ciee - council on international educational exchange

Professional Internship Program

BAFF News Blog

Learn more about the organization and past events.

6 posts categorized "News"


BAFF at JBANC's 11th Baltic Conference

In April 2015, BAFF staff attended JBANC's 11th Baltic Conference in Washington, D.C. The 11th Baltic Conference addressed security concerns for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, in the wake of Moscow's campaign of aggression against Ukraine and other moves in the region. The conference focused on the implications for U.S. policy towards the region, vis a vis NATO, and for the Baltic countries in particular.

Accompanying BAFF staff was Lina Karklina, a fellow of BAFF's Professional Internship Program. Her internship placement is at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Here is a photo of Lina with the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves:




Houston Enrichment Trip: Spring 2015

In early March 2015, the Fall 2014 group of BAFF and HAESF Professional Interns traveled to Houston, Texas accompanied by members of CIEE's Enterprise Foundations team .  For five days the group experienced the best of Houston, participating in high-level tours of famous area institutions such as Houston Methodist Hospital, Johnson Space Center (NASA) and the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.

On Day 2 we toured the Houston Methodist Hospital complex guided by Dr. Zsolt Garami, Director of the Transcranial Imaging Center.  The group learned about cutting-edge research conducted at Houston Methodist related to Augmented Reality and medical robotics destined for the International Space Station and Mars:

2 - Houston Methodist 22 - Houston Methodist 3

The group also was treated to a presentation by Dr. Garami's colleague, Dr. Alan Lumsden, Medical Director of the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center. Dr. Lumsden is involved in a project called "Pumps & Pipes," which is a collaboration between cardiovascular experts at Methodist and drilling engineering teams at prominent energy companies.

All in all, within the span of two engaging hours, the group had gained a fascinating macro view of the so-called "trinity" of Houston's economy: Medicine, Aerospace and Energy.

Day 3 found the group touring the Johnson Space Center complex, recipient of the famous message from the crew of Apollo 13: "Houston, we have a problem" and the site of major historic events such as the control of Apollo 11, humankind's first steps of the moon. The group entered JSC for the Level 9 Tour, VIP badges pinned to our coats... first on the tour was the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which is a massive pool where astronauts train for spacewalks using a 1:1 underwater mockup of the ISS:


Next up was the ISS Mission Control room where JSC staff are currently keeping the Space Station on track.  We had to be careful with flash photography and noise because JSC staff were busy at work! We were lucky to see the sun rise from orbit in real-time (rightmost monitor):

3 - NASA 1

After ISS Mission Control we were fortunate to have access to an area that very few people have visited: the Apollo-era Mission Control room! The group was able to sit at the very consoles that communicated with astronauts during the moon missions:

4 - NASA 43 - NASA 33 - NASA 2

The last stop on the tour featured a walk-around of a full-sized Saturn V rocket!:

4 - NASA 5

On Day 4, the group's final day together, we had a full action-packed day at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, the premier rodeo in the US and the largest livestock show in the world.  We visited during International Day, which is a special event set up by the Houston Rodeo International Committee to show some "southern hospitality" to guests from other nations. The International Room was decked out with rodeo flair and stocked with ample local food and drink; it also served as a great recharging point during the busy day:

5 - Rodeo 15 - Rodeo 6

Reliant Park featured a full amusement park and participants were sure to visit the petting zoo. Selfies with llamas and baby animals were the order of the day:

Grid 15 - Rodeo 2

The evening at the rodeo featured much bigger animals, and our seats that the Rodeo's International Committee had graciously secured for us were very close to the action in the 80k-seat arena!:

5 - Rodeo 85 - Rodeo 7

After the animal events at the Rodeo, the floor was quickly converted to a rotating stage and we saw a performance by country music star (and recent Grammy winner!) Miranda Lambert.  The show was sold out, and we all agreed that Texas really knows how to create a spectacle!:

5 - Rodeo 9

The Houston Enrichment Trip for Spring 2015 was a great success, due in no small part to the talented and friendly group of BAFF and HAESF participants and the generosity of Texan culture! What better place to experience southern hospitality than the lone star state?


BAFF Alumni Annual Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner 3

December 5th, 2014 in Riga was a remarkable day for the BAFF community – the third BAFF Alumni Thanksgiving Dinner. More than 80 of our alumni as well as new program participants gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving in style! We were also honored to have some special guests with us – BAFF BOD member Mr. Randal Quarles joined us together with our Portland colleagues Ms. Laura Lyons and Mr. Casey McCurry. It was a wonderful evening, where we not only socialized and enjoyed fabulous food, but also had a chance to see a performance by alumni who recently returned from the United States. The evening was filled with a lot of fun, great memories, meeting new and seeing old friends and forming lasting business partnership.

