Time Creates Relationships

Nothing can heal the wounds of time.  When global strangers
meet for the first time, it is impossible to quantify the depths of relationships that would soon develop.

Although the following few months these strangers ssifiso-blog-3pend with each other can be dubbed as great times, they are faced with unceremoniously relinquishing the bond that each has developed.

The Community College Initiative (CCI) was an opportunity for me to meet students from different parts of the globe and take part in a culture exchange to create awareness/consciousness about South Africa and our standard of living while learning of cultures outside mine.

The time we were to spend in America seemed immense in the beginning; many of us took longer than others to adjust to being away from family and doing things on our own. This was a challenging transitions that required great patience and understanding.

sifiso-fransis

 Fransis and Yeison had become my new family and our apartment had become my new home. All three of us were bringing different experiences, cultures, customs, religions and ways of life into one house. Like any family, we had our problems but always found a way around them.


friends-for-sifiso-post
Time had brought a lot of us closer than we had anticipated. We always celebrated each other’s victories and achievements; encouraged and gave each other a shoulder to cry on when things got overwhelming. We became each other’s biggest fans and sometimes worst critics.

 sifiso-blog-1Like most people in the program I had pockets of homesickness; for the most part it felt as though the closer we edge to our departure date the more excited and anxious we became. Our last month was perhaps the most ‘confusing’ emotively. I was excited about going home to my family and friends in South Africa but also saddened by the reality of having to leave my family and friends in the United States of America.

The CCI-NOVA participants had become family; a home away from home and for the duration of the program they were all I had. The day we had to separate and all head back to our respective countries was perhaps sadder than the day I had to say goodbye to family and friends when I was coming to the USA.sifiso-blog-2

Perhaps we were overwhelmed by the spatiotemporal limitations and having to readjust to not seeing each other as often as we were. Fortunately for us, we live in the age of technology where communication isn’t restricted to people in the same country or area anymore.

It is a pleasure to have met each and every person in the program; It is an honour to have shared and learnt from your advise, wisdom and sometimes encouragement to just “relax and take it easy”

I trust that time has strengthened our bonds to overcome the Kilometres that stand between us. I still maintain that we all have what it takes to change and shape the world to the kind of society we envision for ourselves and future generations.

 We are the ones we’ve been waiting for…

2015-16-group-for-sifisos-post

Post written by  Sifiso Ngobeni, CCI participant at NOVA 2015-2016, South Africa

The Opportunity That Changed My Life!

jeidiGrowing up as a young girl it has been my lifelong dream to travel to the United States and experience other peoples culture and way of education. I did not know how or when it would happen and stop being a dream to become a reality. Luckily for me, the opportunity was presented to me at the least expected moment. God surprised me in a supernatural way. When I received the wonderful news, I was the happiest woman in the world. Every day before the trip what more I  did was look at pictures of where I would live and the college where I was going to study. You can imagine how happy I was.

Challenge In America
One of my biggest challenges in the US was using my English. I was not used to speaking English as I have always communicated in Spanish. My English was not very advanced and I was afraid to make mistakes when speaking, and that people did not understand me. But my English was not as bad as I thought, most people liked it. However, people were very patient to pay attention and help me when I needed. Over the months my English was getting better and better.

Special friendship I made
It would be hard to name a few because I consider I had a good relationship with all CCI participants in Virginia. But I would like to highlight  some people who were always with me and I could build a very strong bond of friendship. Sandra Appiah from Ghana, she was my sweet roommate. She never missed a smile on her face. Sandra always cared of me and I cared for her. Moreen Kajuju from Kenya, with her I had a very pleasant time. We used to go shopping together, cook together, travel together, and sometimes advise each other. The other one is Melisa Múnera from Colombia (Medellin). She is a very lovely person, she was always there for what I needed. That person which dried my tears when I passed difficult moments in my personal life.
sandra-gana-20160524_142535

