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Mannequin Challenge from Santiago Students!

Taino Face is one of the most beautiful places in Dominican Republic. Here, students learned how the Tainos lived in the past and had an amazing time swimming in the valley!


Mannequin Challenge from Santiago Students!

Taino Face is one of the most beautiful places in Dominican Republic. Here, students learned how the Tainos lived in the past and had an amazing time swimming in the valley!


Where is she now? Abigail Waters

Interview With Abigail Waters on Go Overseas

Abby has participated in many travel abroad programs through various companies and her home university. She studies Spanish language and global communication at the University of San Diego. Read her full interview on gooverseas.com! 
Interview With Abigail Waters on Go Overseas

Why did you choose this program?

Students from CIEE Gap Seville

I chose to participate in the CIEE GAP Seville, Spain program because I knew I wanted an experience that was separate from both High School and University. It was the perfect balance between academics and cultural immersion.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I was in close contact with the program director throughout the application process, but I did most of the application and planning process on my own. It was beneficial for my organizational skills.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

A piece of advice I would give to someone going on this program would be to embrace the host culture. Seville has some of the most wonderful people, food, and culture.

As tempting as it is to leave every weekend and travel, definitely make some time to get to know the city.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

On average, Seville GAP students attend an intensive 4-hour Spanish course in the mornings, and spend the afternoons free. Each student has the opportunity to eat three meals a day with their host family, which provides a perfect opportunity to learn and practice Spanish.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I was afraid of not doing everything that I wanted to. However, just living in the moment and "doing what Spaniards do" taught me that truly living in a culture and being "local" is what contributes to an authentic experience abroad. So, take that siesta if you wish!

Describe the different feelings you experienced upon arrival and upon departure?

I was incredibly excited, but also nervous and anxious about meeting my host family and getting adjusted.

The other students on my program were from all different walks of life, which made the approach to our experiences unique in their own way. This common experience made us bond quickly.

When I left, I remember crying uncontrollably with my host mom, and this was when I knew that this experience had changed my life.


Fall in Ferrara

Where should I go to college? What should I major in? What do I do with my life?

If you're not ready to answer these questions, a GAP year may be for you! Our GAP students in Ferrara study with both local Italian students and Americans from many different colleges. You will meet so many different students, try out new classes that spark your interest, and travel around one of the most beautiful countries, all while immersing yourself in an amazing new culture. 

Check out facebook.com/cieeferrara.italia or follow us on instagram with #globalnavigators to see what our GAP Italy students have been doing outside of the classroom!

Day Trip to Venice:



Pottery Workshop:



Day Trip to Ravena:




Ferrara Balloon Festival:



Trip to the Amalfi Coast, Pompei, and Naples:








Pasta Making Night:

Pasta night

Pasta night2

To plan your own adventure, go to www.ciee.org/gap-year-abroad/italy. 

What's Happening in Tokyo?

It's been a month since our gap students landed in Tokyo. Let's see what they have been doing!


It all starts with orientation. You might be wondering how you can possibly navigate a huge city like Tokyo when you are a Japanese beginner, but CIEE orientation gives you everything you need to know. 

You learn where and how to take care of all the basics, like going to the post office:


Getting money:


And safety tips:


The students quickly felt comfortable in their new home, and started exploring the community!

They took a day trip to Kamakura:




They volunteered at the Second Harvest food bank:



They visited a local studio and made their own glass wind charms:



And they presented at a local high school:


Thanks gap students for sharing these awesome photos!

Where is she now? Taisia Karaseva

Click here to read Taisia's full interview with gooverseas.com! We have reposted sections below.

Taisia studied abroad in between graduating from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and starting a job in management consulting at McKinsey&Company. She is now working in sales strategy and operations at Salesforce.

Taisia Karaseva headshot

Why did you choose this program?

This program fit along three criteria that I cared most about: language level, lesson focus, and organized/free time balance.

I didn't know any French going in, so CIEE was a great fit. Culture classes were in English for everyone while grammar, pronunciation (Sorbonne course), and vocabulary (Sorbonne course) classes were split by level. I got an excellent intro to the language without missing out on cultural learnings.

Second, the program focused on culture as much as on language. It taught us about contemporary society (augmented by living with a host family and volunteering at a local school), architecture (we had architecture student ID cards that got us into most points of interest for free), art, history, and more.

