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7 posts from August 2017


In the words of PIP Anna Udre

First Chapter of One of the Greatest Journeys of my Life

By Anna Udre

On July 26th I celebrated my name day. It’s nothing special, but it’s nice, when people you love send greetings and good wishes from back home. July 26th wasn’t only my name day this year. It was also my one month anniversary of me being in the United States of America. Therefore, I took my time to reflect on what had happened in 30 days of my time being here.

Moving is both exciting and traumatic

Before arriving to Washington D.C. I had already imagined how it would be. It wasn’t my first time traveling, I had traveled alone to most exotic places in Africa and Asia, I had lived in Sweden for six months, I had slept in forests of Norway for a week, etc. What could surprise me? As the day of departure came closer, I was feeling very confident about myself. The difference was that I was moving away from home for a year (I had never been away from Latvia for such a long time). It only hit me, when I was saying goodbye to my parents and my dog at the airport at around 5 AM, that this was going to be life-changing, and it’s going to be the biggest change so far. I won’t come back as the same person, and nothing will ever be the same. That was an overwhelming feeling. Photo_1Since my internship had to start only after the 4th of July celebration, I had a week to organize my stuff and get used to the environment. But days went by fast. I had to make a bank account, get a new sim card, pay my first deposit for the room I was renting etc. During my first days I also went to have coffee with my employer and his friends. After meeting my boss-to-be I was very much looking forward to starting my internship at Joint Baltic American National Committee, even though I still had very little knowledge of what was I going to do there. Photo_2After two days of excitement and getting done all the practical stuff, I got really sick. There was no real explanation for that. Long story short – I spent over 24 hours with over 40 degrees before spending a night at a hospital. Turns out I was dehydrated, even though I believe I drank enough water. It was an experience, that made me realize - hospitals in the U.S. don’t really differ from the ones back in Latvia, but they’re hundred times more expensive. Good thing we have the insurance here, but this was a very tough first lesson – look after your health, be careful, and don’t end up paying too much for medicine here!

The capital for Latvians – Baltimore

After two days of suffering from fever I went to D.C. to meet some of my friends, who were visiting. The weather in summer here is tropical – it’s around 35 degrees and it’s really humid. Even though I was a bit cautious with exposing myself to the world (I really did feel like breaking free after spending three days behind closed walls), the excitement of enjoying the sun, the hot weather, the city and friends was real. And since the weekend of the 4th of July was coming up, people were happy and enjoying the great weather. Photo_3My friends were working as teachers at “Garezers” at that time. It’s the biggest summer camp for American Latvians up north, and they all had arrived to the east coast because of the Singing and Dancing festival. My next destination was Baltimore, where the festival took place.

I had no idea, where I was going to stay, what exactly I was going to see, where to go, but I knew the moment I got there, that I was going to have a great time. The city was packed with Latvians from all over the U.S. and some even from Latvia. Since I couldn’t get hold of my friends at first, I made friends with some Latvian-Americans  and went to see “Sola” concert with them. It was incredibly beautiful – to be surrounded by Latvians and listening to one of the greatest choirs of Latvia performing great songs. By the way one of my ex-classmates was singing in the choir. It was all simply magical. Photo_4I planned to spend only one evening and one night in Baltimore, but I ended up spending two days and nights there. The things I experienced are indescribable. Latvian-Americans are very proud of their ancestry. Even though most of them have been to Latvia only when they were very little, they know all the Latvian songs, they know how to dress traditionally and the list continues. During my days in Baltimore I made a lot of new friends, sang Latvian songs on the street, in hotel halls, danced to Latvian songs, listened to poetry and prose in Latvian etc. One of the highlights of this event was the final concert of the festival, where everyone was singing “Saule, Pērkons, Daugava” together. It’s a very special song, and it sounded as special here in the U.S. as it does back in Latvia. I felt like home. Photo_5Latvian heading to Congress

After experiencing all that first week had brought to me, I felt ready to start my internship. The night before that, I went to the national Mall to watch the 4th of July fireworks together with thousands of Americans and tourists, who had come together for this special occasion. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of fireworks, I have to admit that this really was special. I had never seen anything close as beautiful (if we’re talking about fireworks) before. It was a perfect ending to my arrival week. I had experienced a lot already, it was time to get to work. Photo_6On my first day of internship I learned that there will be “office days” and “city days”. On first ones we’ll be doing more practical and organizational stuff, whereas on others we’ll be “running around” D.C. for meetings, conferences, seminars, and other events. I learned that there are no certain tasks for me – everything mostly depends on my initiative to do stuff. And that was great news, because I had the freedom not only to  achieve what I thought would be relevant for the place I was working for, but also for me personally. To add, my boss and other interns at Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) were all great – friendly, helpful and with a sense of humor. Photo_7First three weeks of my internship passed by quickly. They were hectic, exciting, overwhelming, amazing, educational, and dynamic. If you’re interested in politics, then this is the place to be. Washington D.C. is the city of opportunities. Greatest speakers come here to talk about various international affairs topics, high level people from different countries are here to express their opinion and represent their home country, you can easily meet diplomats, great professionals and influential thinkers here. And that’s exactly, what I experienced during my first weeks of internship.

