I have never felt in my life that I`m progressing

Have you ever asked yourself about what you are doing, usually during some decision process? And did you know that asking questions about everything would help your personal development? I have learned this, and I am still doing that in my CCI journey. How? Here it is!

One of the most important things in this life is personal development, right? Well, for me, it is. I’m just 20 years old, and until this time, I have never thought about my personal development and never thought if I’m doing something to improve myself in life. Until the CCI Program’s inception, I knew this is it! I didn’t know this program will teach me about life at all, especially in a short time.

 

It has been only 4 months, but I realize that I never had a chance to listen to myself, and ask questions like ‘what I am doing?’ I found out, the first step of personal development, is asking questions. Always ask questions about what you are doing at that moment. I had lots of chance to do this and think about it. After I am done questioning myself, I try to find out what may be wrong about what I was dealing with. I try my best to fix it -even though I know I cannot reach the solution-. Anyways, I realize that just thinking about it makes me careful about it the next time.

The reason why I figured it out in my CCI program journey is, perhaps the opportunities that it has given me to do things on my own. I have never lived alone all my life. My family used to tell me that I should try to do things as they may seem easy with consistency.  It is evident that most experiences are learnt the hard way, as things do not come easy as we expect. Now, the only person who is giving me advice is my coordinator Kelly Forbes. She always guides me to making decisions. The last option though is up to me. In order to make the best out of it, I ask questions concerning any type of decisions I make. This is not just helping me with my personal decisions, it is also affecting my relationship with other people especially with my friends. CCI program is helping me in every type of subject and I am sure that CCI will help me to build my life.

Post written by Emel Eylül Akbörü  from Turkey, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

THE IMPACT OF CCI PROGRAM ON MY ACADEMIC LIFE

The Community College Initiative (CCI) Program is an exchange scholarship program organized by the US department of state. The program gives opportunity to students from about twelve countries to learn about the USA culture as well as exchange theirs with others. In my opinion, this program brings peace and diversity among students. Participants get the chance to learn new things and develop action plans, engage in volunteering activities that will be helpful to their community back in their home country. Academics as one of the five pillars of the CCI program, has had a great impact on my educational life within this three months of my stay in the USA as a CCI participant, I have found great impact on my educational life at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) as I experience some resources used on campus that I do not have in my country. These include using Blackboard service, Library and academic success center to help students in their academic life.

Library on the NOVA Alexandria campus

The college has a library and academic success center that helps students with difficulties in their courses. The library has variety of books that are free for students to have access.  They provide database of articles and resources that are well cited and can be used for research work. At the library, there are lots of computers that students can use for studying, a quiet study area and a space for group studies. The librarians help student to search for books relevant to their courses and help them in editing their essays and articles. On the other hand, the Academic Success Center has a writing center that helps students with writing essays and provide guidelines for writing good research works. They also have tutors that help students to gain further understanding in their field of studies as well as organize seminars for students on how to be successful in their Academic life. I personally attended a seminar organized by the success center on how to manage time and making effective use of it.

Having a discussion with a tutor at the Academic Success Center.

The college uses blackboard service which is used to access student’s portal. This service is very important because it displays announcement of the different courses that students take. It also has a discussion board where students can ask questions and interact with their professors as well as other students in their class. This makes posting of announcements, assignments, and other information easily to be accessed by students.

The CCI Program has expose my understanding in my academic life where I meet and study with people of different culture and background. I have more resources on campus that helps me get better understanding in my field of studies which is engineering. My interaction with others in class is improving my communication skills and confident level. These resources have helped me improved my academics in this few months.

Valentina with other CCI participants at NOVA

Post written by Valentina Asempah from Ghana, a 2018-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria.

Three Months Ago

Three months ago, I was in a process of being selected for something that would change my perception of the world, community, kindness. Three months ago, I embarked from Brasilia, DF to Washington, DC. At that point, I already imagined the challenges I will encounter, such as adapting to a new form of living and speaking a new language that I wasn’t quite used to speak.

