It is incredible how this experience has made me a whole new person. There is no way to put into words what I am feeling now. Three months ago, I realized that I was lost in myself. I felt that I did not know who I was. I felt that a part of me was dying, but that little part was just dying to be born again. I cannot be more grateful for this challenging moment. It has not only made me grow a lot as a human being but also made me understand how important it is to challenge myself to overcome every stage of my life.
When I came here, I knew I wanted to challenge myself, but I did not imagine how hard it was going to be. Although I have always been passionate about my dreams, there was a time when I just did not know how valuable they are. Since I lost my confidence, I did not know how to express my ideas. So, I felt that I did not belong here because I was not good enough for this program. It was really frustrating to feel that I was not able to do what I wanted to do. As a consequence of these issues and other personal problems, I became depressed. Nevertheless, having one of my worst moments I realized how important is not only to appreciate difficult times but also to die in each stage of your life. On first thought, it does not make sense, but let me explain to you the big meaning that it has for me. I strongly believe that life is made of cycles. Each cycle of our life is a stage that we should live to learn from it; however, we should also die to be born again. We will have learned a lot, but we will also need to keep going without look back.
In other words, that challenging moment not only made me born again but also changed the perspective of my life. I learned that my dreams are as valuable as I want them to be. I learned that I am important for my community and that I may cause a significant change if share all the things that I have learned until today. Now I know that nothing is impossible and that I am the only one who can strongly believe in her dreams to make them come true. Being involved in CCI program change my life. This is a stage of learning for my life and I really appreciate it. All the CCI cohort has taught me to be confident about my dreams and that I am not alone when it comes to making a positive change in the world.
Post written by Natalia Martínez Conde, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from Colombia
Before my departure from Ghana I had two days sleepless nights, and all was about how to live together with different people of different cultures, believes and personalities for a year. When I arrived at my apartment with my program coordinator, we met Kiki who was the first person there, she welcomed me with smile and helped me with my luggage to my room, and all what I was expecting how difficult life would be vanished that day.
The friendship of these girls leads me to the incredible experience; we always move together, eat together, have fun, share our cultures, problems and help each other, when we needed. I have never felt homesick because these girls have made me feel like I am with my blood sisters. What I experience from this people is that, color, culture and believes have no borders in friendship and relationship, what matters is understanding each other and respecting other views.
I had experience within my four months stay here, from fellow CCI participants, in my class, my host mom, and volunteer work, especially working with the elderly. Before I came here, I never knew that old age can loss their memory and behave abnormally but my volunteer with them made me understand this and how to deal with it.
Post written by Abibata Yakubu, CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale from Ghana
Studying in US is full of adventures -everything is different and exciting, including our Host Family. All of a sudden, I share with people whom I have never seen before.
My Host Mom, Kirstin Riddick. She is IT technician in Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria campus. When I went to see her for first time I was nervous. When I reached her, she started speaking with me as she knows me before. She is righteous and happy Person. She became more than a friend to me. She took me to church where we both taught in Sunday school and she took me to shopping also. I felt very close to her that I could share my ambition, experiences, feelings etc. We both had very good time twice. She took me to have lunch together. It was one of the beautiful spot and she told me that it shows Texas culture. Kirstin always calls me to know about my health and experiences.
She made my exchange program better. She showed me what it means to be a member of an American Family. I am so thankful and blessed for having her in my life.
Finally, to say Host Family is the second family. In the Conclusion, I am having experienced and great exchange program in the United States.
Post written by Shwethana Lella, CCI Participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India
Alexandria, VA- Since I was a child, I always heard my parents said that I have to go to new places that they have never visited before. It makes me grow as a girl with many dreams in my life; and for some people, it sounds silly and impossible. I don’t care. I just want to push my own self to be better, for the sake of my “impossible” dreams.
That believe brings me to many new things in my life. When I was in elementary school, I could travel by airplane for the first time in my life, and went to a new place –2 hours flight from my home- as an ambassador from my school in an event. Since then, I made bunch of lists about places that I must visit in my life. Years by years, in my school life, I got many chance to go to new places freely because I tried to do my best in school; Olympic, debate forum, spelling bee competition, singing competition, and many more.
One thing that I like to do when I visit new place is I get new perspective in my life. I can value something from different point of view because I go and experience something new in my life.
In 2016, I made new list. I HAVE TO GO ABROAD FOR STUDY! I wrote that sentence on the whiteboard in my bedroom. I was looking for many chance to get scholarships. Long story short, after a very long journey, I was selected as one of the selected participant of Community College Initiative Program by US Department of State. United State! I have never imagined that I will visit this country as an international student, but God makes it happens. Nothing impossible. Nothing!
