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
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
My first class at NOVA Annandale campus was full of nervousness and exciting as well. I was residing somewhere in second row and being an international student so many questions were arising in my mind. I was nervous thinking that will I be able to compete with the fellows who are all native Americans, what if couldn’t perform well in class, what if I fail? Suddenly a very serious person enters in the class room and without introduction he asks us to move to another class, then another class…??
When he was asking us to move to another class, again different question was arising in my mind, but I was totally new to that environment so I decided to just follow the “crowd” the other students. Somehow, I was expecting that my fellows will ask who is that person, why we are following him, but personally I couldn’t get that courage to ask those questions. Finally, he took us to third class and then he broke the silence by asking the questions I had in my mind. Who is he? No answer from the whole class. Second question, why we are following if we don’t know him? Few of the fellows responded like might be he is someone from college management which made us all laugh but he said I will be teaching your xyz in this semester. Surprised …!!!
It was surprising for me because so far, I didn’t have any such kind of experience during my studies. Most of our professors were very bossy, it was difficult to have fun with them and even there were very strict rules to talk with a professor. Mostly it depends upon how good a student is in pleasing a professor and sometimes those students succeed to get the attention who get good marks in the class. Being a shy person and kind of an average level student, I never succeeded to make some good relations with any of my previous professors in my own country. When the professor said I will be teaching you xyz subject in this semester, then most of my fear disappeared automatically as he was frank, funny and at the same time very inspiring.
It’s a saying that “the first impression is the last impression”. That first class suddenly changed my way of thinking and my nervousness turned into excitement. Focusing on my studies was one of my top priorities in my plans and it really became interesting the way professors were encouraging me to be open, to speak up, to go in front of the class, to participate in groups. Another important point I have noticed during my studies that most of the professor teach you perform well in your real work instead of focusing on your marks. All the students in my class had their business ideas and most of them had their own business and those studies were clearing their concepts which they had to implement on their work. Further, with my experience, I have noticed that since students are attending their class regularly, submitting their assignments, homework and participating in their class no body fails. A student should not have a fear to fail the subject, which is also understandable as it is very common in student of developing countries. Students should focus on to gain actual knowledge in the field of their interest.
The most inspiring thing about my education in the US was building a good relationship with my professors. They just do not teach you a subject or for just one semester, they are always interested to listen about your future goals, your achievement and with my own experience I can surely say that they will be always there for you to make you successful. No matter how difficult name you have professors always try their best to remember your name. Before studying at NOVA Annandale, it was the most difficult thing to get a recommendation letter from my professors while applying for different scholarship, and during my studies all the teacher kept asking me, if they can help me in any way I should write an email any time. Now I am an alumnus of NOVA Annandale as it has been few months since I have completed my studies, but still few of my professors keep asking me about my activities and future plans, which really means a lot for me.
In conclusion, my studies in the US gave me a real meaning of education, what success meant to be, role of professors in helping weak students during studies and after completion of their studies. I will recommend all the new students to be punctual in class, participate in discussions, don’t hesitate to speak up loudly, ask questions then success is yours and get the best advantage of this great opportunity in making some good relations with your professors, fellows , coordinators and those who can help you in making a successful leader in future.
Post written by Naik Alam, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Pakistan
“Hi, this is Cessy. An exchange student from Indonesia. She’s doing a scholarship program funded by US Department of State and she’s studying Tourism and Marketing at NOVA. I and Terry are her social hosts, we help her to socialize that’s why we bring her here today”, said Mary when she introduced me to one of her neighbors.
“Oh hi, so does she live with you?”, her neighbor asked.
“No, they put her and her other friends in their own apartment. We will just take her out for dinner or to do other fun stuff”, Mary answered.
I remember attending 2 social parties in Mary and Terry’s neighborhood, that’s how I got to know deviled egg (hard-boiled eggs that have been shelled, cut in half, and filled with a paste made from the egg yolks mixed with other ingredients such as mayonnaise and mustard – Wikipedia) and I like it. The second party was my favorite because it was a barbecue party, we had a lot of meat. Even though I love meat but the best part of the party was when everybody sat surrounding a stove with burning fire while singing old American songs, it was fall and the weather was cold. Everyone was so nice and welcoming, what a lovely neighborhood! I remember thinking this was the ideal American neighborhood I saw on TV and movies, where everybody knows everybody and gets together once in awhile, Mary even has a book club with the other ladies. Compared to the place where I lived which is a complex of townhouses it was totally different. I lived there for 10 months but I never even really “talked” to my neighbors, most of the time you would just look at each other sometimes with no smiles and continued to mind your own business. Hanging out with Mary and Terry’s neighbors really opened my eyes that yes this kind of neighborhood does exist.
