Tag Archives: CCI Program

A Brand New Story

By Willy-Edgar Y. Jefferson Kouakou

Visiting with other Côte d’Ivoire students in Washington, D.C.

Have ever found yourself in an unbelievable situation? A situation you cannot explain how you got in. A situation like a dream? If yes, then you should be able to imagine how I was, and how I am since the first day I got selected for the CCI Program. Coming to the United States of America was a dream that came to pass, and for this opportunity I am totally grateful.

I would like to share with you a portion of my experience since I came in the United States of America. For my second time to take the flight, I was very excited because of the destination. It was hard to leave my family for this adventure, but I took it as a new challenge for building within me some skills and abilities. In fact, the Community College Initiative Program is a life changing opportunity. Each day is full of experiences, lessons, idea and fun. 

At the very beginning, I met extraordinary people from all around the world; the other CCI Participants. We got to know each other daily. One thing I am grateful for is to have all these cultures represented right with me every day. That is incredible how diverse our world is! I was just proud and thankful to be part of this cross-cultural program occurring in a cross-cultural country. I felt glad to interact with people and moreover, I was very excited when it came to speak about my country, my cultures, the way we do things, the way we understand the world and how we interact with people. I realized that in less than two months that many of my childhood and teenage dreams were fulfilled, one was to come is the U.S, another one was to see famous places like The White House, The Capitol Building, The Pentagon, the Washington Monument, and one other dream was to speak before an assembly of youth from all round the World. On the 07, August 2019, we all went to a youth summit in Washington DC, at the World Bank and there, I got the privilege to take the floor and express myself in front of hundreds of people. I still remember when I told the assembly that that day was the Independence Day Anniversary of my country, my dear Cote D’Ivoire; they gave a round of applause before I kept on and once again, I felt grateful.

CCI Participants at the World Bank Summit in Lafayette Square

A brand-new story started, and I am no more the same! Here, I am taking classes of Social Media and Marketing in NOVA (Northern Virginia) Community College – Annandale campus. For me Marketing was just what everyone of us thinks it is but after my first class with an amazing Teacher called Zulma Westney, I understood that marketing was more than that. Every day builds me up and strengthens in me more skills. 

As the story kept on going on, I am still feeling blessed by the crowd of opportunities we are exposed to. Volunteering activities, new places discovery, new food tasting and meeting of new people are making my stay in the U.S. My experience is getting more enriched and amazing through workshops, museums visit, Holidays like Thanksgiving, but above all, the kindness of my Social families (Mindi & Alan) – (Barbara & Wayne). They are always taking care of me as a genuine child of them. Thank you for being so kind and available.

Recently, I got a brand new Internship in Washington DC. I could not believe to get this opportunity at this period. There also, I am learning a lot in my field of study because of the practical thing we do. I am blessed to be part of this program, I am blessed to have met such great coordinators who really help me and all the CCI participants. I am blessed to be part of the G7 Team (the Ivorian CCI Participant) always supported by Mr. Gbagbakou, I am blessed to be part of IF NOVA and I am also blessed to share with you my experience. To conclude I would like to encourage everyone reading my article to strongly believe that nothing is impossible if only we can work hard and believe in us; here is the proof, from the Capitol of Bouake (Cote D’Ivoire), I got to the Capitol of the United States of America. If you do not believe in yourself nobody will do it for you and always remember that by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.

Thank you.

God bless you. 

Look for opportunities by going your own way

What would you do if you apply to the CCI program and get a NOT as an answer three times in a row? Would you give up on your dream or would you remain stubborn, and try one more time in an effort to finally be selected? The answer seems obvious now, but after a 4th attempt, I was finally chosen to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. Being a CCI participant to me means that dreams actually do come true. I know it sounds cliche but I did not stop until I reached this spot where I am today and that’s the best definition I could find for it.

Ten months may look like a long period of time, but actually that number is not that big as one might think. Let a day pass without taking advantage of it; then you would have wasted an opportunity. When you fight hard for something the way I did you realize that there is no room for wasting chances to meet new people and learn. It is equally important to move out of your comfort zone, go your own way, and seek for those things happening around you. The day I arrived in the United States, I set as a goal that I was determined to bring out the best in me, and so far I am achieving and molding this new philosophy in my life every single day.

District Creatives: A Creative discussion with Rebecca Stonebraker

I am well aware that opportunities never knock twice the door; you have to look for them! Something I love about the Washington DC Metro area is the creativity pouring from every corner. In DC, for example, designers, communicators, and entrepreneurs gather together to create groups with the objective of mutual learning, exchanging of ideas, networking, and genuinely growing; whether is a workshop, a panel with experts, or just a meeting in a cafe I always learn something different from each one of them.