And this is my first three months here. I experience the educational system in the US, the community activities like volunteering, and lots of things that I am very grateful with. I can experience how to mingle with the elderly, eat many kinds of food from the whole world, got American host family, making friends with people from different backgrounds, write 5000 words essay every single week which hopefully makes my writing better, trying so many snacks that I only watch their reviews on YouTube before, visiting some museums and historical places that makes me feel I know nothing, and so many new experience that I believe will become more and more exciting. I am pretty believe, after finishing this program, I will have many new perspectives in life, and I hope those things will make myself as a better person than before.
Post written by Reski Puspitasari A. Sululing, CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia
Vienna, VA – I, with other CCI fellows, joined a volunteerism activity in Oktoberfest 2017 at 243 Church St NW (10/7). The location was about one hour driving from my home in Alexandria to the festival area in Vienna. Arriving in the location, people had been crowded in every spots in the festival. The festival were placed in several blocks and blocked the street from any traffic, letting people from all over the towns, even out of states, come and enjoy things offered in the festival. There were many things to see: art exhibition, Vienna’s Little Library 120th Anniversary, music concert, Musical Theater Performance, culinary, and, the main destination, beer festival.
All across the street, there were lots of tents erected line by line displaying artistic pieces by the local artists. One exhibition tent that interested me was decorated as Abraham Lincoln all-abouts. Visitors could find T-shirts, cups, flutter flags, name board, and other furniture that had the sign of one of the most influential US Presidents. So far, every place I visited always reflects the spirit of Abraham Lincoln in many forms like statue, furniture, and poster. I can say he is everywhere in US and becomes the spirit of Americans.
One of my favorite parts as well as the most special one at the time was the Vienna’s Little Library 120th Anniversary which has served literature needs of the Vienna people since 1897. They were holding book exhibition. I felt so much blessed when I found that I could find and buy my favorite books for only 50 cent for each. Not only old interesting books, there were many other impressive contemporary novels and other books from different genres like psychology, philosophy, history and many more offered with very low price. Besides, they also conducted a special book talk by local writers in the next week which I unluckily could not manage to attend. However I could follow up the event in their social media account. I found that all events are easily accessible through social media.
Beside of the exhibition, there were also music concert and musical theatre that added more options to visit in the Vienna Oktoberfest 2017. In front of the stage, all audiences from the elders to the youngers, all mixed-race Americans were dancing together enjoying songs sang by the musicians whose songs enabled everyone to move from their seat to the stage to join the dance. Other than that, visitors also were able to watch drama theater which was full of musical Disney instrument. The performance was Peter Pan story. It was very impressive and successfully brought all audiences’ mind to the dream land, especially, the children. I could still feel how happy the children watching the drama directly on the stage, instead of their TV Screen.
I volunteered in handing wristband to the visitors to get the beer by screening their ID card. It was not literally an easy job. The wristband marked them to be over 21 years old as the official requirement for US people to drink alcohol. If any of them below 21 wearing the band was inspected by the police to drink beer, my fellow volunteers and I would be of course responsible. However we managed to complete our works well since nobody was found to be so. It was fun to meet and serve people who were very excited to enjoy their beer. The funny part was when an old men came to ask their wristband and I was insisted to ask for their ID card to make sure he was over 21 years old. He asked, “is it not clearly visible for you that I am old enough for the beer, young man?”. Then I replayed, “as today you just never looked younger than before, Sir,” and we both were laughing. Many people were very pleasant for a conversation and it gave me more chances to directly learn American culture by doing my task as an age screener.
Having successfully conducted for ten years in a row, this festival not only purposes as an annual event where people can meet each other in weekend and have fun with exhibitions, concerts, and other entertainments offered, the event also raises money for the local charity that works for homeless, orphan children, and other people in need. Therefore I could meet many local people devoting their time as volunteers to serve the visitors. In that point, I find it as a traditional value of Americans in devoting themselves to serve their community in volunteerism.
Post written by Muhammad Arham, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia
The visit to one of the most iconic house in the United States – the house of the George Washington the first president of the United States –11 states to be exact was one of the memorable activities we did together as the NOVA CCI Cohort. As the cohort we filled up the vans and travelled to the Mount Vernon, the George Washington Estate. When we arrived we were struck by how huge the estate is and how beautiful it is. After getting our tickets we proceeded right inside the Estate and our tour began.
