The NOVA CCI cohort visited the senate building and the U.S capitol and the 09/28/2017 a day many would cherish forever. The visit was spectacular in a sense that we got to learn about the U.S history while at the same time exploring the architectural beauty of the American sit of government. We got to see the dome of the capitol from the inside and it was a sight to behold. To every American the capitol represents liberty which is the concept that the United States was founded on, but one point that stood out for me as the author of this piece is that even though liberty was debated in the building, it was built by the struggle and sweat of enslaved African-American. It is a building that has shaped the history of America and represents the achievements and failures of United States American while at the same time protecting the democracy of the country and the freedom of the American citizens.
The day started with the visit to the senator of Virginia Mr. Kaine who was not present and we met his Legislative Coorespondents that listened to our stories regarding our experience about America. It was a healthy exercise as far as I am concerned – we gave out stories about America from a foreign perspective which is flawed for everything we said about America we were comparing it to our countries and somehow we bashed our own nations and propelled America into a podium of perfection. This perspective is I believe very superficial and it is dangerous for it hides the problems and challenges that America is confronted with. Foreigners should be as honest and as sincere about the experiences they have in America as possible. I am not judging anyone’s analysis and experience of America, I am only challenging the sugar-coating the takes place when foreigners talk about their experiences. I understand some believe in the expression that says do not bite the hand that feeds you. But these individuals fail to realize if you do not bite the hand, you might not get to receive better food than what you are receiving.
After we bought our lunch at the senate building we went to the capitol building. The most spectacular building in Washington, DC. It stands supreme with its pure white color as there is no building that is taller than it in DC. It is an iconic and historic building and to know more about it you have to get inside. There is a wealth of knowledge inside the capitol and it preserves history – history is preserved in lime stone and bronze inside the capitol – Jackson, Regan, Martin Luther king and many more American historic leaders. The capitol has captured every essence of America and it stands proud and tall as it is the furnace that keeps the democracy of the United States and the liberty of its citizen boiling in comfort. The U.S capitol is the freedom building of the nation and it has ensured the descendants of African-America slaves who provided free labor in the construction of the buildings and the descendants of the White Masters to live in harmony without the oppression of one another.
Inside the building there is the library of congress, it houses research papers that are very rare and it also houses the books that belonged to the founding fathers of America. The painting on the ceiling is very captivating. Every effort has been taken to ensure that the history of each president and senators who have served with high distinction is preserved and their stories be told to all who care to listen. For the CCI participants the visit was more than seeing the statues of died white men but it was about seeing the building that runs the affairs of America – the building that is more prestigious that the white house if one also takes in consideration what is happening with the current president of the United States.
What I learned from the visit is that freedom is not given it is demanded and the one who has the highest moral position no matter how weak he/she is they will prevail. That’s why the confederate lost the war and union won during the American civil war and while the U.S capitol was nearing its final construction phase.
Post written by Vuyani Maduna, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from South Africa
August is the international youth month and on the 12th , the world bank group hosted young people from across the world to commemorate the international youth day at their headquarters in Washington, DC. The umbrella of the commemoration was the International Young Leaders Assembly(IYLA) 2017- which according to John Dickson, Chairman, Global Young Leaders Academy, took a long time to organize. The assembly was all about finding solutions to problems that plague young people and also to discuss some of the challenges that stagnate youth development. It was wonderful to see young adults and youngsters deliberating on issues of national and global importance. There were two sessions on the day – the service session and the entrepreneur session – before the commencement of the sessions, Daniel Pierini, Alternate Executive Director for Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, World Bank delivered a keynote address which centered around the impact that young people have in the world and what role they have in policy creation.
For the service session, there was a distinguished panel of Political leaders, ambassadors (former and current) and development experts. They all shared what they are involved in and how they impacted the communities they are involved with. Koby J. Langley, Senior vice president, Service to the Armed Force & International Humanitarian Law, American Red Cross, shared a story about his involvement in the Iraqi war – He was brought in as a young law expert, his duty was to ensure that the soldiers even though they are in war they respect human life and abide by the Laws of War. He indicated that at one point there would go on for three months without taking a bath, the conditions were tough and hard but one thing kept him and everyone going, the gifts and messages they received from the American people, one moment that prompted him to have a new definition for leadership was when he got a box of crushed Oreos and a broken toothbrush, He thought for a moment about his gifts and pictured the people who might have sent these wonderful essentials, which are in most cases trivial items, but in war they are highly important – at that moment he figured that Maybe leadership is about love and compassion, for he was convinced that the Unknown Americans who sent them gifts were doing that because of love and compassion. He said that made him to work even hard to protect human life in the war-torn Iraq.