And lastly, the program gave a good amount of free time to explore other parts of France and Europe while also providing several organized local field trips and more distant trips. One of these was a journey to the south of France with an excellent guided tour. Others were to show us key points in Paris or visit nearby castles.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The program provided students with the major essentials: attaining a visa, fitting/placing in a host family, signing up for Sorbonne courses, getting metro and student ID cards, getting a phone, finding a local student buddy, setting us up for volunteering at a local school, organizing weekly cultural field trips. It also interfaced with host families and ensured students were picked up from the airport, shown how to get around the city, and fed dinner.

Individually, students had to find their own flights. Beyond that, most of what I had to do on my own related to filling free time. I planned trips (Belgium for the weekend, day trips outside Paris, etc.) and fun things to do between classes (museums, parks, cafes, etc.).

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be open to new experiences! Some of the most memorable points in the program were things I was a bit unsure about at first. For instance, teaching a bit of English and American culture at a local public school, attending a formal wine tasting, or going on a trip to Normandy with another student and her host family. Super unique and memorable experiences that I am so glad I took part in.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Wake up in your room at your host family's apartment, eat a light breakfast, take the metro to the CIEE facility in the center of the city, attend a few classes on grammar and culture, grab a sandwich with other students at a local shop, explore the city for a few hours or just sit by the river and people watch, head to the Sorbonne for a few hours of phonetics and language classes with people from all over the world, take the metro back home, do 30 minutes of homework and join the host family for dinner.

On some days, CIEE will organize a field trip to somewhere in the city, like a cruise along the river. On weekends, head to the train station and hop on a regional train with friends to explore a smaller city and climb a cathedral tower.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

Language! I spoke a few languages but French was not among them. I worried about how I would navigate the country, communicate with my host family, and even fit in with other students, most of whom I assumed would speak some French.

In the end, there was nothing to fear. CIEE did a fantastic job of pairing students with host families based on interest and language level, and the program was designed to be flexible.

It also equipped us with an understanding of how to shop/use the metro/order at restaurants/etc. so that we felt at home when out and about. Students also, for better or worse, spoke English among themselves. Plus we were paired with students at a local school so that they could practice their English with us.

Besides providing a great time, was the experience worth it?

Absolutely. I took part in this program after graduation, and I think it prepared me wonderfully for life after college. Life is all about being comfortable with new things, taking advantage of opportunities whenever they come along, being independent, and thinking on your feet. This program helped me strengthen in all these ways more than any amount of university studies could.

Where is she now? Kira Farley

Click here to read Kira Farley's interview with gooverseas.com! We have reposted sections below.

Kira is a Freshman at Tulane University in New Orleans, Lousiana. She is a French and Psychology major, harbors a deep passion for potatoes and avocados, and loves wearing stripes.

Why did you choose this program?

CIEE Students in Paris

I knew that I wanted to take a gap year after high school, but I needed guidance. I wasn't sure if I wanted to do service, education, travel, language, adventure or any of the other options out there.

When I found the CIEE gap year in Paris program, I felt like it was everything that I wanted in one. I took French in high school and knew that continuing to study it in Paris would get me one step closer to fluency.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

While I was preparing to head to France, there were two primary goals: prepare legally and prepare emotionally.

To prepare legally, I needed to gather all of my paperwork, obtain a visa and take a few language placement tests. The Portland CIEE staff was helpful in sending emails full of information to assist with the visa process. The Parisian CIEE staff is incredibly supportive. Lucie, our program director, is an angel and I couldn't have gotten everything together without her.

After orientation, I felt prepared to get on a plane and move! I do think that there is a lot of personal preparation that goes into moving abroad right after high school and nothing can adequately prepare you for the adventure that lies ahead!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

On a surface level, I wish that I had packed more layers. Growing up in Atlanta, I wasn't fully prepared for the Paris winter. On a deeper level, I would make sure to check in with yourself before, during and after your experience.

Going abroad is an incredible experience, and it can also be exhausting and a major challenge. It will make you a stronger person, but only if you supply yourself with the right tools.

These look like different things to different people. For me, it means making sure that I had weekly calls/texts with a family member or friend back home, a journal with me at all times to write down random thoughts and vocabulary, a weekly brunch with my host family and taking "me time" twice a day with yoga.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Views of Paris

The program changed from the first semester to the second. The pieces that carried through both semesters were grammar and phonetics classes at the Sorbonne. First semester the grammar lasted 4 hours, but we transitioned into shorter classes the second semester.

We also took a few classes through CIEE like politics and education, culture and society and art history. These classes took place both in and out of the classroom. Along with our education course, we worked as "benevoles" or volunteers. We worked in middle and primary schools as well as helping disadvantaged students in the 10th arrondissement at Club Barbes.