Being an international student is not a piece of cake, especially when you do not speak the language. I remember going through several linguistic tests before coming to the United States, but even with that experience I had some difficulties once I arrived. The first one was on my way to DC, in the John F. Kennedy airport, where I lose a flight because I couldn’t communicate myself properly. Experiencing difficult times to speak the language didn’t stop me from improving and as a popular saying says, “when there’s a will there’s a way”, meaning that nothing is impossible if you really want it, and I was sure I wanted this, so I figure out some ways to improve my communication skills.

Lelre with Nora Lopez, Director of Programs and Service at ComputerCore

For me, the best way to learn the language is by getting involved with the local community. So, in my second month of exchange, I began volunteering in a non-governmental organization, just as I was doing in Brazil. Helping students to conquer fears of learning computer and internet basics, thus giving back to the US the opportunity to learn to the less fortunate citizens at the same time as practicing my English. I taught seniors and adults how to work with a computer for 1 month, not only developing professional but personal skills.

Lelre with David Drake, ComputerCore lead instructor, and Sundar, CCI participant from India

I was also introduced to amazing people from other universities that were doing volunteering at the same place, young students and even graduated people were there helping seniors and foreign citizens to master technology. Something that impressed me greatly was the mutual interest from local citizens to help others without making any profits, but only the satisfaction of making a significant impact in other people lives.

So far, I have had a great experience in CCI Program, since the friends I have made to the challenges that I have faced, challenges that have been improving myself as never before.

Post written by Lelre Ferreira da Silva from Brazil, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria.

THREE MONTHS IN THE CCI PROGRAM

AN OVERVIEW OF MY EXPERIENCE OF THE LAST THREE MONTHS IN THE CCI PROGRAM

I have now been in America nearly for 3 months and I am having the time of my life. From the moment I set foot in this country life has been nothing but a fun filled but an academically awarding roller coaster.

Coming from a background in India where you are living with your parents and are basically dependent on them for everything, being on your own is a big change. Luckily for me I have really good housemates who make me feel at home at all points of time. Though all of us are from different countries we yet put in effort in understanding each other and respect each other’s way of living. What this has done for me is that it has taught me to adapt and make most out of what I have and I feel that is a very helpful skill for anyone from anywhere in the world.

Three of Aaron’s housemates from South Africa, Kenya, and Bangladesh

My CCI Coordinator at NOVA, Kelly has been Nothing but a mother to me and all the CCI participants she has  helped us with the smallest of things and knowing she’s always just a phone call away is like a safety blanket for all the CCI participants here in NOVA.

Being on the NOVA Annandale Campus one can argue confidently that they are in one of the best colleges in America. There are numerous facilities in the campus like the language Lab, Writing Centre, library Media room etc, that are really helpful for students with the help of these facilities one can gain a lot of knowledge. There is always some event or the other going on in campus by the various campus clubs; therefore there is always a fun and festive environment in the campus. The teachers and staff here in NOVA are very helpful understanding and brilliant. They make sure that you understand what they are explaining and until you don’t, they won’t move on.

On field trip to Manassas National Battlefield Park

Northern Virginia and Washington D.C is one of the safest and kindest areas in America. People out here are so genuinely nice, kind, helpful and polite that on instantly feels welcomed and happy. I have made so many friends in events and volunteering activities so quickly due to kind nature of people out here. Even your teachers are so nice that you don’t hesitate to share a problem you’re facing in class as you now they will help you out.

At the United Nations General Assembly Youth Blast Meeting.

In conclusion the CCI Program has been nothing but a dream for me. I feel grateful to be part of this program and wish to participate in it complete and to the best of my abilities. I feel I can give back so much of what I have learnt here back home and implement great change in India. I have seven months left to go and the only feeling I feel right now is excitement for what the future here in America holds.

