Category Archives: Current Student

Corona virus as a CCI Participant

By Emre Suren

During the last three months, we all have been affected by the Corona virus. Corona virus is one of the fastest disruptive viruses which made a considerable change in the world. New terms and behaviors came to people’s lives with this virus; social distancing, self-isolation, or being in quarantine. Besides this, social phobias have been rising furiously, and these are not even the only thing that we have been experiencing after the virus.

The Corona virus has been affecting every industry. All the results show that the economy is destroyed around the world. As a business student, I do follow all the flow in the business sector carefully. So, it is so easy to understand why this situation  was announced as a pandemic, and the solutions are limited because this issue is hard to control.

So, since people have to stay at home, everything has gone online. Education is one of the affected parts at this point. Most of the people agreed that they do not like working or studying online. We are all exchange students here under the CCI Program, and one of our goals is exchanging the cultures. We like being around the campus to share and learn more. Still, unfortunately, it is pretty tricky without having in-person classes.  I am not the type of person who can get satisfied with online class contents.

On the other hand, this situation puts people into a depression quickly. So, people are using their social media to give guidance about how to work or study from home because this pandemic is something new for all of us.  Even counseling service is online in order to help students to motivate and keep themselves in the affirmative.

So, the Corona virus situation is an experience that wasn’t expected for me, for all CCI participants, and for people around the world. There are both positive and negative sides; air pollution is decreasing every day.  I am still hoping to see the best version of the world soon.

Food Brings Us Together

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!

Mici and her friends enjoying food together!

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!

Mici cooking with her boyfriend

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.

Mici learning how to make Indian food

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

My First . . .

Sometimes things come to us in an unexpected way. The CCI Program was one of them. I wanted to go to America and study. It was possible only if I had money. The CCI Program gave me the opportunity to come to America for FREE. It still sounds like a dream for me.

After coming to America, it took 6 months for me to accept that I am in America. Before coming to America, I made my plans about what I will do over there. When I was selected, other people in my society came to know about it. From that point I was treated differently. I was treated as someone who is very smart and who knows everything (I felt like a president). People started asking advice for them to me as if I was an expert.

Simran and her CCI colleagues at the 2020 Pathways to Success Mid-Year Program in Washington, D.C.

When I met my CCI colleagues and other people, they seemed to have a different mind- set and knowledge. Even people from same countries have different level of thinking. I explored that there is so much more to learn. CCI Program gave me an opportunity to learn on a big platform. Every day, I am learning something new. We share our culture with each other. It is really fun for me to know others culture. Every culture have their own way of expressing, communicating and different ways to look at the situation. I also learned people from different culture hold different beliefs. After knowing more things, I became more open-minded person. I felt like I was changing every day.

Volunteering in the local community.

I do not like changes. But I cannot resist how CCI Program is changing and shaping me in a better way. I got chances to know myself in many ways. One pillar of CCI Program is volunteering. I was scared to do volunteering. I lack from self-confidence. I thought I won’t be able to do that. I was scared of taking task during volunteering. I did my first volunteering at “Around the World Food Festival.” During that volunteering, I had to take initiatives. I was scared of taking initiative because I thought I won’t success. I discovered that I performed very well in my task. I overcome my fear of taking initiative. I became more confident about myself. That one volunteering changed my assumptions about myself. I started taking more initiatives by doing more volunteering. Now, I am no more scared to take initiatives.

Cultural Exchange: Sharing about India during NOVA’s International Education week

This was my first time facing my fear alone. In the past, I used to cry when I was couldn’t succeed and I try to avoid the situations. I used to hold a lot of assumptions about myself. And I believed those assumptions were the truth about me, rather than facing my fears and creating the truth about myself. I thought maybe running from that problem will solve my problem. But actually, it never did. I learnt that running from the situation is not the solution. In order to know whether I am capable of doing tasks, it is actually engaging in the tasks and not making perception about my capability.

 

Post written by Simran Gala, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from India

What is it like to live in the United States?

By Roger Cardona Arias

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.

Silent and Strong

By Mercy Mildred Adhaya

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’ ’.

A Brand New Story

By Willy-Edgar Y. Jefferson Kouakou

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.

Thank you.

God bless you. 

