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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

Is it really easy to travel alone?

by Rashi Saini

I had no answer till October 2019. All of my peers were planning to travel during winter break and I kept thinking that I will join somebody’s trip. I never thought about travelling alone in the United States. Sometimes, I think it was that the real problem or I never wanted to be alone in my life. I kept checking places but could not decide to go anywhere. One day after the class, I was writing a
reflection and realized that I am in the United States. It was just a thought that wanted to realize that I am here to break my stereotypes and get out of my comfort zone.

In front of the Liberty Bell in Philidelphia, PA

My thoughts kept going but I did not get the courage to make a decision to go. One day Leeza Fernand came to our CSI class and when she was explaining about the Russian doll, something was happening with me. The last thing she said was to go to other places in the United States and experience the culture of different parts. Try to go to other CCI places and experience how their life
is different than you. It was like an encouragement for me and I started looking for places to visit.

One day one of my CCI friends asked me to join him for New Orleans. I did not know anything about the place but I wanted to go, so I accepted the offer. He had some more plans after New Orleans and I wanted to break my limits too so, I did not join him for the whole winter break. I made a plan for Houston to experience the warm weather in December with other CCI people. My travels did not end in Houston. I did plan for Denver, Colorado as I love mountains and snow.

Finally the day came we went together and then me and my CCI friend had different destinations. I went to Houston and everything was going well until I reached Colorado. I reached Colorado on Christmas eve and waited at the airport till morning. I went to a place where I booked my stay and unfortunately, they cancelled my stay on the spot and that made me panic. There was no signal in my mobile to call someone, transportation was less, and no people on the road or surrounding to get help. Finally, I got a room for a night but I panicked due to the stress of no stay for the next 4 days, high altitude, time and distance. All of these factors made me restless, panic. I kept finding the place to stay for the whole night and finally my winter break ended up by booking tickets for DC.

My traveling has not finished yet, I was demotivated after coming back but I kept reflecting back and made a plan to go to Philadelphia and Boston to get courage again to go alone. These both travel were
long journeys. Philadelphia took 4 hours to reach and Boston took 10 hours traveling but I made it. I have been to 12 states in the USA. If I would not get encouraged by Leeza Fernand or my CCI friend, I
wouldn’t be able to achieve my dreams to travel to my favorite places.

Antelope Canyon: Beauty of Colors

Wow! amazing! I toured the Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona! It was quite a wonderful experience!.

Thanks to Mid-Year Retreat and Pathway to Success Program offered by CCI Consortium and the U.S Department of State, the six-day long Arizona tour becomes greatly remarkable with all high standard workshops again memorable with all these amazing landscapes.

The program includes touring four of the top-rated tourist spots-Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Cathedral Rock and Grand Canyon.

Lake Powell Reservoir, one of the premier boating destinations in the world, was right next to our first resort. I did not miss a single chance to appreciate its prepossessing beauty every moment I stayed there.

Roads in Arizona offer so scenic riding opportunities that you feel yourself lucky enough having a window seat in bus. But here today I write about my experience in Antelope Canyon.

It was astounding to see the beauty created by the force of flash floods and howling winds through the Canyon. Truly, I was immensely impressed.

Our guide made our whole experience so enjoyable, it wouldn’t have been the same without her guidance.
She showed us the many special sculptures within the Canyon created by nature itself. She sincerely helped us to capture the beautiful images perfectly on our camera.

Masud at the entrance of Antelope Canyon

I attended the lower canyon tour Tuesday, January 8, 2019. We took a jeep driven by our guide to get in the destination.
It was a sunny and beautiful day with no snow or rain.

At the entrance of the canyon our tour guide excellently provided a ton of information and details, not only about the canyon itself and how it was discovered and formed, but also the surrounding areas.

A canyon view close to the entrance

Once you have entered the canyon, the walk through the narrow passageways makes you feel thrilled. The place seemed to be dark at the beginning of the walk as the eyes take some time to adjust to rather dim lighting levels.

But after a while you find that all the canyons were always open to the sky and there is enough light to see the passage. The walks through the canyons were not very long or difficult.