I would like to share everyone’s story unfortunately I can’t, I will need to write a book to do that. Another story that I think is worth sharing is from Navya Maitri Konda, Co-Founder & President, GOAL; Stanford University, – who was visiting India at one time – she visited a center that offered learners to study and to do their homework after school. She felt happy that such a center was available to all the children in the community. One night the lights went off and the kids started to pack their books and left, she got hold of one of the children and asked why they are leaving to which he replied, “The power outages happen all the time and we don’t know when the power might be restored it can go on for days”. Hearing this she was perplexed, she came back to the United States and she started to look for solutions – she talked to colleagues, consulted professors and energy experts so that she can eliminate the problem that has the potential of ruining a good initiative and destroying the future of the children. She got the help needed and they erected solar powerlines for this particular study center. Her talk on leadership is that you do not need to be directly affected by a problem before you could find a solution to it, if it is affecting somebody and you have the means to solve it, get on it. She believes leadership is solving problems even though they have nothing to do with you.
There were closing remarks for the first session from the member of parliament in Uganda, Hon. Babirye Sarah Kityo Breeze. Her address was tailored for leaders in government. She stressed the need for young leaders in world governments so that young people’s voices can be heard in high level of power so that they can be tackled effectively. She mentioned a fact that got her applause – 60% of the members of parliament in Uganda are young women. Which is higher that any other country in the world.
The second session moved very quick and the panel was comprised of young and old entrepreneurs. They all shared stories about their businesses and how they got them to be successful. What I learned from them was that you will never be successful in business if you do not take risks and make necessary sacrifices. “To be an entrepreneur is not something you wish for, it is something that you live – it becomes a part of you”. Wise words from one of the panelists. They also had a special advice for NGOs – “it is important for NGOs to not rely only on donations, they should really think of developing their own product that can generate income to fund some of their initiatives “, said Robert Dowling founder, PennDPC; co-Founder, repurpose.
As young people, we are agents of change but we seem not to understand what that means. We are still hiding in the shadows. The young leader assembly was successful and most issues were discussed and the solutions were diverse, but they lacked scientific reasoning. After the two sessions were concluded there was a group discussion of about 17 core issues that are common to all the countries of the world – sustainable energy, infrastructure development, childcare, and all the way to climate change. The solutions from young were all social solutions but none of them were scientific even on issues that required science and technology. That troubled me – it means this generation lacks a holistic view of what is happening around them – some even narrowed their solutions to political rhetoric that lacks facts.
As the CCI cohort from NOVA we learned a lot from the panel that was invited to the Assembly but we learned nothing from our peers, the same cannot be said about the CCI cohort. We participated in every discussion and contributed greatly in those discussions, but scientific reasoning was still missing.
Post written by Vuyani Maduna, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from South Africa
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
I am Ayesha Alam from Bangladesh. A lot of things were poking in my head about studying in Virginia. It was almost night when I arrived in Washington D.C. We got a very warm welcome because our coordinator were waiting for us. The weather was good but still I was feeling very cold. We made our way to the apartment.
At first I was very scared of my apartment mates. I was much confused about how I can cope up with them, will they ever accept me because I didn’t share my room with anyone before. But when I met them, I was really surprised seeing them very friendly and cooperative. Next day, we had a introductory session with all other students at the pool. And there’s nothing to compare with that moment. Even though I was scared a lot, but everyone appreciate me. They all were very humble, kind, helpful. So it made me more comfortable. We become a new family in Virginia with full of diversity.
My first day at NOVA was also unforgettable. All the students and teacher wanted to know my culture, tradition and customs. The teacher is also very supportive. I made so many friends at once and mingle with so many people from different background. It helped me a lot to develop relationships and mutual understanding with people around the world.
Community College Initiative (CCI) Program has increased my level so high. It teaches me to gain a global sense of citizenship. Everyday I am coming out of my comfort zone and learning something new from everyone. Americans are very punctual, discipline, open mindness. So, the life here is amazing. I am really grateful to the American Government, American people and everyone for making a new family member irrespective of my background only within weeks in U.S.A.
