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