TOEFL Tips and Tricks – a free course in Serbia

BELL+ program invites you to apply for a free of charge course “TOEFL Tips and Tricks” to be held at American Corners in Belgrade, Kragujevac, Novi Sad and Vranje.

BELL+ is a program funded by the Embassy of the U.S.A. in Serbia, and organized by American Councils for International Education in cooperation with American Corners in Serbia.

Apply HERE.

Application deadline: April 23, 2018.

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Officially Part of Kansas State’s Senate History!

I am Vesa Sherifi, an exchange student from Macedonia, placed in Kansas City Missouri. Being from such a small place as Macedonia, you want to talk to people about your country all the time and inform them more and more. The YES program has given me this opportunity in the best was possible where through all these months I had the chance to talk to little kids, middle-school kids, teenagers, young-adult and a lot of other group of people.

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This time, after I applied through my placement organization AFS, I had the chance to share my YES experience and talk about Macedonia to senators and the Governor of Kansas State. Couple of weeks ago, I had the honor and I was lucky enough to get chosen by the Senate of Kansas State to work as a page for a day on the floor of the Legislature. IMG_0786-1 (2)-min

 

This experience was one of the most beautiful and excited ones. We were hosted by the Senator Julia Lynn, who teared up when she heard about our stories, about being an exchange students, about our mission and especially the struggles of winning such a scholarship. I got the opportunity to learn more about the American Government and at the same time talk to a lot of Senate workers about AFS, about the YES Program and about Macedonia. The most amazing moment of that day was when Senator Julia Lynn, in front of the whole Senate introduced me and called me and other foreign exchange students “Ambassadors” of our countries. She teared up again while sharing our stories and that was followed with a standing ovation from everyone in the Senate Chamber.

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After a few days, I got a mail where Ms. Julia Lynn sent me the Journal of the Senate of that day and said that I was part of their history now, by being mention in it!

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Once again I saw what a beautiful thing is to be and exchange student, what an honor is to be the one who connects two different places and most importantly it reminded me that our mission here is very valuable and important for both, our home countries and United States itself.

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The Power of Compromise

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By: Josie K., YES Abroad 2017-2018

Bosnia and Herzegovina

You never know the meaning of the word “compromise” until you are locked in a room with twenty-seven other students––representing the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the State of Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and countless other nations––and you have to work towards one goal: how to combat and react to cyberattacks.

Over the course of two days I, along with many other students from around the globe, found the opportunity to do just that at a recent Model United Nations (MUN) conference in Mostar, hosted by United World College (UWC) students. As I am currently studying abroad in Sarajevo, I was able to represent my school, Druga Gimnazija, alongside my fellow exchange student Haley. The opportunity, both fantastic and slightly enigmatic (as I had absolutely no idea what the conference would entail), forced me to spend many evenings researching my own country’s view on cybersecurity and control of small arms in post-conflict zones, no small feat as I represented a controversial nation in the committee: The State of Israel.

When we arrived to Mostar, we were immediately greeted with a speech by Guillaume Rousson, the French ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as several stunning performances by the UWC students. We were warmly approached by a number of students, who similarly expressed their excitement for the following day’s committee sessions, where many of the world’s problems were set to be resolved in closed rooms by students from around the world.

The following day was nothing but excitement and anxiety for many as opening speeches were made, rebuttals were composed, blocs were formed, and resolutions were drafted. Following over ten hours of committee sessions and lobbying, my committee–the Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC)–successfully passed two resolutions in which the internet was banned to combat cybersecurity and governments initiated strict arms control aimed at deweaponization through confiscation of illegal arms to combat illegal arms sales in post-conflict zones. Although banning the internet may not necessarily be seen as a solution to cyber-attacks (yes this resolution did pass), I learned two extremely important lessons easily applicable to any exchange year: be flexible and have fun.

Both in my daily life and at the conference, I found myself expecting an event to go one way and having it go entirely the opposite. Public transportation, for example, is an incredibly important aspect of life for any citizen of Sarajevo. Yet, throughout the year, I have found it to be at times unreliable, with my daily bus often breaking down. I am forced to adapt to the circumstance and find an alternative mode of transportation or risk being late to the coffee date I have planned. As a result, I know the walk to school like the back of my hand and, in the end, even prefer walking rather than taking the bus.

