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

Too Spicy but Yummy

Everybody was ready early in the morning. We dressed up nicely in our traditional clothes, batik. There were five of us, CCI Program 2016 participants from Indonesia, I, Morten, Fina, Tina and Lia.

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CCI NOVA participants from Indonesia: Cessy, Morten, Lia, Fina, and Tina

We stay in Alexandria, Virginia, and we go to Northern Virginia Community College. We live only 30 minutes away from Washington DC where the house of the Ambassador of Indonesia for United States is located. It was August 17th 2016, the Day of Independence of Indonesia, and we were about to go there to join the ceremony and the gathering. It took us 40 minutes to get to the closest metro station and then we had to walk for another 10 minutes to get to the house. We arrived on time and joined the ranks of other Indonesian people immediately. It is pretty rare to meet other Indonesian around the place where we live or even at campus so we were happy to get to meet our people for the perfect reason, to celebrate the Independence Day together. The ceremony was led by the Ambassador of Indonesia, Mr. Budi Bowoleksono. It was nice, the feeling of celebrating Indonesia 71st Independence Day 9730.6 miles away from home but that moment was “home” for me. The people I met were friendly as how Indonesian always be, we even took a group picture with the Ambassador and his wife and they were lovely.

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Group picture with Ambassador of Indonesia, Mr. Budi Bowoleksono and his wife

There was a performance of group consisted of little kids and some older women, they sang all famous Indonesian folklore songs from west to east part of Indonesia. After that, Lia and Fina and some other exchange students from Papua performed a mass dance from their hometown and everybody joined in. It was a lot of fun. Later, we were also invited to join the gathering and my longing of Indonesian food was fulfilled. We were so happy that we got to eat delicious Indonesian food after a month living in USA.

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Cessy

One thing I love about the celebration was the slogan, “Kerja Nyata” or “Real Work” in English. This slogan is proposed by our amazing current president, Mr. Jokowi, to encourage the government with the support of the citizen to start really building our country. Our country has the potential to become a big nation. All resources that we have either natural or human resources, if the government and the people can work together well as a team to support each other, we will surely become one of developed countries in the world like USA or Japan or Singapore. This slogan also reminded me that I could take part in the process of building my country and the people as well to be better. That’s why I am here to study, to gain experience, to expand my network, to improve myself, to learn things that make US a great nation and later when it is time for me to go back home I can apply those things in small steps firstly and hopefully I can be role model for others as well.

On our way home we discussed and decided to host a gathering with other CCI participants in the evening to celebrate with them. We divided the tasks between ourselves, I was in charge for the decoration while my other friends would prepare the food. We informed all of our friends and they were excited to join us. I asked them to wear something in red or white color since our national flag consists of those two colors. Red is the symbol of the bravery of our heroes who fought hard for our independence and white is the symbol of purity of the soul of Indonesian people. These two things, bravery and purity, are believed to complete and to perfect the body and soul of Indonesian people to build the nation. People started coming at 8pm. We had Indonesian food and some American food for our friends who can’t handle the spiciness of our food. Everybody who tasted our food loved it.

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CCI NOVA participants celebrate Indonesia Independence Day

Our friend from Colombia, Vanesa, embraced herself to try our food. After that, she said it was too spicy for her but it was delicious. We were happy that we were able to share with our friends from other countries a little bit of our culture through the food that we prepared, they now know and even experience it themselves how much Indonesian loves spicy food. We also taught them a little bit of our language, Bahasa Indonesia. We made a video and everyone had to say “merdeka, merdeka, merdeka” which means “freedom, freedom, freedom”. Mehedi, CCI grantee from Bangladesh, pronounced it well and passionately. Then we played music to start our favorite part of every gathering we’ve ever organized, dancing. Pew, the Bangladeshi girl, came wearing her traditional dress.

