Tag Archives: friendship

The end of the first semester, my first 5 months abroad and the beginning of a new chapter in my life

As the semester ends challenges become more real, but so are the lessons it taught us. In one hand, we have the expectation of getting good grades and ending well our first academic semester. While in the other hand, we start to wrap everything up, and putting things under perspective. The things we did right, the positive impact we made, the goals we already reached, the things we will need to work on a little bit more, or the personal/professional challenges we still need to overcome. One thing I’ve done is reviewing my overall performance during the fall semester, not only at school but also in any of the other pillars of the CCI program.

Marlin with Kelly Forbes, the CCI coordinator for the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

After going through this personal evaluation, and focusing on the things that needed some extra work, I realized the following things that can wrap up my first semester as an international exchange student in the United States: I wasn’t being too active with the activities and plenty opportunities around me, I could have focused more on maximizing my time in this country and not pay that much attention, time and effort to momentary things and lastly, I could commit more to master procrastination. In my opinion, losing your focus or feeling demotivated and overwhelmed from time to time is usual, when you have so many things to do and to think about at once, but I also know that if you don’t make a commitment to push yourself in those exact moments you probably won’t achieve your goals. Because that extra effort is the one determining whether you move and grow or stay the same person in the same old place.

Marlin with the CCI cohorts from the Dominican Republic, who came to visit Washington DC for the winter break.

For that reason, I made the commitment with myself to engage more with school activities next semester, to risk more, get out of my comfort zone more often and be more conscious about my emotions and the things around me that affect me in some way. Our time to go back home is closer every day and I know that when I return to my country I want to remember this time as a transformational experience in my life. It will only be transformational if I do my part and push myself to my limits and develop the discipline I need to complete my purpose in this program and in life itself.

I’ll close, by saying that I am beyond grateful for this time in the USA and the lessons I’ve learned so far. For making it through this program that is far from being easy but is such a worthy experience. For being alive and able to learn something new every day, for my new international friends, for traveling to new places and for staying true to myself and my values during this time.

Marlin on a rainy day in Washington, DC.

Looking forward for even more greater results in the next semester,

Post written by Marlin Chabely Estevez  from the Dominican Republic , a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

The Best Semester I Could Have Had

My fall semester was different from all the other CCI participants. I think this was the hardest semester of my life. When I arrived my English wasn’t so good and I needed to improve it as soon as possible. After the summer semester classes, I took the English test, and then I started my intensive English classes. Three months of good laughs and a tremendous improvement of my English. I learned a lot from my classes. My teacher was always providing us with something different in the classroom, like videos and music. We always made presentations and shared our experiences. I know that my English is really better now, thanks to my performance, my English classes and also the help of my housemates, Sarah and Helen.

Schawany with her housemates Sarah (Egypt) and Helen (Indonesia)

I got a better improvement also with volunteers. Talking to someone who speaks English has made me learn a lot and also lose the fear of speaking English. The conversation with an American is different and I find it a bit difficult. I learned that I do not have to be afraid to make mistakes in this phase of learning that I find myself in, it is super normal to make mistakes and I will not be judged because of them. All the people I met during my volunteers were very kind and patient with me, and this behavior made me a bit more confident about my English.

Now I can express myself, take other classes, and have long conversations with much more confidence. Those were good months of good use. I hope to get much more confidence when I start my internship, it will be another great step to complete.

Post written by Schawany Brito from Brazil, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

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.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME

Getting ready to go down to a place where no relation is going to be close yet it’s going to be your HOME was one I feared. Certainly I needed to let go and just accept the challenge. Left family, friends, colleagues and customers behind. Brokenhearted! How was I going to make new memories in this new place, AMERICA?

Being home sick was obviously expected yet I tried not to make it evident. Told myself I was going to make the best out of every possible encounter I make. Not long I lost a colleague back home few weeks after I arrived. Was broken. I picked up fast with the notion that it is well. As if that was not enough, I lost my grandmother. Was left in shackles literally and shut down. She was my ultimate testimony of a strong woman who raised her children and grandchildren the best way. Crushed like never before I wanted to leave the program and go back home to Ghana because in as much as I wanted to do this major step for myself and my future, I wanted her to at least witness my come-up. I guess that was the universes’ way of putting things into place and throwing into my face greater challenges. The bait cast to me was a dicey one.

 

Could have changed my mind and gone home if not for some beloveds such as Kelly Forbes who was much more soothing than I thought. Every lady in my apartment also played a major role in keeping me on my feet in the CCI program.

Abigail with her CCI friends

Emily Miller who is my social host has been one of the amazing people I have come across here in the United States and also being a participant of the CCI Program. That be said, I have been here only few months and I have experienced love and joy in a more different way. Together as a duo we have been to a fashion exhibition in Washington DC which was awesome. Had the chance to interact with other designers who came to showcase their clothing and arts. Had an American meal in one restaurant in DC, loved it. We ran in the rain like kids and it felt like sisterhood. Had the chance of shopping and cooking with Emily and during these moments I had this feeling of her being my mom. She made me belong openly without any barrier.