Post written by Aaron Mistry from India, a 2018-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

Two Things I Love the Most about CCI Program

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling”

Cecelia Ahern

I still remember the moment when I applied for CCI Program. It is still fresh in my mind. It was in November 2017 and now here I am in the United State of America, the land of opportunity (sounds awesome right?). When I got the selected email confirming that I was one of the participants from Indonesia, I felt so blessed and grateful for the opportunity. Then, something crossed my mind. Would I be fine there knowing that I would not be around people I know and I love for almost a year? Would I be good enough? Would I be accepted there? It my sound cliché, but it was true. I would not be able to be around my loved ones. The feeling crept in my mind every single minute along with other million questions every single person going abroad for such a long time could have asked. Like it or not, I have to face it – myself strengthening.

I remember one of the questions I had to answer in the CCI Program essay was about what I would need besides other things the program has provided. I answered home. At that time, I knew that the participants would get a place (I thought it would be a house) to stay at, but house is not a home. They are two different clans; I needed the feeling of home. And guess what? I found home here. Here are the two reasons why I say so.

“Hey gentlemen, I am Mindi and I will be your social host this year”, that is the email I got from my social host. Yas, you are right, it is social host program that makes me feel home already. The perk of being CCI participants is that we are given a social host; persons who have been living in US for such a long time that are willing to give their time to introduce, teach, and help us experience US better.

My social host is Mrs. Mindi Maline, an English teacher at Northern Virginia Community College, place where I am pursuing my study in Business Management. She is superb nice. My friend from India and I got the same social host. First time we met was on Annandale campus after I had my English presentation in which I did not do well. The first impression I got was she was so calming and supporting even though it was our first meeting. I told her about my presentation and she calmed me like a mother calms her son. I felt like home already. She also invited us to join family dinner with her big family. She cooked chicken (our request) and she also made us apple pie and pumpkin pie. It was my first time trying the American typical pies; apple and pumpkin pie. I did not like them. I loved them. We got to hang out with the whole family; her husband, her son, and some relatives. We talked and shared about many things, study, life and culture. I learned a lot. I felt like I was home already. It was such a good experience.

Sundar and Elfis eating pie for the first time.

Another reason is I have housemates. I am living with my five other brothers from other mothers. Honestly speaking, at first, I thought I would be hard to live with them. I mean we are too many in an apartment. There would be less privacy. I was wrong. After living with them for almost three months I finally realize why the program put more people in an apartment. There were (sure there will be) ups and downs, like you have no one to talk to or you feel homesick and other feelings. That happens, and it is normal. I don’t understand but somehow when I had a rough day and be back at apartment and met them, I felt better. we talked, laughed, and we sang together (only God knows how I love singing). My point is they make your days better. There were also clashes. And again, it is normal. I think that what makes us understand and appreciate each other better.

Elfis with two of his housemates from Brazil and India.

I had a small talk with one of my housemates when other housemates were out. He said that our last day will be on Wednesday, May 15th 2019 and he will miss us. I told him that I will not miss them. I lied. It is hard to describe the feeling of goodbye when you know exactly the time you will be apart. Going back home, living our normal life without seeing your housemates every day. Time does fly. I just want to say one thing. Enjoy the time here, make the most out of it. Be kind and nice to each other because you will never know when you will see them again. Last thank you goes to CCI Program for making this happen. It has always been a privilege for me to experience new things, but this year has been amazing and thank you for making me feel home already. #themoreyouknowCCIProgram

Post written by Elfis Adu from Indonesia, a 2018-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

An Anecdote of Hope

The reminisced of getting final selection for CCI Program always fascinated me. Before getting final selection of CCI Program, I always saw the ramble of my dreams besotted with immense tranquility. I can clearly remember the day when I got a congratulations mail from American Center, Bangladesh about the final selection of this Program. I can explain about how to go forward for catching up a dream but it is quite impossible to explain of my feelings of during that moment. All I can say is that my aim and dream were shaking hand and walking on the same road. After saying good bye to my parents & well wishers, I started my journey to the United States. How easy to say by words but by feelings it is really polar opposite. However, getting finally selection wasn’t easy for me. It was as tough as my first few weeks after arrival in United States. Immediately after landing it seems like I am a single small drop in this extensive world.  Whatever, I got the solution of my silly imagination when I saw a beautiful lady waiting for me in the waiting area of airport and said welcome to the United States with her smile. Yes, she is my coordinator Kelly Forbes. What metaphor should I put for her I don’t know but she is the hope on the horizon.

