Being a part of the CCI program has been a great privilege for me. Learning about American Culture was just the beginning. The diverse group of participants from all over the world has opened me up to new and exciting experiences! The various cultures opened my mind to new ways of thinking and learning. Each participant coming from fourteen different countries from around the world all had their own way of expressing themselves and teaching about their culture. But there is one thing that we all could be brought together for and that is food!
I have always had healthy appetite for the spiciest of foods. Sambal is a staple and not everyone appreciates it as much as I do. While I was down with my boyfriend, I prepared it for him to try. He coughed as the smoky peppers filled the air. He tried my Sambal and enjoyed it. He wanted to share with me his American food. This was around Thanksgiving time, so he invited me to join in in preparing a traditional feast. We skinned sweet potatoes, prepared the turkey, I made Watergate salad, made the green beans, and mashed potatoes. His specialty was these sweet potatoes that were covered in sticky brown sugar. I loved them so much!
While living in the apartment with other friends, we loved to encourage each other to explore each other’s dishes too! I enjoyed exploring new foods and expanding my taste in foods from other cultures. I found Indian food to be next for me to explore. I attempted to make some basic Indian food with my good friend, Rashi. She taught me how to make Roti and Potatoes and peas curry. It was very tasty! I had experienced Indian food before in Singapore but never had the opportunity to try making it on my own.
My housemates came from all over the globe and they all brought with them amazing food for me to learn and enjoy. They came from South Africa, Ghana, Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. We all loved sharing and teaching how to prepare all sorts of our home cuisines. I learned how to make Briyani and Samai (Vermicelli) which was a sweet dish from Bangladesh. I love making all of them as much as enjoyed eating them!
We grew very close and I am very grateful for the diversity that CCI program had. It made a very large impact on how I view and learn to respect other cultures. I enjoyed this time and I will keep it in my mind and heart for the rest of my life.
Post written by Mici Maniagasi, a 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Indonesia
What is like to live in the United States? That was my question several years ago. I didn’t know if I wanted to save money for 2 years to be able to come here to the US. Eventually, it didn’t take so long for this dream to come true. I was dreaming about studying abroad and getting away from my home, not because it wasn’t good to have this sense of “comfort”, but because deep down in my heart I felt it’s right to step out of my comfort zone to continue growing.
It’s been 5 months specifically and I have not enough words to describe what it has been like. I have lived lots of new experiences during this period of time. From traveling for the very first time in an airplane to another country to living with a roommate from another nation (Turkey) and six more people in the same house. I deepened my knowledge of Information Technology (IT) to learning about US culture. From meeting a lot of new friends to serving people whom I don’t know personally through community service.
I have had a lot of fun over the past months and a really good highs; however, I’ve had some challenges and some lows too. Firstly, being far away from my family, my friends, my church, my food, and my job wasn’t easy at first. While the time went by, I realized how much I missed each one of them. Secondly, embracing the life I have here took a little while. I felt defined by the “what if…?” question. What if I had learnt how to cook in my country? What if I had had more background in the IT (Information Technology) field? What if I had a better writing skills? These were my questions at the beginning of the program. But the only answer I found was: Embrace it!
After all this time, I think God has been so good to me. As he has given me a family called: Kairos DC Church. In which, I have been able to grow in my faith, meet wonderful people and live a lot of adventures that I feel if I went back today to my country, I would be profoundly grateful.
Growing up in Soacha and serving with a foundation and church called “Fundacion Herederos” for over a decade have shaped my vision of the world. Therefore, when I came here the only thing in my mind was that I have to find a way to serve the ones in need on this community. One of the greatest experiences I’ve had with Kairos Church was going to the Shelter: “Bailey’s Shelter and supportive Housing” where we gave food away and listened to these people. Mark Martins was the answer of what I was looking for since I came here. I had the opportunity to talk with him about his life story and how it is for him to live there, we are helping him out to recover the confidence in himself and spiritually. Therefore, I would say no matter where you are, if you don’t forget what drives you, you will be okay everywhere.