Second semester we worked behind the bar in a cafe serving coffee and tea to adults who were taking French classes. Working in the cafe was an excellent way to practice our French and get to meet incredibly interesting people!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

Before going to Paris, I felt like I could do anything. It wasn't until I got on the plane and the woman next to me asked how I was doing that I broke down and started crying out of anxiety. I was nervous about living without my family for the first time, moving to an entirely new city with a different language, starting the program, the unknowns of a gap year and more.

As Lucie, our program director says, it takes three weeks to get acquainted. You have to take it day by day and experience by experience. It is all of one big puzzle, but nothing will fit together if you don't pay attention to each little piece. Almost immediately after the three week mark, the Paris attacks took place. While this was horrible and was potentially my biggest scare, I learned so much from it.

CIEE was flawless in their response time and support both during the attacks and for the rest of the year. I felt safe knowing that I was under their watch and learned that the best way to move forward was to live my life without fear.

What was the best thing you ate in Paris?

While I had the most incredible bread, cheese and pastries in Paris, the best meal I had was in my host family's kitchen. We would cook together many nights, and it solidified our bond. When Thanksgiving rolled around, I made a pecan pie (pecans are incredibly hard to come by in Paris. I used pecans that my family brought with them during a visit), and we had a big meal together.

My host mom taught me how to make classic dishes and how to put a modern, French twist on food like hamburgers and hummus. Besides eating with my host family, I would recommend trying out the dining-in-the-dark experience. It is a restaurant where visually impaired staff navigates you through a complete meal. Truly something I will never forget!

Day 10/11 because it's 1:26 am and that's normal

Domingo/Lunes, el 25/26 de Septiembre, 2016
I've spent 10 whole days here in Seville already and am only now starting a blog but whatever. Here I am.
Calle Betis along the Guadalquivir
I've written precisely three days worth of journal entries in my travel journal, the one I've had since 2011, and I'm more than a little disappointed in myself. Here's the problem, though, and it's going to make even me roll my eyes once I type it out- I'm just having too much fun. (Fact: I didn't even make it to the end of that sentence before rolling my eyes. Fact: I've rolled my eyes every time I've reread that sentence to edit.) I've done so many things. I honestly don't even know where to start. On top of having too much fun to sit and rehash my gap year so far (eye roll again), I haven't taken nearly enough photos. When I was in the UK with my family this summer, I was also not so great at keeping my journal up to date. But, I relied heavily on the fact that my amazing 13 MP not-iPhone phone took incredible photos and I could easily look through them to remember what I did every day. However, I've been so bad at taking photos here that I've got no clue what I've been doing on which days which makes it a little bit hard to pull my general thoughts on each day together into a two page, hand written blurb for myself to laugh at a few years down the road. I just skip a week and complain about it in the next day's entry when I get around to doing it, though, and everything is fine again.
Flamenco dancers in Puerta de Jerez
I'm in love with Seville. Really in love with it. I'm in love with Spain in general, I think, but I've only really seen the Madrid airport and train station and whatever I wasn't asleep for on the train to Seville. I'm so in love, though. I love the people and the food and the culture and the traditions and the everything. I love siesta, I love Cruzcampo, I love the Guadalquivir, I love how everyone waits when the cross walk light says wait because everyone's got all the time in the world and why wouldn't you, I love how I can't sleep at night sometimes because it's too hot, I love sitting on a bench eating gelato at 11:30 at night with a toddler playing with my hair behind me because it's curly and that's normal, I love the flamenco dancers in thestreets busking for those 2€ coins, I love the misters up in the awnings that go off every thirty seconds to cool those sitting below, I love how cheap taxis are and the 2€ shots at practically every bar and "discoteca" (of which there are many) and I love the hundreds of stray cats that I've all nicknamed Gatata (because gato and patata). I love this city. I even love hating the parades for Vrigin Mary that go right by my apartment's window what has so far been every Friday and Saturday night.
La Giralda (on la Catedral de Sevilla
From the train to Sevilla
If I were to change one thing about anything so far, it would be the bull fights. We toured the plaza de toros the other day and, although gorgeous and satiated in history and culture, I did not like it much. It doesn't feel right, how these gorgeous, albeit deadly, creatures are raised, mated and forced to really just get mad until they're stabbed to death. Yes, it's an art meant to inspire people and show the beauty of movement and color. And yes, it's a very important part of Spanish culture and history that should not be overlooked. But, I still feel wrong about supporting it. Maybe it's just because I grew up reading Ferdinand the Bull, who knows. I respect those who enjoy it and express themselves through it as an art form, and I'm happy to be educated about it, but I have no intention of attending a bullfight in Spain. Sue me.
A fellow CIEEer at la plaza de toros
As for my living quarters (living quarters? Beckey, who are you?) I am happy. I am eating well and have a lovely room in a great apartment with a cool family who doesn't understand what I'm saying most of the time (and vice versa) and I could not complain. Things are, understandably, a little bit awkward. I've never met these people before and all of a sudden I am in their home lives all the damn time with minimal communication abilities at best. But day 10 is considerably better than day 1 and even more relaxed than day 5 so I expect it to continue becoming more normal as time goes by and my Spanish skills improve.
I've watched Friends and Star Wars and Shrek 2 and The Big Bang Theory all in Spanish and let me tell you it is so weird to watch Rachel Green talk without hearing Jennifer Aniston's voice. And Sheldon sans Jim Parsons? It's hardly even worth the watch anymore.
They eat a lot of bread here and I am not one to object. They have good bread.
I have not yet had a churro nor tapas which are basically just appetizers that don't precede a meal and are frequently accompanied by beer (here it's mainly Cruzcampo.) I hope to change this soon.

