Tag Archives: Annandale

My Life in a Year

It all started with a dream to study in USA. A dream to live a student life in the states. CCI has helped me to make this dream true. Started my journey in June 2014 which changed my whole life, my perception towards life and made me emotional too. LOL
I remember myself as a big guy with low confidence and trying to make new friends. Trying to adjust with new people and being over-friendly which led to a lot of misinterpretations about me among people. The only women who was with me as true mentor, a true guardian was Kelly Forbes. ‘’You don’t have to be fake and over-friendly to make friends” her words that changed me. She’s the best gift that USimg_8104A has given me. I can’t forget her early morning messages when I was in Las Vegas “Akhlaq don’t spend all of your money’’ I bet no other coordinator would have been as concerned as she was with me. She pushed me far away from my self-bound limits to be independent and to be responsible. If I really want to describe her in one word she was mother and I’m fortunate to have her in my life as coordinator.

Jaclyn Ruybalid Krueger! The enthusiast coordinator whenever I saw her she was there with that beautiful smile. She always had a positive energy which reflects on her face that can change everyone’s day.

 

In my experimg_8102ience I’ve found many common skills with each CCI participants and I tried to upgrade myself to be better than before. I’ve learned so many things from these that I can’t mention them. I never thought I would be surrounded by so many pearls from different countries and getting to know them. Friends from CCI is the best thing one can have. Experiencing friendship other than CCI was bonus for me as I got to know people from Afghanistan, Thailand, Korea, and Ethiopia……. Omg! The list is never ending. In short I’ve friends from all over the world.

Volunteering at events and enjoying those events with free food, can’t describe that happiness.


These events taught me to serve for community. I never thought I would complete my volunteering hours without Luiza Arnaud and Bassem Alfy these guys always pushed me for volunteering. Talking with Khaled Soltanto (Habibi) always motivated me to get something I liked. My roommates were typically awesome hahahaha! Each of those guys have different perception for the same common thing. Whether its 12am or 1am and I wanted to go to DC Harold was always ready. Gymming with Andre (Brazilian) and Sifiso (South African) was an amazing experience and I can say I had international trainers. Dzidepo Kofi this Ghanaian guy taught me to play soccer and party hard! How could I forget the beauties of CCI Lekagugu, Joannita, Sandra, Gamze, and Luiza I miss you girls.
img_8105 Praveen and Nabila will have a great importance in my life I’ve learned a lot from you guys. Hope to see you soon.

On my return my friends asked what did you do in states? And what did you brought along with you from states? To which I replied “I lived my life in a year and I brought a promise to see those face again who made my life worth living there”

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Post written by Akhlaq Khan, CCI participant at NOVA, 2015-2016, India

Don’t Give Up On People

First day of fall semester, I woke up early, got ready and stood by the bus stop an hour before my class started. It took around 30 minutes to get to Annandale campus by the bus so I would try to kill the time by talking to my fellow friends and when we had nothing else to talk about I would just put my earphone on to listen to my favorite songs. I remembered I was so excited that finally I would meet and make real American friends, I planned to get to the class early so when they came in I would smile and greet them then introduce myself. I was the first person in the classroom, 30 minutes to go before the class started. I looked around, empty chairs and tables soon to be used by my “friends” even “best friends-to-be”. I waited for a while then decided to get a cup of coffee and chocolate croissant from the small in-campus Starbucks counter since I hadn’t had breakfast. Fifteen minutes before the class started, I was sipping my latte and taking small bite of the croissant when a girl came in, I smiled then she smiled back and quickly looked away before I could say hello. That moment made me realized that making friends here wouldn’t be as easy as back home.

As time passes by, I start to notice that people don’t really talk to other people in classroom unless they have to. People don’t really making friends in classroom. They come in, sit down, take notes, sign the attendance form, and then leave. I tried to talk to my classmates couple of times but outside the classroom they tend to act like they don’t know you so after a while I gave up on them. I would still say hello but I stopped putting efforts to get to know them better. Later on during the club fair at campus I met people who called themselves International Friends. They are basically doing a lot of fun activities to connect students or people from all around the world. First time I joined them we did Scavenger Hunt, we got to go to various places in Alexandria and even DC, the last destination was a park and we had BBQ there. My team turned out to be the winner of the game, we got simple gift, but the best gift for me was the people I got to meet there and then at campus since they also go to NVCC Annandale campus. Our friendship grows day by day with more and more people joining in. Most of us are international students, there are some from Belgium, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Perú, Egypt, China, Italy, Mongolia and other countries. They are all very friendly and fun. It’s good that now I will have friends to hang out with during lunch break, or to go to watch movie with, or to support me when I wanted to audition for NOVA Idol, or to play ping pong with after classes, or simply to talk to and share stories with. You go to school to study but that’s not the only thing you will gain from school. School also will give you the chance to make friends, to expand your network, and even for some people to build their social skill. You never know where life will take you, at some points your friends will help you to reach the success of your life by motivating or inspiring you. So, don’t ever give up on people or making friends.

