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After 70 Years, Teaching Abroad Matters More Now Than Ever

70th anniversary blog

Yesterday, CIEE celebrated our 70th Anniversary as world leaders in international, educational exchange. Board members, team managers, coordinators, temps, and even the brand new summer interns gathered in our newly updated facility in Portland, Maine to celebrate an extraordinary seven decades of cross-cultural bridge building. We extend our deepest gratitude to you, teachers, for helping to make it all.

Even though I am only an intern who started a mere four weeks ago, I’ve already come to appreciate what this company does and all that it stands for. Over the past seventy years, staff has come and gone, but one thing remains the same: CIEE’s dedication to fostering healthy international relationships and cross-cultural competence. Whether you’re a past participant or current staff member, we all are working toward these goals.

While CIEE has been around for a while now, our contributions to the international community are more important now than ever. Today’s contentious political climate proves that there has never been a more necessary time to send Americans overseas and host foreigners on our soil.

When it comes to repairing strained international relationships, diplomacy can only take us so far. Given the current state of government, it’s unclear how far that even is. This is why we must take it upon ourselves—as an organization and individuals—to strengthen our standing in the global sphere. The world must know that America as a whole does not stand for hate or intolerance. It is up to us to prove it.

As an international teacher, I understand that it can sometimes feel like you are making backwards progress. There were times that I felt like a complete failure when I walked into the classroom after months of asking the same questions only to say “How are you today?” and have my students enthusiastically respond with “It’s SUNNY!” These are the moments that you have to step back and remember why you decided to teach abroad in the first place.

While improving English competency around the world is critical to cross-cultural development, chances are that getting your TEFL certificate and moving your life overseas was not for the sole purpose of improving the English of foreigners. Most likely you did not go into this experience with the goal that your students would be fluent by the end.

On the contrary, I would bet that the majority of you in this self-selecting group set out on this path of greater purpose: to learn about, connect with, and grow a personal understanding of a foreign culture. By the end of your experience, you will have learned that this is a mutually beneficial and enriching exchange. Trust that this impact goes beyond a certain time and place. Your contributions in and out of the classroom will be remembered and utilized for years to come.

In honor of our 70th anniversary and in light of global politics, we must recommit ourselves to the future of strong international relationships. This means teaching English, learning foreign languages, immersing ourselves in outside cultures, and befriending locals in places we would have never imagined. In these commitments, there is plentiful hope for a more peaceful and tolerant world.

Congratulations to all on seventy inspiring years of international exchange. We cannot wait for many more to come!