Dhaka, capital city of Bangladesh, a crowded city where I grown up. After performing my prayer, I was checking my email. I saw my ticket from Dhaka to Virginia has arrived. My pleasure knowns no bound that finally I was moving into another city alone. Time to become independent had arrived. The place where I take birth, where I grew up, where I lived now there’s a chance to experience my dream city Virginia, America. Really my dream came to life, studying in America, foremost country in the world. By the grace of God, I got this opportunity. The opportunity of exploration different culture is a different aspect of life. Also, I have to broaden my mind. The local marketplace of food, childhood school, the mosque and melodious Azan, gettogether in Ramadan I am going to leave it all. The high tune of my mom, the sound of roadside vehicle, and rainy season of my country haunts me over and over again. The tall 18th building, my apartment, and some backbiter neighbor became monotonous in my life. The day before my flight, at 4:00 pm, after getting the ticket, my heart started beating fast, I started sweating, my mouth started becoming dry and my mind was not working. What happened to me? Yes, I was frightened. I was feeling loneliness so I called my mom and said “Please, come and seat beside me.” Yes, I remember my sister’s face when I left the house for airport, she didn’t cry but she covered a lot of pain and also happiness. My bed, my school, my shopping mall everything is making me sad. Almost 30 hours of journey, will I be able to make it. Yes, I did make it happen when I was shivering at Dulles airport in Virginia. Yes, the road, the shops, the traffic, the people, the weather everything has changed. I was scared and I wanted to go back. Suddenly, a sound from my heart came to mind and I heard – ‘Yes, Ayesha, You can do it. You are not moving into new city, you are moving into new life to learn and discover the new aspects of life’.
Post written by Ayesha Alam, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Bangladesh
It is incredible how this experience has made me a whole new person. There is no way to put into words what I am feeling now. Three months ago, I realized that I was lost in myself. I felt that I did not know who I was. I felt that a part of me was dying, but that little part was just dying to be born again. I cannot be more grateful for this challenging moment. It has not only made me grow a lot as a human being but also made me understand how important it is to challenge myself to overcome every stage of my life.
When I came here, I knew I wanted to challenge myself, but I did not imagine how hard it was going to be. Although I have always been passionate about my dreams, there was a time when I just did not know how valuable they are. Since I lost my confidence, I did not know how to express my ideas. So, I felt that I did not belong here because I was not good enough for this program. It was really frustrating to feel that I was not able to do what I wanted to do. As a consequence of these issues and other personal problems, I became depressed. Nevertheless, having one of my worst moments I realized how important is not only to appreciate difficult times but also to die in each stage of your life. On first thought, it does not make sense, but let me explain to you the big meaning that it has for me. I strongly believe that life is made of cycles. Each cycle of our life is a stage that we should live to learn from it; however, we should also die to be born again. We will have learned a lot, but we will also need to keep going without look back.
In other words, that challenging moment not only made me born again but also changed the perspective of my life. I learned that my dreams are as valuable as I want them to be. I learned that I am important for my community and that I may cause a significant change if share all the things that I have learned until today. Now I know that nothing is impossible and that I am the only one who can strongly believe in her dreams to make them come true. Being involved in CCI program change my life. This is a stage of learning for my life and I really appreciate it. All the CCI cohort has taught me to be confident about my dreams and that I am not alone when it comes to making a positive change in the world.
Post written by Natalia Martínez Conde, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from Colombia
From November 8th and 9th, a 2 days US Exchange Alumni Conferences organized by the US embassy in Abidjan took place at Belle Côte Hotel – Abidjan. More than 200 Ivorian beneficiaries and former scholars who have been to the United States or have benefited from educational programs funded by the US Department of States are taking part in this conference. These are the Fulbright and Humphrey programs; the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the International Visitors Program (IVLP); the Community College Initiative Program (CCI Program); the Study of U.S. Institutes program (SUSI), and many others. As a CCI Program alumni, I was indeed invited to participate too.
