Category Archives: Current Student

The Desirable Hunger

img_1742We are in the same program, boarded planes from all ends of the world to one common ground – Alexandria, VA. The mission of the program is to exchange cultures and create mutual understanding, but will that happen in the same order for all of us and will we fulfill that mission? Well, we all wrote seven long essays of why we deserved this opportunity over other applicants, but is that what won us the spot in this program? Hunger won. Our hunger to bring change into our communities gave us this opportunity, our hunger to further our studies won us this standing and our hunger to be better than we were when we wrote those essays, went to those interviews and writing those English tests made us deserving.

I’ve spent the last two and half months going to school, learning my way around this town, and the biggest thing I’ve realized here is that my hunger gets bigger and stronger by the day. Each morning I lay awake before my shower just thinking of all the things I will plant back into my community when  I go home; but then I stop myself because I don’t want to miss the joys of the present situation while forecasting. Hunger does that, it makes you yearn for the food you yet haven’t finished preparing but you can already smell it and get goose-bums at the thought.

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My hunger is pushing me out of my comfort zone and challenges me to think of bigger things that I know I wouldn’t have, had I let this opportunity pass me by. Let your hunger be a desirable one that encourages you to do good academically,  that allows you to experience life in Alexandria and let it drive you not to the grocery store only, but to places where your intelligence and capabilities will plant seeds of progress and humanity. We are not only here to further our studies, eat a lot of food, buy Apple gadgets or to travel around America or even to catch the accent- we are here to leave a print, a remarkable print. My hunger is my muse, what is your hunger?

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Post written by Millicent Mabotha, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, South Africa

Why should I volunteer?

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A group photo with Shaheen Scout. July 2014

I belong to a country where community is defined as the religious group with whom I share my beliefs and religious practices. In my community we have a structure of serving community under a volunteer setup. For example, if we have doctors, occasionally they provide services frees of cost or with minimal charges, if someone is a teacher, he/she will be voluntarily serving in any community institution, likewise all the people in the community have a kind of volunteer responsibility which is kind of mandatory to serve and I believe that, it is the back bone of my community development.

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Group Scout Leader, Village Nomal, GB, Pakistan

Generally we think like what can we do, how can I serve my community, how can I be part of a worthy cause? Being a young student, having no professional experience, guess what could I do for my community? Believe me; I had much more opportunities to serve my community than any professional person because, volunteer services need time commitment and dedication. Since childhood I remained associated with different organizations with different responsibilities like, Group Scout Leader, Finance Secretary with a welfare Organization, As a Teacher in religious institution, Member of wheel chair committee, Administrator of JDC an Institution and member of Aga Khan Economic Planning local Board Gilgit.

In my educational career, I always remained an average student but today I am a participant of Community College Initiative program among 40 students of Pakistan. Till now it is one of the highest achievements in my career and this would never have happened without the skills I have gained from volunteer services.

Although with busy life it is difficult to manage time, but if you spare a short span of time for volunteering, you may have a greater impact on your personal life, professional life and your community. It is the best way to gain experience, enhancing interpersonal skills; it gives you a sense of accomplishment, an opportunity to interact with diverse group of people, an opportunity for selection of right career path and much more…

To begin with, Volunteering is a great opportunity to gain interpersonal skills like, being a good listener, a good communicator, responsiveness, promoting togetherness and settling disputes etc.

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9-11 Day of Service, photo by Caitlin Sanders, SCA

Secondly, volunteering is a platform where we can learn new things through participating in different events. While serving as volunteer we get involve in social, technical, funny and academic activities. Participation in event like Park cleaning, fund raising campaign and art exhibitions gave me an insight about these fields, which I could never learn in my routine classes.

Next, working for long hours, studying, assignments and other activities sometime makes us stressful. We can find such volunteer activities related to our own interest where we can have fun and enjoy, which may have a positive impact on our health.

Subsequently, I have handled a lot of tasks back in my own country but cleaning a pond in a park and controlling traffic in an event was something new and  interesting for me. Handling task smoothly in timely manners make us responsible and it gives us confidence to do something more.

Afterwards, networking is one of the most essential requirements for entrepreneurship minded people and nowadays finding a better job is all about networking. Volunteering lets you expand your relationships with other businesses and people with similar interests which can help you in finding better jobs.

Another main thing, volunteering is an opportunity to make choices from different professional fields, while participating in different events; you can select an interesting career field. Being student of economics I was planning to work in banking sector but my volunteer association with Aga Khan Economic planning board inspired me to think about entrepreneurship. During my services more than 10 families successfully initiated their own businesses which gave me a motivation to think beyond what I was imagining about my career and these were the experiences which linked me with such a wonderful international exchange program like the CCI Program, which is like a full package of experiential learning, theoretical studies, motivation and exposure visits.

Yet another important aspect of volunteering is meeting with diverse groups of people, for me it is a hobby; I enjoy participating in volunteer services because I love meeting new people and learning new things every day.

“Diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity”, HH Aga Khan”.

Volunteering is the best way to find people from different social backgrounds, cultures, food, experiences and ideas and only through mutual understanding we can bring peace in the world.