It began first by watching a short film about the life of Colonel Washington and the history of his bravery and impeccable leadership. After that we went to visit his mansion. Inside the mansion we got an opportunity to visit most of the rooms – the one that stood out was the green room which is the biggest in the mansion. It has been restored to what it was after the death of President Washington. It’s called the green room because most of the walls are painted in green which was a rare colour during his time and we saw his mirror and all of the paintings he had acquired. Then we proceeded to other rooms which are still kept in their original look – this was just only the first floor. Up the stairs we went to the second floor and we saw all the bedrooms and how things were kept in the bedrooms was mesmerizing.
After the tour of the house we went to see the slave quarters – who would have thought that the beacon of liberty owned slaves. The quarters are being kept to their original look even though they are not the true reflection of what the living conditions of Washington slaves were. The quarters were cramped and crowded. They were not conducive for human occupation. Our coordinators Kelly and Kate tried to explain the dilemma that was faced by Washington on the issue of slave ownership. Thus revealing the flawed aspect of his character.
After the slave quarters we visited the Washington education centre which is like a mini museum and it housed every memorabilia of the great George Washington. We saw many items that belonged to him including his gun, sword, dentures, military regalia and etc. then we went to see the Potomac River which has gorgeous scenery and soothing view. And then we proceeded to visit his tomb – in his will he had commanded that he be buried in his estate. And then we went to visit the monument of remembrance for the slaves that toiled for the Washington family. There are no distinctive graves for the slaves just one huge monument.
Virginia is a beautiful state and this beauty is exquisitely exposed at the Mount Vernon estate – this compelled us to capture all the memories and we had FUN. A wonderful trip ended at 3 o clock pm. We went back with more questions.
Post written by Maria Eiman, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from Pakistan
Three Months… Wow… It’s incredible how time flies… There are no words that can explain how I feel at this moment. It seems like I arrived yesterday at an airport of a foreign country, I was really nervous and just thinking “this is the moment to show how good my English is” I still remember how scared I was, it is my first time out of my country and I was alone.
When I arrived to my final destination, Virginia, and I saw Kate with a big smile waiting for me at the airport, it was so heartwarming. It made me feel so good, I start realizing that I was about to start a new life, I still remember that I was amazed, it was like a dream, I was feeling a mixture of inexplicable feelings. Then the first two people I met on the program arrived, Mamello and Vuyani… Wow… It was something crazy, although they were coming from a really long fly, they were smiling, and was as happy as usual. They greeted me as if we have been friends for a long time while we haven’t even talk before; that was the same with all the other CCI participants, they all received me with a smile that makes me feeling at ease. They showed me that I came to my new home.
Now it´s been three months… Three months full of wonderful experiences, where I have learned to appreciate the smallest details of every day. Thanks to all the volunteer activities I have done, I know how good you can feel when you do something good for someone else without waiting for something back. Definitely a warm smile can make you totally change your mood. I have also enjoyed the tours and the tourism around the DC area. The places are so amazing; seeing all those places makes me realizing that there is much more to see, to know, to discover…The world is big and the life is too short, our stay in United States as well yet sometimes we are losing time staying in our beds while we should go out and discover and learn new things. By doing so we will be well immerse in the US culture. It will also be an occasion for us to share ours the others. We must give the importance that Time have. We have some objectives here, if we don’t move on we will never reach our goals. Opportunities are around us and we need to find them.
It is pretty cool to know more about American culture and their history. I’m learning a lot about Americans, it is really nice to see how proud they are of their country and their culture and we can notice it with all those places we visited such as the capitol and the Senate. There are no word that can describe those buildings they are just marvelous; the art printed on the walls and the roofs is just incredible almost like magic, it is incredible how much they can transmit. Those buildings are just awesome! Another wonderful place is the Mount Vernon far from all civilization and monuments that we are now discovering, it relates the history of George Washington’s family and house which is pretty cool and interesting. I definitely enjoyed the landscape, the Potomac river with all those threes changing their colors and the sun shining in the sky it was just like a perfect painting. So relaxing it is incredible how this place can transmit a feeling of peace.
My experience on the program is wonderful so far, it teaches me how to appreciate little things I have and previously overlooked, because today I’m not the same person I was yesterday; I’m sure I am not the same I will be tomorrow, this experience is teaching me to be more open minded, to go beyond prejudices and not to judge without knowing first. CCI teaches me that family is not just blood and even though we are so different we will always have a common thing, after all, before being from different countries, with different cultures, first, we are humans and we are from the world and now we are a family, because despite differences, discussions and cultural shocks, when someone needs something everyone is there, as the family now we are, because CCI teach us that everything goes beyond a culture, a religion or a skin color, we are all people who dream, and we are here following our dreams and that is what put us together, what make us stronger, because we are many but at the same time we are just one.
