You Are Not Alone

Participating in Women’s March in Washington DC was the first time for me. I am glad that I was able to join millions of other women to rise up for what we believe in, for our rights to be heard. It was a great experience. Walking side by side with not only women but also men without looking at our races or religions or other differences in fact everyone was very friendly, supportive and caring. I have been living in USA for 6 months but that day I saw such crowd I’ve never seen before. At the Metro station there were so many people who tried to get in the train, there was almost no space inside that everyone had to tolerate the situation and try to make room for more people to come in. Before, whenever I used Metro people didn’t really talk to other people but at that moment I saw how people would lend other people their hands to come into the train, to help others. I and my sisters met their friends, they came with posters and other attributes that represented things that everybody was standing for, respect for woman, women rights, etc. People gathered and started encouraging each others with speeches, sometimes we also sang songs or simply walking down the streets. That day I learned something I never learned in the classroom, to always stand up for what I believe, to speak up for it, to not feel small in front of others. This kind of opportunity for women is very hard to get in my country, India, as girls are not treated equally. For example, girls in India can barely continue their education after 10th grade, this breaks my heart and I hope I can be a help for this social problem. Another problem is the lack of support for LGBTQ community in my country, they don’t have anybody to stand for them, for their rights. I felt so bad thinking about my people especially the suppressed ones, when I witnessed how people in United States can freely express their struggles and they also have so much freedom and support from other people, I wish for the same thing in my country as well. I really concern about how bad the girls in my country are treated. They are not safe if they go out after 10pm, there’s always a possibility that they will get raped. If they are working and coming home late neighbors will start talking bad about themselves without knowing that they work hard only to support their families. I hope I can help my community to start standing for girls by sharing the knowledge and experience I have gained to them and hopefully it will bring change. I know it will be difficult but it is worth trying.

Post written by Nilofar Shaikh, CCI participant at NOVA, 2016-2017, India

Maximize your campus’s resources

As students, especially as CCI students, we do have a lot of things to do. Doing some off campus activities, such as internships, volunteering in order to get engaged to our community is a privilege for us to experience it, yet getting engaged to our campus also important and worth being. I assume that a good way to get engaged with campus is by using the resources that has been provided for us and absolutely they are free.

Library on the Annandale Campus

One of the resources that almost everyday I visit is The Library. If you hear the word “library”, you would have imagined dozens of books and a huge quiet room that sometimes makes you bored and sleepy, but yet there are actually a lot of interesting and useful things to do there. Besides for reading books, you can also use others tools such as computers, digital media studios, group study rooms, laptop kiosks, electronic equipments in circulation desks (cameras, tablets, camera accessories, calculators, audio equipments), and also chess arena for the chess likers. You can use those tools to do your assignment, or even just for fun, to release your stress after doing a lot of work. Since you get a free wifi connection, you can use the computers or laptops just to listen to your favorite music on youtube, etc, and of course for tablets, camera, calculators and some other stuff you can borrow and bring them home for generally 7 days with 1 renewal.

Fitness Center in CE

Besides library, particularly for those who spend a lot of time in Annandale campus, in the same building where the library is, there are also some sources that are very helpful and useful in order to renew, sharpen and even gain new knowledge in writing center, language center, and math & science center. From the CG building, we can also connect to CE building through the corridor on the first floor where we can also do some sports activities in Fitness Center, basketball/volleyball arena and dance room. Last but not least other sources that I want to share are Counseling Center and Career & Transfer Center that I already had an experience with when I was consulting about my resume. I got another point of view and some advice from the advisors and it turned out well for me.

So, guys, I know sometimes we feel like we do not need them because we are already know about those kind of things, but who knows, maybe when you go to writing center, language center or career advisor, you will meet people that link you to another opportunity for internships, volunteer or other kinds of good events that you never imagine before. Or now you have another skill by knowing another language, movie making, photographing, just by using those resources. So, for those who haven’t been using those sources effectively, I suggest you guys to start using them right now because I truly believe that it’s not a waste of time to use these resources and at the end of this program when we already reach our home countries, we are going to bring something worth telling to our folks about our campus and community, besides definitely our wonderful personal experiences here in USA.

Post written by Natallia Rumboirussy, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia

Where lies the resources?

