Tag Archives: Current Student

It sucks and it’s fine to feel that!

IT SUCKS AND ITS FINE TO FEEL THAT

By Juan Tangarife Usuga

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The novel coronavirus had an immediate negative impact in our experiences as CCI students; for instance, we are probably going to be the only cohort that will not be enjoying the end of the year trip or have a graduation ceremony to acknowledge our hard work and sacrifices we have made during the almost ten months we have been in the United States. I know what you think: we should be enjoying the beautiful weather that Virginia is offering, we should be taking our traditional spring pictures with the cherry blossoms on the background to choose the most “Instagrammeable” one and make wonderful memories out of it; but unfortunately, that is not going to be the case at this time. We all had goals, dreams, or travels that we wanted to achieve; besides, we were thinking about our graduation, the dresses we were going to wear, and the people we were going to invite to share this joyful moment with, but that’s something we cannot control nor change.

There is not an official guideline on what you can or cannot do during this time of uncertainty; some people find inspiration by reading that book they always wanted to finish, others like to take an online course to develop and improve their knowledge, some of them are even practicing their cooking skills before returning home; whatever you do, just make sure that new activity makes you happy, and what other people think about what you are doing with your time should not be important. If you don’t want to read a book but want to do Tik Tok videos instead, that’s fine! You don’t want to read a book but rather watch that TV show you have been told to watch? Absolutely and perfectly fine! Don’t succumb to the pressure of social media and what other people think is right; for example, I have been organizing all of my summer and fall pictures, and I am reliving those wonderful memories I experienced in those times.

You should allow yourself to feel sad, disappointed, depressive, anxious, and angry; let those feelings out of your mind and internalize better thoughts. Try to reach another CCI participant, and avoid news that only creates paranoia; seriously, what is more depressing than reading numbers and data of dead people? I am not here to tell you to do a routine and give you positive quotes to make you feel better, but I am telling you that even in situations like this you can work on new goals and activities that bring you peace. YOU SHOULD WORK ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL!

My First . . .

Sometimes things come to us in an unexpected way. The CCI Program was one of them. I wanted to go to America and study. It was possible only if I had money. The CCI Program gave me the opportunity to come to America for FREE. It still sounds like a dream for me.

After coming to America, it took 6 months for me to accept that I am in America. Before coming to America, I made my plans about what I will do over there. When I was selected, other people in my society came to know about it. From that point I was treated differently. I was treated as someone who is very smart and who knows everything (I felt like a president). People started asking advice for them to me as if I was an expert.

Simran and her CCI colleagues at the 2020 Pathways to Success Mid-Year Program in Washington, D.C.

When I met my CCI colleagues and other people, they seemed to have a different mind- set and knowledge. Even people from same countries have different level of thinking. I explored that there is so much more to learn. CCI Program gave me an opportunity to learn on a big platform. Every day, I am learning something new. We share our culture with each other. It is really fun for me to know others culture. Every culture have their own way of expressing, communicating and different ways to look at the situation. I also learned people from different culture hold different beliefs. After knowing more things, I became more open-minded person. I felt like I was changing every day.

Volunteering in the local community.

I do not like changes. But I cannot resist how CCI Program is changing and shaping me in a better way. I got chances to know myself in many ways. One pillar of CCI Program is volunteering. I was scared to do volunteering. I lack from self-confidence. I thought I won’t be able to do that. I was scared of taking task during volunteering. I did my first volunteering at “Around the World Food Festival.” During that volunteering, I had to take initiatives. I was scared of taking initiative because I thought I won’t success. I discovered that I performed very well in my task. I overcome my fear of taking initiative. I became more confident about myself. That one volunteering changed my assumptions about myself. I started taking more initiatives by doing more volunteering. Now, I am no more scared to take initiatives.

Cultural Exchange: Sharing about India during NOVA’s International Education week

This was my first time facing my fear alone. In the past, I used to cry when I was couldn’t succeed and I try to avoid the situations. I used to hold a lot of assumptions about myself. And I believed those assumptions were the truth about me, rather than facing my fears and creating the truth about myself. I thought maybe running from that problem will solve my problem. But actually, it never did. I learnt that running from the situation is not the solution. In order to know whether I am capable of doing tasks, it is actually engaging in the tasks and not making perception about my capability.

 

Post written by Simran Gala, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from India

Is it really easy to travel alone?

by Rashi Saini

I had no answer till October 2019. All of my peers were planning to travel during winter break and I kept thinking that I will join somebody’s trip. I never thought about travelling alone in the United States. Sometimes, I think it was that the real problem or I never wanted to be alone in my life. I kept checking places but could not decide to go anywhere. One day after the class, I was writing a
reflection and realized that I am in the United States. It was just a thought that wanted to realize that I am here to break my stereotypes and get out of my comfort zone.

