Tag Archives: Alexandria

Rijal’s Blog: Gratitude, Self-Reflection, and Valuable Lessons

Since I was kid I never had the vivid dream of wanting to go to US. I was aware I neither had capability to afford much money to travel and was scared of dreaming big. But when I was 18 years old, I was exposed to many things about US because of TV show that I watched back then. Since then, I told myself: ‘I have to go there when I am 25 years old’. Here am I now !

Being a part of CCI Program is the most incredible chance I have ever been given in my life. I am so grateful of everything I have experienced because of CCI Program. Before I start telling what great things I have done so far, let me write a dedication short paragraph to important people in my life.

Dear, Dad and mom.
This is not my accomplishment; this is yours, dad and mom.
Being able to step my feet on the United States of America, a country in which I have never imagined I would be able to go to, is both exhilarating and emotional. Words do not suffice to depict the exhilaration I have felt since the first day I came here despite the few difficult days of adjustment; but the excitement is somehow being followed by this emotional feeling that I can identify as sadness. I am sad because every time I go to a new country—a new place which enables to me to visit its renowned places along with the foods— I do not go with the ones who contribute to make me who I am now, my dad and my mother. My mother is someone whom I owe everything in this world. She is the one who successfully made me fall in love with English. Regardless of her little to no knowledge about English, she did her best to nurture my fondness towards English. What my mom did was likewise done by my father. My father is a strong figure who passed down important traits and values. He was the one who managed to make me become a strong and independent person who does not forget to be grateful of what I have accomplished.
Mom and Dad,
I am not proud of what I have accomplished; I am proud of having you who contribute to make me accomplish things in my life.

Rijal enjoys traveling by himself and getting on the metro is his favorite thing to do.

Let’s get this started.

Being in Virginia makes me much more thrilled than I ever imagined; I had the chance to be able to visit Washington D.C., the capital of US, every week. Travelling alone is one of the things I like in the US. Travelling alone makes me grow.  Having been in the US for almost four months teaches me a lot of things: First, independence: I have had the chance to do everything by myself and arrange everything by myself as well. Second, selflessness: I used to be a very self-centered person, I didn’t care what people are doing or pay attention to what they are experiencing. Here, I have been able to learn from others and am open to others. I used to like to speak more than listen, but now I realize that being a listener is ok too. I have more compassion for others who are different from me, and many other important values that make grow not only as individual but also as a member of community. Hence, I could not be more grateful of the path I have been given so far.

Rijal enjoys hanging in White House street
Rijal looks exhilarated to visit the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Words cannot depict this profound gratitude I have in my chest now. The chance I have been given now is the ultimate reason for me to give back to community and use the skill I have gotten here.

Gratitude continues.

Post written by Khairur Rijal Usman Abra, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Indonesia.

Conferences as a Medium of Learning and Growing

Presenters discussing girls education

One of the things I like about America is, here, people like to research on different topics and then share it with other people at a conference. So if you have interest on particular subject, you will find various conferences or workshops on that subject which helps a lot to know more about recent studies. Being so close to Washington DC, we get more chances to attend conferences and the best part is, some of them are free for students! Last week I attended a conference on “Girls’ Education Research and Policy Symposium” at Brookings Institution. I was overwhelmed when I found one of the guest speakers Kazi Nasrin Siddiqa was from my country, Bangladesh. I also met some other Bangladeshi people there and that was an amazing feeling to be with some people from the same country who also have passion in the same field.

I found people who work in Bangladesh!

In the conference, they focused on girls education from an early age to their working age. Three different people from three different countries are working to empower women in three sections such as early childhood education, science education for teenagers, and practical education for job. As I am studying Early Childhood Education, my main focus was on this area which I believe will help me in my career in various aspects. But the concepts presented about girls education blew away my mind and made me think more practically. I especially like when the speakers talked about the obstacles they faced and how did they overcome them. Their experience will help me to work on my project in the future.

