Tag Archives: NOVA

Is it really easy to travel alone?

by Rashi Saini

I had no answer till October 2019. All of my peers were planning to travel during winter break and I kept thinking that I will join somebody’s trip. I never thought about travelling alone in the United States. Sometimes, I think it was that the real problem or I never wanted to be alone in my life. I kept checking places but could not decide to go anywhere. One day after the class, I was writing a
reflection and realized that I am in the United States. It was just a thought that wanted to realize that I am here to break my stereotypes and get out of my comfort zone.

In front of the Liberty Bell in Philidelphia, PA

My thoughts kept going but I did not get the courage to make a decision to go. One day Leeza Fernand came to our CSI class and when she was explaining about the Russian doll, something was happening with me. The last thing she said was to go to other places in the United States and experience the culture of different parts. Try to go to other CCI places and experience how their life
is different than you. It was like an encouragement for me and I started looking for places to visit.

One day one of my CCI friends asked me to join him for New Orleans. I did not know anything about the place but I wanted to go, so I accepted the offer. He had some more plans after New Orleans and I wanted to break my limits too so, I did not join him for the whole winter break. I made a plan for Houston to experience the warm weather in December with other CCI people. My travels did not end in Houston. I did plan for Denver, Colorado as I love mountains and snow.

Finally the day came we went together and then me and my CCI friend had different destinations. I went to Houston and everything was going well until I reached Colorado. I reached Colorado on Christmas eve and waited at the airport till morning. I went to a place where I booked my stay and unfortunately, they cancelled my stay on the spot and that made me panic. There was no signal in my mobile to call someone, transportation was less, and no people on the road or surrounding to get help. Finally, I got a room for a night but I panicked due to the stress of no stay for the next 4 days, high altitude, time and distance. All of these factors made me restless, panic. I kept finding the place to stay for the whole night and finally my winter break ended up by booking tickets for DC.

My traveling has not finished yet, I was demotivated after coming back but I kept reflecting back and made a plan to go to Philadelphia and Boston to get courage again to go alone. These both travel were
long journeys. Philadelphia took 4 hours to reach and Boston took 10 hours traveling but I made it. I have been to 12 states in the USA. If I would not get encouraged by Leeza Fernand or my CCI friend, I
wouldn’t be able to achieve my dreams to travel to my favorite places.

What is it like to live in the United States?

By Roger Cardona Arias

What is like to live in the United States? That was my question several years ago. I didn’t know if I wanted to save money for 2 years to be able to come here to the US. Eventually, it didn’t take so long for this dream to come true. I was dreaming about studying abroad and getting away from my home, not because it wasn’t good to have this sense of “comfort”, but because deep down in my heart I felt it’s right to step out of my comfort zone to continue growing.

It’s been 5 months specifically and I have not enough words to describe what it has been like. I have lived lots of new experiences during this period of time. From traveling for the very first time in an airplane to another country to living with a roommate from another nation (Turkey) and six more people in the same house. I deepened my knowledge of Information Technology (IT) to learning about US culture. From meeting a lot of new friends to serving people whom I don’t know personally through community service.

I have had a lot of fun over the past months and a really good highs; however, I’ve had some challenges and some lows too. Firstly, being far away from my family, my friends, my church, my food, and my job wasn’t easy at first. While the time went by, I realized how much I missed each one of them. Secondly, embracing the life I have here took a little while. I felt defined by the “what if…?” question. What if I had learnt how to cook in my country? What if I had had more background in the IT (Information Technology) field? What if I had a better writing skills? These were my questions at the beginning of the program. But the only answer I found was: Embrace it!

After all this time, I think God has been so good to me. As he has given me a family called: Kairos DC Church. In which, I have been able to grow in my faith, meet wonderful people and live a lot of adventures that I feel if I went back today to my country, I would be profoundly grateful.

Growing up in Soacha and serving with a foundation and church called “Fundacion Herederos” for over a decade have shaped my vision of the world. Therefore, when I came here the only thing in my mind was that I have to find a way to serve the ones in need on this community. One of the greatest experiences I’ve had with Kairos Church was going to the Shelter: “Bailey’s Shelter and supportive Housing” where we gave food away and listened to these people. Mark Martins was the answer of what I was looking for since I came here. I had the opportunity to talk with him about his life story and how it is for him to live there, we are helping him out to recover the confidence in himself and spiritually. Therefore, I would say no matter where you are, if you don’t forget what drives you, you will be okay everywhere.