In front of the Liberty Bell in Philidelphia, PA

My thoughts kept going but I did not get the courage to make a decision to go. One day Leeza Fernand came to our CSI class and when she was explaining about the Russian doll, something was happening with me. The last thing she said was to go to other places in the United States and experience the culture of different parts. Try to go to other CCI places and experience how their life
is different than you. It was like an encouragement for me and I started looking for places to visit.

One day one of my CCI friends asked me to join him for New Orleans. I did not know anything about the place but I wanted to go, so I accepted the offer. He had some more plans after New Orleans and I wanted to break my limits too so, I did not join him for the whole winter break. I made a plan for Houston to experience the warm weather in December with other CCI people. My travels did not end in Houston. I did plan for Denver, Colorado as I love mountains and snow.

Finally the day came we went together and then me and my CCI friend had different destinations. I went to Houston and everything was going well until I reached Colorado. I reached Colorado on Christmas eve and waited at the airport till morning. I went to a place where I booked my stay and unfortunately, they cancelled my stay on the spot and that made me panic. There was no signal in my mobile to call someone, transportation was less, and no people on the road or surrounding to get help. Finally, I got a room for a night but I panicked due to the stress of no stay for the next 4 days, high altitude, time and distance. All of these factors made me restless, panic. I kept finding the place to stay for the whole night and finally my winter break ended up by booking tickets for DC.

My traveling has not finished yet, I was demotivated after coming back but I kept reflecting back and made a plan to go to Philadelphia and Boston to get courage again to go alone. These both travel were
long journeys. Philadelphia took 4 hours to reach and Boston took 10 hours traveling but I made it. I have been to 12 states in the USA. If I would not get encouraged by Leeza Fernand or my CCI friend, I
wouldn’t be able to achieve my dreams to travel to my favorite places.

What is it like to live in the United States?

By Roger Cardona Arias

What is like to live in the United States? That was my question several years ago. I didn’t know if I wanted to save money for 2 years to be able to come here to the US. Eventually, it didn’t take so long for this dream to come true. I was dreaming about studying abroad and getting away from my home, not because it wasn’t good to have this sense of “comfort”, but because deep down in my heart I felt it’s right to step out of my comfort zone to continue growing.

It’s been 5 months specifically and I have not enough words to describe what it has been like. I have lived lots of new experiences during this period of time. From traveling for the very first time in an airplane to another country to living with a roommate from another nation (Turkey) and six more people in the same house. I deepened my knowledge of Information Technology (IT) to learning about US culture. From meeting a lot of new friends to serving people whom I don’t know personally through community service.

I have had a lot of fun over the past months and a really good highs; however, I’ve had some challenges and some lows too. Firstly, being far away from my family, my friends, my church, my food, and my job wasn’t easy at first. While the time went by, I realized how much I missed each one of them. Secondly, embracing the life I have here took a little while. I felt defined by the “what if…?” question. What if I had learnt how to cook in my country? What if I had had more background in the IT (Information Technology) field? What if I had a better writing skills? These were my questions at the beginning of the program. But the only answer I found was: Embrace it!

After all this time, I think God has been so good to me. As he has given me a family called: Kairos DC Church. In which, I have been able to grow in my faith, meet wonderful people and live a lot of adventures that I feel if I went back today to my country, I would be profoundly grateful.

Growing up in Soacha and serving with a foundation and church called “Fundacion Herederos” for over a decade have shaped my vision of the world. Therefore, when I came here the only thing in my mind was that I have to find a way to serve the ones in need on this community. One of the greatest experiences I’ve had with Kairos Church was going to the Shelter: “Bailey’s Shelter and supportive Housing” where we gave food away and listened to these people. Mark Martins was the answer of what I was looking for since I came here. I had the opportunity to talk with him about his life story and how it is for him to live there, we are helping him out to recover the confidence in himself and spiritually. Therefore, I would say no matter where you are, if you don’t forget what drives you, you will be okay everywhere.

Being part of the CCI, has been the most rewarding experience in my life so far, I just want to finished off this little description by giving thanks to my mom Luz Stella Cardona Arias, who has saved me a lot of time living through her advises, as she has walked too much on this life, and she has accordingly led our home with wisdom. Hence, I thank you for trusting in me and letting me come to this country.

A Brand New Story

By Willy-Edgar Y. Jefferson Kouakou

Visiting with other Côte d’Ivoire students in Washington, D.C.

