Tag Archives: Culture

My CCI Experience

Having been in the USA for six months now, I feel a lot has changed already. I feel I’ve changed to a better person. My visit to the USA has been an amazing experience. Ever since my first day here, people seemed to be very nice, kind and helpful. I’m glad I’m in a place that is open to diversity, truly open.

When I got the acceptance email and later the envelope I was beyond happy, not only will I study in the USA but I would also be doing activities to share my culture and explore the American culture. I was lucky enough to be placed at Northern Virginia Community College and also live in Virginia because the slogan is very true, Virginia IS for lovers!

I and my CCI colleagues have been receiving support from everyone (especially emotional support) from day one and later on, we learned how to support each other. Not to mention my social hosts who have been such a blessing from the day I met them.

Sarah, with her social hosts Patricia and Richard, on Thanksgiving Day.

What is very unique about the CCI program is that it not only focuses on the academic experience but also four other areas which are: volunteerism, internship, leadership & action planning, and cultural exchange.

Through academics, I was able to experience the American classroom and obtain great knowledge in the field I work in. I was honored to get to know some of my professors who had a tremendous experience and were also very supportive.

The second pillar of the program is volunteering. I enjoyed this part because I was able to meet people and interact with them and at the same time benefit the community.

The third one is the internship. This one is very important because I get to apply what I learned in my past years as a teacher and what I learned in the classes I am attending and gain hands-on professional experience at different preschools and schools through an internship.
The internship part is very important because beside the gained experience it will help me when I am back home to become a better teacher and get a better job and it will also help me a lot in starting my own project related to education.

Sarah volunteering at Family Science Night at Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia.

The fourth pillar focuses on leadership and action planning. I’ve been working as a teacher back home and I also volunteered occasionally but never had something solid, something of my own.
Before the CCI program, I never felt I could make a real change in my community but now I feel like I gained very important and useful skills as well as resources that would really help me when I go back home to establish a unique non-profit organization.
Throughout the program we had classes that focus on many skills especially practical leadership skills and we also worked on creating an “Action Plan” for the project that each of us will implement upon returning home.
We also attended a mid-year retreat called “Pathways to Success Program” in January which was full of very useful workshops, networking activities and presentations. In the mid-year program I also got to meet other CCI participants from different countries and even though we did have the same major, we were still able to exchange very useful ideas regarding our projects.

Sarah with Helen (Indonesia), Aaron (India), and Schawany (Brazil), 3 NOVA Annandale Participants, at the International Young Leaders Assembly at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
Sarah with her Early Childhood Education classmates during a culture-sharing class period.


The fifth pillar (my favorite) is cultural exchange. I got to learn about the American culture through almost everyone I met and I got to share my own culture with them through presentations, food and simply conversations. Sometimes I’d talk to someone in the bus or in the street and then we end up talking about culture!
We also had several field trips which helped us further understand American history.
And of course the most fun exposure to other cultures is those of my CCI colleagues, not only the ones who go to NOVA but also the ones in the other states through the “Pathways to Success Program” where we all met.
Since day one in the USA, I was determined to focus on all the areas of the program in order to succeed and fulfill the program requirements and I was honored to receive the academic achievement award in the mid-year program and I hope I can achieve more this semester.

The CCI is not only the pillars though, it’s the whole mesmerizing experience and the opportunity to leave a mark.

Post written by Sarah Awadallah from Egypt, a 2018-19 NOVA Alexandria CCI Participant

Antelope Canyon: Beauty of Colors

Wow! amazing! I toured the Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona! It was quite a wonderful experience!.

Thanks to Mid-Year Retreat and Pathway to Success Program offered by CCI Consortium and the U.S Department of State, the six-day long Arizona tour becomes greatly remarkable with all high standard workshops again memorable with all these amazing landscapes.

The program includes touring four of the top-rated tourist spots-Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Cathedral Rock and Grand Canyon.

Lake Powell Reservoir, one of the premier boating destinations in the world, was right next to our first resort. I did not miss a single chance to appreciate its prepossessing beauty every moment I stayed there.

Roads in Arizona offer so scenic riding opportunities that you feel yourself lucky enough having a window seat in bus. But here today I write about my experience in Antelope Canyon.

It was astounding to see the beauty created by the force of flash floods and howling winds through the Canyon. Truly, I was immensely impressed.

Our guide made our whole experience so enjoyable, it wouldn’t have been the same without her guidance.
She showed us the many special sculptures within the Canyon created by nature itself. She sincerely helped us to capture the beautiful images perfectly on our camera.

Masud at the entrance of Antelope Canyon

I attended the lower canyon tour Tuesday, January 8, 2019. We took a jeep driven by our guide to get in the destination.
It was a sunny and beautiful day with no snow or rain.

At the entrance of the canyon our tour guide excellently provided a ton of information and details, not only about the canyon itself and how it was discovered and formed, but also the surrounding areas.

A canyon view close to the entrance

Once you have entered the canyon, the walk through the narrow passageways makes you feel thrilled. The place seemed to be dark at the beginning of the walk as the eyes take some time to adjust to rather dim lighting levels.

But after a while you find that all the canyons were always open to the sky and there is enough light to see the passage. The walks through the canyons were not very long or difficult.

It was amusing to witness inside the canyon what wind and water can do to rock.
The canyon and their walls have been carved very smoothly. We explored it and walked through them comfortably.
My friends and I really love what nature has done to these landscapes.

The guide is a skilled photographer and knows all about camera and Android/Apple phones. She captured awesome photos of ours and various sections in the canyon from different angels and taught us the perfect ways for capturing photos there. 
I learn from her that first and foremost task is to make some vital adjustments to camera settings before the click.

Looking up from the bottom of Antelope Canyon

The location really is a photographic gem. The texture on the walls of this natural canyon is incredible. 
A photo titled “Phantom” taken here by Landscape photographer Peter Lik was sold for $6.5 million to a private collector in November 2014.

The last part is walking back to the plain land to get in the vans to return us to our tour buses. She said “No more photos in way back. We now see it for ourselves”.

Another charm was there the route between mountains as they are everywhere in Arizona.
The hills were covered by the snow that turns them looking huge pile of white snow from some angels.

I believe the canyon is truly one of God’s finest creations! The tour was unbelievable. Our tour guide (wish I could remember her name) provided us with excellent narration and a rich history of the canyon.

Some of the “sculptures” created by the wind in Antelope Canyon

I consider this as one of the MOST enjoyable tour I have made so far.

Post written by Md Masud  from Bangladesh, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria.

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