Abigail and Emily

Working as a volunteer in her office gave me the opportunity to shadow who exactly she was. Her employees love her for who she is. Emily defines what patience and love for humanity is. Her son Austin is adorable.

There wouldn’t have been any other ways to have felt like I belonged if not for the initiative made by the CCI Program to link us with social hosts. This has made my stay here if not memorable, a delightful experience. Her friends have been very true and sweet to me in diverse ways. We have once had a ladies night where I shared my culture as to how to cook a Ghanaian food and they were gladly interested and willing to help. They came in with gifts for everyone as well. We paired the Ghanaian meal with American side dishes. They tasted yummy together.

Abigail with Emily and her mother.

Post written by Abigail Daitey from Ghana, 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

The Laramie Project is my way of improving speaking skills

As a CCI Program participant from Indonesia, I have a weakness in speaking skills. Thanking for the first three weeks at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), an ESL class was held in preparation for entering the actual lecture. When I entered the actual class and joined a fluent English-speaking student, I was confused. Why? I really wanted to talk but I was embarrassed, afraid not to be understood by Professor and friends in class. Once, my fall semester has started, I became a listener only in class. I understand what Professor was saying but I did not dare to comment.

On September 25, 2018, I applied an audition for Fall Play, The Laramie Project, at NVCC. At that time, I said to myself, let me try this opportunity; moreover, I did not need to memorize and prepared anything. Good news, I was accepted in this project and the rehearsals were carried out from September 26 to November 7, 2018. I spent three hours, Monday till Thursday. At first, I felt inferior when I knew all friends, who came in Fall Play, were very fluent in English. I would like to step down but I consider this was a great opportunity to improve my speaking skills, interact with native speaking friends and learn theater arts at NVCC.

As time went by, I had been able to adapt to the atmosphere of the practice and began to say correctly the words in the script especially my pronunciation.

Finally the performance time arrived, November 8-11 2018, in CC building Room 115 and it was four times of shows. In the beginning, I was afraid and trembling if the audience would understand what I was saying later.

I have excellent experiences after joining The Laramie Project. I meet Professor Sara Weinstock, Jeremy Pritchard, and great friends who help me since beginning till the end.  Now, I am more confident in my speaking skills, I understand how to interact with people here, and I get new friends in NVCC.

Post written by Virdiani from Indonesia, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

Two Things I Love the Most about CCI Program

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling”

Cecelia Ahern

I still remember the moment when I applied for CCI Program. It is still fresh in my mind. It was in November 2017 and now here I am in the United State of America, the land of opportunity (sounds awesome right?). When I got the selected email confirming that I was one of the participants from Indonesia, I felt so blessed and grateful for the opportunity. Then, something crossed my mind. Would I be fine there knowing that I would not be around people I know and I love for almost a year? Would I be good enough? Would I be accepted there? It my sound cliché, but it was true. I would not be able to be around my loved ones. The feeling crept in my mind every single minute along with other million questions every single person going abroad for such a long time could have asked. Like it or not, I have to face it – myself strengthening.

I remember one of the questions I had to answer in the CCI Program essay was about what I would need besides other things the program has provided. I answered home. At that time, I knew that the participants would get a place (I thought it would be a house) to stay at, but house is not a home. They are two different clans; I needed the feeling of home. And guess what? I found home here. Here are the two reasons why I say so.

“Hey gentlemen, I am Mindi and I will be your social host this year”, that is the email I got from my social host. Yas, you are right, it is social host program that makes me feel home already. The perk of being CCI participants is that we are given a social host; persons who have been living in US for such a long time that are willing to give their time to introduce, teach, and help us experience US better.

My social host is Mrs. Mindi Maline, an English teacher at Northern Virginia Community College, place where I am pursuing my study in Business Management. She is superb nice. My friend from India and I got the same social host. First time we met was on Annandale campus after I had my English presentation in which I did not do well. The first impression I got was she was so calming and supporting even though it was our first meeting. I told her about my presentation and she calmed me like a mother calms her son. I felt like home already. She also invited us to join family dinner with her big family. She cooked chicken (our request) and she also made us apple pie and pumpkin pie. It was my first time trying the American typical pies; apple and pumpkin pie. I did not like them. I loved them. We got to hang out with the whole family; her husband, her son, and some relatives. We talked and shared about many things, study, life and culture. I learned a lot. I felt like I was home already. It was such a good experience.

Sundar and Elfis eating pie for the first time.