Being part of the CCI, has been the most rewarding experience in my life so far, I just want to finished off this little description by giving thanks to my mom Luz Stella Cardona Arias, who has saved me a lot of time living through her advises, as she has walked too much on this life, and she has accordingly led our home with wisdom. Hence, I thank you for trusting in me and letting me come to this country.
The four-hour journey from the State of Virginia to Pennsylvania State was awesome with the perfect weather for travelling. Finally, my longing to spend Thanksgiving with the Mennonite and the Amish was being met. Especially knowing who the Amish are as they are perceived to be a peculiar people.
The Friday morning chilly weather was not going to stop me from quenching my thirst of learning who the Amish were. A one-hour drive filled with the beautiful view of the countryside to a One-roomed school in the middle of large farms was the beginning of the learning experience. The school Penny Town School was started by a beggar who went round the Amish and Mennonite communities begging for pennies. The school has both Amish and Mennonite students and only their attires can help you differentiate them. Amish female students have their hair folded neatly in a Bun and ankle length plain dresses with aprons starting from the waist down to the ankle, black stockings and shoes. On the other hand, the Mennonite female students have their hair made in a French-plait, floral ankle length dresses and black stockings and shoes. Male students from both communities put on checked shirts, jeans, instead of belts, suspenders and black stockings and shoes. Teachers from this two communities dress like the female studies from their respective communities except that for the Amish teachers, their aprons are full body length. Their main languages are;
Pennsylvanian Dutch- Oral and learnt from home (Not written at all)
English- Learnt in 1st Grade
Germany- (18s/19s version) Learnt in 3rd Grade and is their Bible is translated in this language.
On Average, in a one roomed classes there are about 30 students from the Grade 1-8, this I found very interesting as it is not the norm in most cultures. A school of this nature has 2 teachers who are known to be of good virtues in the community and are trained during summer by elder teachers for about 1- 3 days. The form of learning for the students is interactive those in senior grades teach those in junior grades when the teacher is teaching one grade on the blackboard. Music is part of their syllabus. After the 8th grade, Amish students aren’t allowed to go to high school, colleges, or universities like the others, instead they are home schooled by their parents.
Amish and Mennonites are mostly farmers and they use horses but their methods of farming and equipment used are different. The tractors used by Mennonite farmers have rubber tires but the Amish tractors have steel wheels. The Amish mainly use bikes, carriages/buggies and wagon for transport purposes. Family is the most important unit of the Amish Community. A man is only allowed to marry one wife and have as many children as they want. The average age for marriage is 20 years. Divorce is a taboo and it’s not allowed in this culture. A typical family has between 5-15 children with their parents and they aren’t disciplined in a hard way. The Amish in a way are diverse as in some communities parents will find a partner (wife/husband) for their children while in others; one is to find his/ her partner on their own. This applies even in the area of technology in some, little bit of technology is allowed while in others its not allowed at all. Rules governing the Amish are either written or oral depending on the community and are changed every 2 years since they are broken.
Ex-communication happens to members when the following happen;
When one advances with education past 8th grade.
If an individual declares in front of the community that they are born -again Christians.
When one practices what is against their cultural customs, rules and regulations.
When ex-communicated, one does not have a direct link with his or her family members and their voice or suggestions don’t count even in Family gatherings.
Today, the Amish community is an area of great interest and many travel from inside and outside the US to learn about their unique and outstanding culture as well as to eat the delicious Dutch cooked dishes made by them.
‘Courage doesn’t ALWAYS roar……sometimes it’s the quite voice at the end of the day saying , ‘I’ll try again tomorrow’ ’.
Visiting with other Côte d’Ivoire students in Washington, D.C.
Have ever found yourself in an unbelievable situation? A situation you cannot explain how you got in. A situation like a dream? If yes, then you should be able to imagine how I was, and how I am since the first day I got selected for the CCI Program. Coming to the United States of America was a dream that came to pass, and for this opportunity I am totally grateful.
