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.
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.
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.
Post written by Khairur Rijal Usman Abra, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Indonesia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I write this because I want to share my experience and thoughts during the few weeks before my returning home and how I made a different path during my transition back to my hometown in Indonesia after the program. As our time was reaching the verge and going home was such a good news, there was one thing left in my mind: finding a better job. I had no a clear idea about what kind of job was a better job. Some of us thought the job should be with a higher position and a higher salary as the title of American School Alumni in our hometown was appealing and worth bigger incentive. Actually graduated from CCI program is a really big thing in a way that equips us with better skills, more experience and stronger resume, so there was nothing to worry about, but I also knew I was worried if I failed to have what-so-called a better career.
This fear about failures nestled like a bad dream night and day before my departure day. It made me perceive going back home would be stories of failures. But there were times I pulled up in between. I tried to pause and take some time to think. I asked myself some fundamental questions, like why do I have to pursue a career? Is that because other people pursue a career, so I should do the same thing? Or is it because I want to do something that I like and worth doing? If so, do I have to set up myself a standard for a better career that is coined from their opinion? It was not easy to figure out a single answer. Even until now I’m still craving the better one.
There’s one thing that came in my mind, I could not let myself live a life I did not want to live, so I decided that I had to start to emancipate from the mentality that lived other people’s expectations and tried to know myself better. The takeaway is that we really do not have any obligation to think about anybody’s will to us, not even ours if it just causes us mental pressure. I knew I had got everything I needed to go home and to do better things for my career and my life. I believed I had been prepared enough to deal with any challenge after the program and would still be myself, not anybody else. That’s the bottom line.
The early days of my arrival, there was more reunions and a lot of questions from people about my life experience in the United States. Some organizations invited me to speak in their event or write my experience for their social media content. On top of that I returned to my previous job in the news media company. I saw this as a better choice. I worked again as a radio announcer in the town. But this time it had to be different. I told the management that I wanted to direct and design my own program and they approved my proposal.
I got a good chance to do what I had learned during the program and it was one good opportunity to create more opportunities. The program was a radio talk show which hosted people working in startup business in the town. These fellows had done very excellent works for the digital business development in the town. They said they were excited to attend the show – of course primarily for their product promotion. I could make good connections with them as well. By then I enjoyed that job more than before.
I decided to resign from the radio company after about four months. I wanted a job in a more reputable media company in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. It is the biggest English newspaper company in the nation. If I could succeeded it, it would be a big leap in my professional career. Long story short, I failed one of the tests. I felt disappointed and terrified since the job was my biggest dream upon completing my CCI. I studied my failure, having an appealing resume was not enough. One should be able to demonstrate their skill and leave the employer to have no choice but to hire them. I promised to myself, sooner or later I will return to the newspaper and make my better skill an offer they cannot refuse.
The secret is failure is an important stop in our life. Like Newton’s law of motion, sometimes we must come to that point in order to leave it behind and move forward. If someone does not move, they will never move from there and will remain there forever, unless they decide to move themselves by working it out all the way they can. Failure leaves a crucial interval in our life path to meditate and contemplate things that we need to do so we deserve what we want. I used the interval to work in different job and get more experience. Therefore I preferred to work in different institutions as a freelance reporter, a content writer and a translator/interpreter. My experience as an internship staff writer in one of the student-run newspapers in Virginia had built my confidence to do more jobs in writing area.
I worked in NGO Save the Children that focused on family welfare and children education in my hometown. Someone recommended me. That was a fruit of making connections with different people. Getting a job does not always mean one has to pass a series of test, but sometimes knowing somebody who has a big contribution in the institution and recognizes your credibility are enough to get you hired. They assigned me for their publication project as a content writer. They sometimes had extra jobs for me like a note taker in their conference or a trainer in their teaching project, so I could earn extra income from it. I knew I did not earn as much salary as it was usually expected to American school graduate in my hometown, but there was just something different I knew I needed and I thought it was not really money. It is very relative. To know yours, you have to ask yourself.
The project target was for a group of community who lived close to a waste disposal area in the town. The job allowed me to have more time for books and more traveling which were good things. My co-workers recommended me different books in different fields related to our project, like social justice, more fictional books and IT. Freelance job is inclusive, diverse in professionalism and fun in a way people have different backgrounds and inclined to the principle of sharing ideas in order to discover new ideas. They are also working everywhere, so you can reach them from anywhere.
With my team I worked on some interviews with mothers aged 15 – 20 and children who lost chance to study at school because they had to collect plastics from the disposal area almost every day. That’s the only way they knew they could survive their life with their family. Consequently I spent longer time to visit the disposal area during the period. I wrote their stories and worked with some designers to put them together for the organization’s magazine publication. Working with them was the real new leap in my career. I thought I would enjoy the job longer after almost two months I should move abroad.