Mary and Terry loved to involve me in their family’s gatherings as well and that’s how I learned about American values of family. In my country whenever we have a big celebration we love to involve everybody including our relatives and friends and it will take days to celebrate. For example during Christmas in my hometown, we Christian will celebrate it for the whole month till New Year and even days after that by opening our house for people to come and visit us. We will have cakes and snacks and drink for people to have and the next day other people will come sometimes even strangers. But in United States I learned that when it comes to big holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, it should be spent with your family and closest friends and it will only take one day or couple days of celebration depends on how many invitations you get. Of course sometimes they also invite other people like me, but family comes first unless you live far away from them then you may get invited to join your friend’s family or to join a celebration at church. I celebrated my first Thanksgiving with them and they even let me slept over. I was able to help them cleaning the house and then I met their son, granny and some of their good friends. We had big feast. It was a lot of fun. During Easter, I went to their church and then we went to Mary’s sister’s house. I helped them hiding the eggs for the kids and Mary made the most delicious bird’s nest cake (traditional cake for Easter) I’ve ever tasted.
Terry is an artist, he has a job but during his spare time he will make beautiful things from wood. Their house is filled with his creations and I love all of them. Terry is also funny, he loved to tease me pretending like he forgot which college I go to, he often told people that I went to George Mason University instead of NOVA. He’s a cool father and a great husband. I loved seeing how Terry and Mary work together and support each other as husband and wife. In my country usually wife is on the lower position than the husband but in their family both of them are equal, they’re a team.
Two weeks before my birthday, February 22nd 2017, I emailed them saying that I would love to cook for them Indonesian food and to invite them to have a birthday dinner at my place but they insisted to take me out instead as they said that’s how American do it so I agreed. When they came to pick me up I noticed that Terry seemed a bit down, later I figured out that he just lost his mother a week ago. I was so shocked and touched at the same time. The fact that they could’ve just cancelled our plan but they didn’t and instead they kept their promise to celebrate my birthday with me just overwhelming. I ended up having a heartwarming birthday celebration and to be honest it was the best one.
Post written by Picessylia Anakay, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia
It all started with a dream to study in USA. A dream to live a student life in the states. CCI has helped me to make this dream true. Started my journey in June 2014 which changed my whole life, my perception towards life and made me emotional too. LOL
I remember myself as a big guy with low confidence and trying to make new friends. Trying to adjust with new people and being over-friendly which led to a lot of misinterpretations about me among people. The only women who was with me as true mentor, a true guardian was Kelly Forbes. ‘’You don’t have to be fake and over-friendly to make friends” her words that changed me. She’s the best gift that USA has given me. I can’t forget her early morning messages when I was in Las Vegas “Akhlaq don’t spend all of your money’’ I bet no other coordinator would have been as concerned as she was with me. She pushed me far away from my self-bound limits to be independent and to be responsible. If I really want to describe her in one word she was mother and I’m fortunate to have her in my life as coordinator.
Jaclyn Ruybalid Krueger! The enthusiast coordinator whenever I saw her she was there with that beautiful smile. She always had a positive energy which reflects on her face that can change everyone’s day.
In my experience I’ve found many common skills with each CCI participants and I tried to upgrade myself to be better than before. I’ve learned so many things from these that I can’t mention them. I never thought I would be surrounded by so many pearls from different countries and getting to know them. Friends from CCI is the best thing one can have. Experiencing friendship other than CCI was bonus for me as I got to know people from Afghanistan, Thailand, Korea, and Ethiopia……. Omg! The list is never ending. In short I’ve friends from all over the world.
Volunteering at events and enjoying those events with free food, can’t describe that happiness.