ONA DC, Media Entrepreneurship workshop

The first event I attended was a meetup in a group called “District Creatives.” This group focuses on creative careers. This is an excellent place to learn and know what is trending today in our field. There are a lot more groups and communities I have successfully joined and they have been providing a platform to show myself and make connections. ONA DC, Design + Donuts, and Design Thinking: DC are just a few to mention. I am a firm believer that people should not be scared of walking alone in order to find ways to improve and grow just as I am doing here. Four months have passed and I feel like I have been here for two years.

National Public Radio panel

I would like to finish with the following example: Lindsey Stirling, the famous and super talented violinist was once told she was not marketable while participating in America’s Got Talent and was eliminated from the competition. This event did not stop her; she knew her worth, she continued learning, and practicing; today, she is one of the most successful American performers. The process of learning never ends if you know what exactly it is what you want; limitless chances are waiting for you but the question is: Are you willing to work for them?

Post written by Juan Gabriel Tangarife Usuga, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Colombia

The Frightening Panic Zone

THE FRIGHTENING PANIC ZONE

Before coming to the U.S, and during the first weeks, I had many fears. For example, I was so frightened about the idea of flying or being alone in an airport. Also, I was so worried about my classes. Failing in exams, not being able to understand the language, traveling far from the city, or getting injured were thoughts that were hanging over my head daily. In one of our summer activities, we were talking about panic, comfort, and growth zone. At that
point, almost everything for me was in a red, bold, and scary panic zone. But there’s a fun fact: life is just like horror movies. When the ghost is behind the door and the main character goes directly to that place, (even when he/she knows that there’s something wrong).

That’s how I’ve been facing all my fears. I took my flight alone, I had a low score in my English exam and my first day of classes made me cry since I didn’t understand anything, one of my friends cut his finger in our apartment, then one week later I was bitten by a squirrel. I even went to Maryland after classes and I got lost (for 20
minutes).

A frightening squirrel

What I want to mean with this is that the thing you fear the most, sooner or later will come to your life. In all those situations I just wanted to cry and run away, but I didn’t. That’s one of
my most valuable lessons from CCI: Even if I’m deadly terrified, I do not allow fear to be stronger than my conviction. Thanks to that I also knew New York, I went hiking, tubing, and
kayaking, I’ve made tons of friends, I’ve eaten wonderful food, and I’ve found that I was braver than I thought.

 

Unforgettable adventures with wonderful people

 

Now, those things that looked so overwhelming at the beginning, they’re just funny stories that I keep as unforgettable memories. They have placed me in a growth zone. They are guiding me towards the path of my dreams, and I hope they can do that, not just for me, but
also for all the people that have felt that the panic zone is bigger than themselves.

Post written by Luisa Dahianna Trujillo López, 2019-2020 Participant from Colombia

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.

CCI Through My Eyes

CCI THROUGH MY EYES

Studying in the US was the biggest dream I ever had. I got the opportunity through the CCIP (Community College Initiative Program). Back in India I was studying and working at the same time. I used to work for 14 hours a day; I was working as a Teacher in an organization and on weekends I used to work as a personal tutor. I started teaching in my community when I was 13 years old. I had a big dream to do something different in the IT field but I did not know how to go about it. After a lot of hard work and I came to the USA. New country, culture, language.

(Outside the Alexandria Campus)

Every day I feel like a new life I got here. I found a really great learning opportunity in the USA. I came here with my goals and plans so, whenever someone asked me “what is your next goal?” I always answer sometimes people laugh but I keep focus on my goal. I was pursuing my graduation from distance learning education where I could not learn practical’s. I am a student of IT. As my major is Cybersecurity I learn a lot. There are tons of opportunities for students to learn something new for example, I have been to an event in Marymount university and it was free for students only. There was one guest speaker came who was from NIST (National Institute of Standard and Technology). It was a very great night for me. A lot of information, networking, and I realize that I can achieve how much I want here. Since then I started looking for more opportunities and my coordinator always support me to do. I attend their events to learn new information which is really helpful. One day I was researching health and I read one important thing “ if you really want to be on a track so, keep learning about that topic “ I started following. One day I got to know about Amazon career day and I was so curious to know about it.  I went to the place and I found that Amazon is not a normal corporation because it took 40 min to go inside. There were a lot of people a huge crowd. I got to know there AWS certificate is more important which is provided by Amazon. Since then my hungriness of learning increased.