I would like to share with you a portion of my experience since I came in the United States of America. For my second time to take the flight, I was very excited because of the destination. It was hard to leave my family for this adventure, but I took it as a new challenge for building within me some skills and abilities. In fact, the Community College Initiative Program is a life changing opportunity. Each day is full of experiences, lessons, idea and fun.
At the very beginning, I met extraordinary people from all around the world; the other CCI Participants. We got to know each other daily. One thing I am grateful for is to have all these cultures represented right with me every day. That is incredible how diverse our world is! I was just proud and thankful to be part of this cross-cultural program occurring in a cross-cultural country. I felt glad to interact with people and moreover, I was very excited when it came to speak about my country, my cultures, the way we do things, the way we understand the world and how we interact with people. I realized that in less than two months that many of my childhood and teenage dreams were fulfilled, one was to come is the U.S, another one was to see famous places like The White House, The Capitol Building, The Pentagon, the Washington Monument, and one other dream was to speak before an assembly of youth from all round the World. On the 07, August 2019, we all went to a youth summit in Washington DC, at the World Bank and there, I got the privilege to take the floor and express myself in front of hundreds of people. I still remember when I told the assembly that that day was the Independence Day Anniversary of my country, my dear Cote D’Ivoire; they gave a round of applause before I kept on and once again, I felt grateful.
CCI Participants at the World Bank Summit in Lafayette Square
A brand-new story started, and I am no more the same! Here, I am taking classes of Social Media and Marketing in NOVA (Northern Virginia) Community College – Annandale campus. For me Marketing was just what everyone of us thinks it is but after my first class with an amazing Teacher called Zulma Westney, I understood that marketing was more than that. Every day builds me up and strengthens in me more skills.
As the story kept on going on, I am still feeling blessed by the crowd of opportunities we are exposed to. Volunteering activities, new places discovery, new food tasting and meeting of new people are making my stay in the U.S. My experience is getting more enriched and amazing through workshops, museums visit, Holidays like Thanksgiving, but above all, the kindness of my Social families (Mindi & Alan) – (Barbara & Wayne). They are always taking care of me as a genuine child of them. Thank you for being so kind and available.
Recently, I got a brand new Internship in Washington DC. I could not believe to get this opportunity at this period. There also, I am learning a lot in my field of study because of the practical thing we do. I am blessed to be part of this program, I am blessed to have met such great coordinators who really help me and all the CCI participants. I am blessed to be part of the G7 Team (the Ivorian CCI Participant) always supported by Mr. Gbagbakou, I am blessed to be part of IF NOVA and I am also blessed to share with you my experience. To conclude I would like to encourage everyone reading my article to strongly believe that nothing is impossible if only we can work hard and believe in us; here is the proof, from the Capitol of Bouake (Cote D’Ivoire), I got to the Capitol of the United States of America. If you do not believe in yourself nobody will do it for you and always remember that by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.
A holistic education is not all about books but includes extra curricular activities like educational tours, and field trips. It reduces stress, gives one the opportunity to explore and learn new things, and get new experiences. The CCI Program also includes field trips which gives us the opportunity to learn more about the American history, culture and visit places.
When learning is accompanied by fun, excitement, and enjoyment, it makes it interesting. After a hectic week with a lot of assignments, the CCI Participants get the chance to go for educational tours mostly on Fridays. This helps us to have fun, reduce our stress, boost our energy, and prepare us for a new week.
An educational tour to new places is not just a fun get-away. It is about exploring new environment and learning new things. It empowers us with new ideas and enhanced perspective to look at things and become more open minded. Our visit to Harper’s Ferry-West Virginia made me learned a lot that day. One thing that surprised me the most was that John Brown’s Fort was moved from a different location to its current location. I never thought a building could be moved from one location to another.
When we go for educational tour, I get the opportunity to observe and experience many things. When we visited the Native American Museum, I found out a lot of interesting things about their history and culture. I got the chance to see their traditional wear, arts, and food.
