Tag Archives: friendship

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

What the CCI Program means to Me!

The Community College Initiative Program (CCI) is an awesome and unique educational program, and I am so honored to be part of this program. It has given me several experiences in academic achievement, language skill, and mutual culture understanding.

CCIP gives me an opportunity to study 2 semesters in the Information technology (IT) program in Northern Virginia Community College. This field of study is totally different to my educational background and experiences as a medical and public health service officer. I am a coding expert in classification of disease, but not in IT. I sometimes smile when I imagine how crazy I am in this decision. When people ask me about my major, and I say IT, they are so excited by saying “wow”. That makes me imagine how difficult it must be to be an IT student. It is my choice and I must face it. I have set my mind to be as positive as possible because my dream is bigger than the difficulty. I keep in my mind that I have a big dream to implement IT in the public health services in the rural areas of Indonesia. I tried to figure out my problem by talking to my professors and my classmates every after class. I seek help from my CCIP friends who take IT classes; Kay and Soma, as well as a very good friend, Aqsha, who is always there for me when I ask him to teach me. They are very kind and helpful and always ask me to call or send them a message if I need their assistance.

Another great experience that I got here is improving my English skills. I realized my English has improved after 6 months here, and I still have 4 months left to learn.  It is a common situation for International students who do not speak English as their first language. In CCIP, we are from 12 different countries, all non-English speakers. We also have various English abilities, from excellent, good to poor, but we are here to learn. We support and motivate each other and never look down on one another. Diversity in language is a blessing, and it teaches us to learn other languages such as Bahasa Indonesia, France, Spanish, Portuguese, Indian, Urdu, and Turkish.

In addition, CCIP has taught me to accept other cultures, to be more open minded, to understand and respect others. Individualism and Islamophobia are among the stereotypes about Americans. Since I have been here, I have seen that Americans are very kind: they always give a hand when I need help and warmly greet me when we meet.  I learnt from the way they appreciate and encourage to learn rather than blame someone who make mistakes.  Their respect for me with my scarf and the meditation room at NOVA campus are evidence that Americans are tolerant to Muslims.  The reason why I wear a scarf and do not eat non-halal foods are common questions not only from Americans but also from CCIP friends. I answer those questions carefully by using health approach that is easy to understand. I am a culinary lover, but I am really concerned about halal foods, and my friends are so respectful about it. My friends in my apartment always tell me when they cook or eat pork in our apartment. We have never had dinner together at the same dining table when they had eaten pork. They always apologize for the inconvenience. Americans and my friends also showed me their tolerance when we had Thanksgiving dinner with international friends in a church. American families served halal turkey and food for Muslim friends. At the time, I took a vegetable that I did not realize that was vegetable with pork until an American told me about it. I finally put it back and said, “Thanks”. Last month, I volunteered in a Christmas holiday workshop at the church near my apartment. I was the only Muslim there and it was so easy to recognize me because I wore a scarf. I came there to assist children for shopping and wrapping gifts for their families. We showed the beauty tolerance.

Being in America is also the way to promote my country to the world. As a CCIP grantee from Indonesia, I strongly realize that I have the high responsibility to represent Indonesia in the way I think, talk, and act, so I try to do my best. I am always excited to tell about my beautiful country, Indonesia, to people that I meet: my instructors, my classmates, and people that I meet when I am volunteering, on the train, bus or wherever I am. I sometimes send them pictures, videos, and links about Indonesia on email. One of my most memorable moments was when I attended the Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) conference at the World Bank, Washington DC. Some friends warmly greeted me and they were so excited when they found out that I am from Indonesia. Most people thought that I was a Malaysian. Because of my small eyes, my Pakistani friend, Naveen, even thought that I was Japanese the first day we met. My Indonesian friend, Morten, was laughing when he heard it. Morten said that Naveen probably meant I was a Javanese instead of a Japanese because there is Java in Indonesia, and people who live in the area are called Javanese. Another funny moment was when two students were talking about me when I was walking down from CT to CG building of NOVA Annandale campus. I did not realize it until they called me when I passed them. They asked me if I was from Thailand, and I said that I was from Indonesia. They finally laughed because they had bet to guess where I am from.