Zulfikar with program coordinator and fellow CCI participants at the cross cultural pot luck luncheon.

Needless to say, there are lot of new experience are waiting for me. My Coordinator brought me in the apartment. Everything was fine. But I started introducing with the word CHALLENGE when I felt hungry. This was because; I didn’t know how to cook. It was really hard time for me. Whatever, the repercussion of the challenge was tremendous. In a few weeks, I learned how to cook by the helping of my apartment mates and my willingness. Now I can proudly say that I am a good cook. I can survive anywhere in this world. Eventually, I am facing lot of small and big challenges and trying to acclimatize with this new lovely environment.

In front of the World Bank before the International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) Global Youth Summit.

Every challenge what I’m facing teach me that everything in this world happens for a reason. Every single thing in this world is valuable. Even it can be a small failure step.  CCI Program is helping me to learn something new, to experience something new, and to do something new for making a better world for living. In CCI Program every participant is meritorious and talented. Everyone is doing awesome job. Everyone is the future leader. Staying and living with future leaders always makes people productive.

Moreover, besides studying I’m participating lot of conferences, team work and Volunteering. It’s making my life more productive.  It has been more than two months in the United States and I’m hardly trying to find the answer of a simple question that can’t I do anything for this habitable world? I don’t want to get lost from this earth before making a positive impact in my community, before bringing a little change in my community, and before bringing a step ahead my community. I don’t know will I get this beautiful time back again or not but I want to go beyond and beyond by keeping the sweet memory of CCI Program. I want to hear the sweet melodies of these words “CCI Program Exchange our World” Thousand million time.

Blog written by Zulfikar Belal from Bangladesh, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale. 

Around the World Cultural Food Festival & IYLA Global Summit World Bank

Who doesn’t know America? The country that a lot of people want to go to; the dream land. You can feel the vibe of America through their Film industry “Hollywood”, Great musicians and singers, advanced technology and the people are well known for their industrious attitude. When I was little I’d always want to go there, though it was just a dream because I didn’t have money. I didn’t have any family or connection there and most importantly I had no idea what living there was going to be like. November 2017, I saw a link on Facebook about CCI Program, I clicked the link, prepared my papers, got into the selection, followed all the requirements and here I am in United State of America. Through Community College Initiative Program 2018/2019 I have a chance to set my feet in US and study at Northern Virginia Community College without even spending a dime. Yapp…. Dream comes true right??

Besides being a Business Management student at Nova, I have attended amazing events. My first event was at Around the World Cultural Food Festival which was held on August 18, 2018 in Washington DC. Corina and Julio were the event and volunteer coordinators at the event. They came to NOVA to meet all the CCI Program participants and to give us information about this event and how to sign up as volunteers. We got the sheet where we could choose our workstation such as Information desk, Operations, Backstage staff and beer garden. Guess what I signed up for? I signed up for Beer Garden station. To me I imagined being among a bunch of drunkards, but it wasn’t so. My task was to check the ID of the visitors who were entering the beer garden making sure they were above 21 years and then tag them with wristband, no babies were allowed as well. The other task was to make sure the tables and our station is clean. Thus, it was a very wonderful experience because Around the world cultural food festival is a huge event, they occupied the 13th Street Pennsylvania Avenue Freedom plaza and enlivened by 18 food vendors participants, 6 dessert vendors participants and performers from all over the world. Thousands of people visited this event and I was very happy to be there.

