On April 1, more than 160 alumni, staff, and special guests gathered at Maison de l'architecture to reconnect and celebrate four decades of international education and cultural exchange at our Paris Study Center. Since 1974, the CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange center has welcomed thousands of American students, and fostered an understanding of French culture and connections between countries.
Like other CIEE alumni events, this evening was an ideal way for past participants to share their international exchange experiences, forge new friendships, and build their professional networks. CIEE staff members, special guests, students, and alumni from a variety of CIEE programs attended, including study abroad alums from various CIEE Study Centers who now live in Paris and over 40 alumni from J-1 Exchange Visitor programs, which give students from abroad opportunities to train with U.S. companies, experience U.S. culture, and ultimately strengthen ties between nations.
Also attending were representatives from CIEE’s partner institutions in France: Université de Paris - Sorbonne Nouvelle, the Université Paris Diderot, Collège International de Philosophie, and Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). CIEE was honored to host two staff members from the U.S. Embassy, a member of the Franco-American Commission (Fulbright-France), and 16 members of Club Barbes – one of our Paris Study Center’s partners. Four members of Club Barbes will visit Harvard University later this month as part of a project called Diplomats of Diversity, initially funded and co-created by CIEE.
As part of our commitment to offer alumni ways to continue learning about other cultures, the evening featured presentations from several guests, including Caroline Ryan, managing director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in France.
“Caroline inspired the audience by speaking about her own experiences as a binational professional citizen, and described AmCham’s programs in France that support intellectual and economic exchange between the U.S. and France,” said Dan Olds, director of CIEE alumni relations.
Chosen for its rich history and architectural interest, the venue itself inspired guests. Built in the early 1600s as the home of a Franciscan order, The Recollects (as it was known for years) was renovated in 2003. It is now a regional architectural training center and headquarters of the Regional Council of the Order of Architects of Ile-de-France.
One of the evening’s highlights was a moving performance by Auni Hovanesian, a 2008 study abroad alumni and program assistant at the Paris Study Center, who sang original compositions accompanied by musicians on the violin and cello.
Alumni who live, work, and study in Paris made the most of the opportunity to learn and interact. “Late in the evening, it was amazing to see U.S. study abroad, J-1 Internship alums, and members of Club Barbes chatting together in French on the patio,” noted Olds. “On many levels, it was a remarkable and authentic moment of international and intercultural exchange.”