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Pew from Bangladesh

She looked beautiful. She entertained us by showing us how people from her country dance, it was nice. Our friends from India, Raj, Halith and Nime, also led us to dance to Indian song. We danced to almost every songs from every country represented by people in our group like African dancing that includes more legs and bottom part in its movements, Latina dancing which requires you to move your hips and hands more and even Yemen dancing which is done by couples who have to move forward and backward in harmony. Surely, we taught our friends Indonesian mass dance as well, Lia led the group to dance to the song “Poco-poco”. We had so much fun that night. It was great that we got to share more of our culture and also to learn a bit more of our friends’ culture. That night was not only to celebrate our day but also to celebrate the beauty of diversity.

Post written by by Picessylia “Cessy” Anakay, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia

Family and a New Life

What A Family And A New Life We Have.

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From the four corners of the world we gather knowing nothing of what we were about to encounter and yet here we are to make a different. Our journey started from different perspective, different choice, ways and means. Now here is what we are, have, and live now. This program did not give us their way or the highway policy but resilient one for us to do what is necessary for ourselves and the benefit of our motherlands.

Being engulfed by these beautiful, wealthy, hospitable, cherish able, accountable, decisive, and harmonious people in this program and their environment provides a great sense of humanity and prospect. Being living with friends and family from different matrimonial and patrimonial homes and their precious cultures, from different backgrounds, different perspectives, different prospects of stereotypes and with different instinct lifestyle, character, knowledge behavior and mind. We came with different strokes for different folks, dreams, and expectations but in all things, we do not look down on anyone’s life or culture rather working together as people with one dreams, thoughts, ideas, and expectations to make something new, powerful, beneficial and a peaceful life indifferences of who, how, what, and where we are. With our life arguing the toss we made which hinders our potentials and now having a family who knows, feels, and alters everything for our betterment, initiation, encouragement, and the thrills in-dependable of who we are and what we are. These people harness our desire, wishes, thoughts, dreams, and life into a considerable level of safety, love, esteem, and closeness to actualization in referral to Maslow’s Hierarchy. We through our desire to achieve will drove us to the actualization if we continue to hold still.

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In all that we’ve seen, planned, thought, examined, determined, engaged, and engrossed ourselves and dreams, with the new experience and the new realm created is not to make us lay down our culture, life, preferences, etc but before “all entrant must exist the space until reassessment is complete” we can change something in our life. This is meant to polish, restore, smoothens, deepens, motivate, and engage us in our dreams, experiences, and life to impart our communities, societies, country, and the world. This new life is to enlighten and lit our closed and darkened potentials into a steadfast reality and to help lights others potential. Our implementation timeline is much greater and inevitably comparable, and presentable to make a new world for us to discover, innovate, modify our legitimate potentials, abilities, and identities. This program has made us known that “Never shall we change our originality for the sake of others because no one can play our roles better than we can” therefore, our policies has been face/turned about.

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For I believe that at the end of this precious living life of our tenure in this program, when we return, in everything we will hedge our bets quickly and not keeping our options opened. I believe a new life had already started. What is your belief?

Post written by Ebenezer Offei Boadi, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Ghana

My CCI Journey; 12 Countries 1 Family

fazilet-orucSometimes, I want to be a lucky person. Then, I couldn’t believe that 6 months ago I would be able to receive a scholarship to study in the United States of America. Having been offered this good opportunity, I am learning that everything is possible in life, I cannot thank the Turkish Fulbright Program enough. To achieve my career goals it will take 10 months of studying, volunteering and internship. When I landed at the Washington Dulles International Airport I expected to feel the excitement so much because I didn’t want to forget that moment but I could not really feel anything at all; I think I was shocked. When my school coordinator came to pick me up from the airport and drove me to the house I am currently staying in I was very excited. I met my housemates. I figured out that everybody has different accent since we all come from different countries. For the first few weeks I couldn’t understand anything my new friends were saying so I was always carrying around a pen and paper to write the new English words I was learning. I was just listening to conversations between them, asking myself, what does it mean?  What did you mean? How can I say this sentence? When I said a sentence, I would ask, did I say it right? 3 months passed with these questions. By the way, the only thing I can recommend to those who want to join this program is to bring their English to the top level before coming here.  I never give up.  The reason for not giving up is that I want to learn English in the best way and when I return to Turkey, I want to get a very nice job. The other most important thing is that my friends and my school coordinators in the CCI Program are doing their best to help me. All my friends say, “Yes you are doing well now Fazilet and you wıll be doing even better in the next couple of months”, which gives me an incredible feeling. I try to do everything alone but my friends never made me feel like I was alone. To finally be here and have friends who help is something awesome for me. Thank you so much for having such a beautiful family…