Lastly, CCIP gives me the opportunities to visit some historical and beautiful places in the USA. I love travelling and this is the right way to explore this super powerful country. I love to spend my weekends in Washington DC. I have also been in other states of America, such as Maryland, Chicago, Michigan, Arizona and New York. In the next three months, I am going to other states.

Those experiences are unforgettable and will be a great asset in my bright future. It brings me to be better person, particularly in the way of thinking. My dream to study, learn, and travel in America has come true.

Post written by Martina, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia

Family and a New Life

What A Family And A New Life We Have.

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From the four corners of the world we gather knowing nothing of what we were about to encounter and yet here we are to make a different. Our journey started from different perspective, different choice, ways and means. Now here is what we are, have, and live now. This program did not give us their way or the highway policy but resilient one for us to do what is necessary for ourselves and the benefit of our motherlands.

Being engulfed by these beautiful, wealthy, hospitable, cherish able, accountable, decisive, and harmonious people in this program and their environment provides a great sense of humanity and prospect. Being living with friends and family from different matrimonial and patrimonial homes and their precious cultures, from different backgrounds, different perspectives, different prospects of stereotypes and with different instinct lifestyle, character, knowledge behavior and mind. We came with different strokes for different folks, dreams, and expectations but in all things, we do not look down on anyone’s life or culture rather working together as people with one dreams, thoughts, ideas, and expectations to make something new, powerful, beneficial and a peaceful life indifferences of who, how, what, and where we are. With our life arguing the toss we made which hinders our potentials and now having a family who knows, feels, and alters everything for our betterment, initiation, encouragement, and the thrills in-dependable of who we are and what we are. These people harness our desire, wishes, thoughts, dreams, and life into a considerable level of safety, love, esteem, and closeness to actualization in referral to Maslow’s Hierarchy. We through our desire to achieve will drove us to the actualization if we continue to hold still.

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In all that we’ve seen, planned, thought, examined, determined, engaged, and engrossed ourselves and dreams, with the new experience and the new realm created is not to make us lay down our culture, life, preferences, etc but before “all entrant must exist the space until reassessment is complete” we can change something in our life. This is meant to polish, restore, smoothens, deepens, motivate, and engage us in our dreams, experiences, and life to impart our communities, societies, country, and the world. This new life is to enlighten and lit our closed and darkened potentials into a steadfast reality and to help lights others potential. Our implementation timeline is much greater and inevitably comparable, and presentable to make a new world for us to discover, innovate, modify our legitimate potentials, abilities, and identities. This program has made us known that “Never shall we change our originality for the sake of others because no one can play our roles better than we can” therefore, our policies has been face/turned about.

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For I believe that at the end of this precious living life of our tenure in this program, when we return, in everything we will hedge our bets quickly and not keeping our options opened. I believe a new life had already started. What is your belief?

Post written by Ebenezer Offei Boadi, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Ghana

My Life in a Year

It all started with a dream to study in USA. A dream to live a student life in the states. CCI has helped me to make this dream true. Started my journey in June 2014 which changed my whole life, my perception towards life and made me emotional too. LOL
I remember myself as a big guy with low confidence and trying to make new friends. Trying to adjust with new people and being over-friendly which led to a lot of misinterpretations about me among people. The only women who was with me as true mentor, a true guardian was Kelly Forbes. ‘’You don’t have to be fake and over-friendly to make friends” her words that changed me. She’s the best gift that USimg_8104A has given me. I can’t forget her early morning messages when I was in Las Vegas “Akhlaq don’t spend all of your money’’ I bet no other coordinator would have been as concerned as she was with me. She pushed me far away from my self-bound limits to be independent and to be responsible. If I really want to describe her in one word she was mother and I’m fortunate to have her in my life as coordinator.

Jaclyn Ruybalid Krueger! The enthusiast coordinator whenever I saw her she was there with that beautiful smile. She always had a positive energy which reflects on her face that can change everyone’s day.

 

In my experimg_8102ience I’ve found many common skills with each CCI participants and I tried to upgrade myself to be better than before. I’ve learned so many things from these that I can’t mention them. I never thought I would be surrounded by so many pearls from different countries and getting to know them. Friends from CCI is the best thing one can have. Experiencing friendship other than CCI was bonus for me as I got to know people from Afghanistan, Thailand, Korea, and Ethiopia……. Omg! The list is never ending. In short I’ve friends from all over the world.