It was amusing to witness inside the canyon what wind and water can do to rock.
The canyon and their walls have been carved very smoothly. We explored it and walked through them comfortably.
My friends and I really love what nature has done to these landscapes.

The guide is a skilled photographer and knows all about camera and Android/Apple phones. She captured awesome photos of ours and various sections in the canyon from different angels and taught us the perfect ways for capturing photos there. 
I learn from her that first and foremost task is to make some vital adjustments to camera settings before the click.

Looking up from the bottom of Antelope Canyon

The location really is a photographic gem. The texture on the walls of this natural canyon is incredible. 
A photo titled “Phantom” taken here by Landscape photographer Peter Lik was sold for $6.5 million to a private collector in November 2014.

The last part is walking back to the plain land to get in the vans to return us to our tour buses. She said “No more photos in way back. We now see it for ourselves”.

Another charm was there the route between mountains as they are everywhere in Arizona.
The hills were covered by the snow that turns them looking huge pile of white snow from some angels.

I believe the canyon is truly one of God’s finest creations! The tour was unbelievable. Our tour guide (wish I could remember her name) provided us with excellent narration and a rich history of the canyon.

Some of the “sculptures” created by the wind in Antelope Canyon

I consider this as one of the MOST enjoyable tour I have made so far.

Post written by Md Masud  from Bangladesh, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria.

My Amazing Experience in the U.S.

The beginning of 2018 was a joyous one for me. I got selected for an exchange program United States of America. The Community College Initiative program enables you to study in a community college, exchange your culture as well as learn American culture. These participants are from 12 different countries. Seven months later my dream to come in America came true. During the first few days I saw how beautiful the places are and the diversity showed at this area. I did not know that my stay in the United States will be beyond my expectation and change my life. The most amazing things begun when I started school at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Annandale. The education system in this country is far different from my home country. NOVA is full of diversity as a result of the numerous international students here. People here are respectful about all cultures. In addition, the technology use here in this country is higher than in my country, as all the classes here are linked to the internet and it makes learning fun and easy. At the beginning I was having problem on how to use the ‘Blackboard’ system, after using it for a few times I was able to handle it well. The most interesting thing in the American education system especially on campuses is the involvement of students in clubs, associations and activities held on campus. Students also make use of all the resources available for use for your classes. However, the main thing that amazed me a lot is the respect of time by professors and their availability for each student on campus. After finishing the fall semester, I can say I really enjoy my study in one of the best colleges in the United States.

Another one of my experience in this country is the commitment for that people have for their communities. In fact, volunteerism is one of the big essences of American culture. Here, everyone is involved in all community activities for the welfare of everybody. This made me understood the meaning of volunteering. One of my greatest volunteering moments was when I volunteered at the ‘Presidential Park’ at the White House. It was a good moment and an honor to be part of the volunteers for the ‘Fall Garden Tour 2018’. I never believed that one day in my life, I will be so close to this famous place through volunteering.

Another volunteering experience is that at the ‘Lincolnia Senior Center. It is a care center for aged people. When I started over there, I was a little bit skeptical about being with them and I was also sad to see them like this. After spending close to a week, I started getting used to them and helped them as much as I can. The Managers, employers and the residents there are really nice to us the volunteers, and I feel welcomed to be among them. My experience with the Lincolnia Senior Center and the other volunteering activities made me understand from that moment that when I volunteer, I know who I am and what the other people are expecting from me in order to contribute my part in the community.

Williams with Malikah, volunteer coordinator at the Lincolnia Senior Center

To conclude, I would like also to share more about my recent Internship experience. Effectively I started my first internship as a Social Media Manager in the U.S with a company called ‘MyBook’. They specialize in buying and selling books to students. Truth be told, I was anxious on my first day. Not only because the system is something totally new for me, but also because I did not have much experience in that field of study. However, I did not experience what I thought prior to my first day. Everything was different from my thoughts. The staff were very kind and collaborative, they appreciated me and gave me tips in order to help me accomplish my assigned tasks on time. Something I still don’t catch well is This simplicity of my teammates and my superiors makes me feel important. This encourages me to be efficient and also to work hard in order to make them proud. I also yearn to learn a lot before going back to my home country and implement that whiles creating my own company.