Housemates
I could not ask for more. I had the best housemates ever. I’m very glad to have known them and have had them as my sisters during my stay in the United States. Charmaine (South Africa), Yuli (Indonesia), Luiza (Brazil), Moreen (Kenya) and Sandra (Ghana). They are the best.

jeidi-roommates

My Favorite Part
Every single day during my stay in the States were my favorites. Knowing I was living and experiencing a completely different life from mine including seasons, new people, new places, new culture and costumes, it just made my days very specials. I have had the opportunity to experience fall, winter and spring which was amazing. It was my first time seeing the leaves fall from the trees, the snow fall from the sky decorating the streets and seeing flowers bloom with beautiful colors, it was very enriching for me. During my time there (January 1st) was my first time of  being in a beach. Yes, my first time I was in Siesta Beach, Florida.
Lastly, I can’t forget to tell about of one of my last trip with my CCI family. We went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and I broke the fear of being in a roller coaster for the first time. Those ones, really were two of my best experiences during my journey! I had many more but if I write them down here I wont finish.

jeidi-cover-photo

Having such an amazing opportunity to have these experiences not only with American culture but also with thirteen different cultures from all around the world changed my life. I am grateful to all CCI NOVA participants and the two excellent coordinators Jaclyn & Kelly. Without them my experience in the United States would not have been as wonderful and unforgettable as it was.

Post written by Yeidy Daniela Rivas Carabali, CCI Participant at NOVA 2015-2016, Colombia

Conflicts Condemmed

“Tolerance and celebration of individual differences is the fire that fuels lasting love. “ -Tom Hannah

Do you know when the conflict arises? It arises when we have different thought about the same thing. To avoid conflicts; we need to know how to manage it. To get knowledge about that, our beloved coordinators arranged a workshop on conflict management. It was a one-day workshop took by Mr. Paco Valencia.

The class started like this; we were divided into 4 groups. Each group was a mixture of 8 different international CCI Program participants. Before the class, we took an assessment called MBTI Personality Assessment. This assessment was used to classify us under two major categories- 1) Extroverts and 2) Introverts. Majority of the people came under the group extrovert. Even I was in the extroverts. Only a very few came under the category introverts. Mr. Paco explained why we fell into these categories and explained what it is. From that moment, we went deeply into other categories like sensors (S), iNtuitives(N), Thinker(T), Feelers(F) etc.,. These minor categories gave us in depth knowledge about the individual thinking style and reacting style to the varying situations. We played small games to get to know about the categories.

With the knowledge which we gained with the previous activities, we played a game after our lunch break. This game was conducted to know what we have learnt so far in that workshop. The game was like, thinking that we only three sticks or woods to cross the river without touching the water. We were again split into 3 teams and used the sticks which was provided to cross the river. We enjoyed this game as well as learned a lot of stuff. The thing which I learnt is: trust is the chain which holds the entire team to accomplish the single goal.

img_1971

After this game, we understood what is a teamwork and how cooperate with heterogeneous group to reach the objective. We spoke about the game in the class, and heard some feedbacks about the game.

After few minutes of speaking about the game, we moved on to the next topic. We took another assessment to know how we solve the conflict(Conflict solving style). He gave us a two page sheet to circle some options. After doing all the circles he gave us a solution handout. With the help of that we were instructed mark ourselves to the corresponding fields. For me, it came out like competitive and avoiding conflict solving styles. This conflict solving style gave so much idea about me, and gave some valuable comprehension about the group in which I am in.

We came to the end of our workshop at 4 in the evening. This workshop enriched with lots of information about the varied people who are around me and in this entire world. Last but not the least, I would like to thank my coordinators and CCI Program for giving me this wonderful opportunity to know how to manage the conflict, and to fine-tune myself in the heterogeneous group.  I have learned one important thing in this workshop, we have to put ourselves in other shoes to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.