At the conference, I prepared a resolution with other nations in my committee who had similar viewpoints. Collectively, the bloc I joined created a sound and reasonable resolution, lacking irrational clauses. We felt sure it would pass with flying colors, however, as we began to present the resolution, other nations consistently argued and debated various clauses, ultimately resulting in a narrow failure during the voting procedure. As a committee we were forced to move on to the next resolution, in which many representatives from my bloc debated in a similar manner. Through the intense debating, the DISEC committee was able to compromise and create an ultimate solution to problem. Though I had not expected the original resolution to fail, myself and others from my block worked to resolve any issues we saw to devise a peaceful and coherent solution.

Although passing a resolution was necessary, and arriving on time is important, I found enjoying my time and laughing at the mistakes to be far more essential. Although the walk to school can be long, I have met many locals along the walk and have built connections with them, even going out for coffee following our conversations and stroll. At the conference it was no different. I found myself laughing until my stomach hurt during a karaoke night, hiding from water guns during a surprise “co-ops attack,” and participating in the talent show while representing America. I had come to try and solve some of the world’s greatest issues, and although I found it important to focus, I found it equally important to enjoy the people around me and establish relationships with those who shared similar values.

Overall, the Model UN Conference in Mostar further emphasized many of the lessons I have learned throughout my (almost) eight months here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the committee did not manifest how I had originally thought, it allowed me to meet new people, create new friendships, and build resolutions with the ultimate goal of making the world a better place.

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Travelling to Prague, Dresden, and Vienna with Josip Broz Tito High School

By Christina Carrington, YES Abroad PY2017-2018, Macedonia

 

I stood at the center of the crowd as we all pushed and shoved each other in a competition to see who will get closest to the door of the bus. We were about to embark on a 24 hour bus ride to Prague, and all of us students wanted the best seats next to our friends. When the teachers finally gave the signal to board the bus, my friends and I ran on and successfully found seats together. This was the beginning of Josip Broz Tito High School’s annual school trip for third year students, and Molly and I were excited we were given the chance to join.

To be honest, I was really worried about the long bus ride. I usually dread riding in buses or cars for over an hour, not to mention a whole day. But, as the bus’s engine started my friends and I started talking and continued to do so for the entire ride, only taking breaks in the conversation to sleep of course. Some students even brought speakers on the bus and everyone took turns playing their favorite songs while others sang along. We also all shared snacks throughout the ride and my friend, Nadija, even brought gluten free snacks just for me. At one point, the bus stopped in front of McDonald’s, a chain they don’t have in Macedonia. All the eager students crowded the fast food joint with lines to order stretching across the entire restaurant. After having dinner, one of my friends, Angela, even ordered chicken nuggets to take with her on the bus. Despite having a lot of fun with my friends on the bus, I was relieved when we arrived at the hotel.

The moment I found out I would go on the trip, Nadija, Angela, and I knew we would room together. Sharing a room with them was like having an extended sleepover where we talked each night until we all fell asleep. After arriving, we settled into our room and went to the mall. I found out that for some of the students, their main motivation to go on the trip was to buy clothes from the malls we visit. Clothes are cheaper in other countries than in Macedonia, so my classmates bought bags and bags full of new shoes and outfits.

After the mall, our class gathered again and we explored Prague from a boat tour on the Vltava River. The tour guide described the rich history of the city and pointed out historical monuments as we passed them.

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The next day we toured Prague, visiting the towering spires of St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Town, the St. Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle, the Wenceslas Square, and many other historical sites. I was in awe walking down the streets in the Old Town, feeling like I was transported into a fairy tale. Every building was beautifully designed with different colors and architecture, and the streets were lined with small shops each containing some unique nicknacks or artisan chocolates. In our free time I explored the shops and took in the beauty of the streets.

After visiting Prague, the next day we took a bus ride to Dresden. We had an unforgettable walking tour of the city while snow began falling over our heads. My favorite sights were the Baroque architecture at Zwinger palace and its magnificent courtyard; Bruhl’s Terrace, a stretch of famous historical landmarks next to the river Elbe; and the golden mural that creates the Procession of Princes. After the tour my friends and I rushed into the nearest shopping center to warm up from the cold. Here I had the chance to talk to some of the locals who were kind in helping me with directions and answering questions I had about the city.

Last, but not least by any stretch of the imagination, was Vienna. We packed our luggage the next morning and arrived in Austria’s capital. Of all the cities, Vienna was by far the coldest, windiest, and snowiest. I thought this might ruin the visit, but I instead fell in love with St, Stephen’s Cathedral at the center of the city. My friend Matej and I explored the church’s altars and gorgeous stained glass windows. After the cathedral we went into several souvenir shops tailored just towards Gustav Klimt where my friends and I bought music boxes and magnets with his artwork on them. We then explored the city some more before settling down for dinner, and afterwards boarding the bus back to Skopje.

