The Walker Soul

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Battuta. My name is Vanesa de la Cruz and I am a walker soul.

I feel amazed by meeting new people, finding new souls in the way, discovering beautiful -and not that beautiful- places, immersing in different cultures… I like to see the sky from a new land every day.

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Photo by Moises Gomez

Although I have lived my whole life in the same house in one of the
humblest neighborhoods of the city, I never let the money to stop me from making my dreams come true. And my dream has always been to travel all around the world. Now, I can say that I am not a citizen of Medellin, Colombia, because today I have decided to be a citizen of the world.

And traveling is not only about going to new places every day. Traveling is about meeting new people in each occasion you have: talking with a new person in the bus, listening to someone’s ideas, reading somebody’s words… It is about going to some different place every day -it can be a new neighborhood in your city or another country in the other side of the world-.

For me, traveling is about learning. Because the world is so big and full of people living different realities. It is about understanding other people’s traditions, cultures and behaviors. It is about seeing the beauty in the diversity. It is about having an open mind (the larger it is, the most knowledge and experiences you can keep), because close minds do not allow the wonder of the world to come in.

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Photo by Cessy Anakay

I just started a new journey, the biggest in my life until this moment. The 18th of July I moved to Virginia, United States, to study during 10 months in a Community College.

This opportunity is bigger than studying. I am living away from home, without my family, with people from 11 different countries of the world. I am not only learning about United States culture, but also about Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Ghana, South Africa, Cote d’Ivore, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Yemen and Turkey.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the
religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener. This is what I keep telling myself every day since I came here. Because I also came to learn about myself. I am discovering new version of me, new behaviors, passions and likes. And I am obtaining abilities and skills during this process. It is not only abou
t independence, it is about mutual understanding, about being in the other’s position, about respecting and accepting the difference and finding the beauty in the diversity. This is all about making a better world, full of love, understanding and colors.vanesa-blog-post-1

Until today, I already ate rice with my hands (as Indians, Pakistanis, Indonesians and Africans do), I discovered that I like spices, I danced the typical dance of every country in the program, I celebrated 4 different independences, and day after day, I keep learning about my friends (who I can call today family), their traditions, behaviors and ways to live and love. It has been only two months, but I already feel complete and blessed for this opportunity that is changing our lives and our ways to see the world, forever. And, of course, sometimes it is really hard to understand why some of them act in a certain way and why the others do not; why they think like that; why they do not understand me and my culture. But we are all working together to make this work and it is actually working.

The Community College Initiative Program is incredibly hard, but it is totally worth it.

This post written by Vanesa de la Cruz, CCI participant at NOVA, 2016-17, Colombia

Welcome to the CCI NOVA Blog!

Welcome to the CCI NOVA Blog! We are starting this blog to share the experiences of the Community College Initiative Program participants at Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria and Annandale campuses. This year we have 32 students from twelve different countries–Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, and Yemen.

We expect a lot from these young people. In addition to taking a rigorous academic course load at NOVA, they have to complete 125 hours of volunteer work and an additional 75 hours of experiential learning in their field of study. They also work on an action plan, which is a plan or special project that they can implement when they return home. We ask them to take what they learn here and use it to benefit their local communities. We expect them to make a difference in their families, their communities, in their countries, and in the world.

Each week we will feature posts from our current students. We will also look to our alumni to share their experiences as well–what they did during their year in the United States and what they have been doing since they returned home. We want to share their journey with you, from their perspectives and from their voices.

We hope you will follow these amazing young people as they navigate their way through a new culture, new experiences, and the challenges and accomplishments that come along with being a CCI participant.

Jaclyn & Kelly

Program Coordinators, CCI NOVA

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Exchange Participants Build Workforce and Leadership Skills at U.S. Community Colleges

32 Exchange participants arrived in July at the Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria and Annandale campuses, two of 14 campuses across 11 states, to begin the 2016-2017 Community College Initiative (CCI) Program.  The CCI Program is a program of the U.S. State Department that provides participants with quality educational study at U.S. community colleges and is designed to build technical skills, enhance leadership capabilities, and strengthen English language proficiency.

NOVA 2016-2017 Group Picture
CCI-NOVA Alexandria

Participants pursue educational study focused on one-year certificate programs in workforce development fields.  The CCI program also provides opportunities for professional internships, service learning, and community engagement activities.  After completing the program, participants return home with a deeper understanding of U.S. culture and new skills to help them contribute to the economic growth and development of their countries.

NOVA-AN Group Picture
CCI-NOVA Annandale

CCI participants also contribute to their U.S. host communities by helping U.S. community colleges to internationalize their campuses.  According to 2015 Open Doors Report, less than 2% of U.S. community college students will gain 21st-century international experience and workforce skills through study abroad.  CCI exchange participants engage community college students with international cultures and diverse perspectives in their U.S. classrooms and on their home campuses.  CCI participants will study in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Since 2007, the CCI Program has hosted more than 2,600 participants from 20 countries.  This year, CCI participants are from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, and Yemen.  The CCI Program recruits participants from underserved and unrepresented communities, particularly women.

For further information, please contact the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at eca-press@state.gov.”

Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students