Post written by Halith Syed Mohamed, CCI Program participant at NOVA 2016-2017, India

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.

img_1740

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?

img_1739

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

Contribute. Connect. Interact.

( CCI ), at the beginning meant for as all the people know but after getting the chance and living that experience, I see that it means for me something completely different. Which is ( Contribute. Connect. Interact.)

Contribute is give and take also discuss, share time, share experiences, share cultures, understanding, other visions, different way of thinking and much more.

hollin-farms-group

Connect, after getting any new idea or thought or any new experience, you start connect all of them to each other and you find out that it means something completely different that what you thought before, is about learning. If you stay in on place for long time you get the best of it but in just one way, but if you spend time and ideas and cultures in different aspects and in different places you get the best of the best and you see the bigger picture, and you can see it from different angles not from just one angle.

Interact. This is your job, it could take some time after contributing and connecting to get the best result, but the best result will come. Even if you don’t see it the best, it’s the best. It’s something you’ve gained but maybe you don’t recognize it easily, but the people around you can understand it easily.

khaled-melissa-adventure-park
CCI taught me 25 percent in my field of my study, and the rest of the 100 percent  they taught me ( HOW?). How to learn, how to get, how to share, how to find your path, how to give, how to connect, how to lead, how to share, how to see the things in the real way, how to be smarter and of course how to live.

Post written by Abdelkhalek Mohamed, CCI Participant at NOVA 2015-2016, Egypt

Why should I volunteer?

group-scout-leader-nomal-gb-pakistan
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.

with-shaheen-scout-nomal-gb-pakistan
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.

9-11-day-of-service_csanders-5
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

 aa47c87d-fcb1-4ef8-8ada-4e377425e103
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.

img_2203

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

My CCI Experience

It has always been a lifelong dream to travel the world and experience cultures different from mine. Well that dream became a reality when the State Department decided to present me with the opportunity of a lifetime. I came to the United State of America with unfulfilled desires and personal aspirations.  For once I was going to live the dream and be better than I was in my country. The ten months I have stayed has been the best months ever. I’m going to categorise my best moments.

Studying in NOVA

I had the opportunity to be taught by amazing professors and friendly course mates. It was a bittersweet experience for me. The professors made sure we img-20160720-wa0025had presentations all the time. You can imagine how I fumbled while standing infront of my mates but after sometime I overcame my shyness and fear of crowd. I mastered the art of speaking to a large number of people and actually getting them to understand me. I can proudly say my fear of crowd is a thing of the past now. Get me an audience and a podium and I will make them believers of my confidence.

Pathways to Success Program

I got the opportunity to meet all the CCI participants  and made new friends as well.  What made  this program much memorable was when I located all my friends from GHANA . We hugged amidst laughter and hugs . Telling each other stories from our respective states and teasing one another.  Our tour of the white house ,empire state , statue of liberty amongst others will forever be imprinted on my mind. If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change any aspect of it.

Special friendships I made

A friend is someone who sees the white speck in you even when the whole world sees only black. It takes some people years to build friendship while others find finds withing a twinkle of an eye. I must say I made friends with all my img-20160722-wa0008CCI participants in virginia , my house mates and  the one friendship that stands out the most is the one I made with Nabila Akter from Bangladesh.  I don’t no how exactly we became friends but she made my days very interesting and infected me with her love for adventure. Not a day goes by without me calling on her to accompany me to this place and that place. She  is just amazing. Words cannot describe how content I am to be her friend. Like I said it takes some people years to build friendships but mine took just ten months .

Experience that stands out

I enjoyed every moment I spent in the US but I will say the best one was when my coordinators Kelly and Jaclyn organised a trip to Virginia Beach. I explored so many things from the adventure park to the Busch gardens. I got to know my weaknesses and strengths . And for the first time I swam in the sea and the pool. Even though it was the last adventure we took as a group,it was worth it .img-20160720-wa0002

Post written by Sandra Appiah, CCI participant at NOVA, 2015-17, Ghana

Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students