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Even though I had been going to school with the Josip Broz IB students for seven months and we already knew each other, spending a week with them in a foreign country allowed us to bond more than I could imagine. I had the chance to talk more to the students I usually did not sit next to in class, and I even got to see another side to my friends. The only downside to the trip was becoming even closer to my friends, so now I don’t know how I will ever say goodbye to them when the time comes to leave Macedonia.

Job Opportunity: Program and Administrative Assistant (Sofia, Bulgaria)

 

Hiring

Job Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
Position Type: Full-Time, Undetermined Term (after initial probationary period)
Preferred Start Date: June 1, 2018

Description:

The Program and Administrative Assistant is responsible for functions related to implementation of YES and YES abroad student exchange programs and provides administrative and finance support to the American Councils office in Bulgaria. The position reports the American Councils Country Representative in Sofia and works in conjunction with Washington-based program managers and colleagues in Southeast Europe.

About American Councils:

American Councils for International Education is an international not-for-profit organization working to advance education, research, and mutual understanding across the United States and the nations of Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and Southeast Europe. Its mission is to foster democratic development and civil societies by advancing education and research, cultivating leadership, and empowering individuals and institutions through learning. With a staff of over 450 professionals in over 60 countries, American Councils designs, implements, and supports innovative programs in education, community outreach, and scholarly research.

YES and YES Abroad program:

The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program provides scholarships for high school students to spend up to one academic year in the U.S where they live with host families, attend high school, engage in activities to learn about American society and values, and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures. The program is focused on countries with significant Muslim populations and is a democratic response to the events of September 11, 2001, providing deepen understanding between cultures.

The YES Abroad program was initiated as a reciprocal extension of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program for American students doing an exchange program in countries with significant Muslim populations.

Job Responsibilities:

  • Implement the YES program in Bulgaria including: promoting and advertising, assisting in all sounds of testing; organizing various program events, local visa support, preparing student departure and arrival.
  • Support the implementation of the YES Abroad program cycle in Bulgaria including:  host family and host school selection, activities with student like orientations, cultural events and volunteer opportunities and on-program support.
  • Assist in the implementation of other programs of the organization, as required;
  • Ensure all operational tasks in the office: maintain inbox and outbox correspondence, track human resource records, coordinate contracts with short term and temporary staff, file taxes and reports according to local laws,  prepare budget requests and reports to the DC office.
  • Provide administrative and logistical support to all programs, assisting office staff in everyday routine work as well as the organization of special events such as workshops, trainings, seminars, etc.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Reports to: Country Representative

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent, in a relevant field of study
  • Minimum 2 years’ experience in exchange program administration or position with similar duties
  • Outstanding time management, organization and planning skills
  • Demonstrated excellence in communication and multicultural interpersonal skills
  • Fluent in English and one or more local languages
  • Familiarity with the education system in Bulgaria
  • Experience traveling under difficult conditions
  • Flexibility to occasional work on weekends and evenings
  • Experience in budget management
  • Familiarity with Microsoft Office software suite and common social media platforms

To apply, click the link below and submit your application (including resume and cover letter) by April 15, 2018 (midnight CET).

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EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY – American Councils is committed to taking affirmative steps to enhance employment opportunities for minorities, women, veterans, and people with disabilities, and strives to ensure that meaningful employment and promotional opportunities are maintained for everyone. American Councils’ commitment to equal employment opportunity is based not only on federal requirements, but also on a longstanding commitment to maintaining a diverse workforce reflective of the communities in which we operate.

PAY TRANSPARENCY NONDISCRIMINATION PROVISION

The contractor will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against employees or applicants because they have inquired about, discussed, or disclosed their own pay or the pay of another employee or applicant. However, employees who have access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants as a part of their essential job functions cannot disclose the pay of other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to compensation information, unless the disclosure is (a) in response to a formal complaint or charge, (b) in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or (c) consistent with the contractor’s legal duty to furnish information.

American Abroad Student of the Month: Jenesis Ortiz, February 2018

Jenesis Ortiz, a Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad Program (YES Abroad) participant, is the U.S. Department of State’s February 2018 American Abroad Student of the Month.  From Connecticut, Jenesis is currently studying in Skopje, Macedonia.

Since day one of her program year, Jenesis has demonstrated the qualities of an exemplary exchange student. Jenesis is open, interested, and communicative.  She early on developed a strong relationship with her host family through living their culture and traditions each day and sharing hers in return. She has taken a similar approach at her host high school as well, making it her mission to succeed both academically and socially.  Jenesis has shown a keen interest in learning Macedonian language and has taken individual lessons throughout the year.