Along with learning, conferences are a great opportunity for networking. If you look properly you may find the perfect person who can be your mentor or may help you with your dream profession. I also found people who works with my favorite NGO’s and working in my field of study. So next time, if you go to any event like this, you should focus on networking and do not forget to take your business card with you. Because Porter Gale said, “Your networking is your net worth”. Hope all of you attend various conferences to increase your knowledge and networking through this whole CCI journey.

Post written by Ayesha Akter, CCI 2019-2020 participant from Bangladesh

Educational Tours

CCI NOVA Participants at Arlington Independent Media.

 A holistic education is not all about books but includes extra curricular activities like educational tours, and field trips. It reduces stress, gives one the opportunity to explore and learn new things, and get new experiences. The CCI Program also includes field trips which gives us the opportunity to learn more about the American history, culture and visit places.

When learning is accompanied by fun, excitement, and enjoyment, it makes it interesting. After a hectic week with a lot of assignments, the CCI Participants get the chance to go for educational tours mostly on Fridays. This helps us to have fun, reduce our stress, boost our energy, and prepare us for a new week.

CCI NOVA Participants visit Virginia Senator Kaine’s office in Washington, D.C.

An educational tour to new places is not just a fun get-away. It is about exploring new environment and learning new things. It empowers us with new ideas and enhanced perspective to look at things and become more open minded. Our visit to Harper’s Ferry-West Virginia made me learned a lot that day. One thing that surprised me the most was that John Brown’s Fort was moved from a different location to its current location. I never thought a building could be moved from one location to another.

 

CCI NOVA Participants at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

When we go for educational tour, I get the opportunity to observe and experience many things. When we visited the Native American Museum, I found out a lot of interesting things about their history and culture. I got the chance to see their traditional wear, arts, and food.

The educational trips have helped me to make memorable experiences and got deep knowledge in various aspect of my life.

Post written by Veronica Owusu, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Ghana. 

My Experience Using US Public Transportation

I used to take public transportation to go to campus or other places when I was in college in my country. When I read one of the rules in CCI Program that participants were not allowed to drive a car or any vehicle, as someone who did not know how to drive at all, it’s not a big problem for me. Otherwise, I was so excited to experience US public transportation.

The first day I came to US, Sarah Yirenkyi, our program coordinator, gave us one folder with one Smartrip card inside. It is a rechargeable card that we can use to pay the bus or metro. We need to tap it on the machine on a bus or metro station. On the first day of orientation, Sarah picked us up with a van to go to campus. Then, she taught us how to use maps and trip planner for bus. In other words, that was the last time she picked us up to go to campus. We had to learn how to take bus by ourselves.

Sarah Yirenkyi explaining the bus route on the orientation.

My first time to take bus was hilarious. I and my friends were still confused how to use the WMATA app. We had not known the direction to campus and which bus we should take. All buses looked the same for us. All eyes were on the apps trying to solve this confusing route.

Me and CCI Program Participants waiting for the bus.

 

As days go by, I finally figure out how to take bus by myself. Beside WMATA app, I also use Google Maps or Transit. They are probably the first apps I look up in every morning. These apps are very helpful. When you type your destination, it will show you the number of bus or the color of metro you should take, which bus stop you should wait at, and when it will arrive. I must be on the bus stop earlier or I will miss the bus. There were many times I had to run because I saw the bus was coming and I had not reached the bus stop yet. Thankfully, the bus drivers here are so nice. If they see you running, they would definitely wait for you.

My first time to watch Baseball game at Nationals Park

During my first 2 months here in America, by using public transportation, I learn a lot the value of punctuality. If I cannot manage my time well, I will miss the bus, another 20 minutes will be wasted to wait another bus, and I will be late for following activities on my schedule. Leeza Fernand, the Associate Director of the Community College Consortium, once said, “In the US, if you are in time, you are on time. But if you are on time, it means you are late.” I remember this and take this as my principle to manage my time and be punctual on every occasion. Because I believe being punctual means respecting my commitment and people whom I will meet.