Thanksgiving dinner 2

Thanksgiving dinner 1


Los Angeles Enrichment Trip: Fall 2014

Hollywood Group Photo
In late September, CIEE’s Enterprise Foundations team traveled to Los Angeles, CA with 2014’s group of BAFF, HAESF and SAF Professional Interns.  We were also joined by Janis Jatnieks, a BAFF alumnus.  Five days in the LA area allowed the group to experience some stunning California locations, from hip Santa Monica to the Hollywood Hills and farther north to the vast and wild Simi Valley. 

On Day 2 we toured Cross Campus in Santa Monica, a dynamic and growing co-working space geared towards providing fresh startups with community and collaboration networks:Cross CampusWe also drove to Glendale for a presentation at the Small Business Association led by Jin Han, a former executive and educator who works with the SBA’s SCORE program:SBAAfter returning to Santa Monica, we had dinner on the famous Santa Monica Pier, where we witnessed one of the most spectacular sunsets ever!Santa Monia Pier

Santa Monica BeachDay 3 found us on a tour bus winding through the steep and breezy Santa Monica Mountains, through Bel Air and Beverly Hills.  On Rodeo Drive, the group happened upon a taping for the hit TV show “Parks and Recreation”!  After Beverly Hills, the tour took us to Hollywood (with its Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theater) and then onwards and upwards to the legendary Mulholland Drive, where we took our group photo in view of the Hollywood sign (see top photo).  Afterwards, the bus brought us to Downtown Los Angeles for a stop at El Pueblo de Los Ángeles State Historic Park.Beverly Hills 1 Beverly Hills 2Day 4 was split between two events.  The first event, in Santa Monica, was a presentation with USAID’s Stephen Eastham.  Mr. Eastham heard from each of our fellows about their opportunities on the program and the skills and expertise they will be taking back to their countries.  It was a great group experience to be able to hear from each and every fellow and to put their accomplishments and inspirations in context with their personalities and stories. USAIDAfter the USAID presentation we boarded a bus headed for Simi Valley, an expansive and beautiful area north of Los Angeles:Reagan 1Here we toured the Reagan Library, seeing quite a lot of American political history on exhibit.  Highlights included Air Force One and its state of the art hangar, looking out over the valley with an impressive panorama:Reagan 2After the tour, the group dined with Foundation Directors, honorary consuls, and CIEE representatives.  Of particular note were the remarks of Clark Judge, a former speechwriter for President Reagan, who provided colorful anecdotes about his time in the White House and some insight into the current climate of American foreign policy:Reagan 3Reagan 4

All in all, the Fall 2014 Enrichment Trip was a great success!

(Photos by SAF participant Eduard Remetei)

BAFF Alumnus Lita Juberte in National Newspaper NRA

The end of 2013 marked substantial changes in the uneventful daily life of Lita Juberte: terminating employment in the State Police and saying farewell to relatives for nine months, she went to America to develop her professional skills.

Lita was able to gain new experience due to a grant from the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation that covers all costs related to living and travelling costs, so as to enable its recipient to fully devote herself to the purpose of the trip, the practice of studies in the USA. The current acceptance of applications for grant and support programmes will close on 30 October.

Initially, Lita had applied for the grant out of interest. "I had acquired the MD in communication science and had stable work in the State Police Public Relations Department. Everything was arranged and unscrambled in life" recalls Lita. However, there was an inner urge for a new challenge. "I read about this grant competition and got interested. The deeper I got into this offer and read feedback from others the more I understood that this was an excellent opportunity to open new horizons for myself" says Lita. 

Under the mark of the Ukraine unrest 

The possibility of traineeship in America seemed to her to be the most exciting of all the offered grant programmes. When all the required documents were gathered and a motivation letter was written, it only took waiting for whether she would be selected for the second selection round, the personal interview. "The procedure of gathering the required documents is comparatively long, therefore I’d suggest to start it in good time and not postpone everything until the last moment," Lita urges. 

When the interview had run successfully and a place of traineeship was found for Lita according to her speciality, the adventure of nine months could start [a traineeship may last from six months to one year].  

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, a non-governmental organisation that is representing the interests of the Baltic states in Washington on a political level, became the place of traineeship for Lita. The period of Lita’s traineeship coincided with unrest in Ukraine. This event sensibly echoed in the corridors of power in Washington as well, notes Lita. "I had to go and knock on various doors and tell, convince people how much the Baltic states need a supporting shoulder in the context of Ukraine. It was a very interesting experience" concludes Lita. 