Three months may look like is not too much time, however it is a lot when I look back. I can notice how much we have experienced and lived during these few months, and it’s now that I can understand the real value of time. We are walking a path full of learning, it’s like that I can describe CCI, a path of learning, where we not only just grow as professionals but also as persons, because every day is a new step, a different adventure, a new world, and in each world, there is something new to learn, something new to discover.
Written by Camila Colorado Garcia, 2017-2018 NOVA Alexandria Participant
The annual Turkish festival for the 2017 fall season was a blast! The Nova CCI cohort was part of this amazing experience. I was designated to the kids tent which was exciting because I love children. The general atmosphere was awesome – there were a lot of people at the festival and I could assume that the most of them were Turkish, even the music that was playing was from turkey. After been at the kids tent I went to help at the coffee tent- I served the best Turkish coffee there is, and how do I know this? The smiles of the people who drank it.
In the kids tent I taught the kids how to make beads and taught them how to paint pictures, the parents of the kids also participated in beads making. One thing that I like about kids is the energy they bring to any situation, they have a unique perspective on how things work. I spent most of my time in the kids tent- I did two shifts with the kids and my last two shift were in the coffee tent. The activities I performed in the coffee tent was to take orders then rush to serve coffee – it was a fun activity since I had never done anything of this nature before.
I started my volunteering from 10:00am until 09:00pm, the day of the festival was on the 23 September 2017. One important thing I learned is that culture is vital and it rests upon the people of that culture to conserve it. The tolerance that is practiced in the United States is astonishing, It is not every country that allows people to bring their own cultures to their countries. If there is one thing that the U.S stands for is self-determination of different people within the American society.
My experience has been great ever since I came to America. I have cherished the ideals that make the country tick. Every heartbeat of America is supported by volunteers and had working individuals who are truly patriotic.
Post written by Anjum Begum, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India
The NOVA CCI cohort visited the senate building and the U.S capitol and the 09/28/2017 a day many would cherish forever. The visit was spectacular in a sense that we got to learn about the U.S history while at the same time exploring the architectural beauty of the American sit of government. We got to see the dome of the capitol from the inside and it was a sight to behold. To every American the capitol represents liberty which is the concept that the United States was founded on, but one point that stood out for me as the author of this piece is that even though liberty was debated in the building, it was built by the struggle and sweat of enslaved African-American. It is a building that has shaped the history of America and represents the achievements and failures of United States American while at the same time protecting the democracy of the country and the freedom of the American citizens.
The day started with the visit to the senator of Virginia Mr. Kaine who was not present and we met his Legislative Coorespondents that listened to our stories regarding our experience about America. It was a healthy exercise as far as I am concerned – we gave out stories about America from a foreign perspective which is flawed for everything we said about America we were comparing it to our countries and somehow we bashed our own nations and propelled America into a podium of perfection. This perspective is I believe very superficial and it is dangerous for it hides the problems and challenges that America is confronted with. Foreigners should be as honest and as sincere about the experiences they have in America as possible. I am not judging anyone’s analysis and experience of America, I am only challenging the sugar-coating the takes place when foreigners talk about their experiences. I understand some believe in the expression that says do not bite the hand that feeds you. But these individuals fail to realize if you do not bite the hand, you might not get to receive better food than what you are receiving.
After we bought our lunch at the senate building we went to the capitol building. The most spectacular building in Washington, DC. It stands supreme with its pure white color as there is no building that is taller than it in DC. It is an iconic and historic building and to know more about it you have to get inside. There is a wealth of knowledge inside the capitol and it preserves history – history is preserved in lime stone and bronze inside the capitol – Jackson, Regan, Martin Luther king and many more American historic leaders. The capitol has captured every essence of America and it stands proud and tall as it is the furnace that keeps the democracy of the United States and the liberty of its citizen boiling in comfort. The U.S capitol is the freedom building of the nation and it has ensured the descendants of African-America slaves who provided free labor in the construction of the buildings and the descendants of the White Masters to live in harmony without the oppression of one another.
Inside the building there is the library of congress, it houses research papers that are very rare and it also houses the books that belonged to the founding fathers of America. The painting on the ceiling is very captivating. Every effort has been taken to ensure that the history of each president and senators who have served with high distinction is preserved and their stories be told to all who care to listen. For the CCI participants the visit was more than seeing the statues of died white men but it was about seeing the building that runs the affairs of America – the building that is more prestigious that the white house if one also takes in consideration what is happening with the current president of the United States.
What I learned from the visit is that freedom is not given it is demanded and the one who has the highest moral position no matter how weak he/she is they will prevail. That’s why the confederate lost the war and union won during the American civil war and while the U.S capitol was nearing its final construction phase.
Post written by Vuyani Maduna, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from South Africa
Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students