Look for opportunities by going your own way

What would you do if you apply to the CCI program and get a NOT as an answer three times in a row? Would you give up on your dream or would you remain stubborn, and try one more time in an effort to finally be selected? The answer seems obvious now, but after a 4th attempt, I was finally chosen to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. Being a CCI participant to me means that dreams actually do come true. I know it sounds cliche but I did not stop until I reached this spot where I am today and that’s the best definition I could find for it.

Ten months may look like a long period of time, but actually that number is not that big as one might think. Let a day pass without taking advantage of it; then you would have wasted an opportunity. When you fight hard for something the way I did you realize that there is no room for wasting chances to meet new people and learn. It is equally important to move out of your comfort zone, go your own way, and seek for those things happening around you. The day I arrived in the United States, I set as a goal that I was determined to bring out the best in me, and so far I am achieving and molding this new philosophy in my life every single day.

District Creatives: A Creative discussion with Rebecca Stonebraker

I am well aware that opportunities never knock twice the door; you have to look for them! Something I love about the Washington DC Metro area is the creativity pouring from every corner. In DC, for example, designers, communicators, and entrepreneurs gather together to create groups with the objective of mutual learning, exchanging of ideas, networking, and genuinely growing; whether is a workshop, a panel with experts, or just a meeting in a cafe I always learn something different from each one of them.

ONA DC, Media Entrepreneurship workshop

The first event I attended was a meetup in a group called “District Creatives.” This group focuses on creative careers. This is an excellent place to learn and know what is trending today in our field. There are a lot more groups and communities I have successfully joined and they have been providing a platform to show myself and make connections. ONA DC, Design + Donuts, and Design Thinking: DC are just a few to mention. I am a firm believer that people should not be scared of walking alone in order to find ways to improve and grow just as I am doing here. Four months have passed and I feel like I have been here for two years.

National Public Radio panel

I would like to finish with the following example: Lindsey Stirling, the famous and super talented violinist was once told she was not marketable while participating in America’s Got Talent and was eliminated from the competition. This event did not stop her; she knew her worth, she continued learning, and practicing; today, she is one of the most successful American performers. The process of learning never ends if you know what exactly it is what you want; limitless chances are waiting for you but the question is: Are you willing to work for them?

Post written by Juan Gabriel Tangarife Usuga, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Colombia

Rijal’s Blog: Gratitude, Self-Reflection, and Valuable Lessons

Since I was kid I never had the vivid dream of wanting to go to US. I was aware I neither had capability to afford much money to travel and was scared of dreaming big. But when I was 18 years old, I was exposed to many things about US because of TV show that I watched back then. Since then, I told myself: ‘I have to go there when I am 25 years old’. Here am I now !

Being a part of CCI Program is the most incredible chance I have ever been given in my life. I am so grateful of everything I have experienced because of CCI Program. Before I start telling what great things I have done so far, let me write a dedication short paragraph to important people in my life.

Dear, Dad and mom.
This is not my accomplishment; this is yours, dad and mom.
Being able to step my feet on the United States of America, a country in which I have never imagined I would be able to go to, is both exhilarating and emotional. Words do not suffice to depict the exhilaration I have felt since the first day I came here despite the few difficult days of adjustment; but the excitement is somehow being followed by this emotional feeling that I can identify as sadness. I am sad because every time I go to a new country—a new place which enables to me to visit its renowned places along with the foods— I do not go with the ones who contribute to make me who I am now, my dad and my mother. My mother is someone whom I owe everything in this world. She is the one who successfully made me fall in love with English. Regardless of her little to no knowledge about English, she did her best to nurture my fondness towards English. What my mom did was likewise done by my father. My father is a strong figure who passed down important traits and values. He was the one who managed to make me become a strong and independent person who does not forget to be grateful of what I have accomplished.
Mom and Dad,
I am not proud of what I have accomplished; I am proud of having you who contribute to make me accomplish things in my life.

Rijal enjoys traveling by himself and getting on the metro is his favorite thing to do.

Let’s get this started.