Post written by Aninda Nurul Hadijah – CCI 2019-2020 Participant from Indonesia.

Sharing with the Steelmans

Traveling to a new country is a great opportunity to learn, try new things, make new friends, to expand your horizons, and why not have fun, but sometimes understanding the culture of that new place can be a big deal. In order to make easier that process, the Community College Initiative program works with social hosts, who are volunteer people that help introduce the American culture to the new participants.

In my case I am so lucky having Mr. and Mrs. Steelman as my social hosts, they are a retired couple who really enjoy sharing their stories, and believe me, they have a lot to tell, having been in many countries in the past, there are many things that you can learn from them. I can simply define them as incredible people; Mrs. Steelman with her kind smile is always ready to reply to your hesitations and Mr. Steelman is a wise man and without doubt a good example to follow.

The Steelmans and Oscar Ivan enjoying the Irish Festival.

One of our first meeting was the Irish Festival, which was carried out in old town part of the Alexandria city. This event was fascinating, it was a great opportunity to learn about the Irish community in the US, their impressive dances and how much they love to drink beer, but the most interesting part was learning about how Irish culture has influenced the American one, and a good example of this is the famous St. Patrick’s day.

The Irish Festival, August 24th, 2019, Alexandria, VA

That day was amazing because I could learn more about my social hosts, I discovered that Mrs. Steelman has Irish roots, and even together we found the emblem and the origin of her family name on a map that was posted in the event. It was fascinating understand how multicultural is America and how immigrants that have arrived to this country have contributed to make this land an awesome cultural place.

Share with the Steelmans is gratifying, they are people who you can have deep conversation but also funny ones, friendly people that offer their time to share their stories but also always ready to listen and help. The exiting thing is that this is only the beginning of many incredible adventures with them.

Oscar Iván Barrera.

Post written by Oscar Ivan Barrera Barrera, a 2019-2020 participant from Colombia studying at NOVA Alexandria.

International Young Leadership Assembly- Aug.10.2018

Alka Sharma (India) at the International Young Leadership Assembly at the World Bank in Washington DC

As we fly from our home country every CCI participants dreams about their successful academic and professional development. In order to take a step towards our professional development we got the chance to meet some important delegates, entrepreneurs, social activist and some business professionals of our various fields of study at the International Young Leadership Assembly, which was held at World Bank, Washington D.C. on August 10 2018.It was a great platform for all of us to interact with different people, discuss about major topics of concern to the world and how as a young generation, we can contribute our quota..

There were many young and motivated people. The experience for all of us was new and knowledgeable. As an individual, this platform was right for me as I also want to lead as well as give back to my community. The many entrepreneurs shared their experiences, ups and downs and how they overcame their problems. To be a leader it is important to have the full support of your team, and to lead your team from the front. The most important thing that struck me was   that age is just a number. As young as we are, we can impact to our societies greatly both directly and indirectly to the world. I want to open an institute that helps underprivileged students living in my community. I did not know how to go about it, but now I can work on my plan and give it a right start. The best part of the whole assembly was where we were given the chance to ask for advice from the experts. It really helped to erase many doubts we had concerning our future as young leaders.

The whole experience widened my knowledge about many things and increased my confidence for the start of my future.

Blog written by Alka Sharma from India, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria. 

LIFE CHANGING OPPORTUNITY (CCI Program)

Pathways to Success Cultural Night
  1. Volunteer/ Internship
  2. PSP
  3. Host
  4. Improvement/ Achievement.
  5. Action plan

 

 

I have not imagined this few months can change me and my life!

Visiting US was one of dream, then one day I received a call from US Embassy which brought me here and gave me wings to change the world, my eyes were full of tears, that is the CCI Program.

I have spent more than six months in US, and now I am not that old one, I had so challenging situations to come here but these memories and achievements are worth than those situations.