Have ever found yourself in an unbelievable situation? A situation you cannot explain how you got in. A situation like a dream? If yes, then you should be able to imagine how I was, and how I am since the first day I got selected for the CCI Program. Coming to the United States of America was a dream that came to pass, and for this opportunity I am totally grateful.

I would like to share with you a portion of my experience since I came in the United States of America. For my second time to take the flight, I was very excited because of the destination. It was hard to leave my family for this adventure, but I took it as a new challenge for building within me some skills and abilities. In fact, the Community College Initiative Program is a life changing opportunity. Each day is full of experiences, lessons, idea and fun. 

At the very beginning, I met extraordinary people from all around the world; the other CCI Participants. We got to know each other daily. One thing I am grateful for is to have all these cultures represented right with me every day. That is incredible how diverse our world is! I was just proud and thankful to be part of this cross-cultural program occurring in a cross-cultural country. I felt glad to interact with people and moreover, I was very excited when it came to speak about my country, my cultures, the way we do things, the way we understand the world and how we interact with people. I realized that in less than two months that many of my childhood and teenage dreams were fulfilled, one was to come is the U.S, another one was to see famous places like The White House, The Capitol Building, The Pentagon, the Washington Monument, and one other dream was to speak before an assembly of youth from all round the World. On the 07, August 2019, we all went to a youth summit in Washington DC, at the World Bank and there, I got the privilege to take the floor and express myself in front of hundreds of people. I still remember when I told the assembly that that day was the Independence Day Anniversary of my country, my dear Cote D’Ivoire; they gave a round of applause before I kept on and once again, I felt grateful.

CCI Participants at the World Bank Summit in Lafayette Square

A brand-new story started, and I am no more the same! Here, I am taking classes of Social Media and Marketing in NOVA (Northern Virginia) Community College – Annandale campus. For me Marketing was just what everyone of us thinks it is but after my first class with an amazing Teacher called Zulma Westney, I understood that marketing was more than that. Every day builds me up and strengthens in me more skills. 

As the story kept on going on, I am still feeling blessed by the crowd of opportunities we are exposed to. Volunteering activities, new places discovery, new food tasting and meeting of new people are making my stay in the U.S. My experience is getting more enriched and amazing through workshops, museums visit, Holidays like Thanksgiving, but above all, the kindness of my Social families (Mindi & Alan) – (Barbara & Wayne). They are always taking care of me as a genuine child of them. Thank you for being so kind and available.

Recently, I got a brand new Internship in Washington DC. I could not believe to get this opportunity at this period. There also, I am learning a lot in my field of study because of the practical thing we do. I am blessed to be part of this program, I am blessed to have met such great coordinators who really help me and all the CCI participants. I am blessed to be part of the G7 Team (the Ivorian CCI Participant) always supported by Mr. Gbagbakou, I am blessed to be part of IF NOVA and I am also blessed to share with you my experience. To conclude I would like to encourage everyone reading my article to strongly believe that nothing is impossible if only we can work hard and believe in us; here is the proof, from the Capitol of Bouake (Cote D’Ivoire), I got to the Capitol of the United States of America. If you do not believe in yourself nobody will do it for you and always remember that by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.

Thank you.

God bless you. 

Rijal’s Blog: Gratitude, Self-Reflection, and Valuable Lessons

Since I was kid I never had the vivid dream of wanting to go to US. I was aware I neither had capability to afford much money to travel and was scared of dreaming big. But when I was 18 years old, I was exposed to many things about US because of TV show that I watched back then. Since then, I told myself: ‘I have to go there when I am 25 years old’. Here am I now !

Being a part of CCI Program is the most incredible chance I have ever been given in my life. I am so grateful of everything I have experienced because of CCI Program. Before I start telling what great things I have done so far, let me write a dedication short paragraph to important people in my life.

Dear, Dad and mom.
This is not my accomplishment; this is yours, dad and mom.
Being able to step my feet on the United States of America, a country in which I have never imagined I would be able to go to, is both exhilarating and emotional. Words do not suffice to depict the exhilaration I have felt since the first day I came here despite the few difficult days of adjustment; but the excitement is somehow being followed by this emotional feeling that I can identify as sadness. I am sad because every time I go to a new country—a new place which enables to me to visit its renowned places along with the foods— I do not go with the ones who contribute to make me who I am now, my dad and my mother. My mother is someone whom I owe everything in this world. She is the one who successfully made me fall in love with English. Regardless of her little to no knowledge about English, she did her best to nurture my fondness towards English. What my mom did was likewise done by my father. My father is a strong figure who passed down important traits and values. He was the one who managed to make me become a strong and independent person who does not forget to be grateful of what I have accomplished.
Mom and Dad,
I am not proud of what I have accomplished; I am proud of having you who contribute to make me accomplish things in my life.