Hasta luego
Sunset over Triana

Dealing with Dietary Restrictions in Paris

    First, let me apologize for the lack of interesting blog posts. As the year draws to a close, I have been thinking of logistical topics that I wished someone had written about before me, but I will write something actually interesting to read soon!


However, here is another post on a (hopefully) helpful subject:

Dietary Restrictions in Paris!


    Most Parisians seem to be thin and sleek, but it’s not due to the latest diet or fad. While talking to a friend about salad, I discovered that he had no idea what Kale was (Yes, I translated it AND showed them a photo...still nothing. Imagine a world that’s not Kale Krazy!!!). When I asked one woman about the idea of being a vegetarian or a vegan her response was “I understand why an American would do it because your meat is bad, but in France our food is actually good”.

    Needless to say, coming into Paris with any dietary restrictions is no piece of cake (gluten free, of course). As a former vegetarian and a current lactose-free gal, I talked with one vegetarian pal, Susan, and one pescetarian pal, Moses, to see how they go about eating in a country that doesn’t seem to want to accept their diet:

    Note: As usual, French people have it together more than Americans and don’t seem to have the same allergies as we do. Lactose pills are NOT available in France as nobody seems to be lactose-intolerant (I’m now known as that weird American who can’t handle French cheese). I haven’t met anyone with a peanut allergy or any other major allergies in general. As with all medication and supplements, it’s best to bring a large enough supply to last you the entire stay (I started my semester with zero lactaid pills and let’s just say it was a really rough time for all).


Host Family:

In the application you will be asked if you have any restrictions, but you should still talk about it with your family upon arrival. For the first two months my host mom thought I was dairy AND gluten free until I set the record straight. She, being the glorious and wonderful person that she is, was more than happy to work around my restrictions, but not every family is like mine. Nobody should be forcing you to eat a piece of chicken, but both Susan and Moses mentioned that neither of their families eat vegetarian. So, the two of them eat only veg-friendly side dishes or make their own food like they do back in America.



This one is complicated depending on your restrictions. It’s easier for me because I can more or less tell if their is going to be dairy in a dish and I just pop a Lactaid (shout-out to this glorious saviour of a dietary supplement), but it’s not always easy. If you happen to be hypoglycemic or diabetic and need to know sugar contents, you can try to ask but you may not achieve a reliable answer. Susan and Moses said they don’t tend to just try any restaurant because often times the only vegetarian option on the menu is a salad (which often time means a bowl of iceberg lettuce. Nothing else.) and going out to eat in Paris is no cheap ordeal. There are vegetarian restaurants scattered around Paris, but nothing like the U.S. See here for a list of good vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and generally more healthy options: http://www.timeout.com/paris/en/restaurants/vegetarian-restaurants-in-paris:



It’s really easy to think that French people don’t “diet” because they just all naturally diet by eating enough food for a small mouse. Yes, the portions in France are smaller, but French people eat healthy and they eat often. You’re most likely going to be walking a LOT and unless you want to make yourself ill and spend your time in bed (see my previous post “Sick Nasty” for tips on dealing with sickness in Paris), you need to fuel your body. First semester I ate kebab (a glorious and horribly unhealthy fast food) at least once a week and I felt awful because I wouldn’t eat anything else all day and my body was getting no nutrients (my host mom swiftly told me this was a bad idea and re-introduced proper meals). I was basically living like the stereotypical college kid. The beautiful thing about living in Paris on a gap semester/year is that you can eat REAL FOOD before you head off to a dining hall.