These events taught me to serve for community. I never thought I would complete my volunteering hours without Luiza Arnaud and Bassem Alfy these guys always pushed me for volunteering. Talking with Khaled Soltanto (Habibi) always motivated me to get something I liked. My roommates were typically awesome hahahaha! Each of those guys have different perception for the same common thing. Whether its 12am or 1am and I wanted to go to DC Harold was always ready. Gymming with Andre (Brazilian) and Sifiso (South African) was an amazing experience and I can say I had international trainers. Dzidepo Kofi this Ghanaian guy taught me to play soccer and party hard! How could I forget the beauties of CCI Lekagugu, Joannita, Sandra, Gamze, and Luiza I miss you girls.
Praveen and Nabila will have a great importance in my life I’ve learned a lot from you guys. Hope to see you soon.
On my return my friends asked what did you do in states? And what did you brought along with you from states? To which I replied “I lived my life in a year and I brought a promise to see those face again who made my life worth living there”
Post written by Akhlaq Khan, CCI participant at NOVA, 2015-2016, India
A family consists with father, mother, brother and sister. I had everything over there.
This is the very last picture of us together at the White House. I have seen how life changes very fast. I had such a period of life where I thought I couldn’t help myself anymore. At that time my study could be stopped forever. That was my only hope to get the scholarship and take a chance to change my life. I worked really hard and I made that. The soil felt like home: I had no imagination about the USA. I had only the idea that people are very white there and the country is very cold. It took me 27 hours flight to get there. It was too much for me because it was the first time I was traveling out of my country. I got really sick while traveling. After getting there we were informing so many rules and regulations. I can tell you I wasn’t even getting 60% of 100% they were telling me because I was in very bad jet lag . Days were passing very well and slowly slowly I got very comfortable and started liking everything around me. Every step I was taking around the USA I felt like home. People are very very nice and kind. The American people know how to welcome guests in their country. They are very diverse and they respect each other’s culture. I have never felt like it is not my home. I have always felt like home especially at my departure time, I was crying. Even now I always consider that USA is my second home. Transformation of Nabila: Nabila has transformed with new ideas and hopes. After coming back to Bangladesh I have really felt that I have changed and I can think little differently. The education, the diversity of cultures and the situations taught me a lot. I have learned every single day. The classes of Mr. Paco made me thinking differently. I like the change in me a lot.
Friendship & Brotherhood: This part I can write all day long. I have friends from all over the world now. Everyone were very good friend of mine. People says while you are in problem you can find only real friend around you. I had a bad situation where I have lost my phone and I have totally broken down. My friend & brother Khaled supported me unconditionally. Most of my CCI friends such as Praveen, Sifiso,Yeison, Luiza, Akhlaq, Andres were with me that day. I can’t tell you I was feeling I was the most blessed girl in the entire universe. This picture has taken at 12 am in the morning when I got back my phone.
Let’s come to another two special beautiful girls. Sister Alin and Nana were the partans of my house. We had most good and bad time together. Sister Alin became my sister within some days. When I felt sick this two always there for me. Nana was the grandmother of the house and sister Alin and I was the kid of the house. She always checked on us and directed us how to do thing in the house and also asked us to eat properly. Nana is very caring girl. We really enjoyed her directions.
Here come to my brothers lists. I have got so many brothers in the USA. Akhlq, Shina and Khaled they have been always there for me. My friend Sifiso from South Africa who I used to go with my problems and he never said no. Everyone is very special for me. I don’t want to miss any name. How can I forget Deyanti Manalu. She is the most loving girl who always been like my teacher. I have had very good time with Joanita, Yuli, Yeidi, Moreen, Chwayita and Charmaine too.
Now come to the most important friend of mine. She was my “24Hours”. There was not any day we were not together. She is the kindest women I have even seen. She is like a sister. We had most crazy and good time together. She is Sandra Appiah from Ghana. We have got more than thousands pictures together and memories.
Mentors: We have got the kindest mentors. I used to wait the whole day for emails from Ms. Leeza and Ms. Amira before going to the USA. They are just amazing women. They are the inspirations for us. How beautifully they are managing the program. It is not easy to deal with people from different countries.