Volunteering at events and enjoying those events with free food, can’t describe that happiness.


These events taught me to serve for community. I never thought I would complete my volunteering hours without Luiza Arnaud and Bassem Alfy these guys always pushed me for volunteering. Talking with Khaled Soltanto (Habibi) always motivated me to get something I liked. My roommates were typically awesome hahahaha! Each of those guys have different perception for the same common thing. Whether its 12am or 1am and I wanted to go to DC Harold was always ready. Gymming with Andre (Brazilian) and Sifiso (South African) was an amazing experience and I can say I had international trainers. Dzidepo Kofi this Ghanaian guy taught me to play soccer and party hard! How could I forget the beauties of CCI Lekagugu, Joannita, Sandra, Gamze, and Luiza I miss you girls.
img_8105 Praveen and Nabila will have a great importance in my life I’ve learned a lot from you guys. Hope to see you soon.

On my return my friends asked what did you do in states? And what did you brought along with you from states? To which I replied “I lived my life in a year and I brought a promise to see those face again who made my life worth living there”

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Post written by Akhlaq Khan, CCI participant at NOVA, 2015-2016, India

Don’t Give Up On People

First day of fall semester, I woke up early, got ready and stood by the bus stop an hour before my class started. It took around 30 minutes to get to Annandale campus by the bus so I would try to kill the time by talking to my fellow friends and when we had nothing else to talk about I would just put my earphone on to listen to my favorite songs. I remembered I was so excited that finally I would meet and make real American friends, I planned to get to the class early so when they came in I would smile and greet them then introduce myself. I was the first person in the classroom, 30 minutes to go before the class started. I looked around, empty chairs and tables soon to be used by my “friends” even “best friends-to-be”. I waited for a while then decided to get a cup of coffee and chocolate croissant from the small in-campus Starbucks counter since I hadn’t had breakfast. Fifteen minutes before the class started, I was sipping my latte and taking small bite of the croissant when a girl came in, I smiled then she smiled back and quickly looked away before I could say hello. That moment made me realized that making friends here wouldn’t be as easy as back home.

As time passes by, I start to notice that people don’t really talk to other people in classroom unless they have to. People don’t really making friends in classroom. They come in, sit down, take notes, sign the attendance form, and then leave. I tried to talk to my classmates couple of times but outside the classroom they tend to act like they don’t know you so after a while I gave up on them. I would still say hello but I stopped putting efforts to get to know them better. Later on during the club fair at campus I met people who called themselves International Friends. They are basically doing a lot of fun activities to connect students or people from all around the world. First time I joined them we did Scavenger Hunt, we got to go to various places in Alexandria and even DC, the last destination was a park and we had BBQ there. My team turned out to be the winner of the game, we got simple gift, but the best gift for me was the people I got to meet there and then at campus since they also go to NVCC Annandale campus. Our friendship grows day by day with more and more people joining in. Most of us are international students, there are some from Belgium, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Perú, Egypt, China, Italy, Mongolia and other countries. They are all very friendly and fun. It’s good that now I will have friends to hang out with during lunch break, or to go to watch movie with, or to support me when I wanted to audition for NOVA Idol, or to play ping pong with after classes, or simply to talk to and share stories with. You go to school to study but that’s not the only thing you will gain from school. School also will give you the chance to make friends, to expand your network, and even for some people to build their social skill. You never know where life will take you, at some points your friends will help you to reach the success of your life by motivating or inspiring you. So, don’t ever give up on people or making friends.

Post written by Picessylia Anakay, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia

The Opportunity That Changed My Life!

jeidiGrowing up as a young girl it has been my lifelong dream to travel to the United States and experience other peoples culture and way of education. I did not know how or when it would happen and stop being a dream to become a reality. Luckily for me, the opportunity was presented to me at the least expected moment. God surprised me in a supernatural way. When I received the wonderful news, I was the happiest woman in the world. Every day before the trip what more I  did was look at pictures of where I would live and the college where I was going to study. You can imagine how happy I was.

Challenge In America
One of my biggest challenges in the US was using my English. I was not used to speaking English as I have always communicated in Spanish. My English was not very advanced and I was afraid to make mistakes when speaking, and that people did not understand me. But my English was not as bad as I thought, most people liked it. However, people were very patient to pay attention and help me when I needed. Over the months my English was getting better and better.