Outside of her personal achievements at school, Jenesis works on projects to represent the YES Abroad program and help her community in her free time.  She organized a presentation about the American high school system at a local medical high school in Skopje, inviting the other YES Abroad students to participate as well.  More than 75 students showed up to hear about the differences between the two cultures and to learn more about teaching techniques used in the United States.

Jenesis took the initiative to reach out to a local Fulbright Scholar to work with her to start a project teaching English to local Macedonian adults. Since November, Jenesis has assisted in teaching this adult English class at the American Corner in Skopje.

Jenesis is also organizing and hosting a virtual “Video Call College Fair” at the American Corner in Skopje where current college students in the United States connect over Skype to assist Macedonian youth who have been accepted to U.S. colleges to narrow down their decision.

Lastly, Jenesis has been active with the Macedonia YES Alumni Association, consistently attending monthly meetings and participating in projects or volunteering activities that the alumni organize.

Jenesis has shown a strong commitment to the YES Abroad mission.  She’s truly been a youth ambassador, all while maintaining a rigorous academic course load and exploring all that her host community has to offer.

Congratulations, Jenesis!

Employee Exchange Program

American Councils for International Education has launched an internal Employee Exchange Program which gives the opportunity to staff members to apply for temporary jobs available within our organization in other countries.

The Office in Belgrade had its first participant of this program, our colleague from Washington, DC Office, Bilal Khan, who works mainly on social media development for several exchange programs.

Among other things, Bilal participated in organizing Mentor Training IDEAL workshop in Kosova, held February 28 – March 5, 2018. He also conducted a Twitter and Video Training for Belgrade staff on March 13, 2018. He boosted our interest in social media development, and inspired us to open a Twitter account for American Councils Serbia, as well as to create the video bellow:

We are looking forward to hosting more participants of this program in the future and to opportunities to go to other American Councils’ Offices for a short-term engagements!

Stefan Raičević, A-SMYLE/FLEX alumnus: My U.S. Exchange Experience Was a Stepping Stone! Read Stefan’s Story.

Being selected as one of the A-SMYLE (now FLEX) students in 2011 was a proof to me that hard work, passion and knowledge pay off sooner or later. My exchange experience provided me with self confidence in my professional pursuits to come. A-SMYLE/FLEX experience in my CV, a diverse network on my Facebook, and most of all – leadership and intercultural skills, critical thinking and English fluency I have gained through the exchange, were the best stepping stone a teenager like me could get.

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After the program I have remained active in the alumni community. I was part of many teams on numerous alumni projects. Alumni grants allowed me to implement my own ideas and develop my community, and also to develop my personal management and budgeting skills. By the time I was ready to go to college I had already coordinated community initiatives and managed budgets while my peers were getting used to doing their own laundry by themselves for the first time. In 2016, inspired by the projects I implemented with the A-SMYLE/FLEX alumni community, I founded a new youth NGO Movement for Cooperation and Development of Youth. Our first project called “Why Youth?” was awarded with the Resolution Fellowship by a NY based Resolution Project Foundation. All of this made my time through the Law School I am attending now seem like a nice walk in the park – while some of my colleagues still struggle to organize their time and do their own budget, I have managed to complete 3rd year of studies with 94.5% success.

Due to my active involvement in the community development through alumni projects I have been invited to represent students at the UNICEF Quality of Education Conference, to represent Montenegro at the World Forum for Democracy, at the World Youth Summit One Young World (OYW) and many more. After the OYW summit I applied to become the coordinator for the Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, and competed against several people with perfect resumes. Everyone in my surrounding told me I was a fool for expecting to be selected. However some people on the selection committee thought that due to my previous managing and coordinating experience (I have gained through the A-SMYLE/FLEX alumni projects) was worth considering, and – I WAS SELECTED- and got an opportunity to lead more than 300 people from 18 countries!

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Nowadays, thanks to all of these beautiful and life changing opportunities I have participated in – ONLY because I had a chance to take part in the A-SMYLE/FLEX program and its alumni activities- I am a semester away from graduating as one of the top graduates from the University in Belgrade Law School. I have already got three job offers from leading international and national law and financial companies in a country where such offers are not usual, and where youth unemployment exceeds 30%.