Another reason is I have housemates. I am living with my five other brothers from other mothers. Honestly speaking, at first, I thought I would be hard to live with them. I mean we are too many in an apartment. There would be less privacy. I was wrong. After living with them for almost three months I finally realize why the program put more people in an apartment. There were (sure there will be) ups and downs, like you have no one to talk to or you feel homesick and other feelings. That happens, and it is normal. I don’t understand but somehow when I had a rough day and be back at apartment and met them, I felt better. we talked, laughed, and we sang together (only God knows how I love singing). My point is they make your days better. There were also clashes. And again, it is normal. I think that what makes us understand and appreciate each other better.

Elfis with two of his housemates from Brazil and India.

I had a small talk with one of my housemates when other housemates were out. He said that our last day will be on Wednesday, May 15th 2019 and he will miss us. I told him that I will not miss them. I lied. It is hard to describe the feeling of goodbye when you know exactly the time you will be apart. Going back home, living our normal life without seeing your housemates every day. Time does fly. I just want to say one thing. Enjoy the time here, make the most out of it. Be kind and nice to each other because you will never know when you will see them again. Last thank you goes to CCI Program for making this happen. It has always been a privilege for me to experience new things, but this year has been amazing and thank you for making me feel home already. #themoreyouknowCCIProgram

Post written by Elfis Adu from Indonesia, a 2018-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

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. 

Friendship Beyond My Expectation

Before my departure from Ghana I had two days sleepless nights, and all was about how to live together with different people of different cultures, believes and personalities for a year. When I arrived at my apartment with my program coordinator, we met Kiki who was the first person there, she welcomed me with smile and helped me with my luggage to my room, and all what I was expecting how difficult life would be vanished that day.

Kiki (Indonesia), Diana (India), Abibata (Ghana), & Shwethana (India)

The friendship of these girls leads me to the incredible experience; we always move together, eat together, have fun, share our cultures, problems and help each other, when we needed. I have never felt homesick because these girls have made me feel like I am with my blood sisters. What I experience from this people is that, color, culture and believes have no borders in friendship and relationship, what matters is understanding each other and respecting other views.

I had experience within my four months stay here, from fellow CCI participants, in my class, my host mom, and volunteer work, especially working with the elderly. Before I came here, I never knew that old age can loss their memory and behave abnormally but my volunteer with them made me understand this and how to deal with it.

Post written by Abibata Yakubu, CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale from Ghana

Volunteering with Economic Planning Board, Islamabad

What makes you feel good and satisfied in life is the thing which you love to do? It can be anything; sometime, it can be as simple as having a conversation with other people and sharing new ideas or new information to benefit others. To me it is meeting new people and volunteering to bring them at one platform for any specific reason. Bringing something new on the table and getting oneself involved in the activities for the well-being and prosperity of disadvantaged people means a lot to me.

Being born in a very beautiful but very remote area of Pakistan – Hamza, I was exposed to the value of community development through volunteerism from a young age as thousands of youth in area had played and still paying a vital role in uplifting our society. The power of volunteerism especially by youth to bring some semblance of balance in life of people who in need had filled my thoughts since long.

As I began to look beyond my micro universe, it became clear to me that to serve communities better a platform was inevitable and had far-reaching effect on society. I along with my friends, who were also moved by the same cause, joined a forum called Economic Planning Board (EPB) where many young professionals and students come together for a specific reason. Economic Planning board is a platform, led by volunteers, where youth and professionals are brought together so that they can solve the problem and issues faced by our communities and play their role in community development.

We at EPB, through different interventions, benefit our community especially youth not only economically but also socially, physically, and psychologically. These intentions are carried out through different programs which are designed to uplift people fall into different socio-economic status. The major program we work in are as follow.

 

Human Capital

  • Skills Development
  • Vocational Training
  • Job Placement
  • Professional
  • Development

Personal Financial Management

  • Family Budgeting
  •  Retirement Saving Plans
  • Insurance
  • Investment

Business Development Services

  • Entrepreneur / Business Development
  • Business Retention and Expansion
  • Access to Micro Loan / SME Loan
  • Agriculture Inputs/ Technical Support

Alliance and Groups

  • Trade/Business Alliances
  • Professional Associations
  • Networking Groups

These programs are conducted by our volunteers – professionals and students – who work to help and guide those who are embarking to a new chapter of their life. Every year, thousands of community members are supported in one way or another though these interventions. We help them by showing a clear path on which everyone can pursue their careers. The best thing we do is arranging different events for people and bringing them together at one platform in order to bring smiles and happiness in their faces who usually go through hardship and tough life. We also sometimes arrange different trips and hiking’s to encourage them to be closer to the nature and understand the value which they miss in their lives otherwise.

Many of you might not know about and taste a lot the values of community service which makes your life happier and healthier. Joining this group as volunteer was a great idea and has really encouraged me to share the great benefit of volunteerism with people. I have been a member of this forum for last two years. I found it interesting as they are arranging different events, programs, sessions, and many other projects to build a healthy future for our community. People who work here are all volunteers; they volunteer to learn and to make themselves happier.

Post written by Meher Sultana, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria 2016-2017, Pakistan

Post edited on November 20, 2017

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