Currently I work for a tech company in Malaysia. I have not so much thing to tell about it because I am still in the middle of this odyssey. The most important thing is I have chosen to live this life the way I want it to be and am always ready to be surprised with anything that will happen anytime. Good and bad episode equally share parts along the road. If it’s bad, I will never feel guilty, not to mention blame other people. I know the choices I make and what to do with them.
Life is full of choices and surprises. Like CCI and other preceding working experience I had, my current job is a surprise I never thought before I would have. I am completely a new person to people in this country and I have more time to mingle with them and enjoy their typical culture diversity. If I might say, doing different things and meeting and listening to stories from different people are more valuable than any other incentive I can ever receive. I do not know exactly why, but it just feels it evokes compassion in my life and tells me that in that way I always have a life to live and so I can contribute something to that life.
Post written by Muhammad Arham, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Who doesn’t know America? The country that a lot of people want to go to; the dream land. You can feel the vibe of America through their Film industry “Hollywood”, Great musicians and singers, advanced technology and the people are well known for their industrious attitude. When I was little I’d always want to go there, though it was just a dream because I didn’t have money. I didn’t have any family or connection there and most importantly I had no idea what living there was going to be like. November 2017, I saw a link on Facebook about CCI Program, I clicked the link, prepared my papers, got into the selection, followed all the requirements and here I am in United State of America. Through Community College Initiative Program 2018/2019 I have a chance to set my feet in US and study at Northern Virginia Community College without even spending a dime. Yapp…. Dream comes true right??
Besides being a Business Management student at Nova, I have attended amazing events. My first event was at Around the World Cultural Food Festival which was held on August 18, 2018 in Washington DC. Corina and Julio were the event and volunteer coordinators at the event. They came to NOVA to meet all the CCI Program participants and to give us information about this event and how to sign up as volunteers. We got the sheet where we could choose our workstation such as Information desk, Operations, Backstage staff and beer garden. Guess what I signed up for? I signed up for Beer Garden station. To me I imagined being among a bunch of drunkards, but it wasn’t so. My task was to check the ID of the visitors who were entering the beer garden making sure they were above 21 years and then tag them with wristband, no babies were allowed as well. The other task was to make sure the tables and our station is clean. Thus, it was a very wonderful experience because Around the world cultural food festival is a huge event, they occupied the 13th Street Pennsylvania Avenue Freedom plaza and enlivened by 18 food vendors participants, 6 dessert vendors participants and performers from all over the world. Thousands of people visited this event and I was very happy to be there.
The second event was International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) Global Summit which was held at World Bank in Washington DC on August 10,2018. This event enlightened us about Entrepreneurship and how to be successful in managing your business. I was impressed with this event due to the venue, which was in a tremendous building, made up of enthused young people from all over the world. The speakers were awesome, and the group discussions was innovative, inspiring, and so much fun. The event started at 10 am and ended at 5 pm. I didn’t get bored at all because there were various activities such as keynote session, Questions and Answers with guest speakers, groups discussion, presentations session from each group and one of the speakers sang the song without music. It was very funny because I think he sang the whole song and his voice is below average, in the end, the I clapped my hands so hard for him for having the gut to sing in front of the audience. Anyway, the MC and keynote speakers of IYLA Global Summit were awesome and mind blowing because they are real entrepreneurs and they built their businesses from scratch. Saleema Vellani was the MC and she’s the Co-Founder and World Bank Y2Y Mentorship Co-Chair. The Speakers were Anthony Kim from Heritage Foundation (Editor of Index of Economic Freedom), Caroline Pugh the Founder of Care of Journey, Ahva Sadeghi Co-Founder and CEO of SYMBA and Ravi Social Entrepreneur from Nepal. They shared their experiences in starting their businesses, how to manage and keep the businesses running, how to solve internal and external problems, reaching their profit goals and how to give back to the community. That was a lot to take away.
These two are the events in my first month in America and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. I will not waste my time here, my friends and I have many things we need to learn, explore and experience. We still have many upcoming events and I cannot wait to share another story of CCI Program activities. Stay tuned.
Blog written by Helen Sitaniapessy from Indonesia, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.
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.
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
Alexandria, VA- Since I was a child, I always heard my parents said that I have to go to new places that they have never visited before. It makes me grow as a girl with many dreams in my life; and for some people, it sounds silly and impossible. I don’t care. I just want to push my own self to be better, for the sake of my “impossible” dreams.