Post written by Picessylia Anakay, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia

Home Away From Home

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

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

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

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

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CCI NOVA 2015-2016, Baltimore, MD

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

It not only teaches education…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time Creates Relationships

Nothing can heal the wounds of time.  When global strangers
meet for the first time, it is impossible to quantify the depths of relationships that would soon develop.

Although the following few months these strangers ssifiso-blog-3pend with each other can be dubbed as great times, they are faced with unceremoniously relinquishing the bond that each has developed.

The Community College Initiative (CCI) was an opportunity for me to meet students from different parts of the globe and take part in a culture exchange to create awareness/consciousness about South Africa and our standard of living while learning of cultures outside mine.

The time we were to spend in America seemed immense in the beginning; many of us took longer than others to adjust to being away from family and doing things on our own. This was a challenging transitions that required great patience and understanding.

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 Fransis and Yeison had become my new family and our apartment had become my new home. All three of us were bringing different experiences, cultures, customs, religions and ways of life into one house. Like any family, we had our problems but always found a way around them.


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Time had brought a lot of us closer than we had anticipated. We always celebrated each other’s victories and achievements; encouraged and gave each other a shoulder to cry on when things got overwhelming. We became each other’s biggest fans and sometimes worst critics.

 sifiso-blog-1Like most people in the program I had pockets of homesickness; for the most part it felt as though the closer we edge to our departure date the more excited and anxious we became. Our last month was perhaps the most ‘confusing’ emotively. I was excited about going home to my family and friends in South Africa but also saddened by the reality of having to leave my family and friends in the United States of America.

The CCI-NOVA participants had become family; a home away from home and for the duration of the program they were all I had. The day we had to separate and all head back to our respective countries was perhaps sadder than the day I had to say goodbye to family and friends when I was coming to the USA.sifiso-blog-2

Perhaps we were overwhelmed by the spatiotemporal limitations and having to readjust to not seeing each other as often as we were. Fortunately for us, we live in the age of technology where communication isn’t restricted to people in the same country or area anymore.

It is a pleasure to have met each and every person in the program; It is an honour to have shared and learnt from your advise, wisdom and sometimes encouragement to just “relax and take it easy”

I trust that time has strengthened our bonds to overcome the Kilometres that stand between us. I still maintain that we all have what it takes to change and shape the world to the kind of society we envision for ourselves and future generations.

 We are the ones we’ve been waiting for…

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

Conflicts Condemmed

“Tolerance and celebration of individual differences is the fire that fuels lasting love. “ -Tom Hannah

Do you know when the conflict arises? It arises when we have different thought about the same thing. To avoid conflicts; we need to know how to manage it. To get knowledge about that, our beloved coordinators arranged a workshop on conflict management. It was a one-day workshop took by Mr. Paco Valencia.

The class started like this; we were divided into 4 groups. Each group was a mixture of 8 different international CCI Program participants. Before the class, we took an assessment called MBTI Personality Assessment. This assessment was used to classify us under two major categories- 1) Extroverts and 2) Introverts. Majority of the people came under the group extrovert. Even I was in the extroverts. Only a very few came under the category introverts. Mr. Paco explained why we fell into these categories and explained what it is. From that moment, we went deeply into other categories like sensors (S), iNtuitives(N), Thinker(T), Feelers(F) etc.,. These minor categories gave us in depth knowledge about the individual thinking style and reacting style to the varying situations. We played small games to get to know about the categories.

With the knowledge which we gained with the previous activities, we played a game after our lunch break. This game was conducted to know what we have learnt so far in that workshop. The game was like, thinking that we only three sticks or woods to cross the river without touching the water. We were again split into 3 teams and used the sticks which was provided to cross the river. We enjoyed this game as well as learned a lot of stuff. The thing which I learnt is: trust is the chain which holds the entire team to accomplish the single goal.

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After this game, we understood what is a teamwork and how cooperate with heterogeneous group to reach the objective. We spoke about the game in the class, and heard some feedbacks about the game.

After few minutes of speaking about the game, we moved on to the next topic. We took another assessment to know how we solve the conflict(Conflict solving style). He gave us a two page sheet to circle some options. After doing all the circles he gave us a solution handout. With the help of that we were instructed mark ourselves to the corresponding fields. For me, it came out like competitive and avoiding conflict solving styles. This conflict solving style gave so much idea about me, and gave some valuable comprehension about the group in which I am in.

We came to the end of our workshop at 4 in the evening. This workshop enriched with lots of information about the varied people who are around me and in this entire world. Last but not the least, I would like to thank my coordinators and CCI Program for giving me this wonderful opportunity to know how to manage the conflict, and to fine-tune myself in the heterogeneous group.  I have learned one important thing in this workshop, we have to put ourselves in other shoes to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.

Post written by Halith Syed Mohamed, CCI Program participant at NOVA 2016-2017, India

Contribute. Connect. Interact.

( CCI ), at the beginning meant for as all the people know but after getting the chance and living that experience, I see that it means for me something completely different. Which is ( Contribute. Connect. Interact.)