Post written by Ayesha Alam, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Bangladesh
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
I remember, when I was in elementary school, I wrote many things in my Hello Kitty diary; about my favorite things, about my first shoes that I bought from my savings, also about my dreams. I did not know why in that time, I wrote that I really want to go abroad someday, and I wrote “I will go to America”.
Until I graduated from the university, I always looking for many opportunities to go abroad. One day, I tried my best to apply the CCI Program, that brought me to The United State now. Sometimes, I feel that it just like a dream. Many people said that I am lucky, but I don’t think so. I got this scholarship because of my effort, because I did my best until now.
Time flies. From sending the application, did the interview, orientation, until departure to the US, and now I have been in the US for two weeks. It’s not a very long time, but still, I learn many new things here. I mingle with many people, include my CCI friend from another country, some of American people, and taste many new things and new environment. I am so happy about those things. I feel like everything is going well. I eat well, sleep well, have a lot of fun, and earn something new in my school, Northern Virginia Community College.
From the orientation, my coordinator said that maybe all of us in the “honeymoon stage” right now, where everything seems good and exciting. It means that maybe in a couple of weeks ahead, we will face some culture shocks. I agree with that, but I hope that I will never experience the worse one. One of my biggest concern is missing my family in Indonesia, but thank God, we have so many options to keep in touch with our family through technology.
From my first two weeks in America, I learn a lot of things. First, prior my departure to this country, I thought that American people are arrogant, they hate Moslem people, they never smile, and all stereotyping things. Until I got here, I was totally wrong. Most of Americans are so friendly and helpful. They love to smile, and they say sorry and thank you in the easiest way. I mean, Indonesian people said that they are the friendliest people in the whole world, but they don’t do things like Americans. I can find many Indonesian people rarely say sorry when they did something wrong, also rarely say thank you to someone else. In America, they say those words easily.
The other thing that I found very interesting is, people in America are so on time. They appreciate time so much. Last week, when I arrived in my English class in the early morning, and I was the first one in the class, my professor said thank you to me for several times. I was so happy, because in Indonesia, when I arrived in a meeting point on time, no one cares. Also, when someone is coming late, no one cares.
But, not all the things are going well in this two weeks. I also feel somehow awkward with the situation here. The first thing that I feel it’s quite disgusting is I keep convert US dollar to my currency, and it drives me crazy. For example, when I bought spinach in the store and it costed me like 4 dollars, I felt it was too much. In my currency, 1 dollar means 13.000 Indonesian Rupiah. So, I always like “Really? 4 dollars for a little amount of spinach? In Indonesia, I will get a lot!”. It is so funny. So, now I try harder to avoid that habitual. It is useless to convert our currency to US dollar.
The second thing is, I feel it is a little bit uncomfortable to drink from the faucet directly, because in my hometown, we boil the water first before drinking it. My program coordinator said that it is safe here to drink directly from the faucet, so yah, now I am feel comfortable with that stuff.
About my new friends, all of them are so friendly and helpful. Sometimes, I find it is a little bit difficult to communicate because English is not our mother tongue, but that is the way to improve our communication skill. We learn many things together, we learn how to respect others’ opinion, others’ belief, and others’ culture. It is a very interesting thing for me, because it makes me be an open-minded person, and see the whole world with new perspective.
I believe that soon, I will experience many new things, and maybe have some culture shock about living in this country, but I hope that those things can make me a better person in the future. I always say to my own self that I must be a better person, and open myself to every new thing and try to deal with those stuffs. America, let’s get along!
Post written by Reski Puspitasari A. Sululing, CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia
My first class at NOVA Annandale campus was full of nervousness and exciting as well. I was residing somewhere in second row and being an international student so many questions were arising in my mind. I was nervous thinking that will I be able to compete with the fellows who are all native Americans, what if couldn’t perform well in class, what if I fail? Suddenly a very serious person enters in the class room and without introduction he asks us to move to another class, then another class…??
When he was asking us to move to another class, again different question was arising in my mind, but I was totally new to that environment so I decided to just follow the “crowd” the other students. Somehow, I was expecting that my fellows will ask who is that person, why we are following him, but personally I couldn’t get that courage to ask those questions. Finally, he took us to third class and then he broke the silence by asking the questions I had in my mind. Who is he? No answer from the whole class. Second question, why we are following if we don’t know him? Few of the fellows responded like might be he is someone from college management which made us all laugh but he said I will be teaching your xyz in this semester. Surprised …!!!