Finally, happiness and satisfaction cannot be purchased no matter how rich you are. The feelings cannot be compared to something else which we get after supporting a needy person.

In the end, I will conclude my writing with a beautiful quote by “Bob Marley,

“Live for your-self, you live in vain. Live for others, you will live again”.

Therefore I will recommend everyone to be a part of this worthy cause, which can help you being a successful person, helping you in living a happy, healthy and a meaningful life.

Post written by Naik Alam, CCI participant at NOVA, 2016-2017, Pakistan

The Girls Govern Town Hall Conference

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On the 14th of September 2016 I attended the Girls Govern Town Hall conference at George Washington University. The #GirlsGovern Town Hall conference concentrated on giving young ladies an opportunity to debate and discuss issues that matter to their generation while also inspiring and uplifting one another. It provided girls with an opportunity to act as moderators under the guidance of professional journalists, and up-and-coming young women in media and politics.

Attending this showed me the importance of uplifting each other as females instead of breaking one another down. My fellow attendees and I were embraced by the presence of ladies who are not afraid of rising up to challenge and and taking up leadership roles. Hearing a young 13 year tell us her story of how she gained the confidence to say enough is enough, and how she learned that she has the ability and skills to lead others successfully was refreshing and amazing.

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We were also embraced by the presence of the Ashlee Wilson Hawn, the founder and CEO of Red Cycle and Boss Babe Body. She started her organization which aims to supply young ladies with free sanitary pads; when she was down and out. I was amazed to see that the sanitary pad struggle is not only in my country South Africa, but that it’s an international crisis. The ladies speech inspires me to want to do more for ladies of my generation and by doing that I also will be inspiring other to help more and be more involved.

One of my favourite speakers of the day was Allyson Carpenter, an AAUW Alum/ Student Body President (D.C Elected Office)  from Howard University. She was my favorite because she explained how she ran for the Student Body President at Howard University while she was studying abroad at the UK (United Kingdom) on a scholarship. She mentioned how she used to hide behind her male friends by pushing them to lead while she would operate in the background and coach them because she didn’t believe that a woman’s place is in the front line.

Attending the conference has opened my eyes to so many things. It inspires me to take the lead and make a difference. If I don’t say enough is enough and do something about the lack of female leaders in my industry and community, I will be saying to my siblings and all the other ladies that it’s okay to hide behind a man.

It’s time to take a stand.

Post written by Kgaogelo Mbewe, CCI participant at NOVA, 2016-2017, South Africa

The Walker Soul

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Battuta. My name is Vanesa de la Cruz and I am a walker soul.

I feel amazed by meeting new people, finding new souls in the way, discovering beautiful -and not that beautiful- places, immersing in different cultures… I like to see the sky from a new land every day.

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Photo by Moises Gomez

Although I have lived my whole life in the same house in one of the
humblest neighborhoods of the city, I never let the money to stop me from making my dreams come true. And my dream has always been to travel all around the world. Now, I can say that I am not a citizen of Medellin, Colombia, because today I have decided to be a citizen of the world.

And traveling is not only about going to new places every day. Traveling is about meeting new people in each occasion you have: talking with a new person in the bus, listening to someone’s ideas, reading somebody’s words… It is about going to some different place every day -it can be a new neighborhood in your city or another country in the other side of the world-.

For me, traveling is about learning. Because the world is so big and full of people living different realities. It is about understanding other people’s traditions, cultures and behaviors. It is about seeing the beauty in the diversity. It is about having an open mind (the larger it is, the most knowledge and experiences you can keep), because close minds do not allow the wonder of the world to come in.

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Photo by Cessy Anakay

I just started a new journey, the biggest in my life until this moment. The 18th of July I moved to Virginia, United States, to study during 10 months in a Community College.

This opportunity is bigger than studying. I am living away from home, without my family, with people from 11 different countries of the world. I am not only learning about United States culture, but also about Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Ghana, South Africa, Cote d’Ivore, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Yemen and Turkey.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the
religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener. This is what I keep telling myself every day since I came here. Because I also came to learn about myself. I am discovering new version of me, new behaviors, passions and likes. And I am obtaining abilities and skills during this process. It is not only abou
t independence, it is about mutual understanding, about being in the other’s position, about respecting and accepting the difference and finding the beauty in the diversity. This is all about making a better world, full of love, understanding and colors.vanesa-blog-post-1

Until today, I already ate rice with my hands (as Indians, Pakistanis, Indonesians and Africans do), I discovered that I like spices, I danced the typical dance of every country in the program, I celebrated 4 different independences, and day after day, I keep learning about my friends (who I can call today family), their traditions, behaviors and ways to live and love. It has been only two months, but I already feel complete and blessed for this opportunity that is changing our lives and our ways to see the world, forever. And, of course, sometimes it is really hard to understand why some of them act in a certain way and why the others do not; why they think like that; why they do not understand me and my culture. But we are all working together to make this work and it is actually working.

The Community College Initiative Program is incredibly hard, but it is totally worth it.

This post written by Vanesa de la Cruz, CCI participant at NOVA, 2016-17, Colombia