CCI volunteers setting up flags.
Volunteering with Sara from Egypt

The second event was International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) Global Summit which was held at World Bank in Washington DC on August 10,2018. This event enlightened us about Entrepreneurship and how to be successful in managing your business. I was impressed with this event due to the venue, which was in a tremendous building, made up of enthused young people from all over the world. The speakers were awesome, and the group discussions was innovative, inspiring, and so much fun. The event started at 10 am and ended at 5 pm. I didn’t get bored at all because there were various activities such as keynote session, Questions and Answers with guest speakers, groups discussion, presentations session from each group and one of the speakers sang the song without music. It was very funny because I think he sang the whole song and his voice is below average, in the end, the I clapped my hands so hard for him for having the gut to sing in front of the audience. Anyway, the MC and keynote speakers of IYLA Global Summit were awesome and mind blowing because they are real entrepreneurs and they built their businesses from scratch. Saleema Vellani was the MC and she’s the Co-Founder and World Bank Y2Y Mentorship Co-Chair. The Speakers were Anthony Kim from Heritage Foundation (Editor of Index of Economic Freedom), Caroline Pugh the Founder of Care of Journey, Ahva Sadeghi Co-Founder and CEO of SYMBA and Ravi Social Entrepreneur from Nepal. They shared their experiences in starting their businesses, how to manage and keep the businesses running, how to solve internal and external problems, reaching their profit goals and how to give back to the community. That was a lot to take away.

At IYLA with CCI participants Sara, Aaron, and Schawany

These two are the events in my first month in America and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. I will not waste my time here, my friends and I have many things we need to learn, explore and experience. We still have many upcoming events and I cannot wait to share another story of CCI Program activities. Stay tuned.

Blog written by Helen Sitaniapessy from Indonesia, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale. 

 

International Young Leadership Assembly- Aug.10.2018

Alka Sharma (India) at the International Young Leadership Assembly at the World Bank in Washington DC

As we fly from our home country every CCI participants dreams about their successful academic and professional development. In order to take a step towards our professional development we got the chance to meet some important delegates, entrepreneurs, social activist and some business professionals of our various fields of study at the International Young Leadership Assembly, which was held at World Bank, Washington D.C. on August 10 2018.It was a great platform for all of us to interact with different people, discuss about major topics of concern to the world and how as a young generation, we can contribute our quota..

There were many young and motivated people. The experience for all of us was new and knowledgeable. As an individual, this platform was right for me as I also want to lead as well as give back to my community. The many entrepreneurs shared their experiences, ups and downs and how they overcame their problems. To be a leader it is important to have the full support of your team, and to lead your team from the front. The most important thing that struck me was   that age is just a number. As young as we are, we can impact to our societies greatly both directly and indirectly to the world. I want to open an institute that helps underprivileged students living in my community. I did not know how to go about it, but now I can work on my plan and give it a right start. The best part of the whole assembly was where we were given the chance to ask for advice from the experts. It really helped to erase many doubts we had concerning our future as young leaders.

The whole experience widened my knowledge about many things and increased my confidence for the start of my future.

Blog written by Alka Sharma from India, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria. 

My First Three Weeks in the United States

I remember the day I was finally in the Pre-Departure Orientation Process at the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic, I was feeling anxious, excited and even afraid of what was about to happen. I knew that, in just a few days my life was about to change in such a positive and more productive way, and if you add the fact that it takes 5 months to complete the whole process and be selected for the CCI Program, I’d say that not even believing that you were awarded the opportunity to study abroad for 10 months, seemed like a very normal feeling.

When I landed at the Washington Dulles everything was just as expected, I met Kate Burkett, the program coordinator for NOVA Alexandria Campus, and the others CCI cohorts, and from that moment on I’ve been feeling nothing but joy, gratefulness and an immense desire to get as much knowledge as I can not only in my field of study but also about the American culture and my CCI friends cultures as well.

Cross-Cultural Potluck lunch on July 22, 2018

One thing that made an impression on me was that my first week in the United States happened to be my very first travel outside of my country but to my surprise, they were many others participants going through the same experience, so with the help of my program coordinator at NOVA Annandale, Mrs. Kelly Forbes and Ms. Kate Burkett from Alexandria, we quickly started to get set up into our new life; meeting our apartment mates, getting to know the cultural similarities and differences that we have and taking our first steps into the Community College Initiative Program with the Gateway to Success Program.

Marlin with LaRita Campbell, Program Officer at the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, and Sara Mohamed, CCI Senior Program Manager.