Rijal enjoys traveling by himself and getting on the metro is his favorite thing to do.

Let’s get this started.

Being in Virginia makes me much more thrilled than I ever imagined; I had the chance to be able to visit Washington D.C., the capital of US, every week. Travelling alone is one of the things I like in the US. Travelling alone makes me grow.  Having been in the US for almost four months teaches me a lot of things: First, independence: I have had the chance to do everything by myself and arrange everything by myself as well. Second, selflessness: I used to be a very self-centered person, I didn’t care what people are doing or pay attention to what they are experiencing. Here, I have been able to learn from others and am open to others. I used to like to speak more than listen, but now I realize that being a listener is ok too. I have more compassion for others who are different from me, and many other important values that make grow not only as individual but also as a member of community. Hence, I could not be more grateful of the path I have been given so far.

Rijal enjoys hanging in White House street
Rijal looks exhilarated to visit the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Words cannot depict this profound gratitude I have in my chest now. The chance I have been given now is the ultimate reason for me to give back to community and use the skill I have gotten here.

Gratitude continues.

Post written by Khairur Rijal Usman Abra, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Indonesia.

The Frightening Panic Zone

THE FRIGHTENING PANIC ZONE

Before coming to the U.S, and during the first weeks, I had many fears. For example, I was so frightened about the idea of flying or being alone in an airport. Also, I was so worried about my classes. Failing in exams, not being able to understand the language, traveling far from the city, or getting injured were thoughts that were hanging over my head daily. In one of our summer activities, we were talking about panic, comfort, and growth zone. At that
point, almost everything for me was in a red, bold, and scary panic zone. But there’s a fun fact: life is just like horror movies. When the ghost is behind the door and the main character goes directly to that place, (even when he/she knows that there’s something wrong).

That’s how I’ve been facing all my fears. I took my flight alone, I had a low score in my English exam and my first day of classes made me cry since I didn’t understand anything, one of my friends cut his finger in our apartment, then one week later I was bitten by a squirrel. I even went to Maryland after classes and I got lost (for 20
minutes).

A frightening squirrel

What I want to mean with this is that the thing you fear the most, sooner or later will come to your life. In all those situations I just wanted to cry and run away, but I didn’t. That’s one of
my most valuable lessons from CCI: Even if I’m deadly terrified, I do not allow fear to be stronger than my conviction. Thanks to that I also knew New York, I went hiking, tubing, and
kayaking, I’ve made tons of friends, I’ve eaten wonderful food, and I’ve found that I was braver than I thought.

 

Unforgettable adventures with wonderful people

 

Now, those things that looked so overwhelming at the beginning, they’re just funny stories that I keep as unforgettable memories. They have placed me in a growth zone. They are guiding me towards the path of my dreams, and I hope they can do that, not just for me, but
also for all the people that have felt that the panic zone is bigger than themselves.

Post written by Luisa Dahianna Trujillo López, 2019-2020 Participant from Colombia

Educational Tours

CCI NOVA Participants at Arlington Independent Media.

 A holistic education is not all about books but includes extra curricular activities like educational tours, and field trips. It reduces stress, gives one the opportunity to explore and learn new things, and get new experiences. The CCI Program also includes field trips which gives us the opportunity to learn more about the American history, culture and visit places.

When learning is accompanied by fun, excitement, and enjoyment, it makes it interesting. After a hectic week with a lot of assignments, the CCI Participants get the chance to go for educational tours mostly on Fridays. This helps us to have fun, reduce our stress, boost our energy, and prepare us for a new week.

CCI NOVA Participants visit Virginia Senator Kaine’s office in Washington, D.C.

An educational tour to new places is not just a fun get-away. It is about exploring new environment and learning new things. It empowers us with new ideas and enhanced perspective to look at things and become more open minded. Our visit to Harper’s Ferry-West Virginia made me learned a lot that day. One thing that surprised me the most was that John Brown’s Fort was moved from a different location to its current location. I never thought a building could be moved from one location to another.

 

CCI NOVA Participants at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

When we go for educational tour, I get the opportunity to observe and experience many things. When we visited the Native American Museum, I found out a lot of interesting things about their history and culture. I got the chance to see their traditional wear, arts, and food.

The educational trips have helped me to make memorable experiences and got deep knowledge in various aspect of my life.

Post written by Veronica Owusu, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Ghana. 

