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
“Hi, this is Cessy. An exchange student from Indonesia. She’s doing a scholarship program funded by US Department of State and she’s studying Tourism and Marketing at NOVA. I and Terry are her social hosts, we help her to socialize that’s why we bring her here today”, said Mary when she introduced me to one of her neighbors.
“Oh hi, so does she live with you?”, her neighbor asked.
“No, they put her and her other friends in their own apartment. We will just take her out for dinner or to do other fun stuff”, Mary answered.
I remember attending 2 social parties in Mary and Terry’s neighborhood, that’s how I got to know deviled egg (hard-boiled eggs that have been shelled, cut in half, and filled with a paste made from the egg yolks mixed with other ingredients such as mayonnaise and mustard – Wikipedia) and I like it. The second party was my favorite because it was a barbecue party, we had a lot of meat. Even though I love meat but the best part of the party was when everybody sat surrounding a stove with burning fire while singing old American songs, it was fall and the weather was cold. Everyone was so nice and welcoming, what a lovely neighborhood! I remember thinking this was the ideal American neighborhood I saw on TV and movies, where everybody knows everybody and gets together once in awhile, Mary even has a book club with the other ladies. Compared to the place where I lived which is a complex of townhouses it was totally different. I lived there for 10 months but I never even really “talked” to my neighbors, most of the time you would just look at each other sometimes with no smiles and continued to mind your own business. Hanging out with Mary and Terry’s neighbors really opened my eyes that yes this kind of neighborhood does exist.
Mary and Terry loved to involve me in their family’s gatherings as well and that’s how I learned about American values of family. In my country whenever we have a big celebration we love to involve everybody including our relatives and friends and it will take days to celebrate. For example during Christmas in my hometown, we Christian will celebrate it for the whole month till New Year and even days after that by opening our house for people to come and visit us. We will have cakes and snacks and drink for people to have and the next day other people will come sometimes even strangers. But in United States I learned that when it comes to big holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, it should be spent with your family and closest friends and it will only take one day or couple days of celebration depends on how many invitations you get. Of course sometimes they also invite other people like me, but family comes first unless you live far away from them then you may get invited to join your friend’s family or to join a celebration at church. I celebrated my first Thanksgiving with them and they even let me slept over. I was able to help them cleaning the house and then I met their son, granny and some of their good friends. We had big feast. It was a lot of fun. During Easter, I went to their church and then we went to Mary’s sister’s house. I helped them hiding the eggs for the kids and Mary made the most delicious bird’s nest cake (traditional cake for Easter) I’ve ever tasted.
Terry is an artist, he has a job but during his spare time he will make beautiful things from wood. Their house is filled with his creations and I love all of them. Terry is also funny, he loved to tease me pretending like he forgot which college I go to, he often told people that I went to George Mason University instead of NOVA. He’s a cool father and a great husband. I loved seeing how Terry and Mary work together and support each other as husband and wife. In my country usually wife is on the lower position than the husband but in their family both of them are equal, they’re a team.
Two weeks before my birthday, February 22nd 2017, I emailed them saying that I would love to cook for them Indonesian food and to invite them to have a birthday dinner at my place but they insisted to take me out instead as they said that’s how American do it so I agreed. When they came to pick me up I noticed that Terry seemed a bit down, later I figured out that he just lost his mother a week ago. I was so shocked and touched at the same time. The fact that they could’ve just cancelled our plan but they didn’t and instead they kept their promise to celebrate my birthday with me just overwhelming. I ended up having a heartwarming birthday celebration and to be honest it was the best one.
Post written by Picessylia Anakay, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia
As students, especially as CCI students, we do have a lot of things to do. Doing some off campus activities, such as internships, volunteering in order to get engaged to our community is a privilege for us to experience it, yet getting engaged to our campus also important and worth being. I assume that a good way to get engaged with campus is by using the resources that has been provided for us and absolutely they are free.