These conferences were marked by panels that was moderated by former Fellows and focus on topics such as: English language learning, entrepreneurship promotion, women’s empowerment, civic engagement, promotion of good governance, health, and human rights. I was personally happy to meet all these Alumni to talk about all the opportunities of the CCI Program and to discuss with them about good governance and transparency, fostering inclusive economic growth, supporting security sector reform, and improving the health system and education system in Côte d’Ivoire.
Post written by Soma Ismael Bola, CCI Participant at NOVA-Alexandria 2016-2017, Côte d’Ivoire
Before my departure from Ghana I had two days sleepless nights, and all was about how to live together with different people of different cultures, believes and personalities for a year. When I arrived at my apartment with my program coordinator, we met Kiki who was the first person there, she welcomed me with smile and helped me with my luggage to my room, and all what I was expecting how difficult life would be vanished that day.
The friendship of these girls leads me to the incredible experience; we always move together, eat together, have fun, share our cultures, problems and help each other, when we needed. I have never felt homesick because these girls have made me feel like I am with my blood sisters. What I experience from this people is that, color, culture and believes have no borders in friendship and relationship, what matters is understanding each other and respecting other views.
I had experience within my four months stay here, from fellow CCI participants, in my class, my host mom, and volunteer work, especially working with the elderly. Before I came here, I never knew that old age can loss their memory and behave abnormally but my volunteer with them made me understand this and how to deal with it.
Post written by Abibata Yakubu, CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale from Ghana
What makes you feel good and satisfied in life is the thing which you love to do? It can be anything; sometime, it can be as simple as having a conversation with other people and sharing new ideas or new information to benefit others. To me it is meeting new people and volunteering to bring them at one platform for any specific reason. Bringing something new on the table and getting oneself involved in the activities for the well-being and prosperity of disadvantaged people means a lot to me.
Being born in a very beautiful but very remote area of Pakistan – Hamza, I was exposed to the value of community development through volunteerism from a young age as thousands of youth in area had played and still paying a vital role in uplifting our society. The power of volunteerism especially by youth to bring some semblance of balance in life of people who in need had filled my thoughts since long.
As I began to look beyond my micro universe, it became clear to me that to serve communities better a platform was inevitable and had far-reaching effect on society. I along with my friends, who were also moved by the same cause, joined a forum called Economic Planning Board (EPB) where many young professionals and students come together for a specific reason. Economic Planning board is a platform, led by volunteers, where youth and professionals are brought together so that they can solve the problem and issues faced by our communities and play their role in community development.
We at EPB, through different interventions, benefit our community especially youth not only economically but also socially, physically, and psychologically. These intentions are carried out through different programs which are designed to uplift people fall into different socio-economic status. The major program we work in are as follow.
Personal Financial Management
Retirement Saving Plans
Business Development Services
Entrepreneur / Business Development
Business Retention and Expansion
Access to Micro Loan / SME Loan
Agriculture Inputs/ Technical Support
Alliance and Groups
These programs are conducted by our volunteers – professionals and students – who work to help and guide those who are embarking to a new chapter of their life. Every year, thousands of community members are supported in one way or another though these interventions. We help them by showing a clear path on which everyone can pursue their careers. The best thing we do is arranging different events for people and bringing them together at one platform in order to bring smiles and happiness in their faces who usually go through hardship and tough life. We also sometimes arrange different trips and hiking’s to encourage them to be closer to the nature and understand the value which they miss in their lives otherwise.
Many of you might not know about and taste a lot the values of community service which makes your life happier and healthier. Joining this group as volunteer was a great idea and has really encouraged me to share the great benefit of volunteerism with people. I have been a member of this forum for last two years. I found it interesting as they are arranging different events, programs, sessions, and many other projects to build a healthy future for our community. People who work here are all volunteers; they volunteer to learn and to make themselves happier.
Post written by Meher Sultana, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria 2016-2017, Pakistan
Studying in US is full of adventures -everything is different and exciting, including our Host Family. All of a sudden, I share with people whom I have never seen before.