That believe brings me to many new things in my life. When I was in elementary school, I could travel by airplane for the first time in my life, and went to a new place –2 hours flight from my home- as an ambassador from my school in an event. Since then, I made bunch of lists about places that I must visit in my life. Years by years, in my school life, I got many chance to go to new places freely because I tried to do my best in school; Olympic, debate forum, spelling bee competition, singing competition, and many more.
One thing that I like to do when I visit new place is I get new perspective in my life. I can value something from different point of view because I go and experience something new in my life.
In 2016, I made new list. I HAVE TO GO ABROAD FOR STUDY! I wrote that sentence on the whiteboard in my bedroom. I was looking for many chance to get scholarships. Long story short, after a very long journey, I was selected as one of the selected participant of Community College Initiative Program by US Department of State. United State! I have never imagined that I will visit this country as an international student, but God makes it happens. Nothing impossible. Nothing!
And this is my first three months here. I experience the educational system in the US, the community activities like volunteering, and lots of things that I am very grateful with. I can experience how to mingle with the elderly, eat many kinds of food from the whole world, got American host family, making friends with people from different backgrounds, write 5000 words essay every single week which hopefully makes my writing better, trying so many snacks that I only watch their reviews on YouTube before, visiting some museums and historical places that makes me feel I know nothing, and so many new experience that I believe will become more and more exciting. I am pretty believe, after finishing this program, I will have many new perspectives in life, and I hope those things will make myself as a better person than before.
Post written by Reski Puspitasari A. Sululing, CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia
Vienna, VA – I, with other CCI fellows, joined a volunteerism activity in Oktoberfest 2017 at 243 Church St NW (10/7). The location was about one hour driving from my home in Alexandria to the festival area in Vienna. Arriving in the location, people had been crowded in every spots in the festival. The festival were placed in several blocks and blocked the street from any traffic, letting people from all over the towns, even out of states, come and enjoy things offered in the festival. There were many things to see: art exhibition, Vienna’s Little Library 120th Anniversary, music concert, Musical Theater Performance, culinary, and, the main destination, beer festival.
All across the street, there were lots of tents erected line by line displaying artistic pieces by the local artists. One exhibition tent that interested me was decorated as Abraham Lincoln all-abouts. Visitors could find T-shirts, cups, flutter flags, name board, and other furniture that had the sign of one of the most influential US Presidents. So far, every place I visited always reflects the spirit of Abraham Lincoln in many forms like statue, furniture, and poster. I can say he is everywhere in US and becomes the spirit of Americans.
One of my favorite parts as well as the most special one at the time was the Vienna’s Little Library 120th Anniversary which has served literature needs of the Vienna people since 1897. They were holding book exhibition. I felt so much blessed when I found that I could find and buy my favorite books for only 50 cent for each. Not only old interesting books, there were many other impressive contemporary novels and other books from different genres like psychology, philosophy, history and many more offered with very low price. Besides, they also conducted a special book talk by local writers in the next week which I unluckily could not manage to attend. However I could follow up the event in their social media account. I found that all events are easily accessible through social media.
Beside of the exhibition, there were also music concert and musical theatre that added more options to visit in the Vienna Oktoberfest 2017. In front of the stage, all audiences from the elders to the youngers, all mixed-race Americans were dancing together enjoying songs sang by the musicians whose songs enabled everyone to move from their seat to the stage to join the dance. Other than that, visitors also were able to watch drama theater which was full of musical Disney instrument. The performance was Peter Pan story. It was very impressive and successfully brought all audiences’ mind to the dream land, especially, the children. I could still feel how happy the children watching the drama directly on the stage, instead of their TV Screen.
I volunteered in handing wristband to the visitors to get the beer by screening their ID card. It was not literally an easy job. The wristband marked them to be over 21 years old as the official requirement for US people to drink alcohol. If any of them below 21 wearing the band was inspected by the police to drink beer, my fellow volunteers and I would be of course responsible. However we managed to complete our works well since nobody was found to be so. It was fun to meet and serve people who were very excited to enjoy their beer. The funny part was when an old men came to ask their wristband and I was insisted to ask for their ID card to make sure he was over 21 years old. He asked, “is it not clearly visible for you that I am old enough for the beer, young man?”. Then I replayed, “as today you just never looked younger than before, Sir,” and we both were laughing. Many people were very pleasant for a conversation and it gave me more chances to directly learn American culture by doing my task as an age screener.
Having successfully conducted for ten years in a row, this festival not only purposes as an annual event where people can meet each other in weekend and have fun with exhibitions, concerts, and other entertainments offered, the event also raises money for the local charity that works for homeless, orphan children, and other people in need. Therefore I could meet many local people devoting their time as volunteers to serve the visitors. In that point, I find it as a traditional value of Americans in devoting themselves to serve their community in volunteerism.
