Tag Archives: Culture

Thanksgiving with a traditional American family!

We all know, Thanksgiving is one of the most important traditions in the USA and brings family members together. This special holiday is also important for us -as CCI participants- to understand American culture. If you considered this as important progress step for yourself, probably you have spent Thanksgiving with an American family, like your social host. I wanted to make this tradition worthy and I decided to go to Pennsylvania to spend my Thanksgiving with a traditional host family!

One month ago, from Thanksgiving I have heard this trip from International Friends Community Organization, that we have here at NOVA area. They told that this trip would be amazing experience for me as an international student. Program was including staying with an American family and visiting Amish community at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The process of registering for this trip I have learned that we can stay with someone in the same house, so my other CCI friend Alka Sharma and I determined to stay together with the same family. I was so excited, but at the same time I didn’t know what to expect. On Thanksgiving morning, we traveled to the Pennsylvania and met with our host families. Our hosts were Amos and Kate King, who have a very large family. They were amazing! That 3 days I spend with them was so precious. They made me feel like I was with my own family, which was what I needed. Our social family was so curios about our countries. They ask lots of questions about India and Turkey, and we were so excited to answer all of it! We had a chance to introduce our cultures correctly. At the same time, we also asked very deep questions about American culture, because they were very traditional, and it made us more curious about learning true American culture. In that 3 days we exchanged our cultures a lot. Just like us, they were so respectful to our cultures. Even though there were 3 different religions in that house, we never felt different or outcast. I personally took too many things about American culture.

Since, one of CCI programs’ purposes is exchanging our cultures; this was a great opportunity for me. I think meeting and spending time with American families is the best way to determine American culture. If you can’t find this kind of opportunities you can try to spend more time with your social hosts.

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

Around the World Cultural Food Festival & IYLA Global Summit World Bank

Who doesn’t know America? The country that a lot of people want to go to; the dream land. You can feel the vibe of America through their Film industry “Hollywood”, Great musicians and singers, advanced technology and the people are well known for their industrious attitude. When I was little I’d always want to go there, though it was just a dream because I didn’t have money. I didn’t have any family or connection there and most importantly I had no idea what living there was going to be like. November 2017, I saw a link on Facebook about CCI Program, I clicked the link, prepared my papers, got into the selection, followed all the requirements and here I am in United State of America. Through Community College Initiative Program 2018/2019 I have a chance to set my feet in US and study at Northern Virginia Community College without even spending a dime. Yapp…. Dream comes true right??

Besides being a Business Management student at Nova, I have attended amazing events. My first event was at Around the World Cultural Food Festival which was held on August 18, 2018 in Washington DC. Corina and Julio were the event and volunteer coordinators at the event. They came to NOVA to meet all the CCI Program participants and to give us information about this event and how to sign up as volunteers. We got the sheet where we could choose our workstation such as Information desk, Operations, Backstage staff and beer garden. Guess what I signed up for? I signed up for Beer Garden station. To me I imagined being among a bunch of drunkards, but it wasn’t so. My task was to check the ID of the visitors who were entering the beer garden making sure they were above 21 years and then tag them with wristband, no babies were allowed as well. The other task was to make sure the tables and our station is clean. Thus, it was a very wonderful experience because Around the world cultural food festival is a huge event, they occupied the 13th Street Pennsylvania Avenue Freedom plaza and enlivened by 18 food vendors participants, 6 dessert vendors participants and performers from all over the world. Thousands of people visited this event and I was very happy to be there.

CCI volunteers setting up flags.
Volunteering with Sara from Egypt

The second event was International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) Global Summit which was held at World Bank in Washington DC on August 10,2018. This event enlightened us about Entrepreneurship and how to be successful in managing your business. I was impressed with this event due to the venue, which was in a tremendous building, made up of enthused young people from all over the world. The speakers were awesome, and the group discussions was innovative, inspiring, and so much fun. The event started at 10 am and ended at 5 pm. I didn’t get bored at all because there were various activities such as keynote session, Questions and Answers with guest speakers, groups discussion, presentations session from each group and one of the speakers sang the song without music. It was very funny because I think he sang the whole song and his voice is below average, in the end, the I clapped my hands so hard for him for having the gut to sing in front of the audience. Anyway, the MC and keynote speakers of IYLA Global Summit were awesome and mind blowing because they are real entrepreneurs and they built their businesses from scratch. Saleema Vellani was the MC and she’s the Co-Founder and World Bank Y2Y Mentorship Co-Chair. The Speakers were Anthony Kim from Heritage Foundation (Editor of Index of Economic Freedom), Caroline Pugh the Founder of Care of Journey, Ahva Sadeghi Co-Founder and CEO of SYMBA and Ravi Social Entrepreneur from Nepal. They shared their experiences in starting their businesses, how to manage and keep the businesses running, how to solve internal and external problems, reaching their profit goals and how to give back to the community. That was a lot to take away.