My Host Mom, Kirstin Riddick. She is IT technician in Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria campus. When I went to see her for first time I was nervous. When I reached her, she started speaking with me as she knows me before. She is righteous and happy Person. She became more than a friend to me. She took me to church where we both taught in Sunday school and she took me to shopping also. I felt very close to her that I could share my ambition, experiences, feelings etc. We both had very good time twice. She took me to have lunch together. It was one of the beautiful spot and she told me that it shows Texas culture. Kirstin always calls me to know about my health and experiences.
She made my exchange program better. She showed me what it means to be a member of an American Family. I am so thankful and blessed for having her in my life.
Finally, to say Host Family is the second family. In the Conclusion, I am having experienced and great exchange program in the United States.
Post written by Shwethana Lella, CCI Participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India
Alexandria, VA- Since I was a child, I always heard my parents said that I have to go to new places that they have never visited before. It makes me grow as a girl with many dreams in my life; and for some people, it sounds silly and impossible. I don’t care. I just want to push my own self to be better, for the sake of my “impossible” dreams.
That believe brings me to many new things in my life. When I was in elementary school, I could travel by airplane for the first time in my life, and went to a new place –2 hours flight from my home- as an ambassador from my school in an event. Since then, I made bunch of lists about places that I must visit in my life. Years by years, in my school life, I got many chance to go to new places freely because I tried to do my best in school; Olympic, debate forum, spelling bee competition, singing competition, and many more.
One thing that I like to do when I visit new place is I get new perspective in my life. I can value something from different point of view because I go and experience something new in my life.
In 2016, I made new list. I HAVE TO GO ABROAD FOR STUDY! I wrote that sentence on the whiteboard in my bedroom. I was looking for many chance to get scholarships. Long story short, after a very long journey, I was selected as one of the selected participant of Community College Initiative Program by US Department of State. United State! I have never imagined that I will visit this country as an international student, but God makes it happens. Nothing impossible. Nothing!
And this is my first three months here. I experience the educational system in the US, the community activities like volunteering, and lots of things that I am very grateful with. I can experience how to mingle with the elderly, eat many kinds of food from the whole world, got American host family, making friends with people from different backgrounds, write 5000 words essay every single week which hopefully makes my writing better, trying so many snacks that I only watch their reviews on YouTube before, visiting some museums and historical places that makes me feel I know nothing, and so many new experience that I believe will become more and more exciting. I am pretty believe, after finishing this program, I will have many new perspectives in life, and I hope those things will make myself as a better person than before.
Post written by Reski Puspitasari A. Sululing, CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia
Vienna, VA – I, with other CCI fellows, joined a volunteerism activity in Oktoberfest 2017 at 243 Church St NW (10/7). The location was about one hour driving from my home in Alexandria to the festival area in Vienna. Arriving in the location, people had been crowded in every spots in the festival. The festival were placed in several blocks and blocked the street from any traffic, letting people from all over the towns, even out of states, come and enjoy things offered in the festival. There were many things to see: art exhibition, Vienna’s Little Library 120th Anniversary, music concert, Musical Theater Performance, culinary, and, the main destination, beer festival.
All across the street, there were lots of tents erected line by line displaying artistic pieces by the local artists. One exhibition tent that interested me was decorated as Abraham Lincoln all-abouts. Visitors could find T-shirts, cups, flutter flags, name board, and other furniture that had the sign of one of the most influential US Presidents. So far, every place I visited always reflects the spirit of Abraham Lincoln in many forms like statue, furniture, and poster. I can say he is everywhere in US and becomes the spirit of Americans.
One of my favorite parts as well as the most special one at the time was the Vienna’s Little Library 120th Anniversary which has served literature needs of the Vienna people since 1897. They were holding book exhibition. I felt so much blessed when I found that I could find and buy my favorite books for only 50 cent for each. Not only old interesting books, there were many other impressive contemporary novels and other books from different genres like psychology, philosophy, history and many more offered with very low price. Besides, they also conducted a special book talk by local writers in the next week which I unluckily could not manage to attend. However I could follow up the event in their social media account. I found that all events are easily accessible through social media.