What JBANC does on daily basis, is advocating the Baltic nations. The goal is to represent the Baltic-American communities and to help coordinate their activities with the U.S. Congress and administration and its related agencies in conjunction with issues related to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Therefore we attend all the relevant events, that take place in Washington D.C., we keep in touch with all three embassies of the Baltic states, and we meet regularly with other, who support the same goals.


During my first weeks the biggest issue was the Russia sanctions bill that the House of Representatives needed to support. The JBANC team worked very hard to lobby for this bill, and therefore one of my first tasks was to hand out letters to congressional staffers (to pass to their representatives) to support the bill. There are a total of 535 Members of Congress. 100 serve in the U.S. Senate and 435 serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. We went to all 435 offices to hand out the personalized letters and talk about why it’s important to support the bill. It was pretty challenging since it was my first time actually lobbying something "on frontline". And it was endlessly exciting. Photo_9Seize all opportunities and say “yes”

What I’ve understood here, is that I’m not only representing myself here. I’m representing my country. Whatever I do, say or perform, for many people it will leave an impression of Latvia, because I might be the only person they’ll ever meet from there. And that’s something, that makes you “straighten your back”, be more confident and show the best side of yourself. It’s an honor.Photo_10Even though work is extremely exciting here, that shouldn’t take up everything else. It’s important to go out, meet new people, make friends, go on trips together and experience this country from other sides, too. You can never know, where one “yes” will take you. And it has happened to me many times here already. Photo_11I’ve met great people here, some of whom were simply strangers sitting next to me at one of the events. It’s all part of discovering this culture – through people, food, stuff they like doing. And I’ve come to a conclusion, that the U.S. is filled with so many different people, that you can’t really generalize anything here. State differs from state, even cities differ a lot. And people have ancestors from all over the world, therefore each one of them brings something different to here. And that’s what makes this country so interesting and at the same time challenging to be at. I can’t be happier about having this experience, and I’m looking forward to having on of the greatest years of my life!

Research Scholar, Dalia Bankauskaite, at CEPA

Lithuanian Research Scholar, Dalia Bankauskaite, has spent the past year conducting her research project at Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington DC. The title of her research was Public diplomacy and Society's Resilience to Information Warfare, which was supervised by A. Wess Mitchell, President of  the Center for European Policy.  With this topic, she would "map the vulnerability of Lithuanian society to the information warfare, especially focusing on the Russian speaking population and the society groups which use Russian as their second language and prefer the Russian language media." She observed "the US experience in public diplomacy design and implementation" in order to draft possible plans of diplomacy to build resilience to information warfare.  Ms. Bankauskaite serves as Advisor to the Information and Communication Department of the Lithuanian Parliament, and headed the EU Public Information Unit under the Lithuanian Government in preparation for  its joining the EU.

Dalia Bankauskaite at a CEPA round-table discussion titled What does the Kremlin fear? New insights and techniques from the digital frontline

What are your immediate plans when you return back home? To continue as an Adjunct Fellow at CEPA, teaching at Vilnius University, and let's not forget my summer holiday.

List some professional events which you have attended during your stay in the US. I have attended a number of round table discussions, panels, and conferences organized at CEPA and other think tanks situated in Washington DC, such as Atlantic Council, Hudson Institute, Heritage Foundation, McCain Institute, etc.

List some ways in which you had an impact on your local US community (i.e. volunteering, professional research, civic engagement). I conducted research on disinformation techniques. I handled the regular monitoring and briefing of the Washington DC Community on the Kremlin disinformation cases in Lithuania.  I contributed to the research methodology for disinformation impact to the society. I developed and implemented the agenda for the field trips of the U.S. political analysts to the Baltic States (3 trips). I reported on the Russia's culture of strategic thinking. I am also a Board member of Washington DC Lithuanian Professionals Club.

List one personal and one professional achievement for you during your time in the US. My report on the Russia's culture of strategic think about war, as well as my contribution to the design of CEPA StratCom program.

