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

Home Away From Home

A family consists with father, mother, brother and sister. I had everything over there.
This is the very last picture of us together at the White House. I have seen how life changes very fast. I had such a period of life where I thought I couldn’t help myself anymore. At that time my study could be stopped forever. That was my only hope to get the scholarship and take a chance to change my life. I worked really hard and I made that.
nabila-7The soil felt like home: I had no imagination about the USA. I had only the idea that people are very white there and the country is very cold. It took me 27 hours flight to get there. It was too much for me because it was the first time I was traveling out of my country. I got really sick while traveling. After getting there we were informing so many rules and regulations. I can tell you I wasn’t even getting 60% of 100% they were telling me because I was in very bad jet lag . Days were passing very well and slowly slowly I got very comfortable and started liking everything around me. Every step I was taking around the USA I felt like home. People are very very nice and kind. The American people know how to welcome guests in their country. They are very diverse and they respect each other’s culture. I have never felt like it is not my home. I have always felt like home especially at my departure time, I was crying. Even now I always consider that USA is my second home.
Transformation of Nabila: Nabila has transformed with new ideas and hopes. After coming back to Bangladesh I have really felt that I have changed and I can think little differently. The education, the diversity of cultures and the situations taught me a lot. I have learned every single day. The classes of Mr. Paco made me thinking differently. I like the change in me a lot.

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Friendship & Brotherhood: This part I can write all day long. I have friends from alnabila-2l over the world now. Everyone were very good friend of mine. People says while you are in problem you can find only real friend around you. I had a bad situation where I have lost my phone and I have totally broken down. My friend & brother Khaled supported me unconditionally. Most of my CCI friends such as Praveen, Sifiso,Yeison, Luiza, Akhlaq, Andres were with me that day. I can’t tell you I was feeling I was the most blessed girl in the entire universe. This picture has taken at 12 am in the morning when I got back my phone.
nabila-1Let’s come to another two special beautiful girls. Sister Alin and Nana were the partans of my house. We had most good and bad time together. Sister Alin became my sister within some days. When I felt sick this two always there for me. Nana was the grandmother of the house and sister Alin and I was the kid of the house. She always checked on us and directed us how to do thing in the house and also asked us to eat properly. Nana is very caring girl. We really enjoyed her directions.
Here come to my brothers lists. I have got so many brothers in the USA. Akhlq, Shina and Khaled they have been always there for me. My friend Sifiso from South Africa who I used to go with my problems and he never said no. Everyone is very special for mnabila-5e. I don’t want to miss any name. How can I forget Deyanti Manalu. She is the most loving girl who always been like my teacher. I have had very good time with Joanita, Yuli, Yeidi, Moreen, Chwayita and Charmaine too.

Now come to the most important friend of mine. She was my “24Hours”. There was not any day we were not together. She is the kindest women I have even seen. She is like a sister. We had most crazy and good time together. She is Sandra Appiah from Ghana. We have got more than thousands pictures together and memories.

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nabila-9Mentors: We have got the kindest mentors. I used to wait the whole day for emails from Ms. Leeza and Ms. Amira before going to the USA. They are just amazing women. They are the inspirations for us. How beautifully they are managing the program. It is not easy to deal with people from different countries.
The other two beautiful women who were like our mother. The compliment is not enough in front of their contributions for us. Ms. Jaclyn and Ms. Kelly always tried their best to provide us the best of best. One day I can remember Ms Jaclyn came to Sandra’s apartment at about 8pm hearing that they have got the bug’s problem in the house and she started helping them with cleaning and putting all the staffs in the bags. That day I realized she is really like a mother who never thing twice to help when kids are in their bad time. We have another mother is Ms. Kelly. She is the very strong women. Not only me but also the team Annandale always found her by their side. She did every possible thing for us. She gave her 100% even thought her daughter was very sick at that time. She drove us so many places. Loved us like a mother. I can’t write anything more about her then I’ll start crying.
In the end I can finish with writing that almighty have given me the most beautiful experiences. I promise one day we will meet somewhere in this beautiful universe. Miss you guys.

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CCI NOVA 2015-2016, Baltimore, MD

Post written by Nabila Akter, CCI Participant at NOVA 2015-2016, Bangladesh

It not only teaches education…

Community College Initiative (CCI) Program- a one year non degree program that provides education for foreign students in US but this is what the rest of the world know. Participants feel that , it is an invaluable experience of gaining- knowledge, strengths, friends,family and courage of accomplishing goals. The beauty of the program is, no participant leaves US in the same way when he/she came here.

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CCI NOVA 2015-2016 in Harper’s Ferry, WV with John Sedlins from ECA

My story of coming into CCI began on my birthday of 2014. It was the day when I filled in the first application to participate in CCI. I asked god to make it my birthday gift by giving me this chance. My prayers and wishes of my friends and family worked, finally I landed in United states as a participant.

praveen-7During the program time, there is no day where I did not learn something new even ipraveen-5t may be one of my mistakes or weakness. The people in the program add more beauty to it. My social host whom I got from the program is no lesser than a Friend, philosopher, guide and a father to me. The love and care showed by them is irreplaceable.

The time never stops we need to move as well. Finally the day came, every participant was ready with their baggage for bon voyage. That’s when we missed everyone more. We remembered the words from a wonderful lady of our program “we all are under the same sky, some or the other day we will see each other again.”

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Things would not be normal for a CCIPian after coming home again. Every participant is filled with the power to do something or experience new things for the betterment of community. In my case, one of the good things that I did after coming back is participating in a Model United Nations conference as a delegate of praveen-1UNITED STATES. The motion for that session is International Terror and World Peace and who would not want it after having a family around the globe. The things that I do before and after program are almost same but the dedication, confidence and accuracy increased. One thing that I can never forget from the program- we lose the game but we won’t lose our players. Miss you all out there.
———we love NOVA———-
——–Thank you CCI———-

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Post written by Praveen Mandadi, CCI participant at NOVA 2015-2016, India

Hello! Hello… Hello?

When I first landed in the United States I was over the moon, like swimming in a warm lagoon, with expectations that could fill a room! A rhyme was necessary to proper show my excitement. Here I was, for one, I assumed I would easily assimilate with America because I had consumed American culture for, what seems like my entire life, through television, music and movies so I anticipated very few surprises; but as I have learned assumptions are not truth. I had created an amazing, grand image of the USA encouraged by movies and other mass media, then when this image and expectations were not met… it was a shock to the system.

One of the difficult shocks I dealt with is the way Americans communicate, particularly greeting. Where I come from, South Africa, acknowledging another person is important through verbal greeting or any type of salute, what I found here is that this verbal acknowledgment is replaced by some gesture, like a quick-to-fade smile or a head nod and that is only when they even decide to acknowledge you at all.

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Now, it has been difficult for me not to attribute this to some sort of moral degeneration in the USA or how very wrong it is not to acknowledge others properly instead I have been forced to recognise that it is just a difference in communication, a stark one though.

I had been bouncing in and out of this American form of communication for the past three months, where I would acknowledge and greet people, get so frustrated when this is not reciprocated that I’d stop trying. Then of course I would feel like a terrible person, return to my South African way of greeting, get very little back… and so it goes. But I made a decision to stay true to myself, and fortunately more and more people are catching on and saying Hello.

Post written by Lerato Mahloko CCI participant at NOVA, South Africa

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.

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 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.


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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…

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

Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students