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Post written by Fazilet Oruc, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Turkey

This blog post was originally published on Fazilet’s blog

Different Cultures are Beautiful

Different people have different deliberations, beliefs and mindsets. It seems very easy to cope with different mindsets but it actually isn’t that easy. Culture has its own meaning. It’s beautiful, pure and attractive.  I found in some ways that our culture is becoming our comfort zone since that’s how we have been living our life since we were small, that’s how we have been raised by our parents, and that’s what we have seen in our surrounding the whole time. Many of you may not agree with some of other’s particular ways of living or the way they behave because everyone loves their culture and customs and think that’s the best one. Believe me, I do as well.  Therefore, I think living outside your community can teach you more. Experiencing different cultures makes you more open-minded and then you can make the world a better place. You understand better of how others think and why they behave in such different ways than yours. By understanding more and more, we can create peace and make the world a better place to live. Accepting different cultures will not harm you. It will bring the best out of you.

For example, I like Indian culture because I have seen several movies which show their culture very beautifully.  I like the way they celebrate Holi, Diwali, and the way they dress up.  Luckily, one of my housemates is a beautiful Indian girl named Nilofar. I started talking about Indian culture with her since I wanted to know more and even to experience their beautiful ceremonies.  After one month she came to me and said “I don’t like Pakistani people because they are immoral and cruel people, but I found you totally different”. Then she asked me about my country and my culture, she was very eager to know about my culture because whatever was in her mind was not the true picture of my country. I told her the things I know and I showed her several documentaries about my country. I talked about my people and our way of living. We found that media is actually saying different things about our countries that create conflicts between us.

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We break the barrier of hatred and fear because now we know each other better. We share stories, food, laughter, and even sometimes tears. I respect her culture and I experienced more of it by joining her celebrating Durga Puja, Diwali, and Holi.

I also learn how much Indonesians love spicy food, I get to know how Colombians can’t eat spicy food at all, I witness how well African people dance, I love the way Turkish dress so fashionably, I become close friend with my roommate from Bangladesh as well. The more I know them, the more I feel peace and strength in me. It’s not bad to experience different culture and change is a positive thing not negative. Some people see only the outer shell and they never try to give others chance to show the true picture of their life.  Life is beautiful and we can make it more beautiful by understanding each other and respect each other no matter what it is the difference whether in culture, or different religion even different skin color. It’s all about humanity which makes us all alike.

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Post written by Meher Sultana, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Pakistan

We

So here we are! In United States of America! We are from 12 different countries, 32 different individuals, 32 different thoughts came through 1 same program. Yes, we know we are very diverse. We concur we argue; we lose we dream.

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First week at Lake Accotink Park, photo by Moises Gomez

All of us who made it here it was not easy for us to be here. We had gone through a lot in our life or in the past. Some are told some are untold. And some of our story will make you stop breathing! But we are strong, open minded and very much optimistic.  Perhaps the one quality we all have in common is we have the power of adaptability to accept the change. We are adorning our present and future instead of holding the past.

