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
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 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 …!!!
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.
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
Participating in Women’s March in Washington DC was the first time for me. I am glad that I was able to join millions of other women to rise up for what we believe in, for our rights to be heard. It was a great experience. Walking side by side with not only women but also men without looking at our races or religions or other differences in fact everyone was very friendly, supportive and caring. I have been living in USA for 6 months but that day I saw such crowd I’ve never seen before. At the Metro station there were so many people who tried to get in the train, there was almost no space inside that everyone had to tolerate the situation and try to make room for more people to come in. Before, whenever I used Metro people didn’t really talk to other people but at that moment I saw how people would lend other people their hands to come into the train, to help others. I and my sisters met their friends, they came with posters and other attributes that represented things that everybody was standing for, respect for woman, women rights, etc. People gathered and started encouraging each others with speeches, sometimes we also sang songs or simply walking down the streets. That day I learned something I never learned in the classroom, to always stand up for what I believe, to speak up for it, to not feel small in front of others. This kind of opportunity for women is very hard to get in my country, India, as girls are not treated equally. For example, girls in India can barely continue their education after 10th grade, this breaks my heart and I hope I can be a help for this social problem. Another problem is the lack of support for LGBTQ community in my country, they don’t have anybody to stand for them, for their rights. I felt so bad thinking about my people especially the suppressed ones, when I witnessed how people in United States can freely express their struggles and they also have so much freedom and support from other people, I wish for the same thing in my country as well. I really concern about how bad the girls in my country are treated. They are not safe if they go out after 10pm, there’s always a possibility that they will get raped. If they are working and coming home late neighbors will start talking bad about themselves without knowing that they work hard only to support their families. I hope I can help my community to start standing for girls by sharing the knowledge and experience I have gained to them and hopefully it will bring change. I know it will be difficult but it is worth trying.
Post written by Nilofar Shaikh, CCI participant at NOVA, 2016-2017, India
As students, especially as CCI students, we do have a lot of things to do. Doing some off campus activities, such as internships, volunteering in order to get engaged to our community is a privilege for us to experience it, yet getting engaged to our campus also important and worth being. I assume that a good way to get engaged with campus is by using the resources that has been provided for us and absolutely they are free.
One of the resources that almost everyday I visit is The Library. If you hear the word “library”, you would have imagined dozens of books and a huge quiet room that sometimes makes you bored and sleepy, but yet there are actually a lot of interesting and useful things to do there. Besides for reading books, you can also use others tools such as computers, digital media studios, group study rooms, laptop kiosks, electronic equipments in circulation desks (cameras, tablets, camera accessories, calculators, audio equipments), and also chess arena for the chess likers. You can use those tools to do your assignment, or even just for fun, to release your stress after doing a lot of work. Since you get a free wifi connection, you can use the computers or laptops just to listen to your favorite music on youtube, etc, and of course for tablets, camera, calculators and some other stuff you can borrow and bring them home for generally 7 days with 1 renewal.
Besides library, particularly for those who spend a lot of time in Annandale campus, in the same building where the library is, there are also some sources that are very helpful and useful in order to renew, sharpen and even gain new knowledge in writing center, language center, and math & science center. From the CG building, we can also connect to CE building through the corridor on the first floor where we can also do some sports activities in Fitness Center, basketball/volleyball arena and dance room. Last but not least other sources that I want to share are Counseling Center and Career & Transfer Center that I already had an experience with when I was consulting about my resume. I got another point of view and some advice from the advisors and it turned out well for me.
So, guys, I know sometimes we feel like we do not need them because we are already know about those kind of things, but who knows, maybe when you go to writing center, language center or career advisor, you will meet people that link you to another opportunity for internships, volunteer or other kinds of good events that you never imagine before. Or now you have another skill by knowing another language, movie making, photographing, just by using those resources. So, for those who haven’t been using those sources effectively, I suggest you guys to start using them right now because I truly believe that it’s not a waste of time to use these resources and at the end of this program when we already reach our home countries, we are going to bring something worth telling to our folks about our campus and community, besides definitely our wonderful personal experiences here in USA.