When my exchange program started I found myself blinded by the opportunity given to me. There are people to register me to classes, to tell the way to college, to transport me through the city. But the honeymoon did not last long and I learned my lesson. If I want to get the most of the experience, I should go out and take it by storm.

The best part of an exchange is seeing new places and culture, and there are great opportunities to do this for free. As a college student you have the chance to find sponsorship for conferences, trips, food, accommodation and discounts. Look for it in your college, and surf the web for conferences in your field. Also be ready to show why you deserve sponsorship.

Surf the web with the right guidelines. There are so many resources eclipsed by the tons of useless information that reside in the web. Search for free online teaching platforms, software discounts for students, use of your .edu email, register yourself in education related websites. Those tools are powerful and free so use them to your benefit.

Meeting people is a good way to find resources that will open many doors. To address this matter I started to attend meetings called Meet-Ups, defined by its creators as a tool that “brings people together to do, explore, teach and learn the things that help them come alive.”. There I met people in my field of study (Information Technology), learned a lot and acquired tools that I will use to improve myself.

Do not think that exchange is only about high grades, think outside the box and live adventures with the new people in your life, They are the best resource you can get. A great exchange experience is not achieved by sticking to what is given to you, furthermore is by finding the resources to boost your journey.

Bellow there are some of the resource I’ve acquired in my field of IT:

  1. https://alison.com
  2. https://www.freecodecamp.com/
  3. https://www.codecademy.com/
  4. https://app.pluralsight.com/library/
  5. https://www.khanacademy.org/
  6. https://mva.microsoft.com/
  7. https://www.ctrlpaint.com/
  8. https://unity3d.com/learn/tutorials
  9. https://cubebrush.co/marketplace?resource=tutorials&q=FREE
  10. https://imagine.microsoft.com/en-us
  11. https://mlh.io/
  12. https://www.meetup.com/
  13. http://www.studentrate.com/

Post written by Leoncio Ferreira da Silva Neto, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Brazil

What the CCI Program means to Me!

The Community College Initiative Program (CCI) is an awesome and unique educational program, and I am so honored to be part of this program. It has given me several experiences in academic achievement, language skill, and mutual culture understanding.

CCIP gives me an opportunity to study 2 semesters in the Information technology (IT) program in Northern Virginia Community College. This field of study is totally different to my educational background and experiences as a medical and public health service officer. I am a coding expert in classification of disease, but not in IT. I sometimes smile when I imagine how crazy I am in this decision. When people ask me about my major, and I say IT, they are so excited by saying “wow”. That makes me imagine how difficult it must be to be an IT student. It is my choice and I must face it. I have set my mind to be as positive as possible because my dream is bigger than the difficulty. I keep in my mind that I have a big dream to implement IT in the public health services in the rural areas of Indonesia. I tried to figure out my problem by talking to my professors and my classmates every after class. I seek help from my CCIP friends who take IT classes; Kay and Soma, as well as a very good friend, Aqsha, who is always there for me when I ask him to teach me. They are very kind and helpful and always ask me to call or send them a message if I need their assistance.

Another great experience that I got here is improving my English skills. I realized my English has improved after 6 months here, and I still have 4 months left to learn.  It is a common situation for International students who do not speak English as their first language. In CCIP, we are from 12 different countries, all non-English speakers. We also have various English abilities, from excellent, good to poor, but we are here to learn. We support and motivate each other and never look down on one another. Diversity in language is a blessing, and it teaches us to learn other languages such as Bahasa Indonesia, France, Spanish, Portuguese, Indian, Urdu, and Turkish.

In addition, CCIP has taught me to accept other cultures, to be more open minded, to understand and respect others. Individualism and Islamophobia are among the stereotypes about Americans. Since I have been here, I have seen that Americans are very kind: they always give a hand when I need help and warmly greet me when we meet.  I learnt from the way they appreciate and encourage to learn rather than blame someone who make mistakes.  Their respect for me with my scarf and the meditation room at NOVA campus are evidence that Americans are tolerant to Muslims.  The reason why I wear a scarf and do not eat non-halal foods are common questions not only from Americans but also from CCIP friends. I answer those questions carefully by using health approach that is easy to understand. I am a culinary lover, but I am really concerned about halal foods, and my friends are so respectful about it. My friends in my apartment always tell me when they cook or eat pork in our apartment. We have never had dinner together at the same dining table when they had eaten pork. They always apologize for the inconvenience. Americans and my friends also showed me their tolerance when we had Thanksgiving dinner with international friends in a church. American families served halal turkey and food for Muslim friends. At the time, I took a vegetable that I did not realize that was vegetable with pork until an American told me about it. I finally put it back and said, “Thanks”. Last month, I volunteered in a Christmas holiday workshop at the church near my apartment. I was the only Muslim there and it was so easy to recognize me because I wore a scarf. I came there to assist children for shopping and wrapping gifts for their families. We showed the beauty tolerance.

