lot of cultural experience, starting with food, art and music, ending with innovations and ideas. 

What does your international exchange experience mean to you?

International experience enriches someone who has lived abroad, especially if you are in close contact with the locals and other foreigners. Tasting the culture, enjoying the adventure of something unknown. Then, leaving the place that has been your home for several months or years, you always leave and take something, so at the end your Home is everywhere. That is what the international exchange means to me: the inspiring people I meet and the feeling that I can find something to relate with, to feel like at Home in every place I visit. It feels like being a migrant bird that flies forth and back every season.

Why did you decide to come to the United States for your exchange program?

The appetite grows with eating. After enjoying several internships and cultural exchanges in Europe I decided that it is the right time to catch the "train to America". Also, professionally I felt that this is the right push for my career or at least a catalyst for the future professional reactions and inductions in the networking and meeting the professionals in the field of medical technologies.

What was the single most influential and meaningful experience of your J-1 Exchange Visitor Program?

The whole J-1 Exchange Visitor Program experience is like a patchwork, a puzzle that consists of different important pieces. Still, I have to note one wonderful event: the Intern Leadership Enrichment and Development program "I-LEAD" in Washington, DC. In that week of training the most valuable were the intercultural discussions and connections between the wonderful 60 young leaders from 28 different countries. These people and stories inspired me the most. Still, looking back to the whole Program, I would like to mention my work place and the city within the city: Texas Medical Center and the innovative, motivated, skilled and great colleagues from Houston Methodist Hospital where I spent my internship at.  

Building bridges with Hilton Lam during Intern Leadership Enrichment and Development program "I-LEAD" in Washington, DC

How do you plan to use the skills and knowledge you gained from your exchange program when you return home?

The internship took place in Cardiovascular Surgery Department of Houston Methodist Hospital. The main fields of research included radiation safety, robotic tele-presence systems and ultrasound diagnostics. Also, there is a whole lot more skills and strengths that can not be measured, but have significantly improved, like leadership, management, language and networking skills that will help to develop my ideas in the future.

When I return home in Latvia, I would like to continue my work in the field of Medical Devices, innovations and research. Also, our current Healthcare system is about to experience a lot of changes, and I would like to give my input, cause we have to remember the simple things, the simple truth: that the priority is the patient and only healthy and happy, satisfied people can build a strong society in a country. Last but not least, my dream would be to improve the conditions, environment, the system and funding for the Nursing homes and Hospices in Latvia.

I strongly believe that the young professionals from programs, like BAFF, HAESF and and other organizations have the capabilities and the necessary skill set to become leaders and make a change for a better future!

  • What advice would you give to others who are interested in coming to the U.S. on a J-1 Visitor Exchange Program?

There is no advice I can give, our life is a mirror of our choices, but surely I can tell one thing: I believe that life is a journey and that all the possibilities come to the person, and it depends on each and every one of you if you take it or not. If you stay, or if you go.

The J-1 Visitor Exchange Program is a wonderful possibility to experience The United States, immersing yourself into the life, the culture, the work, what is most important - the people. For sure, this program gives great opportunities for your chosen career path and even greater possibilities to network and share ideas!


Testing the features of Microsoft HoloLens for medical education applications with Brandon Elliott (Infusion) and Daniel Santirso (Research fellow at HMH)


Kalev Karpuk interning at Dopamine

Estonian intern, Kalev Karpuk, recently checked in with us about his internship at Dopamine in New York City.  Kalev has been working on several different projects, one including being part of the game design team for a project for the Dubai Government, creating a game to be showcased in a huge convention of the Emirates countries. He has researched a health and fitness app, and is now starting from zero with a new client to create a referral program for an insurance company. He is being introduced to the new-project/new-client cycle, and is getting lots of exposure on Dopamine's business model. As for New York life, Kalev comments, "I think New York is amazing!  I enjoy the fact that you will never be the weirdest person on the train and people don't mind what you are doing." He has participated in many iconic cultural experiences, including New York's numerous parades (Halloween, Columbus day, Veterans day, Thanksgiving, Light Festival etc). 

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A warm welcome to Research Scholar Erki Karber from University of Nevada

Estonian Research Scholar, Erki Karber, has already enjoyed a superb reception by the Heske Research Group at the University of Nevada's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Mr. Karber and his fellow researchers are investigating materials for solar energy conversion devices, as solar cells are a promising, clean, and reliable source of electricity. Erki comments on his first month with the team: "The project is running fluently. The hosts are extremely accommodating and I feel fully submerged and accepted in the group activities inside and outside the lab. Very much looking forward to what tomorrow brings. Every day feels like things are just beginning to roll out for me." 