It was surprising for me because so far, I didn’t have any such kind of experience during my studies. Most of our professors were very bossy, it was difficult to have fun with them and even there were very strict rules to talk with a professor. Mostly it depends upon how good a student is in pleasing a professor and sometimes those students succeed to get the attention who get good marks in the class. Being a shy person and kind of an average level student, I never succeeded to make some good relations with any of my previous professors in my own country. When the professor said I will be teaching you xyz subject in this semester, then most of my fear disappeared automatically as he was frank, funny and at the same time very inspiring.
It’s a saying that “the first impression is the last impression”. That first class suddenly changed my way of thinking and my nervousness turned into excitement. Focusing on my studies was one of my top priorities in my plans and it really became interesting the way professors were encouraging me to be open, to speak up, to go in front of the class, to participate in groups. Another important point I have noticed during my studies that most of the professor teach you perform well in your real work instead of focusing on your marks. All the students in my class had their business ideas and most of them had their own business and those studies were clearing their concepts which they had to implement on their work. Further, with my experience, I have noticed that since students are attending their class regularly, submitting their assignments, homework and participating in their class no body fails. A student should not have a fear to fail the subject, which is also understandable as it is very common in student of developing countries. Students should focus on to gain actual knowledge in the field of their interest.
The most inspiring thing about my education in the US was building a good relationship with my professors. They just do not teach you a subject or for just one semester, they are always interested to listen about your future goals, your achievement and with my own experience I can surely say that they will be always there for you to make you successful. No matter how difficult name you have professors always try their best to remember your name. Before studying at NOVA Annandale, it was the most difficult thing to get a recommendation letter from my professors while applying for different scholarship, and during my studies all the teacher kept asking me, if they can help me in any way I should write an email any time. Now I am an alumnus of NOVA Annandale as it has been few months since I have completed my studies, but still few of my professors keep asking me about my activities and future plans, which really means a lot for me.
In conclusion, my studies in the US gave me a real meaning of education, what success meant to be, role of professors in helping weak students during studies and after completion of their studies. I will recommend all the new students to be punctual in class, participate in discussions, don’t hesitate to speak up loudly, ask questions then success is yours and get the best advantage of this great opportunity in making some good relations with your professors, fellows , coordinators and those who can help you in making a successful leader in future.
Post written by Naik Alam, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Pakistan
‘’Pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They are products of enlightened education and continuous investment by governments and all civil societies in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the world’s citizen.’’
-Aga Khan IV
The greatest thing can happen only when you move your one foot forward, then you can’t imagine how many good things can come across you. Yes, I took one step forward to learn, to experience and to meet some good people. I came across an opportunity that seemed very interesting to me. I read the missions and goals of the organization and I decided that I want to be a part of this organization. It is a nonprofit organization named Atlas Corps. I applied for a position as the executive intern and luckily, I got accepted for the position. I was glad and nervous at the same time. I asked my friends how am I going to do it well, they answered ‘just believe in yourself’. Believe me this simple advice helped to bring the best out of me.
My first day at Atlas Corps was great and I can’t forget that one moment I saw different faces with beautiful welcoming smile. They introduced me to everyone and by seeing their smiling faces gave me the comfort. My supervisor is the greatest person I’ve ever met, Mr. Calum Field, who welcomed and showed me around the office.
On that day, my first assignment was something I’ve never done before and it excited me that I was going to learn something new. Mr. Calum Field is a very well-planned and active Executive Assistant and on the higher position is Mr. Scott Beale, the Executive Director, a great man with great ideas. I found him very friendly and helpful. I came across many good things I can learn from them such as; how international organizations works, how they put together the work and idea of a diverse group of leaders. They all are leaders from different countries and I found myself as part of the team. My contribution was little but valuable for them as well as for me. What they do is they bring young leaders from all around the world to the United States of America to do volunteer work for one year. Atlas Corps is an international network of leaders of nonprofit organizations and they all promote innovation, cooperation, and solutions to address critical social challenges by building young leaders, and supporting innovation through an overseas fellowship of skilled professionals.
This internship taught me many things and increased my network as well. I am glad that there is an organization like Atlas Corps that focuses on developing professional youth and promoting innovations among skillful young leaders. Atlas Corps gives opportunity to the youths and focuses on their contribution to the economy.
I am also grateful for CCI Program for giving me such an opportunity to learn and to improve my leadership skills, networking skills and to learn from some great individuals.