Being in America is also the way to promote my country to the world. As a CCIP grantee from Indonesia, I strongly realize that I have the high responsibility to represent Indonesia in the way I think, talk, and act, so I try to do my best. I am always excited to tell about my beautiful country, Indonesia, to people that I meet: my instructors, my classmates, and people that I meet when I am volunteering, on the train, bus or wherever I am. I sometimes send them pictures, videos, and links about Indonesia on email. One of my most memorable moments was when I attended the Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) conference at the World Bank, Washington DC. Some friends warmly greeted me and they were so excited when they found out that I am from Indonesia. Most people thought that I was a Malaysian. Because of my small eyes, my Pakistani friend, Naveen, even thought that I was Japanese the first day we met. My Indonesian friend, Morten, was laughing when he heard it. Morten said that Naveen probably meant I was a Javanese instead of a Japanese because there is Java in Indonesia, and people who live in the area are called Javanese. Another funny moment was when two students were talking about me when I was walking down from CT to CG building of NOVA Annandale campus. I did not realize it until they called me when I passed them. They asked me if I was from Thailand, and I said that I was from Indonesia. They finally laughed because they had bet to guess where I am from.

Lastly, CCIP gives me the opportunities to visit some historical and beautiful places in the USA. I love travelling and this is the right way to explore this super powerful country. I love to spend my weekends in Washington DC. I have also been in other states of America, such as Maryland, Chicago, Michigan, Arizona and New York. In the next three months, I am going to other states.

Those experiences are unforgettable and will be a great asset in my bright future. It brings me to be better person, particularly in the way of thinking. My dream to study, learn, and travel in America has come true.

Post written by Martina, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia

There Must Be A Way

It was cloudy that day, January 12th 2017, our seventh day in Arizona for CCI Program mid year retreat. Sergio, our bus driver, rode the bus slow enough that we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way to Sedona. It took about 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach Cathedral Rock Trail where we would start our Silent Reflections Hike. Andrew, CCI staff who has become more like a friend, gave us short briefing about the hike and its purpose few minutes before we got off the bus. We were encouraged to stop talking the second we stepped down from the bus and to find our own path to climb up to the top of the rock therefore we could have personal time to reflect on our life and goals we have set or other things that matter. We could also skim for small rock along the trail which we felt like representing ourselves or things that are important to us and we might take it home as memory-keeper from Sedona for us. He understood that some of us might not take that silent hike seriously and he was right. Some people were still talking when we started walking up the trail. I decided to get off the bus after most of my friends had left. As my friends followed the trail, I turned to different path remembering what Andrew told us. I walked through a small river and bushes and trees without saying a word. At first I thought I would not enjoy that hike and the silence but it turned out to be different. I loved the silence so much that I wished I was the only person there at that very moment, or I could walk far enough that my friends’ voices wouldn’t be heard.

I kept walking and sometimes jumping over some rocks. There were times when I got scared thinking of snake or tarantula would come out from the rocks or bushes along my way but I remembered somebody once told me that they all would be hiding during winter so I should be safe. Once I got rid of all the scary thoughts that hike became more enjoyable. I confidently walked toward the big rocks standing in front of me and was determined to climb them up even though it seemed difficult. Whenever I reached the points where it looked like there was no way up, I would tell myself “No Cessy, there must be a way! Don’t give up!”. Then I would go round the rock and found that way. I crawled. I slid. I held on the tips of the rocks. I prayed that I will not fall down.

