Tag Archives: Culture

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

My Experience in First Two Weeks

I am Shruv. When I reached at Washington DC I was very scared, unknown country, unknown people, and unknown rules. There was a lot of thoughts in my mind, But when I came to my apartment I was just shocked my roommates were too friendly with me, which I never expected. They treat me as a younger brother.

When I went to the campus I was silent and I just talk to my few friends, but the other guys came to me and they want to know about me which I had lack in my country. Now every single day I feel like a celebrity everyone want to know about me, my culture, and my customs. My friends never said anything wrong about my English cause my English is not good yet.

After joining this program my confidence level is increased day by day, also I knew a very important thing that is ‘don’t judge a book by his cover’.

This program is not just going to teach me about my major subject this will also teach me how to be a good person in life. Not only this program every single participant taught me something. Sometimes I inspired by their lifes how they achieved this opportunity. Now I am able to know many countrys culture, ethics by their ambassador beside if this thinks we have  a guide a very caring guide miss Kate and Kelly who teach us how to deal with our problems and encouraging us.

So it is a very nice experience for me to join such a huge program and thank you so much.

The thing I most like about people they listen to me and they tell me what is good for me . Thank you so much for a beautiful journey which just begin now.

 

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

Mom Again…. My Experience as a Social Host in the Community College Initiative Program

My husband emailed me at work one day in early August of 2016 – he wanted to sign up to be a “social host” for the Community College Initiative Program.  I had no idea what that meant – and my first reaction was “absolutely not”.  Knowing that as “mom”, a full time lawyer, the “manager” of our family (and we had just adopted a 7 month old puppy!)– it would be one more thing added to my already full plate.

About a week later, my husband sent me a confirmation letter.  We were matched with a student from Ghana.  Reluctantly, I agreed to participate.

Our first meeting was at the NOVA Annandale campus.  We met Eben, our student from Ghana.  He is a tall young man, with a wide smile. Eager to meet his new family, share his culture and learn about ours.  The meeting went well. Our eleven year old daughter, Maya, was excited.  I remember feeling bad, because we were about to leave on vacation.  But we promised that we would connect upon our return and begin our duties as “social hosts.”

We quickly became Facebook friends with Eben.  I think he “liked” every photo on my page.  We went on vacation and upon our return, the whirlwind of back-to-school time began.  How do I have time for this student, I thought?

Well – sharing time with Eben became easy. I first invited him to one of Maya’s basketball games and dinner. I thought – “this is our life, he should see what we do.”

With Grandma in tow, we picked up Eben for our first outing.  Eben quickly became an active participant, bouncing the ball back and forth to Maya when she wasn’t playing.  Eben began teaching me words in his language.

Our first dinner outing made me realize how fortunate we are – and what little Eben knew about American life.  He wanted help deciding what to order, questioned why there were so many forks on the table and why the servers kept filling our water glass.  We guided him through it.  Maya took an active role in this, teaching Eben to place his napkin on his lap and to use the large sharp knife to cut his steak.  Eben savored every bite – and showed his appreciation to us.

And so it began: the relationship that would change my life.  We invited Eben to the pumpkin patch.  He was so amazed – this is not what a farm in Ghana looked like – there were pumpkins, hay rides, goats to feed, swings, and huge slides to go down.  By the end of the day, Eben was exclaiming to us that “America is great!”  At this time, we were about to go into an election, where our soon-to-be President wanted to make our country great again.  I thought, ‘Eben is right – America is already great.’

Soon after this trip, I became “mom” to Eben.  I was a bit taken aback, but decided to roll with it. I learned that his own mother was not currently part of his life. I felt awkward and honored that he would bestow that title on me.

We continued on with our journey.  We took Eben to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate his birthday.  As “mom”, I began looking out for him. He’s allergic to corn, so I would discuss that with the servers. We made sure he received lots of gifts and wore the Sombrero.  He invited his roommate, Mehedi.  Little did I know, I was about to be a “mom” to both students.

We invited Eben to Ohio for Thanksgiving. He met my family. He saw snow!  If you really want to get to know someone – take them on a road trip.  It was then that I began to realize that Eben is an amazing young man.  He soaked in every moment of the trip, thanking us profusely along the way.  We toured Cleveland with him, took him to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, the waterfront, Dave & Busters, and a Hibachi restaurant. He met my high school friends, saw my grade school, my high school, my college and prayed in mother’s church.  I was moved beyond measure at how much this simple gesture – sharing my past – meant to him.

Inviting Eben and his roommate Mehedi to events with our family then became second nature.  They attended Maya’s piano recital, we went to Georgetown cupcake, we went to church.  They learned how crazy American’s are about their pets when I threw a 1st birthday party for our dog, Munchie.