The educational trips have helped me to make memorable experiences and got deep knowledge in various aspect of my life.
Post written by Veronica Owusu, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Ghana.
I used to take public transportation to go to campus or other places when I was in college in my country. When I read one of the rules in CCI Program that participants were not allowed to drive a car or any vehicle, as someone who did not know how to drive at all, it’s not a big problem for me. Otherwise, I was so excited to experience US public transportation.
The first day I came to US, Sarah Yirenkyi, our program coordinator, gave us one folder with one Smartrip card inside. It is a rechargeable card that we can use to pay the bus or metro. We need to tap it on the machine on a bus or metro station. On the first day of orientation, Sarah picked us up with a van to go to campus. Then, she taught us how to use maps and trip planner for bus. In other words, that was the last time she picked us up to go to campus. We had to learn how to take bus by ourselves.
My first time to take bus was hilarious. I and my friends were still confused how to use the WMATA app. We had not known the direction to campus and which bus we should take. All buses looked the same for us. All eyes were on the apps trying to solve this confusing route.
As days go by, I finally figure out how to take bus by myself. Beside WMATA app, I also use Google Maps or Transit. They are probably the first apps I look up in every morning. These apps are very helpful. When you type your destination, it will show you the number of bus or the color of metro you should take, which bus stop you should wait at, and when it will arrive. I must be on the bus stop earlier or I will miss the bus. There were many times I had to run because I saw the bus was coming and I had not reached the bus stop yet. Thankfully, the bus drivers here are so nice. If they see you running, they would definitely wait for you.
During my first 2 months here in America, by using public transportation, I learn a lot the value of punctuality. If I cannot manage my time well, I will miss the bus, another 20 minutes will be wasted to wait another bus, and I will be late for following activities on my schedule. Leeza Fernand, the Associate Director of the Community College Consortium, once said, “In the US, if you are in time, you are on time. But if you are on time, it means you are late.” I remember this and take this as my principle to manage my time and be punctual on every occasion. Because I believe being punctual means respecting my commitment and people whom I will meet.
Post written by Aninda Nurul Hadijah – CCI 2019-2020 Participant from Indonesia.
Traveling to a new country is a great opportunity to learn, try new things, make new friends, to expand your horizons, and why not have fun, but sometimes understanding the culture of that new place can be a big deal. In order to make easier that process, the Community College Initiative program works with social hosts, who are volunteer people that help introduce the American culture to the new participants.
In my case I am so lucky having Mr. and Mrs. Steelman as my social hosts, they are a retired couple who really enjoy sharing their stories, and believe me, they have a lot to tell, having been in many countries in the past, there are many things that you can learn from them. I can simply define them as incredible people; Mrs. Steelman with her kind smile is always ready to reply to your hesitations and Mr. Steelman is a wise man and without doubt a good example to follow.
One of our first meeting was the Irish Festival, which was carried out in old town part of the Alexandria city. This event was fascinating, it was a great opportunity to learn about the Irish community in the US, their impressive dances and how much they love to drink beer, but the most interesting part was learning about how Irish culture has influenced the American one, and a good example of this is the famous St. Patrick’s day.
That day was amazing because I could learn more about my social hosts, I discovered that Mrs. Steelman has Irish roots, and even together we found the emblem and the origin of her family name on a map that was posted in the event. It was fascinating understand how multicultural is America and how immigrants that have arrived to this country have contributed to make this land an awesome cultural place.
Share with the Steelmans is gratifying, they are people who you can have deep conversation but also funny ones, friendly people that offer their time to share their stories but also always ready to listen and help. The exiting thing is that this is only the beginning of many incredible adventures with them.
Oscar Iván Barrera.
Post written by Oscar Ivan Barrera Barrera, a 2019-2020 participant from Colombia studying at NOVA Alexandria.
Everybody was ready early in the morning. We dressed up nicely in our traditional clothes, batik. There were five of us, CCI Program 2016 participants from Indonesia, I, Morten, Fina, Tina and Lia.