So far, I’ve been in the states for three weeks, but the things I’ve learned in this short time makes it feel like it has been months. Such as cultural diversity, cohabit with people that are not you’re family or your lifetime friends, but somehow are becoming the first thing you think when someone mention home and how not to stand out how gently and helpful Americans have been with all of us during this process of getting used to a new system. Once again, I confirm that there must be opportunities like this for people like me and whoever is reading this in order to help us grow and realize of the power and impact that we all have in life and most important in our society. Thank you to the US Department of State, the Community College Consortium and The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for taking a chance on us and believing in young people as the future of our nations.

CCI NOVA 2018-2019 Cohort

I’m looking forward to all the opportunities that this year may bring.

Post written by Marlin Chabely Estevez Leon, 2018-2019 CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from the Dominican Republic

NOVA Print Shop

When I heard that I was selected for the Community College Initiative Program and that I was going in USA, I knew that I earned a big opportunity to improve myself, to discover new things and to have a good and solid practical knowledge.

I started preparing my mind in my home country. I was trying to picture how life would be like to live, study, and work (internship) in an American community. Of course I knew everything would be different from everything I experienced before. Yet I could not imagine accurately. I am saying so because my imagination was not close to what I am currently living here.

I would write for years without finishing telling about my experience in USA. So I will just focus for now on my first semester in an American school.

Studying at Northern Virginia Community College is awesome and I enjoy a lot. However even if NOVA taught me a lot I think it is because of the American school system in general, not just NOVA. The American school system is wonderful and that foster the educational system.

I started School at NOVA in August 2017. All my classes were very good and I had awesome teachers but this is not my concern for now. The experience that amazed me started with my public relations classes, with Dr. Melvin Murphy, two weeks after the start of the fall semester. This class was not really different from the scenario of other classes but had something special. The class was highly interactive and we were working on a real project. Yes ! We had a real client and we had to do a professional work that would be implemented by the NOVA Print Service (our client).  By the end of the semester we would have present a complete public relations plan aiming at improving the visibility of the NOVA print services.

Designing a real and complete PR plan for the Print service was an awesome project to work on, however it implied a lot of work. I have to confess that some of us doubted about the feasibility of that PR plan (me included 🙂 ). It was the first time a real project for a real client was assigned to a class starting a topic, like us beginning public relations. We knew it wouldn’t be easy but we kept faith and start working hard. With the assistance of Dr. Murphy, we made three groups named as follow: Strategy, Media and implementation. Then we were working with a wonderful graphic designer (Miranda Galas), from another class, and a good photographer (Troy Mauricio) in the implementation team (My team).

We thus broke down the job and start working hard. We were doing both at the same time, I mean normal classes and our special project afterward. That class was challenging because we had to learn the theories fast during class sessions so that we could have enough time to break down into groups and work on the project. Like we were implementing in groups what we were learning during class sessions it was complementary and easy to assimilate for us.

We shared tasks in groups and little by little we built our artwork. This experience also changed my view about group works. It was well coordinated and team members were responsible. We respected the deadlines and requirements. Professor Murphy was checking on us really often. He wanted to make sure we weren’t too stressed out and that we are doing the right job.

At the end of the semester we retuned the final job to the print services, after Dr. Murphy approves. We start getting ready for the presentation in front of the client and some staff members. The final PR plan has been printed, for all the attendees, by the print services. We were stressing out the day of the final presentation but we presented well and they appreciated a lot. We finally made it successful. Yeah ! We did it, we had the recognition of the school and the CCI Program.

Today, after having this amazing opportunity to work on such a project, I feel like I acquired a ready to use theoretical and practical knowledge. This knowledge is one of the reason that gave me an Internship at George Mason University. A job in which I have the opportunity to keep doing what I like and to practice more and more in a professional environment with professionals. I am ready to impact, to learn and to teach as well.

The CCI program is not a trip or a vacation it is a new life ! I can’t be more grateful.

Post written by Liaden Hermann Ake, CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from Côte d’Ivoire.

Credit Photo: Troy Mauricio

Graphic Designs : Miranda Gallas

Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students