A small heart-shaped rock caught my eyes when I finally reached the top of the rocks. I took it and gave myself some time to think of the meaning of that small rock for me. I came to conclusion that love has always been the strongest force on earth for me. I always believe that whatever we do if it comes out of love it will bear fruit. In the middle of chaos and bad things that happen all around the world, even a small action of love will bring peace and hope for those who are hopeless. There will be times when I feel like giving up on people or my dreams to help my community, at those times I should remember the very reason why I start doing whatever I have planned on doing to help my community which is to share the love.
Silent hike was the best memory of mine during the midyear retreat simply because I learned not to give up easily when I reached the dead end but to try to find another way. I was also reminded that I should not underestimate the power of love, that it doesn’t matter how small the help I can be for my people as long as I do it with love it will touch them.

Post written by Picessylia Anakay, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia

Life is not a race, but a journey

Life is not a race, but a journey. Make each second of your life worth it.

This is something I learnt during the CCI Program’s retreat. A retreat which helped us focus on the reason why we came to the USA, we, the participants from different countries.

CCI NOVA during Pathways to Success Program

Before coming to this retreat, I was focused on my classes, volunteering, and internship. However, I couldn’t think much further, neither what I will be doing after my CCI Program. Certainly, I will be going back to my life, but I don’t want to become the same after this program.

Being able to use each second of my life to make a better place.

Through this program, I have noticed, I have learned, that the more you give a deeper thinking about each topic, you get to know that these topics are related, linked, and connected to one another. They are like our body. If one single part is not well, all rest of the members are also sick.

Let’s keep in mind that our common goal is to make our world a better place. For that, we need to be together, think together, talk together, share ideas, listen, and understand. We just need to believe in ourselves, so that we can reach the top of the mountain. Let’s believe that we are this little bit of rope that can sustain our world.

Post written by Adjoke Therese Babalola, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Côte d’Ivoire

Too Spicy but Yummy

Everybody was ready early in the morning. We dressed up nicely in our traditional clothes, batik. There were five of us, CCI Program 2016 participants from Indonesia, I, Morten, Fina, Tina and Lia.

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CCI NOVA participants from Indonesia: Cessy, Morten, Lia, Fina, and Tina

We stay in Alexandria, Virginia, and we go to Northern Virginia Community College. We live only 30 minutes away from Washington DC where the house of the Ambassador of Indonesia for United States is located. It was August 17th 2016, the Day of Independence of Indonesia, and we were about to go there to join the ceremony and the gathering. It took us 40 minutes to get to the closest metro station and then we had to walk for another 10 minutes to get to the house. We arrived on time and joined the ranks of other Indonesian people immediately. It is pretty rare to meet other Indonesian around the place where we live or even at campus so we were happy to get to meet our people for the perfect reason, to celebrate the Independence Day together. The ceremony was led by the Ambassador of Indonesia, Mr. Budi Bowoleksono. It was nice, the feeling of celebrating Indonesia 71st Independence Day 9730.6 miles away from home but that moment was “home” for me. The people I met were friendly as how Indonesian always be, we even took a group picture with the Ambassador and his wife and they were lovely.

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Group picture with Ambassador of Indonesia, Mr. Budi Bowoleksono and his wife

There was a performance of group consisted of little kids and some older women, they sang all famous Indonesian folklore songs from west to east part of Indonesia. After that, Lia and Fina and some other exchange students from Papua performed a mass dance from their hometown and everybody joined in. It was a lot of fun. Later, we were also invited to join the gathering and my longing of Indonesian food was fulfilled. We were so happy that we got to eat delicious Indonesian food after a month living in USA.

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Cessy

One thing I love about the celebration was the slogan, “Kerja Nyata” or “Real Work” in English. This slogan is proposed by our amazing current president, Mr. Jokowi, to encourage the government with the support of the citizen to start really building our country. Our country has the potential to become a big nation. All resources that we have either natural or human resources, if the government and the people can work together well as a team to support each other, we will surely become one of developed countries in the world like USA or Japan or Singapore. This slogan also reminded me that I could take part in the process of building my country and the people as well to be better. That’s why I am here to study, to gain experience, to expand my network, to improve myself, to learn things that make US a great nation and later when it is time for me to go back home I can apply those things in small steps firstly and hopefully I can be role model for others as well.