Volunteering

Coming to volunteering, in past I have never volunteered but when I volunteered here it always gives me positive vibes, helping the needy is something which money cannot buy, it brings the humanity, mercy and positivity in individuals.

Internship, working with children is always makes me happy, because I believe todays good children will be tomorrow’s better citizens! I have learnt many strategic ways in teaching and child care. Also learned the ways to work on children positive behavior. This will really help me in my future.

Internship

Oh my god! Coming to the PSP (mid-year retreat) this was the best experience of mine; the journey was unforgotten. In just one week I have learnt a lot and enjoyed too. The workshops taught me leadership skills and today I have a sophisticated personality because of those workshops. I have never traveled back home but I can say travelling teaches us a lot.

Pathways to Success
Pathways to Success Workshop

The CCI Program has given me a best social host ever, she is so kind and lovely, I spent my most of the weekends with her it feels like I am home. We go for lunch, volunteering, traditional events, museums and botanical gardens (luckily me and my host love gardening and plants). we even cook together. It is so worthy and memorable I cannot even forget these moments.

Host Family

I was nothing back home but now I am so Improved, I was so afraid to speak in public, but now have the ability and speak the CCI Program taught me how to be confident, and I have so many achievements which impacted on my life, I learnt to be responsible,

Pajama Party

punctual, honest, hardworking. I even got a certificate for best improved person, I feel so happy I have learnt so much in this few months. One of the biggest achievement is my parents agreed for my higher education even though our community does not allow but I am the one who is studying higher education. I have taken a step towards my community to change it.

I came to this program with a dream (to start a school), but now I have two action plans one is teaching women about safety, ethical values, diversity, English, humanity classes. My first action to make change in the community. And the second is to start a school for special children, underprivileged, single parent children, children that are LGBTQ. Because every CSI class gave me a idea for better development and I am going to implement these ideas and what I have learned here.

A girl whose world was just her house now she is able work for the community to change the world! The CCI Program is giving a reason for living in this world, this program gave me so power and made me strong to face the obstacles in future, my inspiration is mother Teresa and now I can take a step to become a next mother Teresa by public service and for better change!   THANK YOU CCI Program!

Grand Canyon National Park

 

Post written by Anjum Begum, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India.

CCI Cohort Visit to the National Museum of the American Indian

Shuvajit Saha (India) and Vuyani Maduna (South Africa) outside of the National Museum of the American Indian

Self-determination of nations is very vital, more and more of previously colonized and oppressed people of the world are trying to recapture what they lost as a result of being invaded and subjected to pain and suffering. The natives of America find themselves still fighting for self-determination and self-government in the United States of America. The NOVA CCI cohort visited the National museum of American Indians to learn about their history, Culture, Suffering and oppression. When the colonizers arrived in the Americas they found native people living in the land – the colonizers wanted to expand the kingdom of their native lands and they were determined to conquer the new world by all means necessary, others were driven by creed and the love of money which turned them into ruthless and heartless people.

The invasion of America by foreign forces destroyed the native people, there were wars and conflicts that resulted in scores of deaths on both sides. They two sides realized there won’t be no solution to their fight they decided to enter into agreements, these agreements would ensure that the invaders would live in America but they should never try to conquer the lands of the Natives. These agreements were called treaties, but as more invaders came to America, land was needed for the people – these new pressing development led to the invaders breaking the treaties and those actions led to more wars between the Natives and the invaders.

Shuvajit Saha (India) and Muhammad Arham (Indonesia) at the National Museum of the American Indian

The invaders were determined to build a new nation in a land they just invaded and conquered. The thirteen States of America were formed with George Washington becoming the first president of the United States of America, the concept of the United States spelled destruction for Native Americans – the more the new country expanded the more the treaties were broken and the more the natives lost their land. The worst president for the Natives was Andrew Jackson who initiated the forced removals of

 the natives to make way for European settlement, and these forced removals are notoriously known as “the trail of tears”

Even in the present USA Native Americans still face oppression and their lands which are called reservations keep on be undermined and disregarded by fellow Americans and the government.