Contribute is give and take also discuss, share time, share experiences, share cultures, understanding, other visions, different way of thinking and much more.

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Connect, after getting any new idea or thought or any new experience, you start connect all of them to each other and you find out that it means something completely different that what you thought before, is about learning. If you stay in on place for long time you get the best of it but in just one way, but if you spend time and ideas and cultures in different aspects and in different places you get the best of the best and you see the bigger picture, and you can see it from different angles not from just one angle.

Interact. This is your job, it could take some time after contributing and connecting to get the best result, but the best result will come. Even if you don’t see it the best, it’s the best. It’s something you’ve gained but maybe you don’t recognize it easily, but the people around you can understand it easily.

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CCI taught me 25 percent in my field of my study, and the rest of the 100 percent  they taught me ( HOW?). How to learn, how to get, how to share, how to find your path, how to give, how to connect, how to lead, how to share, how to see the things in the real way, how to be smarter and of course how to live.

Post written by Abdelkhalek Mohamed, CCI Participant at NOVA 2015-2016, Egypt

Why should I volunteer?

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A group photo with Shaheen Scout. July 2014

I belong to a country where community is defined as the religious group with whom I share my beliefs and religious practices. In my community we have a structure of serving community under a volunteer setup. For example, if we have doctors, occasionally they provide services frees of cost or with minimal charges, if someone is a teacher, he/she will be voluntarily serving in any community institution, likewise all the people in the community have a kind of volunteer responsibility which is kind of mandatory to serve and I believe that, it is the back bone of my community development.

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Group Scout Leader, Village Nomal, GB, Pakistan

Generally we think like what can we do, how can I serve my community, how can I be part of a worthy cause? Being a young student, having no professional experience, guess what could I do for my community? Believe me; I had much more opportunities to serve my community than any professional person because, volunteer services need time commitment and dedication. Since childhood I remained associated with different organizations with different responsibilities like, Group Scout Leader, Finance Secretary with a welfare Organization, As a Teacher in religious institution, Member of wheel chair committee, Administrator of JDC an Institution and member of Aga Khan Economic Planning local Board Gilgit.

In my educational career, I always remained an average student but today I am a participant of Community College Initiative program among 40 students of Pakistan. Till now it is one of the highest achievements in my career and this would never have happened without the skills I have gained from volunteer services.

Although with busy life it is difficult to manage time, but if you spare a short span of time for volunteering, you may have a greater impact on your personal life, professional life and your community. It is the best way to gain experience, enhancing interpersonal skills; it gives you a sense of accomplishment, an opportunity to interact with diverse group of people, an opportunity for selection of right career path and much more…

To begin with, Volunteering is a great opportunity to gain interpersonal skills like, being a good listener, a good communicator, responsiveness, promoting togetherness and settling disputes etc.

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9-11 Day of Service, photo by Caitlin Sanders, SCA

Secondly, volunteering is a platform where we can learn new things through participating in different events. While serving as volunteer we get involve in social, technical, funny and academic activities. Participation in event like Park cleaning, fund raising campaign and art exhibitions gave me an insight about these fields, which I could never learn in my routine classes.

Next, working for long hours, studying, assignments and other activities sometime makes us stressful. We can find such volunteer activities related to our own interest where we can have fun and enjoy, which may have a positive impact on our health.

Subsequently, I have handled a lot of tasks back in my own country but cleaning a pond in a park and controlling traffic in an event was something new and  interesting for me. Handling task smoothly in timely manners make us responsible and it gives us confidence to do something more.

Afterwards, networking is one of the most essential requirements for entrepreneurship minded people and nowadays finding a better job is all about networking. Volunteering lets you expand your relationships with other businesses and people with similar interests which can help you in finding better jobs.

Another main thing, volunteering is an opportunity to make choices from different professional fields, while participating in different events; you can select an interesting career field. Being student of economics I was planning to work in banking sector but my volunteer association with Aga Khan Economic planning board inspired me to think about entrepreneurship. During my services more than 10 families successfully initiated their own businesses which gave me a motivation to think beyond what I was imagining about my career and these were the experiences which linked me with such a wonderful international exchange program like the CCI Program, which is like a full package of experiential learning, theoretical studies, motivation and exposure visits.

Yet another important aspect of volunteering is meeting with diverse groups of people, for me it is a hobby; I enjoy participating in volunteer services because I love meeting new people and learning new things every day.

“Diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity”, HH Aga Khan”.

Volunteering is the best way to find people from different social backgrounds, cultures, food, experiences and ideas and only through mutual understanding we can bring peace in the world.

Finally, happiness and satisfaction cannot be purchased no matter how rich you are. The feelings cannot be compared to something else which we get after supporting a needy person.

In the end, I will conclude my writing with a beautiful quote by “Bob Marley,

“Live for your-self, you live in vain. Live for others, you will live again”.

Therefore I will recommend everyone to be a part of this worthy cause, which can help you being a successful person, helping you in living a happy, healthy and a meaningful life.

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

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