I would have never achieved even a half of all this if I had not gotten a chance to be part of the A-SMYLE/FLEX program. Therefore, I believe that many more young people should have a chance to take part in this program in the future. Finally, I believe that the real value of the program in Montenegro and Serbia is yet to be seen in the years to come, as its program alumni are still young professionals who will soon make a big impact.

Stefan Raičević,

A-SMYLE/FLEX alumnus from Bar, Montenegro

Hosted in Parsons, KS – Program Year 2011-2012.

YES, I have been to Ohrid

By Laurie Lee, YES Abroad PY2017-2018, Macedonia

Ever since I arrived in Macedonia, every local has been asking me, “Have you been to Ohrid?” Locals love heading to Lake Ohrid for a holiday, and it is the local destination for in country travel. The city is located on and around Macedonia’s biggest lake, and is filled with beautiful historic sites and cozy cafes. So upon meeting a YES inbound alumni from Ohrid, Vlado, I asked him to host me and Molly for a quick day trip. He quickly agreed, and we planned our bus tickets, itinerary, and our travel forms, excited for a peaceful and sunny day sightseeing in Ohrid.

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But waking up the morning of our trip, we looked outside the window and saw grey skies, heavy rain, and wind tearing down tree branches. We were disappointed by the bad weather, but headed to Ohrid anyway, undeterred by the bad luck. The winding bus ride brought us to a small bus station in Ohrid where there the rain pounded even harder. Holding up my 200 denar ($4) umbrella, we greeted Vlado and he took us to a small Italian restaurant near the lakefront. Although the day was windy and cloudy, the lake still looked beautiful, and the rustic streets were even more inviting. Excited to finally eat and sightsee, we quickly eat our spaghetti and head to the lakefront where a beautiful 13th century church was perched overlooking the enormous lake. Quickly taking photos and struggling to fight the wind, my umbrella breaks and I’m left defenseless under the rain, soaking my jeans and knotted hair. But unwilling to dampen our spirits, we hike on and travel through the cobblestone streets to a small (and very warm) cafe. Like a true Macedonian, we finished our day sipping cappuccinos and Turkish coffee.

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The whole day, although unexpected, felt excitedly uncomfortable. Both Molly and I were excited to finally see this beautiful, sunny city, but were surprised by the turning weather. But exchange has always been like this. Never has any part of Macedonia truly followed any sort of preconceived expectations I placed upon it. Whether it was the wonderfully delicious combination of ketchup on pizza, or the endearingly mismatched architecture of Skopje, exchange in Macedonia has surprised me since I stepped foot outside of the Alexander the Great Airport. But with these surprises, I’ve learned to accept, adapt, and embrace the unexpected challenges. Exchange has bred within me the ability to laugh at my embarrassments, to embrace feeling uncomfortable, and, of course, to hike on when my umbrella breaks in the rain.

Valentine’s day activity at Elementary School “Dimitar Miladinov” in Skopje

By Jenesis Ortiz, YES Abroad PY2017-2018, Macedonia

Every year, Valentine’s Day gives people worldwide a reason to show their love for all of their friends and family. This past Valentine’s Day, myself and the four other YES Abroad students had the opportunity to visit a fourth grade class in the Elementary School “Dimitar Miladinov” – Skopje. There, we were able to assist the students in sharing their love for their classmates and family through making Valentine’s Day cards. When we arrived to the classroom on the morning of Valentine’s Day, the students greeted us with their biggest smiles. They were patiently awaiting our arrival, and eager to be taking a break from their normal art class to make Valentine’s Day cards. Seeing this excitement, we quickly divided ourselves among the tables of students and began working.

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I settled at a table of 5 students, and began to hand out the paper, markers, and stickers. For the next couple minutes we worked on folding our papers and cutting our stickers, meanwhile introducing ourselves. As a group, we ended up with one collective card design that included heart balloons covering the inside and outside of the card. Once everyone was satisfied with their craft’s appearance, the students had the task of deciding who exactly their cards would be for. Although they initially struggled to figure out their valentines, all of them decided to make the cards out to a friend in class. Interested in who these friends were, I asked the students to point out each of their valentines. After having a long conversation about all their friends, I helped the students write meaningful messages to them inside the card.

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My table began going around the classroom delivering our cards, and soon, the other groups followed. Once all the cards were distributed, we had just enough time to take one group picture with all of our work. When leaving the classroom, we saw the same smiles waving us goodbye and asking us to visit once again. For the YES Abroad students, visits like the one with this fourth grade class, are beyond meaningful, as we have a chance to interact with the most wonderful children. They teach us all about how school works for elementary aged children in Macedonia, and allow us to practice our still-developing Macedonian language skills.