(Attending a presentation)

(Line outside of Amazon Career Day)

Everyday learning I am able to connect with my main goal. I got an internship which is similar to my goal. I work as an Instructor of Technology in Action and Career Development. I have to make my students enable to get better jobs and help them to find their careers. When I was applying for the CCI Program, my main goal was to provide IT education to students who are really great but could not get an opportunity. This is just one look for the CCI program. I did volunteering, internships, action plans, and fun. These experiences are fun. I generally go to the events for volunteering and I learn a lot about people their culture, countries, their work style. I have an opportunity to learn about American culture through my Social Hosts and our Coordinator. I never realize that I am away from my family as I have my hosts and my coordinators.

Every day It is full of excitement but still, I open my excel sheet about my details and check how many days are gone. This document makes me excited every day and gives more dreams for INDIA for my nation my dreams for my family.

(Attending the Amazon Career Summit)

Rashi Saini

Climate

Sled dogs run through meltwater in north-western Greenland. STEFFEN M OLSEN VIA TWITTER / DANISH METEOROLOGICAL INSTITUTE

We all hate the fact that the weather is getting warmer, that the food we love to eat is scarcely available, that many parts of the world have limited to no access to clean water.

This note, coming from a fellow human, who has seen the deadly consequences of Climate Change first-hand, is quite underwhelming. From multiple cyclones to a major flooding event to a really bad drought, I have seen them all within a disturbingly small period of 4-5 years.

Climate Change is a big deal for me, as it should be for everyone else. This is because, the proper functioning of the Planet matters more than anything, as it is the primary reason of survival of whatever that is standing, sitting, jumping, walking, crawling, etc., on this magnificent mass of ice, water, air, and land. Without which, nothing will exist.

There’s a lot more to this. We don’t have to do something significant, just changing the way in which we do a couple of small things can make a major difference. Never think that you are too small to make a difference.

As CCI participants, there’s a certain amount of responsibility on our shoulders. We are the ambassadors of our country and are an example to all those that are directly impacted by us.

Some of the ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint are, taking a reusable steel water bottle when we go out, using reusable bags to buy groceries, taking a small towel or handkerchief so that we don’t have to use paper towels, eat less meat whenever possible, taking a short shower, and the list goes on.

I want to use this opportunity to learn more about the effects of Climate Change and how to combat the same in the US and beyond. There is so much of exposure in this country, which I wish to take advantage of. I would also like to share my experiences and thoughts with the fellow participants and whoever my path crosses with.

A lot of organizations in the US encourage the general public and the students like us to engage in both volunteering activities and internships to work alongside them to combat this major issue. There is umpteen amount of opportunities around us, we just have to keep our eyes open and our ears sharp enough.

As an individual, we can create an action plan to reduce our carbon footprint slowly, but steadily. For example, we can start reducing the amount of single-use plastics that we buy, use, and throw away in an instant. Every single contribution towards the greater good helps the Planet.

More than helping the planet, you are helping yourself first – to become a more responsible and a conscientious human being.

When I return back to my country, after this year of study in the United States, I wish to use all that I have learnt from my experiences and contribute towards achieving a greener and sustainable future by collaborating with many of the different organizations who are working towards the same unified goal.

As my major is Business and Entrepreneurship, my future plan is to start a business, a very sustainable one at that, to go along with my beliefs. I want to be an example to the rest of them, who say that sustainable practices and profits do not go along well with each other, by proving otherwise.

It does sound like a big dream, but what value does it hold if it is not so. So, I encourage every single one of you, who is reading this entry, to have big dreams and work towards them without compromising on your values midway for temporary and materialistic results. Have an insanely good life, full of positivity and success!

Participants get vocal during a global climate change action strike on Sept. 20 in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. They are demanding that the German government and corporations take a fast-track policy towards lowering CO2 emissions and combating global warming.

(Photo: Maja Hitij / Getty Images)

Some of the other quotes that I’d like to share,

“It’s Never Too Late”

“Care about the Planet as much as you Care about who you Believe Created it”

“Don’t be a Fossil Fool”

“Winter is not Coming Anymore”

“There is no Plan(et) B”

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/climate-change/

https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

https://www.ipcc.ch/

https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/climate-change-evidence-causes/basics-of-climate-change/

A note by,

Aswin Raghav Rengarajan (CCI Participant – India – 2019/20)

 

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.

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