New revelations

"Before the trip it seemed to me that a country as large as the USA does not care about Latvia and what is going on there, but what I saw surprised me: the politicians are very well aware of what is happening there, individual departments or people in governmental institutions and research institutes are working exactly on the issues of our region to ensure the more effective implementation of foreign policy of the USA and understanding about topicalities in the Baltic states. Of course, a large portion of Americans have problems with the geography of Europe, but the elite of power is well informed about and interested in the current events here" explains Lita.

She believes that the nine months on the other side of the ocean were spent successfully. "I perfected my professional competences, gained an understanding of the leading players in the global world, improved foreign language skills, moreover, during free days I had the opportunity to get to know about the vast America and meet other trainees."

All travelling costs and everyday expenses for the place of residence (she had to find one herself though) and catering were paid for Lita, same as for every trainee. "If planning own funds sensibly, one can afford to travel around and see America as well." So, the trainees can calmly improve, acquire a professional temperament and study without a need to worry about where to earn money for living. "I have a feeling that I have grown and developed professionally, not in a period of nine months, but of at least five years" says Lita.

Meeting the compatriots

The whole period of absence was not, of course, a whirl of positive emotions alone because longing for home came around at times. A period of adaptation was needed as well to get used to the new situation. "When I was packing my suitcases, I had a feeling that I had put my entire life into two suitcases and forgotten about the rest of the customary and loved things for almost a year" notes Lita.

However, speaking Latvian came about in America as well, because Lita’s place of work was situated next to the American Latvian Association. "I was pleasantly surprised how Latvians that have lived in America for 20 or 40 years have already managed to retain and cultivate Latvian culture. It is amazing what care they use to preserve the cultural and historical heritage of Latvia, for example, the national costumes or books of our writers, because they are memories from Latvia. The Association is organising exhibitions, concerts, children are dancing Latvian folk dances. American Latvians are trying to bring up their children in a Latvian mood, they are sending them to camps where it is only allowed to speak Latvian. They themselves talk to each other in their native language, when possible. American Latvians are also trying to visit Latvia at least once a year, but the young ones, inspired by stories and memories of grandparents or parents, quite often plan to start independent living in Latvia after graduation."

Work interview at 2am

Lita had not thought, even once, about staying in the USA forever. "First, I never had such a desire and, second, the rules of the grant competition provide that after the trip to the USA I have to work in Latvia for at least two years, because the purpose of the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation is to help with educating, training in the USA, but with the idea that afterwards the trainee shall implement his knowledge and skills in Latvia" emphasises Lita.

That is what she is doing now: a couple of days after her return she went to her new place of work, the Secretariat of the Latvian Presidency in the European Union Council, where she is active in the Communication and Public Relations Department. "While in the USA, I wrote to former colleagues and fellow students to say that I was slowly preparing my return to Latvia, so maybe they knew about a vacancy to apply for. My fellow student suggested the Secretariat." The selection of candidates took place during the time when Lita was in the USA. "That is why the work interview took place at two at night American time" remembers Lita.


New BAFF Alumni Country Presidents

Dear Colleagues,
As many of you may know, role of our Regional Office is not only to select best and brightest program participants from  Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but also to assist to our Alumni and to help them to re-integrate after return. Re-integrate may sound too primitive, as our role is more to be a „shoulder” and to communicate all that great experience and knowledge available in the country after their return, in other words „to keep the momentum” .
For a while we have been in process of designing the Baltic way or our idea in action, as who else can be the best coordinator of many personalities in each country, if not one of them, who has been on the program, is well respected and „liked” by BAFF community, but most of all – is trusted and authorized by country Alumni to be the President.
Please, join me in congratulating the newly elected/appointed BAFF Alumni Country Presidents:
Ms. Maarit Cimolinskas, Estonia - '12 Professional Internship Program
Mr. Jānis Jātnieks, Latvia - Fall '11 Professional Internship Program 
Ms. Lina Jasaite, Lithuania - '12 Professional Internship Program

Their profiles can be viewed here.
Most of you know them very well, so there is no need for introduction.
All three Presidents have expressed their good will and a great number of ideas to start with, to make our BAFF Community in the Baltics flourishing and giving another added value to the mission Baltic-American Freedom Foundation does in the Baltics.
Again let me congratulate our newly appointed Presidents, and wish them to keep that energetic spirit of innovation and good will not only for two years in this position, but I am sure for many years to come.
We are all meeting in Riga in October 25th for brainstorming session and are all ready to roll up sleeves!
Enjoy your week-end,