Post written by Natallia Rumboirussy, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia
It was cloudy that day, January 12th 2017, our seventh day in Arizona for CCI Program mid year retreat. Sergio, our bus driver, rode the bus slow enough that we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way to Sedona. It took about 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach Cathedral Rock Trail where we would start our Silent Reflections Hike. Andrew, CCI staff who has become more like a friend, gave us short briefing about the hike and its purpose few minutes before we got off the bus. We were encouraged to stop talking the second we stepped down from the bus and to find our own path to climb up to the top of the rock therefore we could have personal time to reflect on our life and goals we have set or other things that matter. We could also skim for small rock along the trail which we felt like representing ourselves or things that are important to us and we might take it home as memory-keeper from Sedona for us. He understood that some of us might not take that silent hike seriously and he was right. Some people were still talking when we started walking up the trail. I decided to get off the bus after most of my friends had left. As my friends followed the trail, I turned to different path remembering what Andrew told us. I walked through a small river and bushes and trees without saying a word. At first I thought I would not enjoy that hike and the silence but it turned out to be different. I loved the silence so much that I wished I was the only person there at that very moment, or I could walk far enough that my friends’ voices wouldn’t be heard.
I kept walking and sometimes jumping over some rocks. There were times when I got scared thinking of snake or tarantula would come out from the rocks or bushes along my way but I remembered somebody once told me that they all would be hiding during winter so I should be safe. Once I got rid of all the scary thoughts that hike became more enjoyable. I confidently walked toward the big rocks standing in front of me and was determined to climb them up even though it seemed difficult. Whenever I reached the points where it looked like there was no way up, I would tell myself “No Cessy, there must be a way! Don’t give up!”. Then I would go round the rock and found that way. I crawled. I slid. I held on the tips of the rocks. I prayed that I will not fall down.
A small heart-shaped rock caught my eyes when I finally reached the top of the rocks. I took it and gave myself some time to think of the meaning of that small rock for me. I came to conclusion that love has always been the strongest force on earth for me. I always believe that whatever we do if it comes out of love it will bear fruit. In the middle of chaos and bad things that happen all around the world, even a small action of love will bring peace and hope for those who are hopeless. There will be times when I feel like giving up on people or my dreams to help my community, at those times I should remember the very reason why I start doing whatever I have planned on doing to help my community which is to share the love. Silent hike was the best memory of mine during the midyear retreat simply because I learned not to give up easily when I reached the dead end but to try to find another way. I was also reminded that I should not underestimate the power of love, that it doesn’t matter how small the help I can be for my people as long as I do it with love it will touch them.
Post written by Picessylia Anakay, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia
Sometimes, I want to be a lucky person. Then, I couldn’t believe that 6 months ago I would be able to receive a scholarship to study in the United States of America. Having been offered this good opportunity, I am learning that everything is possible in life, I cannot thank the Turkish Fulbright Program enough. To achieve my career goals it will take 10 months of studying, volunteering and internship. When I landed at the Washington Dulles International Airport I expected to feel the excitement so much because I didn’t want to forget that moment but I could not really feel anything at all; I think I was shocked. When my school coordinator came to pick me up from the airport and drove me to the house I am currently staying in I was very excited. I met my housemates. I figured out that everybody has different accent since we all come from different countries. For the first few weeks I couldn’t understand anything my new friends were saying so I was always carrying around a pen and paper to write the new English words I was learning. I was just listening to conversations between them, asking myself, what does it mean? What did you mean? How can I say this sentence? When I said a sentence, I would ask, did I say it right? 3 months passed with these questions. By the way, the only thing I can recommend to those who want to join this program is to bring their English to the top level before coming here. I never give up. The reason for not giving up is that I want to learn English in the best way and when I return to Turkey, I want to get a very nice job. The other most important thing is that my friends and my school coordinators in the CCI Program are doing their best to help me. All my friends say, “Yes you are doing well now Fazilet and you wıll be doing even better in the next couple of months”, which gives me an incredible feeling. I try to do everything alone but my friends never made me feel like I was alone. To finally be here and have friends who help is something awesome for me. Thank you so much for having such a beautiful family…
Post written by Fazilet Oruc, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Turkey
This blog post was originally published on Fazilet’s blog
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.
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.
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.
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
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 USA 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 experience 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.
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”
Post written by Akhlaq Khan, CCI participant at NOVA, 2015-2016, India
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
Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students