Post written by Meher Sultana, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Pakistan
My husband emailed me at work one day in early August of 2016 – he wanted to sign up to be a “social host” for the Community College Initiative Program. I had no idea what that meant – and my first reaction was “absolutely not”. Knowing that as “mom”, a full time lawyer, the “manager” of our family (and we had just adopted a 7 month old puppy!)– it would be one more thing added to my already full plate.
About a week later, my husband sent me a confirmation letter. We were matched with a student from Ghana. Reluctantly, I agreed to participate.
Our first meeting was at the NOVA Annandale campus. We met Eben, our student from Ghana. He is a tall young man, with a wide smile. Eager to meet his new family, share his culture and learn about ours. The meeting went well. Our eleven year old daughter, Maya, was excited. I remember feeling bad, because we were about to leave on vacation. But we promised that we would connect upon our return and begin our duties as “social hosts.”
We quickly became Facebook friends with Eben. I think he “liked” every photo on my page. We went on vacation and upon our return, the whirlwind of back-to-school time began. How do I have time for this student, I thought?
Well – sharing time with Eben became easy. I first invited him to one of Maya’s basketball games and dinner. I thought – “this is our life, he should see what we do.”
With Grandma in tow, we picked up Eben for our first outing. Eben quickly became an active participant, bouncing the ball back and forth to Maya when she wasn’t playing. Eben began teaching me words in his language.
Our first dinner outing made me realize how fortunate we are – and what little Eben knew about American life. He wanted help deciding what to order, questioned why there were so many forks on the table and why the servers kept filling our water glass. We guided him through it. Maya took an active role in this, teaching Eben to place his napkin on his lap and to use the large sharp knife to cut his steak. Eben savored every bite – and showed his appreciation to us.
And so it began: the relationship that would change my life. We invited Eben to the pumpkin patch. He was so amazed – this is not what a farm in Ghana looked like – there were pumpkins, hay rides, goats to feed, swings, and huge slides to go down. By the end of the day, Eben was exclaiming to us that “America is great!” At this time, we were about to go into an election, where our soon-to-be President wanted to make our country great again. I thought, ‘Eben is right – America is already great.’
Soon after this trip, I became “mom” to Eben. I was a bit taken aback, but decided to roll with it. I learned that his own mother was not currently part of his life. I felt awkward and honored that he would bestow that title on me.
We continued on with our journey. We took Eben to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate his birthday. As “mom”, I began looking out for him. He’s allergic to corn, so I would discuss that with the servers. We made sure he received lots of gifts and wore the Sombrero. He invited his roommate, Mehedi. Little did I know, I was about to be a “mom” to both students.
We invited Eben to Ohio for Thanksgiving. He met my family. He saw snow! If you really want to get to know someone – take them on a road trip. It was then that I began to realize that Eben is an amazing young man. He soaked in every moment of the trip, thanking us profusely along the way. We toured Cleveland with him, took him to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, the waterfront, Dave & Busters, and a Hibachi restaurant. He met my high school friends, saw my grade school, my high school, my college and prayed in mother’s church. I was moved beyond measure at how much this simple gesture – sharing my past – meant to him.
Inviting Eben and his roommate Mehedi to events with our family then became second nature. They attended Maya’s piano recital, we went to Georgetown cupcake, we went to church. They learned how crazy American’s are about their pets when I threw a 1st birthday party for our dog, Munchie.
We planned a trip to New York City, my husband’s parents live outside the city. Eben and Mehedi met Ed’s family, toured NYC, and explored great restaurants. They photographed EVERYTHING along the way! It is amazing to know that even a subway sign is new and exciting to some.
As I said before, if you really want to get to know someone, take them on a road trip. Because after this trip, I now had two sons. I was now “mom” to Eben and Mehedi. I didn’t mind one bit anymore. They were now part of me, my family and my heart.
Family birthday parties were to follow. The Women’s March on Washington, roller skating, bowling, the Harlem Globetrotters, my birthday celebration, the movies. They became family. More church services. We brought Mehedi to church services. What an eye opener to see a Christian church experience through the eyes of a Muslim. He soaked it all in – enjoying every minute. We brought
them to Palm Sunday service, dyed Easter eggs, attended a vigil, they helped with lawn work at our home and even received a visit from the Easter Bunny and brought more friends to our Easter dinner and egg hunt! Eben and Mehedi brought friends from the program and visited Maya’s school. They shared a wealth of knowledge about their countries with Maya’s class. And the class – they took up a donation of school supplies to send to Ghana.