Post written by Shuvajit Saha, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India

Cycles of Life

It is incredible how this experience has made me a whole new person. There is no way to put into words what I am feeling now. Three months ago, I realized that I was lost in myself. I felt that I did not know who I was. I felt that a part of me was dying, but that little part was just dying to be born again. I cannot be more grateful for this challenging moment. It has not only made me grow a lot as a human being but also made me understand how important it is to challenge myself to overcome every stage of my life.

When I came here, I knew I wanted to challenge myself, but I did not imagine how hard it was going to be. Although I have always been passionate about my dreams, there was a time when I just did not know how valuable they are. Since I lost my confidence, I did not know how to express my ideas. So, I felt that I did not belong here because I was not good enough for this program. It was really frustrating to feel that I was not able to do what I wanted to do. As a consequence of these issues and other personal problems, I became depressed. Nevertheless, having one of my worst moments I realized how important is not only to appreciate difficult times but also to die in each stage of your life. On first thought, it does not make sense, but let me explain to you the big meaning that it has for me. I strongly believe that life is made of cycles. Each cycle of our life is a stage that we should live to learn from it; however, we should also die to be born again. We will have learned a lot, but we will also need to keep going without look back.  

 

In other words, that challenging moment not only made me born again but also changed the perspective of my life. I learned that my dreams are as valuable as I want them to be. I learned that I am important for my community and that I may cause a significant change if share all the things that I have learned until today. Now I know that nothing is impossible and that I am the only one who can strongly believe in her dreams to make them come true. Being involved in CCI program change my life. This is a stage of learning for my life and I really appreciate it. All the CCI cohort has taught me to be confident about my dreams and that I am not alone when it comes to making a positive change in the world.

Post written by Natalia Martínez Conde, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from Colombia

 

 

 

 

Moving Forward

‘’Pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They are products of enlightened education and continuous investment by governments and all civil societies in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the world’s citizen.’’
-Aga Khan IV

The greatest thing can happen only when you move your one foot forward, then you can’t imagine how many good things can come across you. Yes, I took one step forward to learn, to experience and to meet some good people. I came across an opportunity that seemed very interesting to me. I read the missions and goals of the organization and I decided that I want to be a part of this organization. It is a nonprofit organization named Atlas Corps. I applied for a position as the executive intern and luckily, I got accepted for the position. I was glad and nervous at the same time. I asked my friends how am I going to do it well, they answered ‘just believe in yourself’. Believe me this simple advice helped to bring the best out of me.

My first day at Atlas Corps was great and I can’t forget that one moment I saw different faces with beautiful welcoming smile. They introduced me to everyone and by seeing their smiling faces gave me the comfort. My supervisor is the greatest person I’ve ever met, Mr. Calum Field, who welcomed and showed me around the office.

On that day, my first assignment was something I’ve never done before and it excited me that I was going to learn something new. Mr. Calum Field is a very well-planned and active Executive Assistant   and on the higher position is Mr. Scott Beale, the Executive Director, a great man with great ideas. I found him very friendly and helpful. I came across many good things I can learn from them such as; how international organizations works, how they put together the work and idea of a diverse group of leaders. They all are leaders from different countries and I found myself as part of the team. My contribution was little but valuable for them as well as for me. What they do is they bring young leaders from all around the world to the United States of America to do volunteer work for one year. Atlas Corps is an international network of leaders of nonprofit organizations and they all promote innovation, cooperation, and solutions to address critical social challenges by building young leaders, and supporting innovation through an overseas fellowship of skilled professionals.

 

 

 

 

This internship taught me many things and increased my network as well. I am glad that there is an organization like Atlas Corps that focuses on developing professional youth and promoting innovations among skillful young leaders. Atlas Corps gives opportunity to the youths and focuses on their contribution to the economy.

I am also grateful for CCI Program for giving me such an opportunity to learn and to improve my leadership skills, networking skills and to learn from some great individuals.

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