At IYLA with CCI participants Sara, Aaron, and Schawany

These two are the events in my first month in America and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. I will not waste my time here, my friends and I have many things we need to learn, explore and experience. We still have many upcoming events and I cannot wait to share another story of CCI Program activities. Stay tuned.

Blog written by Helen Sitaniapessy from Indonesia, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale. 

 

CCI Cohort Visit to the National Museum of the American Indian

Shuvajit Saha (India) and Vuyani Maduna (South Africa) outside of the National Museum of the American Indian

Self-determination of nations is very vital, more and more of previously colonized and oppressed people of the world are trying to recapture what they lost as a result of being invaded and subjected to pain and suffering. The natives of America find themselves still fighting for self-determination and self-government in the United States of America. The NOVA CCI cohort visited the National museum of American Indians to learn about their history, Culture, Suffering and oppression. When the colonizers arrived in the Americas they found native people living in the land – the colonizers wanted to expand the kingdom of their native lands and they were determined to conquer the new world by all means necessary, others were driven by creed and the love of money which turned them into ruthless and heartless people.

The invasion of America by foreign forces destroyed the native people, there were wars and conflicts that resulted in scores of deaths on both sides. They two sides realized there won’t be no solution to their fight they decided to enter into agreements, these agreements would ensure that the invaders would live in America but they should never try to conquer the lands of the Natives. These agreements were called treaties, but as more invaders came to America, land was needed for the people – these new pressing development led to the invaders breaking the treaties and those actions led to more wars between the Natives and the invaders.

Shuvajit Saha (India) and Muhammad Arham (Indonesia) at the National Museum of the American Indian

The invaders were determined to build a new nation in a land they just invaded and conquered. The thirteen States of America were formed with George Washington becoming the first president of the United States of America, the concept of the United States spelled destruction for Native Americans – the more the new country expanded the more the treaties were broken and the more the natives lost their land. The worst president for the Natives was Andrew Jackson who initiated the forced removals of

 the natives to make way for European settlement, and these forced removals are notoriously known as “the trail of tears”

Even in the present USA Native Americans still face oppression and their lands which are called reservations keep on be undermined and disregarded by fellow Americans and the government.

Post written by Shuvajit Saha, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India

Cycles of Life

It is incredible how this experience has made me a whole new person. There is no way to put into words what I am feeling now. Three months ago, I realized that I was lost in myself. I felt that I did not know who I was. I felt that a part of me was dying, but that little part was just dying to be born again. I cannot be more grateful for this challenging moment. It has not only made me grow a lot as a human being but also made me understand how important it is to challenge myself to overcome every stage of my life.

When I came here, I knew I wanted to challenge myself, but I did not imagine how hard it was going to be. Although I have always been passionate about my dreams, there was a time when I just did not know how valuable they are. Since I lost my confidence, I did not know how to express my ideas. So, I felt that I did not belong here because I was not good enough for this program. It was really frustrating to feel that I was not able to do what I wanted to do. As a consequence of these issues and other personal problems, I became depressed. Nevertheless, having one of my worst moments I realized how important is not only to appreciate difficult times but also to die in each stage of your life. On first thought, it does not make sense, but let me explain to you the big meaning that it has for me. I strongly believe that life is made of cycles. Each cycle of our life is a stage that we should live to learn from it; however, we should also die to be born again. We will have learned a lot, but we will also need to keep going without look back.  

 

In other words, that challenging moment not only made me born again but also changed the perspective of my life. I learned that my dreams are as valuable as I want them to be. I learned that I am important for my community and that I may cause a significant change if share all the things that I have learned until today. Now I know that nothing is impossible and that I am the only one who can strongly believe in her dreams to make them come true. Being involved in CCI program change my life. This is a stage of learning for my life and I really appreciate it. All the CCI cohort has taught me to be confident about my dreams and that I am not alone when it comes to making a positive change in the world.

Post written by Natalia Martínez Conde, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from Colombia

 

 

 

 

Host Family

Studying in US is full of adventures -everything is different and exciting, including our Host Family.  All of a sudden, I share with people whom I have never seen before.

