ciee - council on international educational exchange

Professional Internship Program

BAFF News Blog

Learn more about the organization and past events.


Enrichment Trip to Minneapolis!

The Exchange Foundations spring 2017 Enrichment Trip brought our BAFF and HAESF interns to Minneapolis, Minnesota for a week-long journey into the culture of the larger of the “Twin Cities”. The group was exposed to America’s mid-west at its finest, ranging from cuisine, a brewery tour, a visit to the Prince Museum as well as volunteering our time at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  An inspirational discussion was led by one of our host organization supervisors, Garth Rockcastle from MSR Architects along with a presentation from PLACE, a nonprofit organization connecting projects linked to Art, Community and Environment.   The trip allowed the participants the opportunity to learn about the diversity of the United States as well as to form long-lasting bonds with others sharing a similar scholarship experience. 

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Janis Freimanis, Niks Sauva, Egils Markus, Inese Mazarevica
Interns volunteer for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum


Greete Pork, Janis Freimanis
CIEE Kelly Francis and Maggie Ivanova
Brewery Tour
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Kalev Karpuk, Allar Nirk, Liisi Org, Robert Reidla, Martin Kaskla
Vladlens Kovalevs, Egils Markus
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HAESF interns: Szilvia Barcza, Bence Toth, Zoltan Ban, Lila Szabo
Ruta Sakalauskaite, Justas Gratulavicius
Robert Reidla mastering full-size Jenga

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Mill City Museum Tour


MSR Architecture
Garth Rockcastle discusses business and architecture to the  Interns.
Garth Rockcastle
Chris Velasco discusses his nonprofit, Place
Laura Lyons, Exchange Foundations Director, gives interactive presentation on "Dimensions of Culture"


Farewell dinner at The News Room


Research Scholar, Irina Hussainova, at University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne

Estonian Research Scholar, Irina Hussainova, studying nanonet of ceramic fibers at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne.
Irina's research group at UIUC


Prof. Iwona Jasiuk, Irina, Prof. Martin Ostoja-Starzewski at a department picnic at Crystal lake, Champagne


Lithuanian BAFF Research Scholar, Arturas Jukna, gave a lecture at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of University of Rochester, NY on the topic of "Generation, Detection and Applications of THz Radiation".The lecture reviewed the most interesting designs and potential applications of THz generators, detectors, and presented the most recent research results of his U of R research group on optical properties of single-wall carbon nanotubes solution and their spin-coated thin films onto crystalline substrates.
Arturas is a professor of the Department of Physics at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University in Vilnius, Lithuania. Since June 2016, he has been working with his U of R research group headed by Prof. Roman Sobolewski, and studying optical and electric properties of materials and micro-/nano-electronic devices.
Arturas Jukna gives a lecture at University of Rochester

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Research Scholar shares her experience at West Virginia University

Latvian Research Scholar, Marika Lotko, has been hard at work on her research project at West Virginia University. Her study, "Positive Outcomes of Animal-Assisted Therapy for Children who Face Social Problems", explores the symbiotic relationships between human and animal to solve social problems. 

Marika shares: "During my research activities in the United States, I've been seeking to discover positive outcomes from human interaction with animals. I was lucky to observe different animals used in diverse facilities: horses, farm animals (including camels, peacocks, wild birds who receive rehabilitation and after are released) and dogs. My research experience brought me a lot of joy, many smiles and different experience in interaction while interviewing professionals."

Marika has visited different institutions in the area to talk with professionals about their experience involving animals in their work (mostly dogs and horses), and has also been to Green Chimneys, a non-profit organization whose mission is to maximize the full potential of young children within a supportive environment consisting of nature and animals. At this point, she has completed her interviewing portion of the research, and is now working on transcribing. Marika has also been gathering questionnaires, aiming to collect minimally 100 responses from students. 

Marika says that she now has a good understanding of how animals are involved in professional work, and her next goal is to meet with professionals who work with dolphins in Florida.



CIEE team visits Boston!

The Exchange Foundations team spent the day in Boston, catching up with the local BAFF interns, and putting some familiar names to their faces at some of our long-time partnering Host Companies, IXL Center and Skanska.

Our first stop was at IXL Center, a company specialized in guiding corporations and individuals towards developing innovation management. Our hosts, Julius Bautista, Senior Manager, Ronald Jonash, Senior Partner, and Kevin Cuddeback, CMO, welcomed the CIEE staff members with a Power Point presentation about all of the CIEE-sponsored interns who have been part of the IXL team. Julius offered a remarkably elaborate overview of each Intern's projects while at IXL, and spoke about the ongoing professional relationships that IXL enjoys with the interns after their repatriation. The two professional teams were also delighted to share information about their latest products, including IXL's professional and organizational development courses, as well as CIEE's new Research Scholar program.

CIEE Intership program - IXL Interns
Julius Bautista's presentation: CIEE interns at IXL

The next stop on our itinerary was lunch with the interns at Toscano's Restaurant. The CIEE staff was delighted to hear updates about the interns' current work projects, recent travel experiences, and professional prospects back home.

Left to right: Denise Desrochers, Marius Gailius, Ruta Sakalauskaite, Maggie Ivanova, Priit Noor, Kelly Francis, Ursula Ilo, Liene Putnina

After a hearty lunch, our final stop on the itinerary was Skanska Boston. Skanska has hosted numerous CIEE interns at their offices throughout the United States, including Somerville, New York, and Oakland, California. At Skanska, our interns gain experience with Building Information Modeling (3D and 4D model  imagery), as well as the elements of LEED construction (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Our host was Albert Zulps, Regional Director, Virtual Design and Construction. The team toured the newly designed Skanska office, which included an open-concept layout (a familiar setting to the CIEE staff), with Smart meeting rooms, and an ultra-modern Skanska gym. Albert offered the CIEE crew an enlightening demonstration of the capabilities of BIM software, and even allowed us to try on a new 3-D virtual reality headset. He then spoke with enthusiasm about their recent CIEE interns, the skills they offered to and gained from the company, and projects to which they contributed. Other Skanska members of staff also popped in for a visit, eager to express their appreciation of the BAFF/HAESF programs, including Office Manager, Laurie Clifford, Director of Staff Development, Catherine Rose, and VDC Manager, Matt Emond. 

Albert Zulps (Skanska); Denise Desrochers (CIEE); Kelly Francis (CIEE)
Albert Zulps: a BIM demonstration

We are very grateful to both IXL and Skanska for welcoming both the CIEE staff and our interns into their busy and innovative worlds. We look forward to a continual partnership throughout the coming years!




Estonian intern, a featured story at San Francisco's KALW radio

Jurgen Klemm, Estonian intern working as a Journalist at KALW in San Francisco, received a bit of the spotlight in the featured story about "An Estonian in San Francisco". In this interview, Jurgen offers a reflective analysis of the paradigm of silence (both in terms of culture and the media) seen through the lens of an Estonian Journalist, and against the backdrop of a year-long extracultural living and professional immersion experience. An inspiring article, Jurgen, and we thank you for the enlightenment!



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.