Post written by Muhammad Arham, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia
Have you ever imagined how it feels for agent J (starred by Will Smith) – a secret agent movie Man in Black (MIB), when he entered the intergalactic secret agent station of MIB? The station is filled with unusual creatures and aliens from far away galaxies and distant planet throughout the universe. Traveling around 10,000 miles equal to 15,000 kilometers from Indonesia to America, upon my arrival as an “alien” for the first time in United States, all that was reviving in my mind was the scene of Agent J in the fore mentioned movie. It was a long and snaking queue full of various strangers at the Los Angeles international airport which was super crowded. The queue was caused by the computer system of the Los Angeles international airport that went down at the recent time. I witnessed a diverse group of people from different countries and ethnics. It was breathtakingly astonishing and I was overwhelmed with amusement. Finally, I officially arrived in United States, the country of immigrants.
From my observation, I noticed Koreans, Japans, Europeans, Hawaiians, Mid-Eastern people, Africans, Americans, children, gentlemen, ladies and so on, so forth. There was a kid, ignoring the summer-heated circumstance, rode on her pinky baggage along the line back and forth as if she was riding her favorite bicycle and did not belong to any queue. There was a couple who remained their scuba-diving costume rolled down from the upper body to the waist leaving a piece of grey T-shirt on their top. They did enjoy their line up by holding hand. I assumed they were from a vacation in Hawaii. Another guy in-line that I believed from Japan was still in gentle and neat black suit after his flight. Seemingly after escaping from the queue, he would directly join a very important business meeting. Mostly I could assume the nationality of the individual by their physical features and by also identifying their language.
Flown with American Airlines touching down Los Angeles Airport by July 14th, It was around 3 pm in the summer. Despite the long entry line, I enjoyed the thrilling view and I was full of excitement. Observing them was like reading global population map book. Inspired by that weird, yet impressive moment, I started to think about the diverse individuals that I was going to meet on campus, apartment, and environment.
I can deliberately claim that I am one of the luckiest persons on earth to have this precious chance to visit United States through CCI Program funded by The State Department amid the new the US immigrant policy of banning Muslims in regards with my name being typical Islamic name with ‘Muhammad’. After all I conclude that ‘typical name issue’ is just an assumption that I was proven wrong. Everything was going as smooth as my thirty-hour trip from Indonesia to the USA. I can confirm that as long as we have cleared our background and have willingness to study, all of us will find our way out. We just need to devote a bit more courage and effort. Besides, US government has deep concern on global education. In addition to it, prayer is a must-need.
As an international student who will stay in this country full of dream, I must get settled in as quickly as possible in order to begin what I have been dreaming for years, the journey of America. On the process, there are lots of new things I have found in regards with individual, groups of people, local community, and varied things which are either impressive or unexpected. And of course, there are hidden gems in many spots in my living environment. This writing will tell some few concepts and points that examine how I, a new international student, have dealt with my first impressions, culture shocks, and various adaptation processes so far.
GAINING MENTAL AND PHYSICAL READINESS
There are many challenges to encounter in the early stay in a new living place, not to mention in United States which can be very difficult. The most important thing is, as human being naturally equipped with adaptation ability, we are expected to always be mentally and physically prepared for any condition, this unique human attribute prevents us from complaining and keeps us moving.
For instance, my first day in Alexandria city of Virginia, The City of Lovers, was quite hard considering my 30-hour-flight exhaustion and I almost ruined my sleeping pattern – at least it was what my coordinator told me. After arriving in the morning at Dulles Airport, I unintentionally fell into sleep at 4 pm to 9 pm in my first night local time. I might still have my Indonesia sleeping hours which 12 hours ahead of America, I thought to myself.
Instead of being anxious on jetlag, I got myself out of the house and walked down the street near the house until 2 am. Not only that I could exhaust myself so that I can fall asleep and keep me in US sleeping hours, but also I could enjoy beautiful sightseeing to my surroundings in my first night in the city of Alexandria. Recently Virginia is glowing under Summer sunshine, so stay hydrated!
HOLDING THE SPIRIT OF TRAVELING
A traveler always believes, God spreads pieces of His beautiful paradise over somewhere around in this earth. Like treasure, one just needs to take a first step to discover it. That is what I strongly believe. The first day I arrived, I could not ground my feet remain on the floor of my apartment. I just wanted to go out and explore. One hour being inside the house upon my arrival was enough. All that was in my mind was to have a date with the beautiful Virginia.