Our time now is coming to an end. We are jamming in many more moments together before they leave to go home. I keep thinking that these are my boys and this is their home. The students that I was so unsure of back in August will be leaving me, and it breaks my heart. I am hoping they both return to the U.S as both hoping to come back and pursue more schooling here. I am hoping to take Maya to Ghana and Bangladesh someday. I want to meet both of their father’s that I have only spoken to on the phone.I know this experience has changed me. I opened my heart and I learned so much about two young, amazing men and their cultures. My daughter has learned that she is very fortunate. And she has learned that if you work hard, you can overcome and succeed.
My advice to other families that consider being a social host – these students want to be a part of your life. Participate only if you have the time. Believe it or not, you probably do have the time – because all they really want is to experience the life you are already living. And as I taught Eben and Mehedi, when you do something like this, you should “go big or go home.” So take them along for the ride.
To my sons – forever – Eben and Mehedi. Wherever life takes you, take me in your heart, as you will be in mine.
This experience was amazing and it went by way to fast. In fact, if I had blinked, I would have missed it….
Post written by Doreen Manchester, CCI Program Social Host 2016-2017
This article originally appeared in the Northern Virginia Community College’s newspaper Above the Fold
Ms. Huyen Pham, a fellow from the Humphrey Fellowship Program from Vietnam, visited Northern Virginia Community College during the week of March 26 to participate in an international exchange of information and mutual understanding of major global issues -such as public health, while creating long-lasting meaningful and productive relationships and partnerships between NOVA and other countries. The week culminated on Friday, March 31, with a discussion with the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program participants about the Fellowship Program and the HIV/AIDS issues and substance abuse.
Ms. Pham has been a senior researcher for drug policy related studies with the Center for Research and Training on HIV/AIDS (CREATA) at Hanoi Medical University since 2009, and was previously awarded with a scholarship at the Australian Agency for International Development.
As part of the NOVA core mission of educational experience, the international exchange participation with Ms. Pham opened doors for the exchange of information with the NOVA and local community about issues of public health, substance use and abuse, HIV/AIDS, prevention, policies and human rights.
During the week, the members of the Humphrey committee organized meetings with the college members, staff and students at the Annandale and Medical Center campuses, and with experts from the National Institute of Health, the World Bank, Chris Atwood Foundation, and George Mason University. She had the opportunity to network and create significant connection that, according to her, “will help her to research and conduct evidence to advocate for different policies, involve the government, and change perspectives.”
The last day, Ms. Pham visited the participants of the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program at NOVA. Both the CCI Program and the Humphrey Fellowship Program are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provide ten months of non-degree academic studies in related fields, and foster a mutual exchange of understanding and knowledge.
Ms. Pham motivated the CCI Program participants to look for opportunities to learn and to give back to their communities. Naik Alam, CCI participant from Pakistan, said he is “interested in poverty alleviation in general, and the role of women in this cause. I really wish to have this kind of opportunities in the future, where we can work with our government on a policy level.” Rajesh Shanmugan, CCI participant from India, expressed that he wants to be a Humphrey Fellow in the future: “I want to make researches to find methods to cure cigarettes and alcoholism addiction, because many families in India are seriously affected by them.”
During the discussion, Ms. Pham said her major goals are to share her knowledge with the younger generation, to change policies, and to enhance the voice of those who are going through drugs and IHV/AIDS problems, and who are discriminated against by society, so that they can find support in the community. “They deserve to be seen as sick, not as criminals. They are humans as well,” she mentioned. Her work in ethnography studies has led her to be labeled as a drug consumer, since she spends most of her time with them. “I do it because I need to understand the reasons why they do it and what are their challenges,” she added.
Problems such as drug addiction and HIV/AIDS affect every nation, so she believes that through networking, conferences, and cooperation, the problem can be addressed. The goal is to inform and educate people from different parts of the world, and that is what the CCI Program is promoting with Humphrey Fellowship Program’s help.
Kgaogelo Mbewe, from South Africa, said “I though HIV/AIDS was only a problem in Africa, and after today’s discussion, my eyes have been opened to the fact that it is a worldwide problem, and that countries need to work together to educate people about the virus, how to protect themselves, and how to live and accept those who are already infected.” These issues are affecting all counties, because it is not only happening in Vietnam but everywhere. As Ms. Pham said, “What happens anywhere can happen everywhere.”
Post written by Vanesa de la Cruz, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Colombia