One of the resources that almost everyday I visit is The Library. If you hear the word “library”, you would have imagined dozens of books and a huge quiet room that sometimes makes you bored and sleepy, but yet there are actually a lot of interesting and useful things to do there. Besides for reading books, you can also use others tools such as computers, digital media studios, group study rooms, laptop kiosks, electronic equipments in circulation desks (cameras, tablets, camera accessories, calculators, audio equipments), and also chess arena for the chess likers. You can use those tools to do your assignment, or even just for fun, to release your stress after doing a lot of work. Since you get a free wifi connection, you can use the computers or laptops just to listen to your favorite music on youtube, etc, and of course for tablets, camera, calculators and some other stuff you can borrow and bring them home for generally 7 days with 1 renewal.
Besides library, particularly for those who spend a lot of time in Annandale campus, in the same building where the library is, there are also some sources that are very helpful and useful in order to renew, sharpen and even gain new knowledge in writing center, language center, and math & science center. From the CG building, we can also connect to CE building through the corridor on the first floor where we can also do some sports activities in Fitness Center, basketball/volleyball arena and dance room. Last but not least other sources that I want to share are Counseling Center and Career & Transfer Center that I already had an experience with when I was consulting about my resume. I got another point of view and some advice from the advisors and it turned out well for me.
So, guys, I know sometimes we feel like we do not need them because we are already know about those kind of things, but who knows, maybe when you go to writing center, language center or career advisor, you will meet people that link you to another opportunity for internships, volunteer or other kinds of good events that you never imagine before. Or now you have another skill by knowing another language, movie making, photographing, just by using those resources. So, for those who haven’t been using those sources effectively, I suggest you guys to start using them right now because I truly believe that it’s not a waste of time to use these resources and at the end of this program when we already reach our home countries, we are going to bring something worth telling to our folks about our campus and community, besides definitely our wonderful personal experiences here in USA.
Post written by Natallia Rumboirussy, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia
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
It was cloudy that day, January 12th 2017, our seventh day in Arizona for CCI Program mid year retreat. Sergio, our bus driver, rode the bus slow enough that we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way to Sedona. It took about 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach Cathedral Rock Trail where we would start our Silent Reflections Hike. Andrew, CCI staff who has become more like a friend, gave us short briefing about the hike and its purpose few minutes before we got off the bus. We were encouraged to stop talking the second we stepped down from the bus and to find our own path to climb up to the top of the rock therefore we could have personal time to reflect on our life and goals we have set or other things that matter. We could also skim for small rock along the trail which we felt like representing ourselves or things that are important to us and we might take it home as memory-keeper from Sedona for us. He understood that some of us might not take that silent hike seriously and he was right. Some people were still talking when we started walking up the trail. I decided to get off the bus after most of my friends had left. As my friends followed the trail, I turned to different path remembering what Andrew told us. I walked through a small river and bushes and trees without saying a word. At first I thought I would not enjoy that hike and the silence but it turned out to be different. I loved the silence so much that I wished I was the only person there at that very moment, or I could walk far enough that my friends’ voices wouldn’t be heard.
I kept walking and sometimes jumping over some rocks. There were times when I got scared thinking of snake or tarantula would come out from the rocks or bushes along my way but I remembered somebody once told me that they all would be hiding during winter so I should be safe. Once I got rid of all the scary thoughts that hike became more enjoyable. I confidently walked toward the big rocks standing in front of me and was determined to climb them up even though it seemed difficult. Whenever I reached the points where it looked like there was no way up, I would tell myself “No Cessy, there must be a way! Don’t give up!”. Then I would go round the rock and found that way. I crawled. I slid. I held on the tips of the rocks. I prayed that I will not fall down.
A small heart-shaped rock caught my eyes when I finally reached the top of the rocks. I took it and gave myself some time to think of the meaning of that small rock for me. I came to conclusion that love has always been the strongest force on earth for me. I always believe that whatever we do if it comes out of love it will bear fruit. In the middle of chaos and bad things that happen all around the world, even a small action of love will bring peace and hope for those who are hopeless. There will be times when I feel like giving up on people or my dreams to help my community, at those times I should remember the very reason why I start doing whatever I have planned on doing to help my community which is to share the love. Silent hike was the best memory of mine during the midyear retreat simply because I learned not to give up easily when I reached the dead end but to try to find another way. I was also reminded that I should not underestimate the power of love, that it doesn’t matter how small the help I can be for my people as long as I do it with love it will touch them.
Post written by Picessylia Anakay, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia
Everybody was ready early in the morning. We dressed up nicely in our traditional clothes, batik. There were five of us, CCI Program 2016 participants from Indonesia, I, Morten, Fina, Tina and Lia.
We stay in Alexandria, Virginia, and we go to Northern Virginia Community College. We live only 30 minutes away from Washington DC where the house of the Ambassador of Indonesia for United States is located. It was August 17th 2016, the Day of Independence of Indonesia, and we were about to go there to join the ceremony and the gathering. It took us 40 minutes to get to the closest metro station and then we had to walk for another 10 minutes to get to the house. We arrived on time and joined the ranks of other Indonesian people immediately. It is pretty rare to meet other Indonesian around the place where we live or even at campus so we were happy to get to meet our people for the perfect reason, to celebrate the Independence Day together. The ceremony was led by the Ambassador of Indonesia, Mr. Budi Bowoleksono. It was nice, the feeling of celebrating Indonesia 71st Independence Day 9730.6 miles away from home but that moment was “home” for me. The people I met were friendly as how Indonesian always be, we even took a group picture with the Ambassador and his wife and they were lovely.
There was a performance of group consisted of little kids and some older women, they sang all famous Indonesian folklore songs from west to east part of Indonesia. After that, Lia and Fina and some other exchange students from Papua performed a mass dance from their hometown and everybody joined in. It was a lot of fun. Later, we were also invited to join the gathering and my longing of Indonesian food was fulfilled. We were so happy that we got to eat delicious Indonesian food after a month living in USA.
One thing I love about the celebration was the slogan, “Kerja Nyata” or “Real Work” in English. This slogan is proposed by our amazing current president, Mr. Jokowi, to encourage the government with the support of the citizen to start really building our country. Our country has the potential to become a big nation. All resources that we have either natural or human resources, if the government and the people can work together well as a team to support each other, we will surely become one of developed countries in the world like USA or Japan or Singapore. This slogan also reminded me that I could take part in the process of building my country and the people as well to be better. That’s why I am here to study, to gain experience, to expand my network, to improve myself, to learn things that make US a great nation and later when it is time for me to go back home I can apply those things in small steps firstly and hopefully I can be role model for others as well.
On our way home we discussed and decided to host a gathering with other CCI participants in the evening to celebrate with them. We divided the tasks between ourselves, I was in charge for the decoration while my other friends would prepare the food. We informed all of our friends and they were excited to join us. I asked them to wear something in red or white color since our national flag consists of those two colors. Red is the symbol of the bravery of our heroes who fought hard for our independence and white is the symbol of purity of the soul of Indonesian people. These two things, bravery and purity, are believed to complete and to perfect the body and soul of Indonesian people to build the nation. People started coming at 8pm. We had Indonesian food and some American food for our friends who can’t handle the spiciness of our food. Everybody who tasted our food loved it.
Our friend from Colombia, Vanesa, embraced herself to try our food. After that, she said it was too spicy for her but it was delicious. We were happy that we were able to share with our friends from other countries a little bit of our culture through the food that we prepared, they now know and even experience it themselves how much Indonesian loves spicy food. We also taught them a little bit of our language, Bahasa Indonesia. We made a video and everyone had to say “merdeka, merdeka, merdeka” which means “freedom, freedom, freedom”. Mehedi, CCI grantee from Bangladesh, pronounced it well and passionately. Then we played music to start our favorite part of every gathering we’ve ever organized, dancing. Pew, the Bangladeshi girl, came wearing her traditional dress.
She looked beautiful. She entertained us by showing us how people from her country dance, it was nice. Our friends from India, Raj, Halith and Nime, also led us to dance to Indian song. We danced to almost every songs from every country represented by people in our group like African dancing that includes more legs and bottom part in its movements, Latina dancing which requires you to move your hips and hands more and even Yemen dancing which is done by couples who have to move forward and backward in harmony. Surely, we taught our friends Indonesian mass dance as well, Lia led the group to dance to the song “Poco-poco”. We had so much fun that night. It was great that we got to share more of our culture and also to learn a bit more of our friends’ culture. That night was not only to celebrate our day but also to celebrate the beauty of diversity.
Post written by by Picessylia “Cessy” Anakay, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia
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
Experience the CCI Program through the voices of the students