Special friendship I made
It would be hard to name a few because I consider I had a good relationship with all CCI participants in Virginia. But I would like to highlight  some people who were always with me and I could build a very strong bond of friendship. Sandra Appiah from Ghana, she was my sweet roommate. She never missed a smile on her face. Sandra always cared of me and I cared for her. Moreen Kajuju from Kenya, with her I had a very pleasant time. We used to go shopping together, cook together, travel together, and sometimes advise each other. The other one is Melisa Múnera from Colombia (Medellin). She is a very lovely person, she was always there for what I needed. That person which dried my tears when I passed difficult moments in my personal life.
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Housemates
I could not ask for more. I had the best housemates ever. I’m very glad to have known them and have had them as my sisters during my stay in the United States. Charmaine (South Africa), Yuli (Indonesia), Luiza (Brazil), Moreen (Kenya) and Sandra (Ghana). They are the best.

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My Favorite Part
Every single day during my stay in the States were my favorites. Knowing I was living and experiencing a completely different life from mine including seasons, new people, new places, new culture and costumes, it just made my days very specials. I have had the opportunity to experience fall, winter and spring which was amazing. It was my first time seeing the leaves fall from the trees, the snow fall from the sky decorating the streets and seeing flowers bloom with beautiful colors, it was very enriching for me. During my time there (January 1st) was my first time of  being in a beach. Yes, my first time I was in Siesta Beach, Florida.
Lastly, I can’t forget to tell about of one of my last trip with my CCI family. We went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and I broke the fear of being in a roller coaster for the first time. Those ones, really were two of my best experiences during my journey! I had many more but if I write them down here I wont finish.

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Having such an amazing opportunity to have these experiences not only with American culture but also with thirteen different cultures from all around the world changed my life. I am grateful to all CCI NOVA participants and the two excellent coordinators Jaclyn & Kelly. Without them my experience in the United States would not have been as wonderful and unforgettable as it was.

Post written by Yeidy Daniela Rivas Carabali, CCI Participant at NOVA 2015-2016, Colombia

My CCI Experience

It has always been a lifelong dream to travel the world and experience cultures different from mine. Well that dream became a reality when the State Department decided to present me with the opportunity of a lifetime. I came to the United State of America with unfulfilled desires and personal aspirations.  For once I was going to live the dream and be better than I was in my country. The ten months I have stayed has been the best months ever. I’m going to categorise my best moments.

Studying in NOVA

I had the opportunity to be taught by amazing professors and friendly course mates. It was a bittersweet experience for me. The professors made sure we img-20160720-wa0025had presentations all the time. You can imagine how I fumbled while standing infront of my mates but after sometime I overcame my shyness and fear of crowd. I mastered the art of speaking to a large number of people and actually getting them to understand me. I can proudly say my fear of crowd is a thing of the past now. Get me an audience and a podium and I will make them believers of my confidence.

Pathways to Success Program

I got the opportunity to meet all the CCI participants  and made new friends as well.  What made  this program much memorable was when I located all my friends from GHANA . We hugged amidst laughter and hugs . Telling each other stories from our respective states and teasing one another.  Our tour of the white house ,empire state , statue of liberty amongst others will forever be imprinted on my mind. If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change any aspect of it.

Special friendships I made

A friend is someone who sees the white speck in you even when the whole world sees only black. It takes some people years to build friendship while others find finds withing a twinkle of an eye. I must say I made friends with all my img-20160722-wa0008CCI participants in virginia , my house mates and  the one friendship that stands out the most is the one I made with Nabila Akter from Bangladesh.  I don’t no how exactly we became friends but she made my days very interesting and infected me with her love for adventure. Not a day goes by without me calling on her to accompany me to this place and that place. She  is just amazing. Words cannot describe how content I am to be her friend. Like I said it takes some people years to build friendships but mine took just ten months .

Experience that stands out

I enjoyed every moment I spent in the US but I will say the best one was when my coordinators Kelly and Jaclyn organised a trip to Virginia Beach. I explored so many things from the adventure park to the Busch gardens. I got to know my weaknesses and strengths . And for the first time I swam in the sea and the pool. Even though it was the last adventure we took as a group,it was worth it .img-20160720-wa0002

Post written by Sandra Appiah, CCI participant at NOVA, 2015-17, Ghana