The first day, with clueless mind, I took courage to step out of the residence. It led me to see how beautiful the trees standing neatly side by side around my house were, with their pink colorful blossoms. Some were yellow and pale green. It felt like spring, yet It was summer, but I then remembered, my program coordinator said we would be able to see colorful leaves in the fall next season. If flowers were this beautiful in summer, I just wonder how they will be in the fall season.
In order to have a sustainably well-managed life for an international student in the US, I quote Benjamin Franklin words stating, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” It was a big clue for me before the departure to my US study. Thus, the first day by being informed by Kelly Forbes, my program coordinator, I noticed some information. Therefore, I had been able to schematize all needs and prospects of my one year stay here. It is not only about budgeting, but also learning facilities at home like books or even accessible libraries or any other comfortable spots to read books. In addition to that, planning our study will be as essential as planning dietary. Both are reciprocally supportive each other.
I want to make special discussion about money. If you come from developing country like Indonesia, you might find banking system in US is more sophisticated. Bank provides abundant online service that makes everything reliably easy. Most of transactions at shops require debit or credit swipe card service; cash transaction is likely extinct. Yet the sophistication does not mean perfection. I have to always keep my password and some confidential codes. No one should know, not even the bankers. Only God and I know.
MEETING THE LOCALS
Based on books and discussion with friends in my home country, Americans are individually-oriented community. I have made up my mind in deep contemplation after experiencing my first two weeks here. It turns out people here are easy to get along, at least in the town I’m living. Every time I visit a restaurant or get on the bus, I frequently find occasion the officers will certainly say, “Hi, how are you?”, “How are you doing?”, “have a nice day” or simply “good day”. The first time, I did not respond anything, just simply because I was too much wowed to see people were very warm to greet each other. The last time from hanging out with my roommate when passing the street, a mother inside her stopped car waved her hand to us with her smile. Anyhow, again I feel so welcome in this country.
I also want to share that some friends and I were very lucky to visit Timothy’s house. We were introduced by Sunny, a very kind Pakistani brother who studied at Northern Virginia Community College, where all participants are studying. When we visited, Tim and her wife Terry were holding ice cream party. He was visited by friends from many cities too, like His friend Shibu from Philadelphia and her wife. The house was so crowded with other cheerful people who kept coming and had their enjoyable conversation. We did enjoy our discussion resembling like family chitchat. I was thrilled on the very comfortable conversation. I also had a chance eying and touching the house antique properties like the unused chimney, old photos, old gramophone, Timothy’s veteran hat, pendulum watch, etc. Poured under summer rainfall, the house was felt very warm inside with the family togetherness and friendship. He said, we have much time ahead to savor togetherness next time.
MANIFESTING THE MIRACLE OF ASKING QUESTION
Frequently I felt shame or hesitated when I asked questions in a formal forum. Yet I started to realize that it is the way I can experimentally learn something new or fulfill my curiosity when asking. I believe curiosity is a philosophical behavior and a part of human nature that has rights to fulfill. Other than that, question is a part of the nature of journalism, the major I will proceed here. By any means, as long as I need, I will try to arrange my words to create strategical questions or investigative ones.
As a part of traveler’s value, question is how God gives clues to human who is cluelessly in need. To reinforce the concept, let me throw in quote saying, “No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.”
LOVING LIVING WITH CCI FAMILY
CCI Program of Virginia bringing 12 country representatives is such a big family. Even though Everyone carries diverse life values and characters and just met, we are living under the same roof. Connecting everyone is so challenging for the early adaptation. In my apartment where I share house with brothers from Africa and Brazil, we are still getting over the difference. However, I do enjoy every talk and discussion while building understanding with everyone. I am strongly convinced this is a beginning I build a brand new, global family that I can tell people in my community back home in the future. Every meeting with them will be a precious story long-lasting in my memory. This first few weeks will be an eyewitness how a new melting-pot family is born in the land of colonial Virginia, USA.
There is no the best way for everyone, everyone fits one. In the other words, everyone has their own unique way to overcome the so-called culture shock or carry on adaptation process in a new area of living. This article just covered only one piece among thousands even millions of adaptation ways. What a person needs to settle in is to keep moving on and not left behind, unless he or she wants to get extinct like dinosaurs did.
All in all, our program coordinator once explained about the stages of cultural shock international students normally experience in US; honey moon stage; frustration stage; adjustment stage; and acceptance stage. This far I felt like I am overwhelmingly positive and become infatuated with the language, people, emotions and feelings in my new surroundings. As I project the prospect of my learning routines a year ahead here, I’m afraid if I cannot move on from the first level of culture shock; the honey moon stage.
Post written by Muhammad Arham, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia