Tag Archives: Annandale

An Open Letter to All CCI Alumni

Hey everyone, this is Marlin Estevez, a CCI Alumni from the Dominican Republic. I was part of the 2018-2019 generation of the CCI Program. Today, I am writing an open letter to every CCI Alumni across the world, because I feel there are some issues that needs to be addressed.

Although, I’ve been wanting to write this letter since the first week back in my country, I wanted to make sure I gave myself enough time to experience the whole cultural shock, so that I can be more objective and write something that bring value to your life and this new path you are taking now that you are back in your country of origin.

Here’s what this is about:   CCI you are a seed, you will blossom not matter the place or the circumstances.

It has come to my attention that some of my CCI friends and myself included have experience what it’s like to feel that you don’t belong anywhere once you return to your country. You get to miss your friends like never before, even the ones you didn’t spend much time with, but somehow everyone became part of your family.

CCI Cohorts and Lieutenant John Weinstein from 2018-2019 at the beginning of their year.

You also have a hard time defining thing like Happiness and home. On top of that, you struggle with readjusting to how thing work in your country, the things that aren’t that well accepted in your society, the lack of tolerance or respect towards everyone’s right to choose how they live their life, make decisions and what they stand for.

Sometimes (and I am going to be realistic here) you even wonder if you should settle and act like everyone else (been there done that), so that you don’t feel pressured because you think, and perceive life different than everyone else.

CCI Participants with Sarah Yirenkyi and Kelly Forbes during Spring Break

Here’s my point, that happens to you, because YOU ARE DIFFERENT. You experienced almost a year in a society that taught you to be independent, bold, to set clear goals and make sacrifices to achieve them. You proved yourself what you are capable of. You let go of fears, insecurities, a fixed mindset, assumptions and everything that was keeping you down.

I am not saying being back is going to be easy, I am just reminding you how capable you are of achieving anything you set your mind to. Don’t settle, don’t give up and don’t you dare to forget how special you are. And if you do, remember you were chosen among many other people around the world to be part of a program such as the Community College Initiative Program, which means, everyone involved in taking that decision thinks there’s something SPECIAL about you, so why wouldn’t you think that way about yourself too?

Marlin back in the Dominican Republic with some of her CCI peers and her sister

Here’s some of the things you can do when you need some motivation:

  • Sit down and think of what makes you happy or whatever goal you want to achieve and build a MoodBoard (also called Vision Board) and paste it somewhere you can see it every day.
  • Break down your goals, what is that that you want? What steps can you take RIGHT NOW? Set due dates and start step by step. Think of each day as if that’s the only one that matters, but don’t forget your vision.
  • Connect with other CCI Alumni, ask for advices, email some of your professors if needed or the CCI Staff and coordinators. I assure you, they want to hear from you, and they can keep adding value to your life from distance.
  • Find a way to release stress, whether it is by doing some exercise, going to a park or Facetiming with your International Friends.
Marlin and her mom

Finally, I want to say goodbye with something Leeza Fernand told me once during my CCI year “People say they will do many things, but only a few take action”   

Be one of those that act and remember, if you need someone to talk to, you can count on your CCI Fam.

  • Marlin

My Amazing Experience in the U.S.

The beginning of 2018 was a joyous one for me. I got selected for an exchange program United States of America. The Community College Initiative program enables you to study in a community college, exchange your culture as well as learn American culture. These participants are from 12 different countries. Seven months later my dream to come in America came true. During the first few days I saw how beautiful the places are and the diversity showed at this area. I did not know that my stay in the United States will be beyond my expectation and change my life. The most amazing things begun when I started school at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Annandale. The education system in this country is far different from my home country. NOVA is full of diversity as a result of the numerous international students here. People here are respectful about all cultures. In addition, the technology use here in this country is higher than in my country, as all the classes here are linked to the internet and it makes learning fun and easy. At the beginning I was having problem on how to use the ‘Blackboard’ system, after using it for a few times I was able to handle it well. The most interesting thing in the American education system especially on campuses is the involvement of students in clubs, associations and activities held on campus. Students also make use of all the resources available for use for your classes. However, the main thing that amazed me a lot is the respect of time by professors and their availability for each student on campus. After finishing the fall semester, I can say I really enjoy my study in one of the best colleges in the United States.

Another one of my experience in this country is the commitment for that people have for their communities. In fact, volunteerism is one of the big essences of American culture. Here, everyone is involved in all community activities for the welfare of everybody. This made me understood the meaning of volunteering. One of my greatest volunteering moments was when I volunteered at the ‘Presidential Park’ at the White House. It was a good moment and an honor to be part of the volunteers for the ‘Fall Garden Tour 2018’. I never believed that one day in my life, I will be so close to this famous place through volunteering.

Another volunteering experience is that at the ‘Lincolnia Senior Center. It is a care center for aged people. When I started over there, I was a little bit skeptical about being with them and I was also sad to see them like this. After spending close to a week, I started getting used to them and helped them as much as I can. The Managers, employers and the residents there are really nice to us the volunteers, and I feel welcomed to be among them. My experience with the Lincolnia Senior Center and the other volunteering activities made me understand from that moment that when I volunteer, I know who I am and what the other people are expecting from me in order to contribute my part in the community.

Williams with Malikah, volunteer coordinator at the Lincolnia Senior Center

To conclude, I would like also to share more about my recent Internship experience. Effectively I started my first internship as a Social Media Manager in the U.S with a company called ‘MyBook’. They specialize in buying and selling books to students. Truth be told, I was anxious on my first day. Not only because the system is something totally new for me, but also because I did not have much experience in that field of study. However, I did not experience what I thought prior to my first day. Everything was different from my thoughts. The staff were very kind and collaborative, they appreciated me and gave me tips in order to help me accomplish my assigned tasks on time. Something I still don’t catch well is This simplicity of my teammates and my superiors makes me feel important. This encourages me to be efficient and also to work hard in order to make them proud. I also yearn to learn a lot before going back to my home country and implement that whiles creating my own company.

Internship with My Book

To sum up, after spending close to six months in the United States, and with regards to education, volunteering, and internship experiences I can affirm that the CCI Program is like a book with blank pages where you have to write your own stories or experience by maximizing everything you can grasp and build your own future.

Post written by Ayih Williams Akrong  from Côte d’Ivoire , a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

The Laramie Project is my way of improving speaking skills

As a CCI Program participant from Indonesia, I have a weakness in speaking skills. Thanking for the first three weeks at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), an ESL class was held in preparation for entering the actual lecture. When I entered the actual class and joined a fluent English-speaking student, I was confused. Why? I really wanted to talk but I was embarrassed, afraid not to be understood by Professor and friends in class. Once, my fall semester has started, I became a listener only in class. I understand what Professor was saying but I did not dare to comment.

On September 25, 2018, I applied an audition for Fall Play, The Laramie Project, at NVCC. At that time, I said to myself, let me try this opportunity; moreover, I did not need to memorize and prepared anything. Good news, I was accepted in this project and the rehearsals were carried out from September 26 to November 7, 2018. I spent three hours, Monday till Thursday. At first, I felt inferior when I knew all friends, who came in Fall Play, were very fluent in English. I would like to step down but I consider this was a great opportunity to improve my speaking skills, interact with native speaking friends and learn theater arts at NVCC.

As time went by, I had been able to adapt to the atmosphere of the practice and began to say correctly the words in the script especially my pronunciation.

Finally the performance time arrived, November 8-11 2018, in CC building Room 115 and it was four times of shows. In the beginning, I was afraid and trembling if the audience would understand what I was saying later.

I have excellent experiences after joining The Laramie Project. I meet Professor Sara Weinstock, Jeremy Pritchard, and great friends who help me since beginning till the end.  Now, I am more confident in my speaking skills, I understand how to interact with people here, and I get new friends in NVCC.

Post written by Virdiani from Indonesia, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

I have never felt in my life that I`m progressing

Have you ever asked yourself about what you are doing, usually during some decision process? And did you know that asking questions about everything would help your personal development? I have learned this, and I am still doing that in my CCI journey. How? Here it is!

One of the most important things in this life is personal development, right? Well, for me, it is. I’m just 20 years old, and until this time, I have never thought about my personal development and never thought if I’m doing something to improve myself in life. Until the CCI Program’s inception, I knew this is it! I didn’t know this program will teach me about life at all, especially in a short time.

 

It has been only 4 months, but I realize that I never had a chance to listen to myself, and ask questions like ‘what I am doing?’ I found out, the first step of personal development, is asking questions. Always ask questions about what you are doing at that moment. I had lots of chance to do this and think about it. After I am done questioning myself, I try to find out what may be wrong about what I was dealing with. I try my best to fix it -even though I know I cannot reach the solution-. Anyways, I realize that just thinking about it makes me careful about it the next time.

The reason why I figured it out in my CCI program journey is, perhaps the opportunities that it has given me to do things on my own. I have never lived alone all my life. My family used to tell me that I should try to do things as they may seem easy with consistency.  It is evident that most experiences are learnt the hard way, as things do not come easy as we expect. Now, the only person who is giving me advice is my coordinator Kelly Forbes. She always guides me to making decisions. The last option though is up to me. In order to make the best out of it, I ask questions concerning any type of decisions I make. This is not just helping me with my personal decisions, it is also affecting my relationship with other people especially with my friends. CCI program is helping me in every type of subject and I am sure that CCI will help me to build my life.

Post written by Emel Eylül Akbörü  from Turkey, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

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. 

NOVA Print Shop

When I heard that I was selected for the Community College Initiative Program and that I was going in USA, I knew that I earned a big opportunity to improve myself, to discover new things and to have a good and solid practical knowledge.

I started preparing my mind in my home country. I was trying to picture how life would be like to live, study, and work (internship) in an American community. Of course I knew everything would be different from everything I experienced before. Yet I could not imagine accurately. I am saying so because my imagination was not close to what I am currently living here.

I would write for years without finishing telling about my experience in USA. So I will just focus for now on my first semester in an American school.

Studying at Northern Virginia Community College is awesome and I enjoy a lot. However even if NOVA taught me a lot I think it is because of the American school system in general, not just NOVA. The American school system is wonderful and that foster the educational system.

I started School at NOVA in August 2017. All my classes were very good and I had awesome teachers but this is not my concern for now. The experience that amazed me started with my public relations classes, with Dr. Melvin Murphy, two weeks after the start of the fall semester. This class was not really different from the scenario of other classes but had something special. The class was highly interactive and we were working on a real project. Yes ! We had a real client and we had to do a professional work that would be implemented by the NOVA Print Service (our client).  By the end of the semester we would have present a complete public relations plan aiming at improving the visibility of the NOVA print services.

Designing a real and complete PR plan for the Print service was an awesome project to work on, however it implied a lot of work. I have to confess that some of us doubted about the feasibility of that PR plan (me included 🙂 ). It was the first time a real project for a real client was assigned to a class starting a topic, like us beginning public relations. We knew it wouldn’t be easy but we kept faith and start working hard. With the assistance of Dr. Murphy, we made three groups named as follow: Strategy, Media and implementation. Then we were working with a wonderful graphic designer (Miranda Galas), from another class, and a good photographer (Troy Mauricio) in the implementation team (My team).

We thus broke down the job and start working hard. We were doing both at the same time, I mean normal classes and our special project afterward. That class was challenging because we had to learn the theories fast during class sessions so that we could have enough time to break down into groups and work on the project. Like we were implementing in groups what we were learning during class sessions it was complementary and easy to assimilate for us.

We shared tasks in groups and little by little we built our artwork. This experience also changed my view about group works. It was well coordinated and team members were responsible. We respected the deadlines and requirements. Professor Murphy was checking on us really often. He wanted to make sure we weren’t too stressed out and that we are doing the right job.

At the end of the semester we retuned the final job to the print services, after Dr. Murphy approves. We start getting ready for the presentation in front of the client and some staff members. The final PR plan has been printed, for all the attendees, by the print services. We were stressing out the day of the final presentation but we presented well and they appreciated a lot. We finally made it successful. Yeah ! We did it, we had the recognition of the school and the CCI Program.

Today, after having this amazing opportunity to work on such a project, I feel like I acquired a ready to use theoretical and practical knowledge. This knowledge is one of the reason that gave me an Internship at George Mason University. A job in which I have the opportunity to keep doing what I like and to practice more and more in a professional environment with professionals. I am ready to impact, to learn and to teach as well.

The CCI program is not a trip or a vacation it is a new life ! I can’t be more grateful.

Post written by Liaden Hermann Ake, CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from Côte d’Ivoire.

Credit Photo: Troy Mauricio

Graphic Designs : Miranda Gallas

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.

I am Ayesha Alam from Bangladesh

I am Ayesha Alam from Bangladesh.  A lot of things were poking in my head about studying in Virginia. It was almost night when I arrived in Washington D.C.  We got a very warm welcome because our coordinator were waiting for us. The weather was good but still I was feeling very cold. We made our way to the apartment.

At first I was very scared of my apartment mates.  I was much confused about how I can cope up with them, will they ever accept me because I didn’t share my room with anyone before. But when I met them, I was really surprised seeing them very friendly and cooperative. Next day, we had a introductory session with all other students at the pool. And there’s nothing to compare with that moment. Even though I was scared a lot, but everyone appreciate me. They all were very humble, kind, helpful. So it made me more comfortable. We become a new family in Virginia with full of diversity.

My first day at NOVA was also unforgettable. All the students and teacher wanted to know my culture, tradition and customs. The teacher is also very supportive. I made so many friends at once and mingle with so many people from different background. It helped me a lot to develop relationships and mutual understanding with people around the world.

Community College Initiative (CCI) Program has increased my level so high. It teaches me to gain a global sense of citizenship. Everyday I am coming out of my comfort zone and learning something new from everyone. Americans are very punctual, discipline, open mindness. So, the life here is amazing. I am really grateful to the American Government, American people and everyone for making a new family member irrespective of my background only within weeks in U.S.A.

Post written by Ayesha Alam, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Bangladesh

Stepping out of the Comfort Zone

Hi, my name is Alisson, I’m 22 years old and I’m from Brazil. When I arrived in the Washington’s airport and saw Sara, I felt that the CCI PROGRAM would be a great program.  Her smile was so friendly and lovely what makes me forget that I am in a new country with a new culture and new rules.

In the first week, I met the others students, from Ghana, from India, Indonesia, Turkey and different countries that I couldn’t never imagine. They make me feel in my home. About the comfort zone? Everyday I learn more about the English and the world. I’m not so good with English but my new friends help me and give me support to feel more confident.

 

I’m getting out from my comfort zone and there’s others many students in the same situation, living with the “new” in each hour that we spend in the USA. We are in the same boat,  but we aren’t alone. About the CCI PROGRAM STAFF? Amazing people that I admire and respect, they love what they do. Kelly, Kate and Leeza give us all support that we need and they are always with a smile in their faces, so for the great and wonderful staff: thank you so much for believing in us all. This is just the beginning of this long journey!!

Post written by Francisco Alisson Medeiros Da Silveira, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale, from Brazil

My educational experience at NOVA Annandale, US

My first class at NOVA Annandale campus was full of nervousness and exciting as well. I was residing somewhere in second row and being an international student so many questions were arising in my mind. I was nervous thinking that will I be able to compete with the fellows who are all native Americans, what if couldn’t perform well in class, what if I fail? Suddenly a very serious person enters in the class room and without introduction he asks us to move to another class, then another class…??

When he was asking us to move to another class, again different question was arising in my mind, but I was totally new to that environment so I decided to just follow the “crowd” the other students. Somehow, I was expecting that my fellows will ask who is that person, why we are following him, but personally I couldn’t get that courage to ask those questions. Finally, he took us to third class and then he broke the silence by asking the questions I had in my mind. Who is he?  No answer from the whole class. Second question, why we are following if we don’t know him? Few of the fellows responded like might be he is someone from college management which made us all laugh but he said I will be teaching your xyz in this semester. Surprised …!!!

Professor Stacey “SLY” Young while conducting a session

It was surprising for me because so far, I didn’t have any such kind of experience during my studies. Most of our professors were very bossy, it was difficult to have fun with them and even there were very strict rules to talk with a professor. Mostly it depends upon how good a student is in pleasing a professor and sometimes those students succeed to get the attention who get good marks in the class. Being a shy person and kind of an average level student, I never succeeded to make some good relations with any of my previous professors in my own country. When the professor said I will be teaching you xyz subject in this semester, then most of my fear disappeared automatically as he was frank, funny and at the same time very inspiring.

It’s a saying that “the first impression is the last impression”. That first class suddenly changed my way of thinking and my nervousness turned into excitement. Focusing on my studies was one of my top priorities in my plans and it really became interesting the way professors were encouraging me to be open, to speak up, to go in front of the class, to participate in groups. Another important point I have noticed during my studies that most of the professor teach you perform well in your real work instead of focusing on your marks. All the students in my class had their business ideas and most of them had their own business and those studies were clearing their concepts which they had to implement on their work. Further, with my experience, I have noticed that since students are attending their class regularly, submitting their assignments, homework and participating in their class no body fails. A student should not have a fear to fail the subject, which is also understandable as it is very common in student of developing countries. Students should focus on to gain actual knowledge in the field of their interest.

Picture taken with Professor SLY

The most inspiring thing about my education in the US was building a good relationship with my professors. They just do not teach you a subject or for just one semester, they are always interested to listen about your future goals, your achievement and with my own experience I can surely say that they will be always there for you to make you successful. No matter how difficult name you have professors always try their best to remember your name. Before studying at NOVA Annandale, it was the most difficult thing to get a recommendation letter from my professors while applying for different scholarship, and during my studies all the teacher kept asking me, if they can help me in any way I should write an email any time. Now I am an alumnus of NOVA Annandale as it has been few months since I have completed my studies, but still few of my professors keep asking me about my activities and future plans, which really means a lot for me.

In conclusion, my studies in the US gave me a real meaning of education, what success meant to be, role of professors in helping weak students during studies and after completion of their studies. I will recommend all the new students to be punctual in class, participate in discussions, don’t hesitate to speak up loudly, ask questions then success is yours and get the best advantage of this great opportunity in making some good relations with your professors, fellows , coordinators and those who can help you in making a successful leader in future.

Post written by Naik Alam, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Pakistan