Internship with My Book

To sum up, after spending close to six months in the United States, and with regards to education, volunteering, and internship experiences I can affirm that the CCI Program is like a book with blank pages where you have to write your own stories or experience by maximizing everything you can grasp and build your own future.

Post written by Ayih Williams Akrong  from Côte d’Ivoire , a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

Volunteering is a way to learn and have fun!

Every person has their own style to learn things. The best way to learn something for me is, directly experiencing the subject; additionally, I care about experience so much. I just need quick brief about the content and I will be read to move on.  Volunteering is one of the best ways for me to learn new things. Moreover, since my field related to communication, I can practice on my field of study a lot! There are volunteering opportunities out there! I believe that everyone can find volunteering related to their major.

When I heard about 100 hours volunteering, I felt really overwhelmed. I though that it was too much and unnecessary work to deal with. If we are not going to earn money, what is going to be our gain? Or, how am I going to find that much opportunity? I was wrong, there were more important goals then earning money? For instance, having fun. I mean LOTS OF FUN! As a Northern Virginia Community College, CCI student my volunteering started with the Around the World Food Festival which I have exchanged a lot of cultures. (You can read more about it: https://blogs.nvcc.edu/ccinova/2018/09/14/around-the-world-cultural-food-festival-iyla-global-summit-world-bank/ )

And then I head on doing fun volunteering and I had fun at the Kite Festival. All day long we tried to fly kites and engaged with another people. I personally, had a chance to talk a lot which was good for my English practice.

I had a chance to feel myself like I am at home, at the Turkish Festival! It is not hard to find opportunities that has similarities to our cultures. I was luck enough to find the Turkish Festival which pleased me a lot. We are missing our homes’ day by day more. This festival refreshed my missing and made me feel so good.

Then I kept enjoying with the Halloween Fest. I was always curious about the Halloween at the USA. I wanted to spend it while doing volunteering, and I really liked it! My duty was helping children to paint a pumpkin which I enjoyed. I loved being with the children at the Halloween party!

I stand for my belief with Northern Virginia Community College Sexual Assault Services. I was trying to make people to paint a t-shirt to attract their attention to sexual assault issue of our worlds’. I was feeling so good to work with this project.

We had a chance to listen TEDx live! Watching the TED Talks through the Youtube was always my passion. I always excited watch about everything. Thanks to my another CCI friend, Dede Defir Firmansah for meeting me this opportunity!

We sang a lots of Christmas songs after cleaning the huge concert hall. Even though I didn’t know most the songs, I tried to keep up with the orchestra. We all were having fun at that moment. In the end of the day my cheeks were aching because of laughing.

We have been doing volunteering since we arrived in the USA. At the beginning of this journal I didn’t realize how it feels. Besides its personal benefits; it feels really good to help other people. Excepting all those thanks in the end of the day make me feel proud of myself. I believe everyone has the same feeling. To feel good, learning too many new things and having fun; we should keep doing volunteering even though we completed the 100 limits. For instance, I am already done with that, but nothing can’t stop me!!

Post written by Emel Eylül Akbörü  from Turkey, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

Life is not a race, but a journey

Life is not a race, but a journey. Make each second of your life worth it.

This is something I learnt during the CCI Program’s retreat. A retreat which helped us focus on the reason why we came to the USA, we, the participants from different countries.

CCI NOVA during Pathways to Success Program

Before coming to this retreat, I was focused on my classes, volunteering, and internship. However, I couldn’t think much further, neither what I will be doing after my CCI Program. Certainly, I will be going back to my life, but I don’t want to become the same after this program.

Being able to use each second of my life to make a better place.

Through this program, I have noticed, I have learned, that the more you give a deeper thinking about each topic, you get to know that these topics are related, linked, and connected to one another. They are like our body. If one single part is not well, all rest of the members are also sick.

Let’s keep in mind that our common goal is to make our world a better place. For that, we need to be together, think together, talk together, share ideas, listen, and understand. We just need to believe in ourselves, so that we can reach the top of the mountain. Let’s believe that we are this little bit of rope that can sustain our world.

Post written by Adjoke Therese Babalola, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Côte d’Ivoire