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First trip to Washington, DC

We remember the day we met in July 2016. Some of us traveled for 5 hours and some of us traveled for 45 hours! Physically we felt like we are dying but our hearts on that time were flying beyond the sky! The first day we introduce with each other was through icebreakers game at Annandale campus and what we didn’t realize at that time is the icebreakers was actually started to break the ice of our heart which had shadow of confusion about each other’s culture. Since that day we have started our journey of friendship. CSI class, International Youth Leadership Assembly, U.S Capitol Building, Library of Congress, National Monument, Scavenger Hunt, Great Falls, United Nations’ HeForShe panel discussion, birthday celebration, Accotink park, baseball game, ghost and graveyard tour, ice hockey, pumpkin picking at Cox Farms and so many places we visited together in those four months. Besides we are taking our classes, searching for our internship, volunteering, doing homework, preparing for test, presentations, having sleepless night for group project and working on our action plan. We know it sounds like crazy busy schedule but trust us, every bit of it is worthy.  Maybe the country we are from is one of the least developed country in the world but the potentiality we have is one of the best in the world. So we know how to manage our stress in the workload and that’s why we were chosen.

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Meeting with Mark Sweeney, Legislative Corespondent for Senator Mark Warner

It’s true that in the writing there is so many of we and so many of togetherness but we believe “If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go together”

Post written by Pew Chowdhury, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Bangladesh

My Life in a Year

It all started with a dream to study in USA. A dream to live a student life in the states. CCI has helped me to make this dream true. Started my journey in June 2014 which changed my whole life, my perception towards life and made me emotional too. LOL
I remember myself as a big guy with low confidence and trying to make new friends. Trying to adjust with new people and being over-friendly which led to a lot of misinterpretations about me among people. The only women who was with me as true mentor, a true guardian was Kelly Forbes. ‘’You don’t have to be fake and over-friendly to make friends” her words that changed me. She’s the best gift that USimg_8104A has given me. I can’t forget her early morning messages when I was in Las Vegas “Akhlaq don’t spend all of your money’’ I bet no other coordinator would have been as concerned as she was with me. She pushed me far away from my self-bound limits to be independent and to be responsible. If I really want to describe her in one word she was mother and I’m fortunate to have her in my life as coordinator.

Jaclyn Ruybalid Krueger! The enthusiast coordinator whenever I saw her she was there with that beautiful smile. She always had a positive energy which reflects on her face that can change everyone’s day.

 

In my experimg_8102ience I’ve found many common skills with each CCI participants and I tried to upgrade myself to be better than before. I’ve learned so many things from these that I can’t mention them. I never thought I would be surrounded by so many pearls from different countries and getting to know them. Friends from CCI is the best thing one can have. Experiencing friendship other than CCI was bonus for me as I got to know people from Afghanistan, Thailand, Korea, and Ethiopia……. Omg! The list is never ending. In short I’ve friends from all over the world.

Volunteering at events and enjoying those events with free food, can’t describe that happiness.


These events taught me to serve for community. I never thought I would complete my volunteering hours without Luiza Arnaud and Bassem Alfy these guys always pushed me for volunteering. Talking with Khaled Soltanto (Habibi) always motivated me to get something I liked. My roommates were typically awesome hahahaha! Each of those guys have different perception for the same common thing. Whether its 12am or 1am and I wanted to go to DC Harold was always ready. Gymming with Andre (Brazilian) and Sifiso (South African) was an amazing experience and I can say I had international trainers. Dzidepo Kofi this Ghanaian guy taught me to play soccer and party hard! How could I forget the beauties of CCI Lekagugu, Joannita, Sandra, Gamze, and Luiza I miss you girls.
img_8105 Praveen and Nabila will have a great importance in my life I’ve learned a lot from you guys. Hope to see you soon.

On my return my friends asked what did you do in states? And what did you brought along with you from states? To which I replied “I lived my life in a year and I brought a promise to see those face again who made my life worth living there”

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Post written by Akhlaq Khan, CCI participant at NOVA, 2015-2016, India

My Internship Experiences

Since the very beginning of the program I was very concerned about getting an internship. What is it about? How do I get an internship? What am I going to do? An internship is a type of job training where you are responsible to learn about your specific field of study or about how it is to have a job in a different organization, company, environment and even country. It is also very important for your future because doing internships help you not only to learn and get experience but also to establish relationships that you would probably need in the world of business. Furthermore, it helps you to have a more complete resume by having these experiences.

