Just a few months ago in May 2019, the 2018-19 Community College Initiative Program cohort completed their exchange year. Since their return to their home countries, the newest group of CCI alumni have taken the skills and values they gained in the U.S. to propel their professional lives and personal goals forward.
Securing New Jobs
Several CCI alumni have been hired for jobs in their field of study. Dede “Defir” Firmansah, (Indonesia) who studied business marketing at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) during his CCI year started a new position as a Content Marketing Specialist at a digital performance agency in Indonesia. Another CCI alumnus, Roger Hincapie, secured a new job as a Public Relations Officer for an e-learning social network based out of Colombia. In addition to studying media at NOVA, Roger interned with George Mason University’s Student Media Office, where he published several articles in GMU’s student-run news outlet.
In South Africa, CCI alumnus Sibusiso Chipeta started a job at City Lodge Hotel in Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport. Sibusiso studied tourism and hospitality at NOVA and completed more than 75 internship hours in the culinary department at a local senior center. After returning to his home country, where youth unemployment is above 25%, Sibusiso used the used the resume and elevator pitch he crafted during the CCI Program’s re-entry training to pursue job opportunities. “They always say it takes time to accomplish your objectives,” he recently wrote. “After I came back from the U.S. I had to deal with a terrible culture shock, but at the same time I spent my time wisely looking for a job doing research and selling myself.”
Encouraging English Practice and Critical Thinking
CCI alumni in Papua, Indonesia, have been sharing their professional skills and cross-cultural experiences with high school and college students. In July, four 2018-19 alumni shared stories from their exchange year at “English an Hour,” a weekly language-learning gathering. Diana Jago (Valencia College, Business), Andris Mahulette (Kirkwood Community College, Public Safety), Pernus Tarasen (Bunker Hill Community College, Business), and Jummalan Rumkabas (NOVA-AN, Business) delivered the session, which included how to apply for CCI Program, to an audience of more than 50 students. At another “English an Hour” gathering in June, Diana and Andris presented to about 20 students how to tell your story online.
Meanwhile in Cote d’Ivoire, Toti Emmanuel Gnahore (Cote d’Ivoire, NOVA-AN, Business) led a workshop about media literacy and building mutual understanding for students at Felix Houphouët-Boigny University. The workshop was part of a larger gathering on the theme of “Youth, Election, and Civic Responsibility,” organized by the nonprofit Planète Paix and supported by the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan. During his session, Toti encouraged some 20 participants to recognize fake news and use social media networks to spread messages of peace and nonviolence, especially during election periods.
Fostering a Culture of Volunteerism
In Cali, Colombia, two CCI alumni joined forces to promote the American value of volunteerism in their city. With the support of Youth Colombian Leaders Foundation, Jamila Ruiz Paz (Colombia, Bunker Hill Community College, Early Childhood Education) partnered with CCI alumnus Miguel Angel Romero (Colombia, Houston Community College, 2017-18) to invite youth to spend an afternoon painting “eco-boxes” to be used to collect and recycle garbage from the streets. Thirty people answered their call.
The following week, on Colombia’s Independence Day, Jamila and Miguel organized the group for a community clean-up using the boxes. During the clean-up, the volunteers also educated the community about keeping the streets and planet clean. The activities “showed that there are still people willing to make a positive change,” said Jamila. During her exchange year, Jamila contributed 160 hours of volunteer service to her host city.
Turning Action Plans into Reality
While studying in the United States, CCI participants develop an action plan to implement in their home countries upon their return home. CCI alumna Pamula Mita Andary’s (Indonesia, Scottsdale Community College, Media) action plan was to produce an English-language podcast for children in Indonesia so they can practice English and learn Indonesian folktales. After returning to Indonesia, Mita found a group of young people who are also interested in producing a podcast with whom she could collaborate. The group recently completed production of their first podcast episode, which will soon be available on Spotify.
Promoting the Value of Academic Exchanges
In addition to securing new jobs, sharing skills, and working on action plans, CCI alumni are also making sure youth in their communities are aware of exchange programs and study abroad opportunities. CCI alumna Esra Akkaya (Turkey, Mesa Community College, Early Childhood Education) represented the CCI Program by talking about her personal and academic achievements at Ayvansaray University in Turkey.
Across the ocean, CCI alumnus Thawan Martins (Brazil, Kirkwood Community College, Agriculture) participated in a four-person panel about exchange experiences at his university, the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology, in Acre, Brazil. Thawan spoke about his time studying agriculture at Kirkwood Community College. After sharing some of those experiences with his peers in Brazil, he said, “I’m so glad that I got to inspire and motivate students through the lifetime lessons and lifelong skills learned during my exchange year.”