My Experience Using US Public Transportation

I used to take public transportation to go to campus or other places when I was in college in my country. When I read one of the rules in CCI Program that participants were not allowed to drive a car or any vehicle, as someone who did not know how to drive at all, it’s not a big problem for me. Otherwise, I was so excited to experience US public transportation.

The first day I came to US, Sarah Yirenkyi, our program coordinator, gave us one folder with one Smartrip card inside. It is a rechargeable card that we can use to pay the bus or metro. We need to tap it on the machine on a bus or metro station. On the first day of orientation, Sarah picked us up with a van to go to campus. Then, she taught us how to use maps and trip planner for bus. In other words, that was the last time she picked us up to go to campus. We had to learn how to take bus by ourselves.

Sarah Yirenkyi explaining the bus route on the orientation.

My first time to take bus was hilarious. I and my friends were still confused how to use the WMATA app. We had not known the direction to campus and which bus we should take. All buses looked the same for us. All eyes were on the apps trying to solve this confusing route.

Me and CCI Program Participants waiting for the bus.

 

As days go by, I finally figure out how to take bus by myself. Beside WMATA app, I also use Google Maps or Transit. They are probably the first apps I look up in every morning. These apps are very helpful. When you type your destination, it will show you the number of bus or the color of metro you should take, which bus stop you should wait at, and when it will arrive. I must be on the bus stop earlier or I will miss the bus. There were many times I had to run because I saw the bus was coming and I had not reached the bus stop yet. Thankfully, the bus drivers here are so nice. If they see you running, they would definitely wait for you.

My first time to watch Baseball game at Nationals Park

During my first 2 months here in America, by using public transportation, I learn a lot the value of punctuality. If I cannot manage my time well, I will miss the bus, another 20 minutes will be wasted to wait another bus, and I will be late for following activities on my schedule. Leeza Fernand, the Associate Director of the Community College Consortium, once said, “In the US, if you are in time, you are on time. But if you are on time, it means you are late.” I remember this and take this as my principle to manage my time and be punctual on every occasion. Because I believe being punctual means respecting my commitment and people whom I will meet.

Post written by Aninda Nurul Hadijah – CCI 2019-2020 Participant from Indonesia.

CCI Through My Eyes

CCI THROUGH MY EYES

Studying in the US was the biggest dream I ever had. I got the opportunity through the CCIP (Community College Initiative Program). Back in India I was studying and working at the same time. I used to work for 14 hours a day; I was working as a Teacher in an organization and on weekends I used to work as a personal tutor. I started teaching in my community when I was 13 years old. I had a big dream to do something different in the IT field but I did not know how to go about it. After a lot of hard work and I came to the USA. New country, culture, language.

(Outside the Alexandria Campus)

Every day I feel like a new life I got here. I found a really great learning opportunity in the USA. I came here with my goals and plans so, whenever someone asked me “what is your next goal?” I always answer sometimes people laugh but I keep focus on my goal. I was pursuing my graduation from distance learning education where I could not learn practical’s. I am a student of IT. As my major is Cybersecurity I learn a lot. There are tons of opportunities for students to learn something new for example, I have been to an event in Marymount university and it was free for students only. There was one guest speaker came who was from NIST (National Institute of Standard and Technology). It was a very great night for me. A lot of information, networking, and I realize that I can achieve how much I want here. Since then I started looking for more opportunities and my coordinator always support me to do. I attend their events to learn new information which is really helpful. One day I was researching health and I read one important thing “ if you really want to be on a track so, keep learning about that topic “ I started following. One day I got to know about Amazon career day and I was so curious to know about it.  I went to the place and I found that Amazon is not a normal corporation because it took 40 min to go inside. There were a lot of people a huge crowd. I got to know there AWS certificate is more important which is provided by Amazon. Since then my hungriness of learning increased.

(Attending a presentation)

(Line outside of Amazon Career Day)

Everyday learning I am able to connect with my main goal. I got an internship which is similar to my goal. I work as an Instructor of Technology in Action and Career Development. I have to make my students enable to get better jobs and help them to find their careers. When I was applying for the CCI Program, my main goal was to provide IT education to students who are really great but could not get an opportunity. This is just one look for the CCI program. I did volunteering, internships, action plans, and fun. These experiences are fun. I generally go to the events for volunteering and I learn a lot about people their culture, countries, their work style. I have an opportunity to learn about American culture through my Social Hosts and our Coordinator. I never realize that I am away from my family as I have my hosts and my coordinators.

Every day It is full of excitement but still, I open my excel sheet about my details and check how many days are gone. This document makes me excited every day and gives more dreams for INDIA for my nation my dreams for my family.

(Attending the Amazon Career Summit)

Rashi Saini