Tag Archives: Culture Shock

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.

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

GOODBYE DHAKA

Dhaka, capital city of Bangladesh, a crowded city where I grown up.  After performing my prayer, I was checking my email. I saw my ticket from Dhaka to Virginia has arrived.  My pleasure knowns no bound that finally I was moving into another city alone. Time to become independent had arrived.  The place where I take birth, where I grew up, where I lived now there’s a chance to experience my dream city Virginia, America. Really my dream came to life, studying in America, foremost country in the world. By the grace of God, I got this opportunity. The opportunity of exploration different culture is a different aspect of life. Also, I have to broaden my mind. The local marketplace of food, childhood school, the mosque and melodious Azan, gettogether in Ramadan I am going to leave it all.  The high tune of my mom, the sound of roadside vehicle, and rainy season of my country haunts me over and over again. The tall 18th building, my apartment, and some backbiter neighbor became monotonous in my life. The day before my flight, at 4:00 pm, after getting the ticket, my heart started beating fast, I started sweating, my mouth started becoming dry and my mind was not working. What happened to me? Yes, I was frightened.  I was feeling loneliness so I called my mom and said “Please, come and seat beside me.” Yes, I remember my sister’s face when I left the house for airport, she didn’t cry but she covered a lot of pain and also happiness. My bed, my school, my shopping mall everything is making me sad. Almost 30 hours of journey, will I be able to make it. Yes, I did make it happen when I was shivering at Dulles airport in Virginia. Yes, the road, the shops, the traffic, the people, the weather everything has changed. I was scared and I wanted to go back. Suddenly, a sound from my heart came to mind and I heard – ‘Yes, Ayesha, You can do it. You are not moving into new city, you are moving into new life to learn and discover the new aspects of life’.

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

The Taste of America in First Two Weeks

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

I remember, when I was in elementary school, I wrote many things in my Hello Kitty diary; about my favorite things, about my first shoes that I bought from my savings, also about my dreams. I did not know why in that time, I wrote that I really want to go abroad someday, and I wrote “I will go to America”.

Until I graduated from the university, I always looking for many opportunities to go abroad. One day, I tried my best to apply the CCI Program, that brought me to The United State now. Sometimes, I feel that it just like a dream. Many people said that I am lucky, but I don’t think so. I got this scholarship because of my effort, because I did my best until now.

Time flies. From sending the application, did the interview, orientation, until departure to the US, and now I have been in the US for two weeks. It’s not a very long time, but still, I learn many new things here. I mingle with many people, include my CCI friend from another country, some of American people, and taste many new things and new environment. I am so happy about those things. I feel like everything is going well. I eat well, sleep well, have a lot of fun, and earn something new in my school, Northern Virginia Community College.

From the orientation, my coordinator said that maybe all of us in the “honeymoon stage” right now, where everything seems good and exciting. It means that maybe in a couple of weeks ahead, we will face some culture shocks. I agree with that, but I hope that I will never experience the worse one. One of my biggest concern is missing my family in Indonesia, but thank God, we have so many options to keep in touch with our family through technology.

From my first two weeks in America, I learn a lot of things. First, prior my departure to this country, I thought that American people are arrogant, they hate Moslem people, they never smile, and all stereotyping things. Until I got here, I was totally wrong. Most of Americans are so friendly and helpful. They love to smile, and they say sorry and thank you in the easiest way. I mean, Indonesian people said that they are the friendliest people in the whole world, but they don’t do things like Americans. I can find many Indonesian people rarely say sorry when they did something wrong, also rarely say thank you to someone else. In America, they say those words easily.

The other thing that I found very interesting is, people in America are so on time. They appreciate time so much. Last week, when I arrived in my English class in the early morning, and I was the first one in the class, my professor said thank you to me for several times. I was so happy, because in Indonesia, when I arrived in a meeting point on time, no one cares. Also, when someone is coming late, no one cares.

But, not all the things are going well in this two weeks. I also feel somehow awkward with the situation here. The first thing that I feel it’s quite disgusting is I keep convert US dollar to my currency, and it drives me crazy. For example, when I bought spinach in the store and it costed me like 4 dollars, I felt it was too much. In my currency, 1 dollar means 13.000 Indonesian Rupiah. So, I always like “Really? 4 dollars for a little amount of spinach? In Indonesia, I will get a lot!”. It is so funny. So, now I try harder to avoid that habitual. It is useless to convert our currency to US dollar.

The second thing is, I feel it is a little bit uncomfortable to drink from the faucet directly, because in my hometown, we boil the water first before drinking it. My program coordinator said that it is safe here to drink directly from the faucet, so yah, now I am feel comfortable with that stuff.

About my new friends, all of them are so friendly and helpful. Sometimes, I find it is a little bit difficult to communicate because English is not our mother tongue, but that is the way to improve our communication skill. We learn many things together, we learn how to respect others’ opinion, others’ belief, and others’ culture. It is a very interesting thing for me, because it makes me be an open-minded person, and see the whole world with new perspective.

I believe that soon, I will experience many new things, and maybe have some culture shock about living in this country, but I hope that those things can make me a better person in the future. I always say to my own self that I must be a better person, and open myself to every new thing and try to deal with those stuffs. America, let’s get along!

Post written by Reski Puspitasari A. Sululing, CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia

Hello! Hello… Hello?

When I first landed in the United States I was over the moon, like swimming in a warm lagoon, with expectations that could fill a room! A rhyme was necessary to proper show my excitement. Here I was, for one, I assumed I would easily assimilate with America because I had consumed American culture for, what seems like my entire life, through television, music and movies so I anticipated very few surprises; but as I have learned assumptions are not truth. I had created an amazing, grand image of the USA encouraged by movies and other mass media, then when this image and expectations were not met… it was a shock to the system.

One of the difficult shocks I dealt with is the way Americans communicate, particularly greeting. Where I come from, South Africa, acknowledging another person is important through verbal greeting or any type of salute, what I found here is that this verbal acknowledgment is replaced by some gesture, like a quick-to-fade smile or a head nod and that is only when they even decide to acknowledge you at all.

hello-there

Now, it has been difficult for me not to attribute this to some sort of moral degeneration in the USA or how very wrong it is not to acknowledge others properly instead I have been forced to recognise that it is just a difference in communication, a stark one though.

I had been bouncing in and out of this American form of communication for the past three months, where I would acknowledge and greet people, get so frustrated when this is not reciprocated that I’d stop trying. Then of course I would feel like a terrible person, return to my South African way of greeting, get very little back… and so it goes. But I made a decision to stay true to myself, and fortunately more and more people are catching on and saying Hello.

Post written by Lerato Mahloko CCI participant at NOVA, South Africa