Being in Virginia makes me much more thrilled than I ever imagined; I had the chance to be able to visit Washington D.C., the capital of US, every week. Travelling alone is one of the things I like in the US. Travelling alone makes me grow.  Having been in the US for almost four months teaches me a lot of things: First, independence: I have had the chance to do everything by myself and arrange everything by myself as well. Second, selflessness: I used to be a very self-centered person, I didn’t care what people are doing or pay attention to what they are experiencing. Here, I have been able to learn from others and am open to others. I used to like to speak more than listen, but now I realize that being a listener is ok too. I have more compassion for others who are different from me, and many other important values that make grow not only as individual but also as a member of community. Hence, I could not be more grateful of the path I have been given so far.

Rijal enjoys hanging in White House street
Rijal looks exhilarated to visit the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Words cannot depict this profound gratitude I have in my chest now. The chance I have been given now is the ultimate reason for me to give back to community and use the skill I have gotten here.

Gratitude continues.

Post written by Khairur Rijal Usman Abra, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Indonesia.

The Frightening Panic Zone

THE FRIGHTENING PANIC ZONE

Before coming to the U.S, and during the first weeks, I had many fears. For example, I was so frightened about the idea of flying or being alone in an airport. Also, I was so worried about my classes. Failing in exams, not being able to understand the language, traveling far from the city, or getting injured were thoughts that were hanging over my head daily. In one of our summer activities, we were talking about panic, comfort, and growth zone. At that
point, almost everything for me was in a red, bold, and scary panic zone. But there’s a fun fact: life is just like horror movies. When the ghost is behind the door and the main character goes directly to that place, (even when he/she knows that there’s something wrong).

That’s how I’ve been facing all my fears. I took my flight alone, I had a low score in my English exam and my first day of classes made me cry since I didn’t understand anything, one of my friends cut his finger in our apartment, then one week later I was bitten by a squirrel. I even went to Maryland after classes and I got lost (for 20
minutes).

A frightening squirrel

What I want to mean with this is that the thing you fear the most, sooner or later will come to your life. In all those situations I just wanted to cry and run away, but I didn’t. That’s one of
my most valuable lessons from CCI: Even if I’m deadly terrified, I do not allow fear to be stronger than my conviction. Thanks to that I also knew New York, I went hiking, tubing, and
kayaking, I’ve made tons of friends, I’ve eaten wonderful food, and I’ve found that I was braver than I thought.

 

Unforgettable adventures with wonderful people

 

Now, those things that looked so overwhelming at the beginning, they’re just funny stories that I keep as unforgettable memories. They have placed me in a growth zone. They are guiding me towards the path of my dreams, and I hope they can do that, not just for me, but
also for all the people that have felt that the panic zone is bigger than themselves.

Post written by Luisa Dahianna Trujillo López, 2019-2020 Participant from Colombia

Conferences as a Medium of Learning and Growing

Presenters discussing girls education

One of the things I like about America is, here, people like to research on different topics and then share it with other people at a conference. So if you have interest on particular subject, you will find various conferences or workshops on that subject which helps a lot to know more about recent studies. Being so close to Washington DC, we get more chances to attend conferences and the best part is, some of them are free for students! Last week I attended a conference on “Girls’ Education Research and Policy Symposium” at Brookings Institution. I was overwhelmed when I found one of the guest speakers Kazi Nasrin Siddiqa was from my country, Bangladesh. I also met some other Bangladeshi people there and that was an amazing feeling to be with some people from the same country who also have passion in the same field.

I found people who work in Bangladesh!

In the conference, they focused on girls education from an early age to their working age. Three different people from three different countries are working to empower women in three sections such as early childhood education, science education for teenagers, and practical education for job. As I am studying Early Childhood Education, my main focus was on this area which I believe will help me in my career in various aspects. But the concepts presented about girls education blew away my mind and made me think more practically. I especially like when the speakers talked about the obstacles they faced and how did they overcome them. Their experience will help me to work on my project in the future.

Along with learning, conferences are a great opportunity for networking. If you look properly you may find the perfect person who can be your mentor or may help you with your dream profession. I also found people who works with my favorite NGO’s and working in my field of study. So next time, if you go to any event like this, you should focus on networking and do not forget to take your business card with you. Because Porter Gale said, “Your networking is your net worth”. Hope all of you attend various conferences to increase your knowledge and networking through this whole CCI journey.

Post written by Ayesha Akter, CCI 2019-2020 participant from Bangladesh