I am one of the lucky guys who had chances for internships early in the year of the program. I am doing some of my internship hours at Northern Virginia Family Service, an organization dedicated to helping the vulnerable families and individuals of Northern Virginia to find paths to stability and realize their full potential. I have always liked to help others and that is what it feels like by interning at NVFS.

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I acquired this internship in an easy way. Our coordinators organized an Internship/Volunteer Fair at the NOVA Annandale campus, where we had to dress formally and present our elevator speeches. While I was exploring the different opportunities with organization representatives, one of them said to me, “don’t go, I need your Spanish!” and that is where my internship journey started.

In this internship, I have been doing different things to contribute in the organization. I am learning from many sources; from my field of study to my personal daily life. The very first day of the internship I was treated as a normal employee of the organization. I was even invited to a meeting that is held regularly to review important information about the organization. It made me feel part of the team immediately.

My second internship experience is based on my field of study, which is Information Technology. My professor helped me to get this internship where I get to put to practice the things he taught me in class and even many more things about networking. I know much more than I did before I started. In this internship, I learn while giving technical support to one of the NOVA campus buildings in Annandale.

It’s amazing how I got along in these internships so easily. The purpose for organizations to give internship opportunities is not to selfishly avoid payment or increase profits; they want to help you achieve your goals! In my point of view, this is what internships are for-  to let you feel part of something bigger, something you can be part of, a place where you build not only your professional skills but also a vision for the future; your own future and the world’s future.

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Post written by Edzon Aquino Pineda, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Dominican Republic

Don’t Give Up On People

First day of fall semester, I woke up early, got ready and stood by the bus stop an hour before my class started. It took around 30 minutes to get to Annandale campus by the bus so I would try to kill the time by talking to my fellow friends and when we had nothing else to talk about I would just put my earphone on to listen to my favorite songs. I remembered I was so excited that finally I would meet and make real American friends, I planned to get to the class early so when they came in I would smile and greet them then introduce myself. I was the first person in the classroom, 30 minutes to go before the class started. I looked around, empty chairs and tables soon to be used by my “friends” even “best friends-to-be”. I waited for a while then decided to get a cup of coffee and chocolate croissant from the small in-campus Starbucks counter since I hadn’t had breakfast. Fifteen minutes before the class started, I was sipping my latte and taking small bite of the croissant when a girl came in, I smiled then she smiled back and quickly looked away before I could say hello. That moment made me realized that making friends here wouldn’t be as easy as back home.

As time passes by, I start to notice that people don’t really talk to other people in classroom unless they have to. People don’t really making friends in classroom. They come in, sit down, take notes, sign the attendance form, and then leave. I tried to talk to my classmates couple of times but outside the classroom they tend to act like they don’t know you so after a while I gave up on them. I would still say hello but I stopped putting efforts to get to know them better. Later on during the club fair at campus I met people who called themselves International Friends. They are basically doing a lot of fun activities to connect students or people from all around the world. First time I joined them we did Scavenger Hunt, we got to go to various places in Alexandria and even DC, the last destination was a park and we had BBQ there. My team turned out to be the winner of the game, we got simple gift, but the best gift for me was the people I got to meet there and then at campus since they also go to NVCC Annandale campus. Our friendship grows day by day with more and more people joining in. Most of us are international students, there are some from Belgium, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Perú, Egypt, China, Italy, Mongolia and other countries. They are all very friendly and fun. It’s good that now I will have friends to hang out with during lunch break, or to go to watch movie with, or to support me when I wanted to audition for NOVA Idol, or to play ping pong with after classes, or simply to talk to and share stories with. You go to school to study but that’s not the only thing you will gain from school. School also will give you the chance to make friends, to expand your network, and even for some people to build their social skill. You never know where life will take you, at some points your friends will help you to reach the success of your life by motivating or inspiring you. So, don’t ever give up on people or making friends.

Post written by Picessylia Anakay, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia

Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students