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10 posts categorized "Teach Abroad Alumni"

When Teach Abroad Ends: saying goodbye to students, friends, and country

I remember it like it was yesterday: 12:30 am, standing under the dull, yellow glow of the light from Hotel de Ville, my face buried into the collar of my friend’s jacket as he hugged me goodbye. Fifty or more study abroad cohorts milled around us, taking photos, sipping wine, and laughing about that one time when so-and-so did such-and-such. We were leaving for the airport in a mere four hours, but no one gave a second thought to sleep.

Two years later, I stood underneath a different glow, saying goodbye to different people, but feeling exactly the same way. Sunshine flooded the city square of Hyeres as I stood on the curb, swaying under the weight of my enormous backpack. I avoided eye contact with my friends to keep from crying and cracked halfhearted jokes to distract everyone from the fact that life as we knew it was coming to an abrupt end.

I didn’t even believe myself when the word “goodbye” came out of my mouth. How could I be leaving when just eight months before I was taking that first bus ride into my new town and wondering where in the world I was? Like it was yesterday, I was searching for an apartment, opening a bank account, and scraping by with my digressed French vocabulary. I mean, really, I had just unofficially certified myself as a semi-functional adult with a job, a lease, and actual speaking abilities—and now I had to leave?!

18901564_10213024323265656_1883512795_oMy little village

It did not compute that I was going back to the land where everything was easy. Where I didn’t have to think before speaking (well, kind of) or wonder if I had just used the right greeting (bonjour…err I mean bon journee..bonsoir? I don’t know man!), or worry about getting anything necessary to sustain human life on Saturday since everyone and everything ceases to exist on Sunday in France. Where I didn’t have to walk a quarter mile to do laundry or have to take public transportation. The land where I was 100% comfortable.

At this point, I was not only accustomed to cultural challenges, I had grown to enjoy them. Speaking French was now like walking on a tightrope only now I rarely fell off. I welcomed small talk in the grocery store when at the beginning I thought I’d be paralyzed by slow processing skills. They knew my signature order—and my name!—at my favorite café. And I finally knew how to effectively tell my students to shut up in French (huge breakthrough)!

Without even realizing it, I had built a life here—the whole shebang! By all means of the word, I was a local. I knew my town inside and out. I had my own apartment and was friends with my landlord. I had a regular running route and knew exactly which stuffy public bus line to take to get to the best beaches. I was actually territorial about the castle on the hill that I had discovered on one of my first days to the point where I would roll my eyes about the “tourists.” I knew exactly where to get the best cheese, wine, olives, dried tomatoes, cheese…ok this list could go on awhile. And, of course, I had a social group made up of some of the best people I’ve ever known from French, Spanish, British, Colombian, Italian, Germany—a lot of flags and a lot of personality.  

15826515_10211576820118982_1246049634795554837_nAdopted-family holiday party

Anyone who’s studied abroad knows how hard it is to say goodbye to these people and places. Anyone who’s taught abroad knows that after even more time, it’s harder. Study abroad invited you into the world of goose-bump traveling, humbling cultural exchange, and unparalleled peer bonding. Teach abroad landed you a permanent seat at the table.

By the time that eight or nine month mark rolls around, you’ve not only re-entered this world, but have become entrenched in it. Your language skills are sharp, your cultural competence is at an all-time high, and you are more confident in yourself than ever. Anything that you once thought to be impossible, you’ve conquered. You are that world citizen that you set out to be.

Realizing all this and the person you’ve become, there is no wonder that the end of teach abroad is one of the most emotional times of your life. My biggest piece of advice is to let these emotions wash right over you and don’t be afraid to get a little sappy. Indulge with all your favorite foods, take the long way to school on your last day, look out into the dreamy distance from the highest point in your city, and cry when you say goodbye to your friends and students. These the moments you’ll remember most, so fill them with color and saturate them with emotion.

18901915_10213024324025675_102830689_oThat unforgettable view

Leaving your city will inevitably feel a bit like mourning. But there are a few things to remember when you feel like it’s just getting to be too much:

  1. You have endless amounts of photos, videos, and memories to look back on and smile about.
  2. You now have friends around the world—dozens more excuses travel!
  3. You left a permanent impression on your students and coworkers.
  4. You’re walking away with new confidence, competence, and charisma.
  5. And most importantly: you’ll be back.

Congratulations to all our teachers past and present for your hard work in the classroom and for getting through those tough good byes. You all deserve a huge round of applause—and some peanut butter because I know how much you missed it.

Bye for now!

China From The Inside: Chongqing and Shanghai

Today, we’re talking China. No, not the Kung Fu pandas, silky kimonos, or chopstick connoisseurs that are often stereotyped in Hollywood films. We’re talking real life in two of the country’s most thriving cities: Chongqing and Shanghai.