We stay in Alexandria, Virginia, and we go to Northern Virginia Community College. We live only 30 minutes away from Washington DC where the house of the Ambassador of Indonesia for United States is located. It was August 17th 2016, the Day of Independence of Indonesia, and we were about to go there to join the ceremony and the gathering. It took us 40 minutes to get to the closest metro station and then we had to walk for another 10 minutes to get to the house. We arrived on time and joined the ranks of other Indonesian people immediately. It is pretty rare to meet other Indonesian around the place where we live or even at campus so we were happy to get to meet our people for the perfect reason, to celebrate the Independence Day together. The ceremony was led by the Ambassador of Indonesia, Mr. Budi Bowoleksono. It was nice, the feeling of celebrating Indonesia 71st Independence Day 9730.6 miles away from home but that moment was “home” for me. The people I met were friendly as how Indonesian always be, we even took a group picture with the Ambassador and his wife and they were lovely.
There was a performance of group consisted of little kids and some older women, they sang all famous Indonesian folklore songs from west to east part of Indonesia. After that, Lia and Fina and some other exchange students from Papua performed a mass dance from their hometown and everybody joined in. It was a lot of fun. Later, we were also invited to join the gathering and my longing of Indonesian food was fulfilled. We were so happy that we got to eat delicious Indonesian food after a month living in USA.
One thing I love about the celebration was the slogan, “Kerja Nyata” or “Real Work” in English. This slogan is proposed by our amazing current president, Mr. Jokowi, to encourage the government with the support of the citizen to start really building our country. Our country has the potential to become a big nation. All resources that we have either natural or human resources, if the government and the people can work together well as a team to support each other, we will surely become one of developed countries in the world like USA or Japan or Singapore. This slogan also reminded me that I could take part in the process of building my country and the people as well to be better. That’s why I am here to study, to gain experience, to expand my network, to improve myself, to learn things that make US a great nation and later when it is time for me to go back home I can apply those things in small steps firstly and hopefully I can be role model for others as well.
On our way home we discussed and decided to host a gathering with other CCI participants in the evening to celebrate with them. We divided the tasks between ourselves, I was in charge for the decoration while my other friends would prepare the food. We informed all of our friends and they were excited to join us. I asked them to wear something in red or white color since our national flag consists of those two colors. Red is the symbol of the bravery of our heroes who fought hard for our independence and white is the symbol of purity of the soul of Indonesian people. These two things, bravery and purity, are believed to complete and to perfect the body and soul of Indonesian people to build the nation. People started coming at 8pm. We had Indonesian food and some American food for our friends who can’t handle the spiciness of our food. Everybody who tasted our food loved it.
Our friend from Colombia, Vanesa, embraced herself to try our food. After that, she said it was too spicy for her but it was delicious. We were happy that we were able to share with our friends from other countries a little bit of our culture through the food that we prepared, they now know and even experience it themselves how much Indonesian loves spicy food. We also taught them a little bit of our language, Bahasa Indonesia. We made a video and everyone had to say “merdeka, merdeka, merdeka” which means “freedom, freedom, freedom”. Mehedi, CCI grantee from Bangladesh, pronounced it well and passionately. Then we played music to start our favorite part of every gathering we’ve ever organized, dancing. Pew, the Bangladeshi girl, came wearing her traditional dress.
She looked beautiful. She entertained us by showing us how people from her country dance, it was nice. Our friends from India, Raj, Halith and Nime, also led us to dance to Indian song. We danced to almost every songs from every country represented by people in our group like African dancing that includes more legs and bottom part in its movements, Latina dancing which requires you to move your hips and hands more and even Yemen dancing which is done by couples who have to move forward and backward in harmony. Surely, we taught our friends Indonesian mass dance as well, Lia led the group to dance to the song “Poco-poco”. We had so much fun that night. It was great that we got to share more of our culture and also to learn a bit more of our friends’ culture. That night was not only to celebrate our day but also to celebrate the beauty of diversity.
Post written by by Picessylia “Cessy” Anakay, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia