Category Archives: Impact

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.

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. 

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

Climate

Sled dogs run through meltwater in north-western Greenland. STEFFEN M OLSEN VIA TWITTER / DANISH METEOROLOGICAL INSTITUTE

We all hate the fact that the weather is getting warmer, that the food we love to eat is scarcely available, that many parts of the world have limited to no access to clean water.

This note, coming from a fellow human, who has seen the deadly consequences of Climate Change first-hand, is quite underwhelming. From multiple cyclones to a major flooding event to a really bad drought, I have seen them all within a disturbingly small period of 4-5 years.

Climate Change is a big deal for me, as it should be for everyone else. This is because, the proper functioning of the Planet matters more than anything, as it is the primary reason of survival of whatever that is standing, sitting, jumping, walking, crawling, etc., on this magnificent mass of ice, water, air, and land. Without which, nothing will exist.

There’s a lot more to this. We don’t have to do something significant, just changing the way in which we do a couple of small things can make a major difference. Never think that you are too small to make a difference.

As CCI participants, there’s a certain amount of responsibility on our shoulders. We are the ambassadors of our country and are an example to all those that are directly impacted by us.

Some of the ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint are, taking a reusable steel water bottle when we go out, using reusable bags to buy groceries, taking a small towel or handkerchief so that we don’t have to use paper towels, eat less meat whenever possible, taking a short shower, and the list goes on.

I want to use this opportunity to learn more about the effects of Climate Change and how to combat the same in the US and beyond. There is so much of exposure in this country, which I wish to take advantage of. I would also like to share my experiences and thoughts with the fellow participants and whoever my path crosses with.

A lot of organizations in the US encourage the general public and the students like us to engage in both volunteering activities and internships to work alongside them to combat this major issue. There is umpteen amount of opportunities around us, we just have to keep our eyes open and our ears sharp enough.

As an individual, we can create an action plan to reduce our carbon footprint slowly, but steadily. For example, we can start reducing the amount of single-use plastics that we buy, use, and throw away in an instant. Every single contribution towards the greater good helps the Planet.

More than helping the planet, you are helping yourself first – to become a more responsible and a conscientious human being.

When I return back to my country, after this year of study in the United States, I wish to use all that I have learnt from my experiences and contribute towards achieving a greener and sustainable future by collaborating with many of the different organizations who are working towards the same unified goal.

As my major is Business and Entrepreneurship, my future plan is to start a business, a very sustainable one at that, to go along with my beliefs. I want to be an example to the rest of them, who say that sustainable practices and profits do not go along well with each other, by proving otherwise.

It does sound like a big dream, but what value does it hold if it is not so. So, I encourage every single one of you, who is reading this entry, to have big dreams and work towards them without compromising on your values midway for temporary and materialistic results. Have an insanely good life, full of positivity and success!

Participants get vocal during a global climate change action strike on Sept. 20 in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. They are demanding that the German government and corporations take a fast-track policy towards lowering CO2 emissions and combating global warming.

(Photo: Maja Hitij / Getty Images)

Some of the other quotes that I’d like to share,

“It’s Never Too Late”

“Care about the Planet as much as you Care about who you Believe Created it”

“Don’t be a Fossil Fool”

“Winter is not Coming Anymore”

“There is no Plan(et) B”

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/climate-change/

https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

https://www.ipcc.ch/

https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/climate-change-evidence-causes/basics-of-climate-change/

A note by,

Aswin Raghav Rengarajan (CCI Participant – India – 2019/20)

 

An Open Letter to All CCI Alumni

Hey everyone, this is Marlin Estevez, a CCI Alumni from the Dominican Republic. I was part of the 2018-2019 generation of the CCI Program. Today, I am writing an open letter to every CCI Alumni across the world, because I feel there are some issues that needs to be addressed.

Although, I’ve been wanting to write this letter since the first week back in my country, I wanted to make sure I gave myself enough time to experience the whole cultural shock, so that I can be more objective and write something that bring value to your life and this new path you are taking now that you are back in your country of origin.

Here’s what this is about:   CCI you are a seed, you will blossom not matter the place or the circumstances.

It has come to my attention that some of my CCI friends and myself included have experience what it’s like to feel that you don’t belong anywhere once you return to your country. You get to miss your friends like never before, even the ones you didn’t spend much time with, but somehow everyone became part of your family.

CCI Cohorts and Lieutenant John Weinstein from 2018-2019 at the beginning of their year.

You also have a hard time defining thing like Happiness and home. On top of that, you struggle with readjusting to how thing work in your country, the things that aren’t that well accepted in your society, the lack of tolerance or respect towards everyone’s right to choose how they live their life, make decisions and what they stand for.

Sometimes (and I am going to be realistic here) you even wonder if you should settle and act like everyone else (been there done that), so that you don’t feel pressured because you think, and perceive life different than everyone else.

CCI Participants with Sarah Yirenkyi and Kelly Forbes during Spring Break

Here’s my point, that happens to you, because YOU ARE DIFFERENT. You experienced almost a year in a society that taught you to be independent, bold, to set clear goals and make sacrifices to achieve them. You proved yourself what you are capable of. You let go of fears, insecurities, a fixed mindset, assumptions and everything that was keeping you down.

I am not saying being back is going to be easy, I am just reminding you how capable you are of achieving anything you set your mind to. Don’t settle, don’t give up and don’t you dare to forget how special you are. And if you do, remember you were chosen among many other people around the world to be part of a program such as the Community College Initiative Program, which means, everyone involved in taking that decision thinks there’s something SPECIAL about you, so why wouldn’t you think that way about yourself too?

Marlin back in the Dominican Republic with some of her CCI peers and her sister

Here’s some of the things you can do when you need some motivation:

  • Sit down and think of what makes you happy or whatever goal you want to achieve and build a MoodBoard (also called Vision Board) and paste it somewhere you can see it every day.
  • Break down your goals, what is that that you want? What steps can you take RIGHT NOW? Set due dates and start step by step. Think of each day as if that’s the only one that matters, but don’t forget your vision.
  • Connect with other CCI Alumni, ask for advices, email some of your professors if needed or the CCI Staff and coordinators. I assure you, they want to hear from you, and they can keep adding value to your life from distance.
  • Find a way to release stress, whether it is by doing some exercise, going to a park or Facetiming with your International Friends.
Marlin and her mom

Finally, I want to say goodbye with something Leeza Fernand told me once during my CCI year “People say they will do many things, but only a few take action”   

Be one of those that act and remember, if you need someone to talk to, you can count on your CCI Fam.

  • Marlin