CHONGQINGChongqingFrom left to right: Chongqing skyline; Traditional hot pot dinner; Cable car across the Tangtze River

Chongqing is one of five municipal cities in China and definitely earns its name as the “city of the mountain.” Nestled between the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and plains stretching from the Yangtze River, the city is a striking mix of commanding hills, rolling rivers and city jungles.   

Beyond its ever-developing landscape, Chongqing is known for being “hot” in two big ways: hot weather and hot pot, a spicy Chongqing cuisine that is more of a lifestyle than a meal. If you really want to blend in with the locals, you’ll partake in a meal of piping hot pot on a 100 degree day—don’t forget the ice cold beer.

Anyone versed in the micro-culture of this city will recommend a stroll down to Jiefangbei, the city center of Chongqing. Come here to enjoy a modern, urban atmosphere, take a cable car across the Yangtze, or enjoy a steaming bowl of hot pot—not only a cuisine, but a way of life in the city of Chongqing.


ShanghaiFrom left to right: Shanghai skyscrapers; The Bund; English teachers enjoy the Chinese Lantern Festival  

Shanghai is China’s largest city and is also characterized by a unique urban layout. The Bund, a famous waterfront promenade, snakes along the west bank of the Huangpu River, which divides the city in two. While the Bund is scattered with hundreds of traditional, European-style buildings, the opposite bank boasts a sizable spread of skyscrapers--a striking visual juxtaposition.

In Zhujiajiao, one of Shanghai’s suburbs, you might forget that these skyscrapers exist at all. Locals in this traditional water town live as their ancestors did three hundred years ago. Take a cruise down the river bank to get a glimpse into this preserved way of life.

Of course, Shanghai cannot be discussed without mention of the famous Lantern Festival. On the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, thousands of vibrant, illuminated, and often enormous lanterns float around the city for both locals and tourists to enjoy. During the festival, you might sink your teeth into a xiaolongbao, or steamed bun. This famous Shanghainese dish comes with a warning: the soup inside the dumpling is very hot (yes, inside the dumpling…good luck figuring out how they get it in there!).  

Whether you are navigating the streets of Jiefangbei or strolling along the Bund, you can rest assured that there will be a remarkable view or a dish to tempt your taste buds at every turn. Take your time, savor the soup, and appreciate the people and culture of a classic Chinese city.

Any China tips to add? Let us know in the comments!

Teach Abroad in Spain Alumni, Victor Bowleg


Victor Bowleg

From: Tucson, Arizona
Name of School: Aguilar De Campoo

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Teach Abroad in Spain Alumni, Rachel Horowitz

Rachel horowitz
Rachel Horowitz

From: Allentown, PA
Name of School: Claudio Moyano, in Aruelles, Madrid

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Teach in Thailand Alumni, Christoper



Major in college: Biology
Name of School: Mabtaputpanpittayakarn School

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Teach Abroad in China Alumni: Jennifer Rives

Jennifer Rives

From: Tampa, Florida
Major in college: Psychology, minor in Chinese Language
Name of School: Chongqing Vocational College of Transportation

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Teach Abroad in Spain Alumni, Matt Anderson

MattMatt Anderson

From: Portland, Maine
Name of School: I.E.S. Ítaca, Tomares in Sevilla

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Teach Abroad in China Alumni: Andrea Smith


Andrea Smith

From: Chicago, Illinois
Major in college: Elementary Education, Concentration in Math
Name of School: Red Star Kindergarten, Eldo Primary School, and various reading centers around Chengdu, China.

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Teach Abroad in South Korea: Accomplishing Goals, Crossing Cultures, and Gaining Self Confidence

"I've learned that although my life path is different than what may have been expected of me, I am definitely successful in my own eyes and that feeling is invaluable." - Charise Richards

South Korea: it's waiting for you.

You can experience incredible sites all over the country from Seoul, to Jeju-do, to Meokja Golmok. You can partake in a diverse, unique, and friendly culture. You can promote an exchange of cultures, and gain a deeper appreciation for South Korean culture and people.

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CIEE Teach Abroad Enrichment Grants: Bettering the Community and the Lives of Our Students Abroad

"Everyone should have an opportunity to learn it and love it, no matter where you are from. If this can just open one person's mind and reveal the truth that they CAN learn English and that it CAN take them places, then I'm happy." - Hilary Powers

Wondering how you can enrich your teach abroad experience and give back to the community at the same time?

CIEE Teach Abroad Enrichment Grants are the answer!

Our Teach Abroad participants don't just help in the classroom, they've improved communities, set up English learning projects, supported outdoor recreation activities, and bettered the lives of people in their communities through dedication and caring.

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