Name a person who was the greatest influence for you in the US. A. Wess Mitchell, President of CEPA; Peter B. Doran Executive Vice President and Interim Director in CEPA

What advice would you offer for future BAFF fellows? Have a very clear focus of your research; make sure that the receiving party will help you to navigate in your professional circles and be a partner in your research. DSC_0796


Research Scholar, Arturas Jukna, shares his BAFF experience

Lithuanian Research Scholar, Arturas Jukna, considered his year-long research period at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Rochester remarkably fruitful. With a career of over 30 years as a researcher,  Professor Jukna has served as the Head of the Department of Physics at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University since 2007, and is author and coauthor to nearly 80 scientific publications. The title of his research project is "The Investigation of Electric Properties of Devices made of Superconductor by means of THz Radiation." This technical research was supervised by Professor Roman Sobolewski, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics, and scientific reviewer and consultant for government agencies, journals and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. 

20170201_UofR_ECE_THzSeminar (26)What are your immediate plans when you return to Lithuania? To join the community of Vilnius Gediminas Technical University; and  to publish scientific papers based on experimental results obtained in research laboratories during my stay in the US.

List some professional events which you have attended during your stay in the U.S. IEEE-NEMS 2017 Conference at UCLA Los Angeles; the 75th Device Research Conference at the University of Notre Dame.  

List some ways in which you had an impact on your local U.S. community. My foremost impact on the local US community is related to scientific research of electric and optical properties of smart materials. I was also involved in training of University students about these research topics.

Name a person who was the greatest influence for you in the U.S. Prof. Roman Sobolewski, our research group leader.

What advice would you offer for future BAFF fellows? The opportunity of BAFF scholarship is great. Use this opportunity as soon as possible and enjoy your time in the US working for most advanced companies, making experiments in the most advanced research laboratories, and getting experience in the leading Universities in the US.

PIP Robert Reidla's internship at Elegran

Estonian intern, Robert Reidla, has just completed his BAFF-funded internship at Elegran Real Estate in New York City. His year-long training in Digital Marketing, gave him first-hand experience in all aspects of marketing, from concept to execution, and analysis of each marketing channel, including email marketing, direct mailers, online campaigns, and Search Engine Marketing. Robert can now boast great expertise in SEO, SMM, Conversion Analysis, Real Estate and Business Strategy, all thanks to the close supervision of Tigh Loughhead, Elegran's Head of Marketing.  Tigh has over five years of experience in Online Advertising, Project Management, Consulting and Web Development, developed through a mastery of Digital Media, Listings Syndication, SEO, SEM, Pay Per Click, Email Marketing, Reputation Management, Social Media Marketing and Print Advertising campaigns. Tigh had no difficulties with engaging Robert in cultural and corporate activities, as Elegran has a very large and gregarious employee community that enjoys corporate parties and restaurant outings on the New York scene.    IMG_0379
What are your immediate plans when you return back home? I will start working 2 days after my arrival.

List some professional events which you have attended during your stay in the US.  Salesforce Pardot User Group meetings, meetups of tech and marketing,  Salesforce WorldTour 2017

List some ways in which you had an impact on your local US community (i.e. volunteering, professional research, civic engagement). I volunteered in a soup kitchen in Lower East Side Manhattan.  It was an unique experience that I will never forget.

List one personal and one professional achievement for you during your time in the US. Professional achievement: I learned a lot about the real  estate  industry  in  New York and also reached and exceeded my initially set goal and expectations for digital marketing KPIs in Elegran.

Name a person who was the greatest influence for you in the US.  My mentor Tigh Loughead, who is a very influential person in the real estate marketing tech industry in USA. Through him, I expanded my professional network and also learned a lot about digital marketing.

What advice would you offer for future BAFF fellows?
Be sure where and who you want to be by the end of your internship. Set goals and stick to them. If  you're  feeling  useless,  be  proactive  and  show  initiative.  Don't  be  afraid  to  fail. Also,  stand  up  for  yourself  and  don't  let  bosses  use  you -  think  of  yourself  as a professional who should be treated equally with full-time employees. And  don't forget to travel and experience different parts of US!