Beside of the exhibition, there were also music concert and musical theatre that added more options to visit in the Vienna Oktoberfest 2017. In front of the stage, all audiences from the elders to the youngers, all mixed-race Americans were dancing together enjoying songs sang by the musicians whose songs enabled everyone to move from their seat to the stage to join the dance. Other than that, visitors also were able to watch drama theater which was full of musical Disney instrument. The performance was Peter Pan story. It was very impressive and successfully brought all audiences’ mind to the dream land, especially, the children. I could still feel how happy the children watching the drama directly on the stage, instead of their TV Screen.
I volunteered in handing wristband to the visitors to get the beer by screening their ID card. It was not literally an easy job. The wristband marked them to be over 21 years old as the official requirement for US people to drink alcohol. If any of them below 21 wearing the band was inspected by the police to drink beer, my fellow volunteers and I would be of course responsible. However we managed to complete our works well since nobody was found to be so. It was fun to meet and serve people who were very excited to enjoy their beer. The funny part was when an old men came to ask their wristband and I was insisted to ask for their ID card to make sure he was over 21 years old. He asked, “is it not clearly visible for you that I am old enough for the beer, young man?”. Then I replayed, “as today you just never looked younger than before, Sir,” and we both were laughing. Many people were very pleasant for a conversation and it gave me more chances to directly learn American culture by doing my task as an age screener.
Having successfully conducted for ten years in a row, this festival not only purposes as an annual event where people can meet each other in weekend and have fun with exhibitions, concerts, and other entertainments offered, the event also raises money for the local charity that works for homeless, orphan children, and other people in need. Therefore I could meet many local people devoting their time as volunteers to serve the visitors. In that point, I find it as a traditional value of Americans in devoting themselves to serve their community in volunteerism.
Post written by Muhammad Arham, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia
The visit to one of the most iconic house in the United States – the house of the George Washington the first president of the United States –11 states to be exact was one of the memorable activities we did together as the NOVA CCI Cohort. As the cohort we filled up the vans and travelled to the Mount Vernon, the George Washington Estate. When we arrived we were struck by how huge the estate is and how beautiful it is. After getting our tickets we proceeded right inside the Estate and our tour began.
It began first by watching a short film about the life of Colonel Washington and the history of his bravery and impeccable leadership. After that we went to visit his mansion. Inside the mansion we got an opportunity to visit most of the rooms – the one that stood out was the green room which is the biggest in the mansion. It has been restored to what it was after the death of President Washington. It’s called the green room because most of the walls are painted in green which was a rare colour during his time and we saw his mirror and all of the paintings he had acquired. Then we proceeded to other rooms which are still kept in their original look – this was just only the first floor. Up the stairs we went to the second floor and we saw all the bedrooms and how things were kept in the bedrooms was mesmerizing.
After the tour of the house we went to see the slave quarters – who would have thought that the beacon of liberty owned slaves. The quarters are being kept to their original look even though they are not the true reflection of what the living conditions of Washington slaves were. The quarters were cramped and crowded. They were not conducive for human occupation. Our coordinators Kelly and Kate tried to explain the dilemma that was faced by Washington on the issue of slave ownership. Thus revealing the flawed aspect of his character.
After the slave quarters we visited the Washington education centre which is like a mini museum and it housed every memorabilia of the great George Washington. We saw many items that belonged to him including his gun, sword, dentures, military regalia and etc. then we went to see the Potomac River which has gorgeous scenery and soothing view. And then we proceeded to visit his tomb – in his will he had commanded that he be buried in his estate. And then we went to visit the monument of remembrance for the slaves that toiled for the Washington family. There are no distinctive graves for the slaves just one huge monument.
Virginia is a beautiful state and this beauty is exquisitely exposed at the Mount Vernon estate – this compelled us to capture all the memories and we had FUN. A wonderful trip ended at 3 o clock pm. We went back with more questions.
Post written by Maria Eiman, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from Pakistan
Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students