On our way home we discussed and decided to host a gathering with other CCI participants in the evening to celebrate with them. We divided the tasks between ourselves, I was in charge for the decoration while my other friends would prepare the food. We informed all of our friends and they were excited to join us. I asked them to wear something in red or white color since our national flag consists of those two colors. Red is the symbol of the bravery of our heroes who fought hard for our independence and white is the symbol of purity of the soul of Indonesian people. These two things, bravery and purity, are believed to complete and to perfect the body and soul of Indonesian people to build the nation. People started coming at 8pm. We had Indonesian food and some American food for our friends who can’t handle the spiciness of our food. Everybody who tasted our food loved it.

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CCI NOVA participants celebrate Indonesia Independence Day

Our friend from Colombia, Vanesa, embraced herself to try our food. After that, she said it was too spicy for her but it was delicious. We were happy that we were able to share with our friends from other countries a little bit of our culture through the food that we prepared, they now know and even experience it themselves how much Indonesian loves spicy food. We also taught them a little bit of our language, Bahasa Indonesia. We made a video and everyone had to say “merdeka, merdeka, merdeka” which means “freedom, freedom, freedom”. Mehedi, CCI grantee from Bangladesh, pronounced it well and passionately. Then we played music to start our favorite part of every gathering we’ve ever organized, dancing. Pew, the Bangladeshi girl, came wearing her traditional dress.

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Pew from Bangladesh

She looked beautiful. She entertained us by showing us how people from her country dance, it was nice. Our friends from India, Raj, Halith and Nime, also led us to dance to Indian song. We danced to almost every songs from every country represented by people in our group like African dancing that includes more legs and bottom part in its movements, Latina dancing which requires you to move your hips and hands more and even Yemen dancing which is done by couples who have to move forward and backward in harmony. Surely, we taught our friends Indonesian mass dance as well, Lia led the group to dance to the song “Poco-poco”. We had so much fun that night. It was great that we got to share more of our culture and also to learn a bit more of our friends’ culture. That night was not only to celebrate our day but also to celebrate the beauty of diversity.

Post written by by Picessylia “Cessy” Anakay, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia

Family and a New Life

What A Family And A New Life We Have.

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From the four corners of the world we gather knowing nothing of what we were about to encounter and yet here we are to make a different. Our journey started from different perspective, different choice, ways and means. Now here is what we are, have, and live now. This program did not give us their way or the highway policy but resilient one for us to do what is necessary for ourselves and the benefit of our motherlands.

Being engulfed by these beautiful, wealthy, hospitable, cherish able, accountable, decisive, and harmonious people in this program and their environment provides a great sense of humanity and prospect. Being living with friends and family from different matrimonial and patrimonial homes and their precious cultures, from different backgrounds, different perspectives, different prospects of stereotypes and with different instinct lifestyle, character, knowledge behavior and mind. We came with different strokes for different folks, dreams, and expectations but in all things, we do not look down on anyone’s life or culture rather working together as people with one dreams, thoughts, ideas, and expectations to make something new, powerful, beneficial and a peaceful life indifferences of who, how, what, and where we are. With our life arguing the toss we made which hinders our potentials and now having a family who knows, feels, and alters everything for our betterment, initiation, encouragement, and the thrills in-dependable of who we are and what we are. These people harness our desire, wishes, thoughts, dreams, and life into a considerable level of safety, love, esteem, and closeness to actualization in referral to Maslow’s Hierarchy. We through our desire to achieve will drove us to the actualization if we continue to hold still.

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In all that we’ve seen, planned, thought, examined, determined, engaged, and engrossed ourselves and dreams, with the new experience and the new realm created is not to make us lay down our culture, life, preferences, etc but before “all entrant must exist the space until reassessment is complete” we can change something in our life. This is meant to polish, restore, smoothens, deepens, motivate, and engage us in our dreams, experiences, and life to impart our communities, societies, country, and the world. This new life is to enlighten and lit our closed and darkened potentials into a steadfast reality and to help lights others potential. Our implementation timeline is much greater and inevitably comparable, and presentable to make a new world for us to discover, innovate, modify our legitimate potentials, abilities, and identities. This program has made us known that “Never shall we change our originality for the sake of others because no one can play our roles better than we can” therefore, our policies has been face/turned about.

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For I believe that at the end of this precious living life of our tenure in this program, when we return, in everything we will hedge our bets quickly and not keeping our options opened. I believe a new life had already started. What is your belief?

Post written by Ebenezer Offei Boadi, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Ghana

Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students