The other two beautiful women who were like our mother. The compliment is not enough in front of their contributions for us. Ms. Jaclyn and Ms. Kelly always tried their best to provide us the best of best. One day I can remember Ms Jaclyn came to Sandra’s apartment at about 8pm hearing that they have got the bug’s problem in the house and she started helping them with cleaning and putting all the staffs in the bags. That day I realized she is really like a mother who never thing twice to help when kids are in their bad time. We have another mother is Ms. Kelly. She is the very strong women. Not only me but also the team Annandale always found her by their side. She did every possible thing for us. She gave her 100% even thought her daughter was very sick at that time. She drove us so many places. Loved us like a mother. I can’t write anything more about her then I’ll start crying.
In the end I can finish with writing that almighty have given me the most beautiful experiences. I promise one day we will meet somewhere in this beautiful universe. Miss you guys.
Post written by Nabila Akter, CCI Participant at NOVA 2015-2016, Bangladesh
Community College Initiative (CCI) Program- a one year non degree program that provides education for foreign students in US but this is what the rest of the world know. Participants feel that , it is an invaluable experience of gaining- knowledge, strengths, friends,family and courage of accomplishing goals. The beauty of the program is, no participant leaves US in the same way when he/she came here.
My story of coming into CCI began on my birthday of 2014. It was the day when I filled in the first application to participate in CCI. I asked god to make it my birthday gift by giving me this chance. My prayers and wishes of my friends and family worked, finally I landed in United states as a participant.
During the program time, there is no day where I did not learn something new even it may be one of my mistakes or weakness. The people in the program add more beauty to it. My social host whom I got from the program is no lesser than a Friend, philosopher, guide and a father to me. The love and care showed by them is irreplaceable.
The time never stops we need to move as well. Finally the day came, every participant was ready with their baggage for bon voyage. That’s when we missed everyone more. We remembered the words from a wonderful lady of our program “we all are under the same sky, some or the other day we will see each other again.”
Things would not be normal for a CCIPian after coming home again. Every participant is filled with the power to do something or experience new things for the betterment of community. In my case, one of the good things that I did after coming back is participating in a Model United Nations conference as a delegate of UNITED STATES. The motion for that session is International Terror and World Peace and who would not want it after having a family around the globe. The things that I do before and after program are almost same but the dedication, confidence and accuracy increased. One thing that I can never forget from the program- we lose the game but we won’t lose our players. Miss you all out there.
———we love NOVA———-
——–Thank you CCI———-
Post written by Praveen Mandadi, CCI participant at NOVA 2015-2016, India
Nothing can heal the wounds of time. When global strangers
meet for the first time, it is impossible to quantify the depths of relationships that would soon develop.
Although the following few months these strangers spend with each other can be dubbed as great times, they are faced with unceremoniously relinquishing the bond that each has developed.
The Community College Initiative (CCI) was an opportunity for me to meet students from different parts of the globe and take part in a culture exchange to create awareness/consciousness about South Africa and our standard of living while learning of cultures outside mine.
The time we were to spend in America seemed immense in the beginning; many of us took longer than others to adjust to being away from family and doing things on our own. This was a challenging transitions that required great patience and understanding.
Fransis and Yeison had become my new family and our apartment had become my new home. All three of us were bringing different experiences, cultures, customs, religions and ways of life into one house. Like any family, we had our problems but always found a way around them.
Time had brought a lot of us closer than we had anticipated. We always celebrated each other’s victories and achievements; encouraged and gave each other a shoulder to cry on when things got overwhelming. We became each other’s biggest fans and sometimes worst critics.
Like most people in the program I had pockets of homesickness; for the most part it felt as though the closer we edge to our departure date the more excited and anxious we became. Our last month was perhaps the most ‘confusing’ emotively. I was excited about going home to my family and friends in South Africa but also saddened by the reality of having to leave my family and friends in the United States of America.
The CCI-NOVA participants had become family; a home away from home and for the duration of the program they were all I had. The day we had to separate and all head back to our respective countries was perhaps sadder than the day I had to say goodbye to family and friends when I was coming to the USA.
Perhaps we were overwhelmed by the spatiotemporal limitations and having to readjust to not seeing each other as often as we were. Fortunately for us, we live in the age of technology where communication isn’t restricted to people in the same country or area anymore.