So, it is a little more difficult to have a dietary restriction in Paris, but it is still very possible! Go out and try out as much good food as you can and bon appetit!



P.s. Some helpful vocab below

Vegetarian=végétarien(ne)  (Pescetarian is the same as in english) 


Gluten-Free=Sans Gluten

Lactose intolerant=Intolérant au lactose



Shellfish=Fruits de mer

Nuts=Des noisettes 

Vegetables=Les légume

Meat=La viande 

Fish=Le poisson

And...because I know someone will want to know:

Kale=Chou frisé


A little Bit of Everything


Wow have I been busy! As language classes have been coming to an end, life has been a swarm of homework, classwork, and studying for the final test (as well as the multiple smaller tests that we will still have even when the final is over). As well as day-trips, volunteering, museum visits, and preparing our final CIEE core class projects. In all of this madness it’s been hard to find a time to write all of it down, but now that I have a chance, boy am I going to try!

So here we go, the speed round of blogging. What have we done exactly? Well…


    We made dessert! 

…or rather, we made Wagashi. Wagashi is a type of traditional Japanese confection
 often served with tea. While Wagashi can be made with a variety of ingredients, the sweets we crafted used only Anko (sweet bean paste) and a little bit of mochi. We were taught by a professional Wagashi maker, who was very patient with us when we obviously had no idea what we were doing. I really enjoyed making my Wagashi, although it was really hard not to eat it all before I was done!



My finished Wagashi flowers.


    We took a trip to Kobe!

            Our first day we visited nearby Himeji. We went to a museum and walked around beautiful gardens. We explored Himeji Castle, which was a blast! We were lucky enough to get a tour of the castle and surrounding grounds, which were beautiful, not to mention huge! The Castle itself was amazing. It was first constructed by Akamatsu Sadanori (the son of a local clan leader) in 1346. Over the next several hundred years the castle changed hands multiple times and was constantly being added onto, until it became the 8 building behemoth you can see today. The main building way my favorite! With 7 floors (including a secret floor to confuse enemy invaders) there was a lot to see and do!


The whole squad with Himeji Castle in the background.


The weathercock house.

            On day 2 of Kobe we visited the Weathercock house and other famous western style buildings. These houses were built by foreigners who moved to Japan in the early 1900s. I loved seeing all of the old but familiar architecture and decorating styles! I also partook in a ridiculous amount of selfie taking with some of the characters I found around the property.


This jazz trumpetist was really enjoying the warm sunshine.


This dude was super tall and a little creepy.


“The things I’ve seen.”


I liked this one, she looked like something out of Skyrim.


I really have no idea what this is.


… And of course the obligatory mirror selfie featuring Joel!


    We Wore Kimonos and blew glass in Kawagowe! 

            Kawagoe was a blast! Many of the buildings there were fashioned in Edo period style, making waking around a fun sight-seeing experience! There were also many fun stores and vendors to see.

            After eating at an impressive buffet (chocolate fountain included) we took an adorable old-fashion bus to our first adventure. At the shop we chose our soon-to-be flower vase’s color scheme, and then with the help of a few of the workers, we cut, blew, and shaped our glass into the correct shape. I had seen glass being blown before, but until now I had never had the experience myself. I really enjoyed the process! With the acquired wisdom of glass blowing behind, us we set out for the next adventure.


Ever since I first came to Japan I have been looking forward to wearing a kimono. I'd seen many people around Tokyo wearing them and I knew I had to try it at least once. And now was my chance!

            Upon entering the small shop, we were taken to pick out our Yuki (robe) and Obi (decorative sash). We were then taken into the dressing rooms were we were helped in to the many layers that make up the full kimono. Once finished we were taken to get our hair done, then we were ready to go! We walked around the town for about 2 hours taking pictures and shopping. I was surprised at how many people stopped and complemented us. It was a really fun day full of new experiences!



    It’s been a crazy roller-coaster time, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s almost done. I feel like I still have so much to do, but at the same time I am excited for whatever will happen next. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences and I’ve become so accustom to my life here, I don’t quite know how it will feel to leave. Even though it’s getting close, one things for sure

It’s not over yet.

Until next time、



When the whole squads lookin' fresh.