Having Dinner Together with Host Mom at Longhorn Steakhouse

My Host Mom, Kirstin Riddick.  She is IT technician in Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria campus. When I went to see her for first time I was nervous. When I reached her, she started speaking with me as she knows me before. She is righteous and happy Person. She became more than a friend to me.  She took me to church where we both taught in Sunday school and she took me to shopping also. I felt very close to her that I could share my ambition, experiences, feelings etc. We both had very good time twice. She took me to have lunch together. It was one of the beautiful spot and she told me that it shows Texas culture.  Kirstin always calls me to know about my health and experiences.

She made my exchange program better. She showed me what it means to be a member of an American Family. I am so thankful and blessed for having her in my life.

Finally, to say Host Family is the second family.  In the Conclusion, I am having experienced and great exchange program in the United States.

 

Post written by Shwethana Lella, CCI Participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India

Memorable trip to Mount Vernon for the CCI NOVA Cohort

The visit to one of the most iconic house in the United States – the house of the George Washington the first president of the United States –11 states to be exact was one of the memorable activities we did together as the NOVA CCI Cohort. As the cohort we filled up the vans and travelled to the Mount Vernon, the George Washington Estate. When we arrived we were struck by how huge the estate is and how beautiful it is. After getting our tickets we proceeded right inside the Estate and our tour began.

George Washington’s Mt. Vernon Estate

 

CCI Participant Maria Eiman from Pakistan

It began first by watching a short film about the life of Colonel Washington and the history of his bravery and impeccable leadership. After that we went to visit his mansion. Inside the mansion we got an opportunity to visit most of the rooms – the one that stood out was the green room which is the biggest in the mansion. It has been restored to what it was after the death of President Washington. It’s called the green room because most of the walls are painted in green which was a rare colour during his time and we saw his mirror and all of the paintings he had acquired. Then we proceeded to other rooms which are still kept in their original look – this was just only the first floor. Up the stairs we went to the second floor and we saw all the bedrooms and how things were kept in the bedrooms was mesmerizing.

Slave Quarters at George Washington’s Mt. Vernon

After the tour of the house we went to see the slave quarters – who would have thought that the beacon of liberty owned slaves. The quarters are being kept to their original look even though they are not the true reflection of what the living conditions of Washington slaves were. The quarters were cramped and crowded.  They were not conducive for human occupation. Our coordinators Kelly and Kate tried to explain the dilemma that was faced by Washington on the issue of slave ownership. Thus revealing the flawed aspect of his character.

After the slave quarters we visited the Washington education centre which is like a mini museum and it housed every memorabilia of the great George Washington. We saw many items that belonged to him including his gun, sword, dentures, military regalia and etc. then we went to see the Potomac River which has gorgeous scenery and soothing view. And then we proceeded to visit his tomb – in his will he had commanded that he be buried in his estate. And then we went to visit the monument of remembrance for the slaves that toiled for the Washington family. There are no distinctive graves for the slaves just one huge monument.

View of the Potomac River
Maria with fellow CCI Participants Swethana Lella, Anjum Begum, and Kaveri Aavula from India

Virginia is a beautiful state and this beauty is exquisitely exposed at the Mount Vernon estate – this compelled us to capture all the memories and we had FUN. A wonderful trip ended at 3 o clock pm. We went back with more questions.

 

Post written by Maria Eiman, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from Pakistan

Three Months

Three Months… Wow… It’s incredible how time flies… There are no words that can explain how I feel at this moment. It seems like I arrived yesterday at an airport of a foreign country, I was really nervous and just thinking “this is the moment to show how good my English is” I still remember how scared I was, it is my first time out of my country and I was alone.

When I arrived to my final destination, Virginia, and I saw Kate with a big smile waiting for me at the airport, it was so heartwarming. It made me feel so good, I start realizing that I was about to start a new life, I still remember that I was amazed, it was like a dream, I was feeling a mixture of inexplicable feelings. Then the first two people I met on the program arrived, Mamello and Vuyani… Wow… It was something crazy, although they were coming from a really long fly, they were smiling, and was as happy as usual. They greeted me as if we have been friends for a long time while we haven’t even talk before; that was the same with all the other CCI participants, they all received me with a smile that makes me feeling at ease. They showed me that I came to my new home.

