Tag Archives: Current Student

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.

International Young Leadership Assembly- Aug.10.2018

Alka Sharma (India) at the International Young Leadership Assembly at the World Bank in Washington DC

As we fly from our home country every CCI participants dreams about their successful academic and professional development. In order to take a step towards our professional development we got the chance to meet some important delegates, entrepreneurs, social activist and some business professionals of our various fields of study at the International Young Leadership Assembly, which was held at World Bank, Washington D.C. on August 10 2018.It was a great platform for all of us to interact with different people, discuss about major topics of concern to the world and how as a young generation, we can contribute our quota..

There were many young and motivated people. The experience for all of us was new and knowledgeable. As an individual, this platform was right for me as I also want to lead as well as give back to my community. The many entrepreneurs shared their experiences, ups and downs and how they overcame their problems. To be a leader it is important to have the full support of your team, and to lead your team from the front. The most important thing that struck me was   that age is just a number. As young as we are, we can impact to our societies greatly both directly and indirectly to the world. I want to open an institute that helps underprivileged students living in my community. I did not know how to go about it, but now I can work on my plan and give it a right start. The best part of the whole assembly was where we were given the chance to ask for advice from the experts. It really helped to erase many doubts we had concerning our future as young leaders.

The whole experience widened my knowledge about many things and increased my confidence for the start of my future.

Blog written by Alka Sharma from India, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria. 

The Importance of Learning a Second Language

CCI Student Oscar Casilla interviewed stakeholders in the NOVA community about their experience learning Spanish and the ways in which it has benefited their professional and personal lives.

Video created by Oscar Casilla, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from the Dominican Republic.

Let’s erase the borders and embrace peace….

Even though I grew up in a moderate middle-class household, from early childhood, I was taught by my school and society to hate India. And although the country had become a symbol of hate, we never failed to enjoy their Bollywood movies and music .Throughout my life I had been told that Indians are our enemies, they don’t like Pakistani and there is a huge difference between us, we can never be united and much more – until at some point I found myself being brainwashed and started to consider India as the biggest enemy of the fortress of Islam.  That’s how I was grown up listening to bad comments and stereotypes about Indians, Ah!

But then, fortunately I came to United States and after having interaction with them, I realized I have been indoctrinated with lies and my whole world view changed upside down.

Throwing back to July 15, 2018 (04:30pm), the day when my journey towards United states started-I was wandering around anxiously and in hurry  at the London airport to see where I can get my luggage and to whom I should ask for help in that big crowd full of strange faces. In that situation, I heard a soft voice coming from behind and addressing, “Excuse me, ap Pakistan sy hen? Which means, “Excuse me, Are you from Pakistan? I, without any hesitation turned around and saw a girl wearing a big, sweet smile and offering her hand in order to greet me. I nodded my head and extended the conversation by greeting her back. I found myself satisfied by talking to her and after having some “gossips”, I came to know that she is from India and the most important she turned out to be CCI participant. That was the biggest jerk for me to haven Indian sitting beside me. I talked to myself-she is from India but still we are sitting together and having gossips like we have known each other from years. That was the first good impression about Indians for me.

As the days went on, I started to spend more time with my Indian friends. It seemed like we are from the same country, sharing the same language, same culture, same food, and same clothes—then, where is the difference? After some days, I realized that we have many things in common to love instead of hating and that hatred between both countries has political motives and has nothing to do with common people, like me and my Indian friends.

CCI Participants from Pakistan and India at the Mid-Year Retreat in Arizona

 

As CCI participants, we helped in celebrating each other’s Independence Day and tried to make it worth. My all Indian friends along with my other CCI friends came to our celebration of Pakistan’s independence and transformed it into a room full of cheers and joys. I still remember when one of my Indian friends came to me while everyone was busy in celebration, and said, “I wish if we could make it one nation again and stay together forever”. That was the moment that made me so emotional and I simply hugged her and replied her,” Let’s take initiative to make it possible”.