It is a pleasure to have met each and every person in the program; It is an honour to have shared and learnt from your advise, wisdom and sometimes encouragement to just “relax and take it easy”
I trust that time has strengthened our bonds to overcome the Kilometres that stand between us. I still maintain that we all have what it takes to change and shape the world to the kind of society we envision for ourselves and future generations.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for…
Post written by Sifiso Ngobeni, CCI participant at NOVA 2015-2016, South Africa
Growing up as a young girl it has been my lifelong dream to travel to the United States and experience other peoples culture and way of education. I did not know how or when it would happen and stop being a dream to become a reality. Luckily for me, the opportunity was presented to me at the least expected moment. God surprised me in a supernatural way. When I received the wonderful news, I was the happiest woman in the world. Every day before the trip what more I did was look at pictures of where I would live and the college where I was going to study. You can imagine how happy I was.
Challenge In America One of my biggest challenges in the US was using my English. I was not used to speaking English as I have always communicated in Spanish. My English was not very advanced and I was afraid to make mistakes when speaking, and that people did not understand me. But my English was not as bad as I thought, most people liked it. However, people were very patient to pay attention and help me when I needed. Over the months my English was getting better and better.
Special friendship I made It would be hard to name a few because I consider I had a good relationship with all CCI participants in Virginia. But I would like to highlight some people who were always with me and I could build a very strong bond of friendship. Sandra Appiah from Ghana, she was my sweet roommate. She never missed a smile on her face. Sandra always cared of me and I cared for her. Moreen Kajuju from Kenya, with her I had a very pleasant time. We used to go shopping together, cook together, travel together, and sometimes advise each other. The other one is Melisa Múnera from Colombia (Medellin). She is a very lovely person, she was always there for what I needed. That person which dried my tears when I passed difficult moments in my personal life.
Housemates I could not ask for more. I had the best housemates ever. I’m very glad to have known them and have had them as my sisters during my stay in the United States. Charmaine (South Africa), Yuli (Indonesia), Luiza (Brazil), Moreen (Kenya) and Sandra (Ghana). They are the best.
My Favorite Part Every single day during my stay in the States were my favorites. Knowing I was living and experiencing a completely different life from mine including seasons, new people, new places, new culture and costumes, it just made my days very specials. I have had the opportunity to experience fall, winter and spring which was amazing. It was my first time seeing the leaves fall from the trees, the snow fall from the sky decorating the streets and seeing flowers bloom with beautiful colors, it was very enriching for me. During my time there (January 1st) was my first time of being in a beach. Yes, my first time I was in Siesta Beach, Florida.
Lastly, I can’t forget to tell about of one of my last trip with my CCI family. We went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and I broke the fear of being in a roller coaster for the first time. Those ones, really were two of my best experiences during my journey! I had many more but if I write them down here I wont finish.
Having such an amazing opportunity to have these experiences not only with American culture but also with thirteen different cultures from all around the world changed my life. I am grateful to all CCI NOVA participants and the two excellent coordinators Jaclyn & Kelly. Without them my experience in the United States would not have been as wonderful and unforgettable as it was.
Post written by Yeidy Daniela Rivas Carabali, CCI Participant at NOVA 2015-2016, Colombia
( CCI ), at the beginning meant for as all the people know but after getting the chance and living that experience, I see that it means for me something completely different. Which is ( Contribute. Connect. Interact.)
Contribute is give and take also discuss, share time, share experiences, share cultures, understanding, other visions, different way of thinking and much more.
Connect, after getting any new idea or thought or any new experience, you start connect all of them to each other and you find out that it means something completely different that what you thought before, is about learning. If you stay in on place for long time you get the best of it but in just one way, but if you spend time and ideas and cultures in different aspects and in different places you get the best of the best and you see the bigger picture, and you can see it from different angles not from just one angle.
Interact. This is your job, it could take some time after contributing and connecting to get the best result, but the best result will come. Even if you don’t see it the best, it’s the best. It’s something you’ve gained but maybe you don’t recognize it easily, but the people around you can understand it easily.
CCI taught me 25 percent in my field of my study, and the rest of the 100 percent they taught me ( HOW?). How to learn, how to get, how to share, how to find your path, how to give, how to connect, how to lead, how to share, how to see the things in the real way, how to be smarter and of course how to live.
Post written by Abdelkhalek Mohamed, CCI Participant at NOVA 2015-2016, Egypt
Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students