Leadership Academy guests of honor in DC

On Thursday August 3, the Leadership Academy participants were the guests of honor by formal invitation to the Lithuanian Embassy in DC. The group was warmly received by several members of the Embassy, including Gintare Gedrimaite, Executive Assistant to the Ambassador, Kęstutis Vaskelevicius, Counselor, and Ambassador Rolandas Kriščiūnas. Ambassador Krisciunas has served as the Lithuanian Ambassador to the US since August of 2105. In addition to these featured speakers, the Embassy welcomed members of the Estonian Embassy, Kristjan Kuurme, and the Latvian Embassy, Egils Leimanis, as well as members of The Joint Baltic American National Committee, headed by Karl Altau. The guest speakers spoke to the students about the crucial role of the Embassies in matters of commerce, security, and governance, and stressed the importance of solid relations and collaboration between the Baltic States and the United States. Karl Altau and his team, including Anna Udre, BAFF PIP intern from Latvia, discussed the role of JBANC in representing Baltic affairs with regard to the political discussion in DC. JBANC represents three Baltic-American organizations, the Estonian American National Council, the American Latvian Association, and the Lithuanian American Council. We were also very pleased that, in addition to meeting these esteemed members of the DC community, our newest BAFF Director, Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, also attended the event. The students were given the chance to ask questions to the members of the Embassies, as well as meet them in person.

Ambassador Rolandas Kriščiūnas addresses the Leadership Academy 2017
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Left to Right: Ambassador Rolandas Kriščiūnas, Egils Leimanis, Kristjan Kuurme, Karl Altau       Courtesy of JBANC

After this visit, the Leadership Academy moved on to attend their second invitation of the day, which was from the Victims of Communism Foundation at its Memorial, dedicated in 2007. We were privileged to hear the story of the Memorial's erection by the very gentleman who spearheaded the process, VOC Chairman, Dr. Lee Edwards. Members of staff of the Victims of Communism Foundation, including David Talbot, Director of Development, and Ashley Moody, College Programs Manager, discussed the Foundation's mission and programs, the atrocities of Communist rule, and expressed their gratitude to the students for visiting the Memorial. Also attending the event was BAFF Board Member, Robert C. Odle Jr. 

A truly impactful day for these BAFF students. Thank you to all organizations for your dedication to this very special group of young entrepreneurs.


Dr. Lee Edwards welcomes the Leadership Academy to the VOC Memorial



2017 Leadership Academy on the road!

Last night seranade
In New York! Tour guide Steve Saunders: a brain full of New York-knowledge
Atop the Empire State building


Marta Paula Vinerte celebrates her 18th birthday in the Big Apple...with a candle-lit icecream


Alina Anete Birnika posing before Lady Liberty
Leadership Ladies countering the bull on Wall Street
Roberts Kustavus, Indrikis Rusovs, and Egils Arvids Skruzmanis on Wall Street
Right on always! Time Square
Leadership Academy in the United Nations General Assembly Hall
Sizzling on George Washington's front lawn


The Latvians are finally home!

US Ambassador to Lithuania Visits CIEE

An honorary event was scheduled at 300 Fore St. Portland, with a special visit from Ambassador Anne Hall, US Ambassador to Lithuania.  As the Ambassador is a native to Maine, we were ecstatic to welcome her to CIEE to meet our 2017 Leadership Academy participants  (and what better opportunity than this to flaunt CIEE's newly-renovated reception hall). Confirmed in 2016 by the US Senate, Ambassador is a career member of the senior Foreign Service, who has served as Director of the Office of Central European Affairs, as well as the Principal Officer and Consul General of the American Consulate General in Krakow. She has managed relations between numerous countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lichtenstein, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.

After an opening welcome from CIEE's C.O.O., Tim Propp, four students of CIEE's Global Entrepreneurship program in Portland, recited a warm, intercultural greeting to the audience in their four respective languages. The students then provided a dynamic and impactful presentation about the new experiences and emotions they have endured throughout their three-week Entrepreneurship course, administered by CIEE and located at Southern Maine Community Colleague. Following the presentations, we were then privileged to hear Ambassador Hall discuss her prolific career as a diplomat, her early interest in Chinese studies (in addition to Mandarin, the Ambassador speaks Polish, Spanish, Lithuanian, and Portuguese), and offered students insightful words for their prosperous futures.  After a Q&A session, the students seized the opportunity to shake hands with the esteemed Ambassador, as well as BAFF Board Member, Danguole Altman, and the Exchange Foundations and HSSA teams. 

Thank you Ambassador Hall for your very memorable visit!

Left to right: Tim Propp (CIEE Chief Operating Officer), Maggie Ivanova (Operations Manager, Exchange Foundations), Ambassador Anne Hall, Kelly Francis (Exchange Foundations Program Specialist), Laura Lyons (Director of Exchange Foundations) Denise Desrochers (Exchange Foundations Coordinator)
Students present to Ambassador
Director of Exchange Foundations, Laura Lyons, introduces the Ambassador
Ambassador Anne Hall addresses the audience at CIEE


Lithuanian Leadership Academy students; with BAFF Board Member, Danguole Altman (far left) and Ambassador Anne Hall (center)