We planned a trip to New York City, my husband’s parents live outside the city.  Eben and Mehedi met Ed’s family, toured NYC, and explored great restaurants.  They photographed EVERYTHING along the way!  It is amazing to know that even a subway sign is new and exciting to some.

As I said before, if you really want to get to know someone, take them on a road trip.  Because after this trip, I now had two sons. I was now “mom” to Eben and Mehedi. I didn’t mind one bit anymore. They were now part of me, my family and my heart.

Family birthday parties were to follow.  The Women’s March on Washington, roller skating, bowling, the Harlem Globetrotters, my birthday celebration, the movies.  They became family.  More church services.  We brought Mehedi to church services.  What an eye opener to see a Christian church experience through the eyes of a Muslim.  He soaked it all in – enjoying every minute.  We brought
them to Palm Sunday service, dyed Easter eggs, attended a vigil, they helped with lawn work at our home and even received a visit from the Easter Bunny and brought more friends to our Easter dinner and egg hunt!  Eben and Mehedi brought friends from the program and visited Maya’s school.  They shared a wealth of knowledge about their countries with Maya’s class.  And the class – they took up a donation of school supplies to send to Ghana.

Our time now is coming to an end. We are jamming in many more moments together before they leave to go home. I keep thinking that these are my boys and this is their home.  The students that I was so unsure of back in August will be leaving me, and it breaks my heart.  I am hoping they both return to the U.S as both hoping to come back and pursue more schooling here.  I am hoping to take Maya to Ghana and Bangladesh someday.  I want to meet both of their father’s that I have only spoken to on the phone.I know this experience has changed me.  I opened my heart and I learned so much about two young, amazing men and their cultures. My daughter has learned that she is very fortunate. And she has learned that if you work hard, you can overcome and succeed.

My advice to other families that consider being a social host – these students want to be a part of your life. Participate only if you have the time. Believe it or not, you probably do have the time – because all they really want is to experience the life you are already living.  And as I taught Eben and Mehedi, when you do something like this, you should “go big or go home.”  So take them along for the ride.

To my sons – forever – Eben and Mehedi.  Wherever life takes you, take me in your heart, as you will be in mine.

This experience was amazing and it went by way to fast. In fact, if I had blinked, I would have missed it….

Love,

Mom

Post written by Doreen Manchester, CCI Program Social Host 2016-2017

Touch Your Society

Coming from a country like South Africa that has a history of white supremacy and black oppression, I always knew that racial differences exist and are becoming problematic yet again in other countries including the United States of America. I had heard of people saying there are way too many racial issues in this country, I am fortunate so far to have never came across any racial prejudice but this has impacted my stay in this country in other ways. I am one person who loves having the television playing in the background when I study and often I’d be drawn by a racial incident involving a white cop and a black child, or some comment made to the Muslims / Mexican people. I can always feel the hair on my back stand up every time I see a police car; I am terrified to even help people in the street because the popular belief is that black people aren’t capable of any good deed. When I walk around campus, seeing Muslim students my heart aches with pain because I can almost smell their fear due to the current political climate that is building up in the country.

Hearing about how innocent people are killed and mistreated because of their race, religion, sexual orientation etc really boils my blood and it gives me even more motive to encourage people to travel more often and to connect with people outside their race, religion, tribe and country. And you probably asking yourselves why I’m talking about racial issues well let me take you out of the curiosity box: our scholarship program exists for cultural exchange, academic reasons and building relationships. It is important that we as beneficiaries of this program go back to our home countries and erase all this myths and stereotypes that exist in our own families and societies about other people.

I feel that it is now our responsibility to create world peace, honestly we cannot change the globe at once but if each and everyone one of us touches their society eventually the entire globe will see the light. Sometimes people are not even aware of their discriminating comments, not because they are ignorant but simply because they are not informed and were never exposed to a different group of people. We have been afforded the opportunity to learn about 13 different countries, their cultures, the traditions and their belief about other people-what now ? Now you go back home and be an ambassador for a world free of discrimination & the elimination of any supremacy.

The world is big enough for everyone to live in harmony and peace, without fear of being mistreated or killed for being different.

Post written by Ramaabele Millicent Mabotha, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, South Africa

No need to be colored

Spending 10 months with people you never thought you will see or meet one day. People that you don’t choose to live with. People that you just heard about them through media. When you get to meet them and live with them it is just an awesome experience.