First Day at the Airport in USA

Now it´s been three months… Three months full of wonderful experiences, where I have learned to appreciate the smallest details of every day. Thanks to all the volunteer activities I have done, I know how good you can feel when you do something good for someone else without waiting for something back. Definitely a warm smile can make you totally change your mood. I have also enjoyed the tours and the tourism around the DC area. The places are so amazing; seeing all those places makes me realizing that there is much more to see, to know, to discover…The world is big and the life is too short, our stay in United States as well yet sometimes we are losing time staying in our beds while we should go out and discover and learn new things. By doing so we will be well immerse in the US culture. It will also be an occasion for us to share ours the others. We must give the importance that Time have. We have some objectives here, if we don’t move on we will never reach our goals. Opportunities are around us and we need to find them.

It is pretty cool to know more about American culture and their history. I’m learning a lot about Americans, it is really nice to see how proud they are of their country and their culture and we can notice it with all those places we visited such as the capitol and the Senate. There are no word that can describe those buildings they are just marvelous; the art printed on the walls and the roofs is just incredible almost like magic, it is incredible how much they can transmit. Those buildings are just awesome! Another wonderful place is the Mount Vernon far from all civilization and monuments that we are now discovering, it relates the history of George Washington’s family and house which is pretty cool and interesting. I definitely enjoyed the landscape, the Potomac river with all those threes changing their colors and the sun shining in the sky it was just like a perfect painting. So relaxing it is incredible how this place can transmit a feeling of peace.

George Washington’s Mt. Vernon

My experience on the program is wonderful so far, it teaches me how to appreciate little things I have and previously overlooked, because today I’m not the same person I was yesterday; I’m sure I am not the same I will be tomorrow, this experience is teaching me to be more open minded, to go beyond prejudices and not to judge without knowing first. CCI teaches me that family is not just blood and even though we are so different we will always have a common thing, after all, before being from different countries, with different cultures, first, we are humans and we are from the world and now we are a family, because despite differences, discussions and cultural shocks, when someone needs something everyone is there, as the family now we are, because CCI teach us that everything goes beyond a culture, a religion or a skin color, we are all people who dream, and we are here following our dreams and that is what put us together, what make us stronger, because we are many but at the same time we are just one.

NOVA Alexandria and Annandale 2017-2018 CCI Cohorts

Three months may look like is not too much time, however it is a lot when I look back. I can notice how much we have experienced and lived during these few months, and it’s now that I can understand the real value of time. We are walking a path full of learning, it’s like that I can describe CCI, a path of learning, where we not only just grow as professionals but also as persons, because every day is a new step, a different adventure, a new world, and in each world, there is something new to learn, something new to discover.

Written by Camila Colorado Garcia, 2017-2018 NOVA Alexandria Participant

The CCI Cohort Volunteers at the Turkish Festival

The annual Turkish festival for the 2017 fall season was a blast! The Nova CCI cohort was part of this amazing experience. I was designated to the kids tent which was exciting because I love children. The general atmosphere was awesome – there were a lot of people at the festival and I could assume that the most of them were Turkish, even the music that was playing was from turkey. After been at the kids tent I went to help at the coffee tent- I served the best Turkish coffee there is, and how do I know this? The smiles of the people who drank it.

In the kids tent I taught the kids how to make beads and taught them how to paint pictures, the parents of the kids also participated in beads making. One thing that I like about kids is the energy they bring to any situation, they have a unique perspective on how things work. I spent most of my time in the kids tent- I did two shifts with the kids and my last two shift were in the coffee tent. The activities I performed in the coffee tent was to take orders then rush to serve coffee – it was a fun activity since I had never done anything of this nature before.

I started my volunteering from 10:00am until 09:00pm, the day of the festival was on the 23 September 2017. One important thing I learned is that culture is vital and it rests upon the people of that culture to conserve it. The tolerance that is practiced in the United States is astonishing, It is not every country that allows people to bring their own cultures to their countries. If there is one thing that the U.S stands for is self-determination of different people within the American society.

My experience has been great ever since I came to America. I have cherished the ideals that make the country tick. Every heartbeat of America is supported by volunteers and had working individuals who are truly patriotic.

CCI Student Vuyani Maduna, from South Africa, volunteering at the Turkish Festival.

 

Post written by Anjum Begum, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India

Washington Nationals Baseball Game

It was my first time I attend a baseball match. Thank you Mrs Kelly & Ms Kate for the beautiful gift. First when we reached at National park stadium I was really excited to see a large crowd,everyone was enjoying the day by food drink and Music, but everything was massup because of the rain, but i really appreciate National park management team they clean the water so quickly and we was able to see the match. Well though it was my first time in a baseball ground, but my feeling was just like a home run.

Thank you CCI Program to exchange my dream with reality!

Post written by Shuvajit Saha, 2017-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India

 

 

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