BAFF looks forward to learning more about the findings of their research as the year moves forward.



BAFF Alumnus, Virginijus Sinkevicius, Elected to Lithuanian Parliament

Former BAFF intern, Virginijus Sinkevicius, has won a seat in the 2nd round of Lithuanian Parliament elections as MP for his personal constituency in Vilnius's Seskine district. He defeated his running mate, Audronius Azubalis, Conservative Party member and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a landslide victory of 56.93% to 40.37%. Virginijus Sinkevicius ran as the 26th member on the list of the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Party for a seat in both Parliament and his personal constituency in Vilnius. Virginijus is the second youngest member of this newly elected Parliament and currently heads the Regulatory Affairs Team of the Project Management Department at “Invest Lithuania”. Virginijus Sinkevicius

Virginijus is a graduate from Aberystwyth University, UK with a diploma in Bachelor of Economic, Social and Political Studies, as well as from Maastricht University, Holland, with a Master's in European Studies. He has also interned at the office of the Prime Minister of Lithuania in the Regional and Ethnic Issues Unit.

As a participant of the BAFF Professional Internship Program, Virginijus enjoyed his training period at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) from 2013-2014. During his year in the U.S., Virginijus became an active member of the Lithuanian American community, and taught children at the Lithuanian Saturday School in Washington DC. In addition to his dedicated community involvement, he offered a very prolific contribution to the BAFF blog. Please revisit Virginijus's internship adventures and reflections here

Virginijus says, "I am thankful to BAFF for the unique opportunity provided. Extremely positive experience in the United States capital Washington DC thought me exceptional lessons, boosted my self confidence and encouraged me to reach for the highest goals in life. I am grateful that people of Lithuania evaluated my experience and gave me a chance to serve them."

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Birgit Sepp and her colleagues at Copeland Furniture, Bradford, VT

Copeland furniture


Marta Lange's internship at Houston Methodist Hospital

Latvian intern, Marta Lange, has spent nearly a year working at the Houston Methodist Hospital, researching the reduction of radiation exposure and optimization of usage and protective features of imaging systems in order to establish safe practices for protection. She has been under the careful watch and guidance of her supervisor Dr. Garami, who specializes in Radiology and Transcranial Doppler (TCD).
As Marta prepares for her return to Latvia, she reflects on her experience and transition to come: "The overall experience has been positive. I have gained both professionally and personally. For sure this internship has given me enormous potential for future career and a great contribution in other skills, like cultural, communication, travel, networking, and so on. I have grown a lot, and have the confidence that the world is my oyster! Therefore, I am grateful for this scholarship and possibility to be a part of BAFF."
Thank you Marta for sharing your culture and skill set with our country, and we wish you the greatest success in your future career.
Marta after the training on The da Vinci® Surgical System during the "RE-EVOLUTION SUMMIT" at HMH
Working together with colleagues Yusuf Chauhan, M.D. and Ponraj Chinna Durai (Siemens) for a Radiation Safety project in Hybrid OR at Houston Methodist Research Institute

BAFF Board Member pays a visit to Houston Interns

BAFF Board Director, Peter Ragauss, enjoyed a coffee break with Houston-based interns, Marta Lange (Latvia) and Kelli Somelar (Estonia), both who are interning at Houston Methodist Hospital. Kelli has been researching drug characterization and preclinical studies for Alzheimer's disease, and Marta has been working on a research project which focuses on radiation protection and the use of x-ray systems. Mr. Ragauss shared his comments about their visit together: "We had a great conversation about BAFF and the Baltics, and I can assure you they are both very excited and happy about the opportunity to be here in the USA. What a wonderful network that BAFF continues to build!"

Kelli Somelar, Peter Ragauss, Marta Lange

Liene Krekovska's Internship at Brand Assembly, NYC

Liene Krekovska

My professional internship landed me in the very heart of New York City in the start-up company called Brand Assembly which provides emerging as well as established fashion brands with diverse resources and services to help their businesses. Now, in 3 years, Brand Assembly has managed to be one of the game-changers in US fashion industry, by bringing new concepts of co-showing/co-working space for emerging designers both in New York City and Los Angeles. 3

I had an amazing opportunity to see and be a part of all angles of the business, starting from research for new emerging designers, assisting in organizing trade shows, working on photo shoots, creating visual materials for our markets, being an assistant to the buyer, to things like logistics and creating databases of buyers and more.

After one year in New York City - the capital of fashion - I’m back to Latvia full of ideas and energy to apply and share my experience and new knowledge to Latvian fashion brands. 

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Brand Assembly event
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LA trade show


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Brand Assembly Square


Intern Kristians Karlsons at Plug and Play Ventures, Sunnyvale CA