Maria Eiman (Pakistan) and Kaveri Aavula (India) volunteering together.

Our friendship strengthened with time, and we frequently and openly discussed how we were raised in our specific cultures to hate the other on the basis of religious or political backgrounds. It was not until a personal connection was established that we found that there were more similarities between us than there were differences. We shared our joys together and offered shoulders when in pain or sorrow, we cooked together – no shocks –  you can expect luddoos to be as round, gulab jamuns as dripping and jalebis as complicated as in Pakistan. Moreover, we laughed together and sometimes went crazy while planning things together on how can we diminish these stereotypes that is falling us apart.

To me, the fact that Pakistanis and Indians are so close to each other in the United States, United Kingdom, and elsewhere in the world suggests that it is largely petty politics and propaganda that hold them back in South Asia. There is so much that the two groups can accomplish by communicating with and learning from each other, as similar challenges exist in both societies.

I am so thankful to the CCI program for this impactful experience that supported and helped us to come closer while breaking all those stereotypes created by conflict-promoting politics in both states and letting us to know the actual reality. And I believe, WE, little drops of water can make the mighty oceans.

CCI Participants at Northern Virginia Community College sharing their culture with one another

 

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

 

 

LIFE CHANGING OPPORTUNITY (CCI Program)

Pathways to Success Cultural Night

  1. Volunteer/ Internship
  2. PSP
  3. Host
  4. Improvement/ Achievement.
  5. Action plan

 

 

I have not imagined this few months can change me and my life!

Visiting US was one of dream, then one day I received a call from US Embassy which brought me here and gave me wings to change the world, my eyes were full of tears, that is the CCI Program.

I have spent more than six months in US, and now I am not that old one, I had so challenging situations to come here but these memories and achievements are worth than those situations.

Volunteering

Coming to volunteering, in past I have never volunteered but when I volunteered here it always gives me positive vibes, helping the needy is something which money cannot buy, it brings the humanity, mercy and positivity in individuals.

Internship, working with children is always makes me happy, because I believe todays good children will be tomorrow’s better citizens! I have learnt many strategic ways in teaching and child care. Also learned the ways to work on children positive behavior. This will really help me in my future.

Internship

Oh my god! Coming to the PSP (mid-year retreat) this was the best experience of mine; the journey was unforgotten. In just one week I have learnt a lot and enjoyed too. The workshops taught me leadership skills and today I have a sophisticated personality because of those workshops. I have never traveled back home but I can say travelling teaches us a lot.

Pathways to Success

Pathways to Success Workshop

The CCI Program has given me a best social host ever, she is so kind and lovely, I spent my most of the weekends with her it feels like I am home. We go for lunch, volunteering, traditional events, museums and botanical gardens (luckily me and my host love gardening and plants). we even cook together. It is so worthy and memorable I cannot even forget these moments.

Host Family

I was nothing back home but now I am so Improved, I was so afraid to speak in public, but now have the ability and speak the CCI Program taught me how to be confident, and I have so many achievements which impacted on my life, I learnt to be responsible,

Pajama Party

punctual, honest, hardworking. I even got a certificate for best improved person, I feel so happy I have learnt so much in this few months. One of the biggest achievement is my parents agreed for my higher education even though our community does not allow but I am the one who is studying higher education. I have taken a step towards my community to change it.

I came to this program with a dream (to start a school), but now I have two action plans one is teaching women about safety, ethical values, diversity, English, humanity classes. My first action to make change in the community. And the second is to start a school for special children, underprivileged, single parent children, children that are LGBTQ. Because every CSI class gave me a idea for better development and I am going to implement these ideas and what I have learned here.

A girl whose world was just her house now she is able work for the community to change the world! The CCI Program is giving a reason for living in this world, this program gave me so power and made me strong to face the obstacles in future, my inspiration is mother Teresa and now I can take a step to become a next mother Teresa by public service and for better change!   THANK YOU CCI Program!

Grand Canyon National Park

 

Post written by Anjum Begum, 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