Have you ever asked yourself how it feels to sit by somebody who looks physically different from you?? Without even talking to that person? Yes I made it and did more than that. From Pakistan to Dominican Republic, passing by Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Columbia, Ghana, South Africa, Turkey, Brazil, Yemen, even my own country, Côte D’Ivoire. What a great opportunity.  The best way for our world to come together is to communicate. It is true that it will be difficult the first time but isn’t it true that strength lies in diversity???

These simple things are not really taken into consideration but they are all linked. If only the world can see it. How important it is to learn from each other, regardless the color of the skin, or the differences. We have much more to learn.  We all complete each other. We are divided because we don’t understand. Let’s just take a little bit of our time to know each other. We just need to be open minded, we need to get out of our box to see how awesome it is to learn other culture.

Post written by Adjoke Therese Babalola, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Côte D’Ivoire

Finding Inner Light

Namaste. Tu kaise hei? Me teek hu. Dhanyavaad.

So I had to learn how to say some basics in Hindi because it seems that, for almost everyone who meets me by the first time, I am Indian. People literally have come to me and said “Namaste,” or suddenly start speaking in Hindi. I usually said “Namaste” as well, but then I explain that I am not Indian, that I am Colombian. Then they apologize, but what they don’t understand is that there is nothing to apologize for. For me, it is a pleasure to be call Indian.

With this, I do not mean I am not proud of being Colombian. In fact, I am a proud Latina and I would not have wanted to be born anywhere else in the world. I just like the fact that people think I am Asian. By the way, Indian girls are beautiful, why would I be upset by that? Haha!!

Before coming to USA, I was already really interested in Indian culture, traditions, religion, movies and music. I remember taking dancing classes where the music was Indian and watching movies of this handsome guy who cooks delicious Indian dishes. I never thought I was going to meet real Indians, and that I was going to be taken as one.

Each October, the Indians and some Pakistanis Celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, one of their major festivals. Since my friends knew I love immersing in new cultures, they planned to invite me to go with them to the temple. I delightedly accepted, I love the idea of “the victory of light over darkness.” But, they not only took me to the temple, they also made me look just like one of them.
The preparations started about three hours early. I first did not understand why would it take that long, but then I came to know. Nilo, from North India, provided me the Sari, some Jewelry and a matching yellow Kum Kum (that I still have kept in a safe place). Nimmy, from South India, took me to her room and we started the complicated process or making me look as close as a real Indian. Some baby powder here and there, little perfume, a nice makeup and pink lips, smooth hair and all the jewelry on. The Sari was the hardest part; I will try to describe it in two words: safety pins. Nimmy spent like 12 safety pins in my Sari, but she is just so good at it that she made it look perfect. It had some folds in one of my shoulders that fell down to one of my hips. After the Sari, minimal retouches were needed and we were ready to go. The night before,
Nimmy applied Mehndi in one of my hands.

While Nimmy, Nilo and Naveen (who is from Pakistan), were helping me to get ready (or basically doing everything for me), I felt like I was part of something bigger. They made me feel like a part of their cultures, they taught me how to behave, how to move, how to act. They told me stories of their lives and their cultures while we were alone. I felt really close to them, and the feelings I experienced are hard to describe: I was just so special but so common at the same time.

Then, the guys came to pick the three of us up. I was concern about how people were going to react. What if they did not like me acting like one of them? My anxiety was getting bigger the closest we were to the temple. Once there, we removed our shoes at the entrance, washed our hands, and went inside. I never saw anything like that before. It was full of colors, people wearing beautiful and elaborated clothes, smells, and representations of different Gods.

My friends always indicated me how to act, how to pray and what to say to people. I think anybody noticed that I was not and Indian, thanks to my friend’s instructions. We went to each God, we prayed sometimes and we sat on the floor for a while. I was feeling delicate and protected. I was comfortable with myself. Indians and Pakistanis are friendly and kind, they gave us sweets and a lot of smiles.

Once in home, they cooked some Indian traditional food. I did not want to remove the Sari, I wanted to keep it on because I was feeling so different; out of my comfort zone, but I was enjoying it. Eventually I did, and the process of removing was almost as hard as putting it.

I am sure my Indian and Pakistani friends do not know yet how meaningful that experience was for me. It was a real immersion. I am glad they made me feel one of them, because sometimes is good to be someone else. I feel bless to be able to discover and experience all these different traditions, and to learn from them. If you are reading this guys, thank you! That day was unforgettable, you may not understand how much, but it was. You taught me how big and open-minded love and friendship can be. This festival truly brought lights to my life.

We do not have to forget who we were to learn who we are, or to leave an open door to who we would be. I am Colombian, I like to be Indian sometimes, and I have no idea what would I be tomorrow. But I am willing to discover it. And my mind is as open as my heart.

Post written by Vanesa de la Cruz, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Colombia