Being part of the CCI, has been the most rewarding experience in my life so far, I just want to finished off this little description by giving thanks to my mom Luz Stella Cardona Arias, who has saved me a lot of time living through her advises, as she has walked too much on this life, and she has accordingly led our home with wisdom. Hence, I thank you for trusting in me and letting me come to this country.

Silent and Strong

By Mercy Mildred Adhaya

The four-hour journey from the State of Virginia to Pennsylvania State was awesome with the perfect weather for travelling. Finally, my longing to spend Thanksgiving with the Mennonite and the Amish was being met. Especially knowing who the Amish are as they are perceived to be a peculiar people.

The Friday morning chilly weather was not going to stop me from quenching my thirst of learning who the Amish were. A one-hour drive filled with the beautiful view of the countryside to a One-roomed school in the middle of large farms was the beginning of the learning experience. The school Penny Town School was started by a beggar who went round the Amish and Mennonite communities begging for pennies. The school has both Amish and Mennonite students and only their attires can help you differentiate them. Amish female students have their hair folded neatly in a Bun and ankle length plain dresses with aprons starting from the waist down to the ankle, black stockings and shoes. On the other hand, the Mennonite female students have their hair made in a French-plait, floral ankle length dresses and black stockings and shoes. Male students from both communities put on checked shirts, jeans, instead of belts, suspenders and black stockings and shoes. Teachers from this two communities dress like the female studies from their respective communities except that for the Amish teachers, their aprons are full body length. Their main languages are;

  • Pennsylvanian Dutch- Oral and learnt from home (Not written at all)
  • English- Learnt in 1st Grade
  • Germany- (18s/19s version) Learnt in 3rd Grade and is their Bible is translated in this language.

On Average, in a one roomed classes there are about 30 students from the Grade 1-8, this I found very interesting as it is not the norm in most cultures. A school of this nature has 2 teachers who are known to be of good virtues in the community and are trained during summer by elder teachers for about 1- 3 days. The form of learning for the students is interactive those in senior grades teach those in junior grades when the teacher is teaching one grade on the blackboard. Music is part of their syllabus.  After the 8th grade, Amish students aren’t allowed to go to high school, colleges, or universities like the others, instead they are home schooled by their parents.

Amish and Mennonites are mostly farmers and they use horses but their methods of farming and equipment used are different. The tractors used by Mennonite farmers have rubber tires but the Amish tractors have steel wheels. The Amish mainly use bikes, carriages/buggies and wagon for transport purposes. Family is the most important unit of the Amish Community. A man is only allowed to marry one wife and have as many children as they want. The average age for marriage is 20 years. Divorce is a taboo and it’s not allowed in this culture. A typical family has between 5-15 children with their parents and they aren’t disciplined in a hard way. The Amish in a way are diverse as in some communities parents will find a partner (wife/husband) for their children while in others; one is to find his/ her partner on their own. This applies even in the area of technology in some, little bit of technology is allowed while in others its not allowed at all. Rules governing the Amish are either written or oral depending on the community and are changed every 2 years since they are broken.

 

Ex-communication happens to members when the following happen;

When one advances with education past 8th grade.

If an individual declares in front of the community that they are born -again Christians.

When one practices what is against their cultural customs, rules and regulations.

When ex-communicated, one does not have a direct link with his or her family members and their voice or suggestions don’t count even in Family gatherings.

Today, the Amish community is an area of great interest and many travel from inside and outside the US to learn about their unique and outstanding culture as well as to eat the delicious Dutch cooked dishes made by them.

‘Courage doesn’t ALWAYS roar……sometimes it’s the quite voice at the end of the day saying , ‘I’ll try again tomorrow’ ’.

A Brand New Story

By Willy-Edgar Y. Jefferson Kouakou

Visiting with other Côte d’Ivoire students in Washington, D.C.

Have ever found yourself in an unbelievable situation? A situation you cannot explain how you got in. A situation like a dream? If yes, then you should be able to imagine how I was, and how I am since the first day I got selected for the CCI Program. Coming to the United States of America was a dream that came to pass, and for this opportunity I am totally grateful.

I would like to share with you a portion of my experience since I came in the United States of America. For my second time to take the flight, I was very excited because of the destination. It was hard to leave my family for this adventure, but I took it as a new challenge for building within me some skills and abilities. In fact, the Community College Initiative Program is a life changing opportunity. Each day is full of experiences, lessons, idea and fun. 

At the very beginning, I met extraordinary people from all around the world; the other CCI Participants. We got to know each other daily. One thing I am grateful for is to have all these cultures represented right with me every day. That is incredible how diverse our world is! I was just proud and thankful to be part of this cross-cultural program occurring in a cross-cultural country. I felt glad to interact with people and moreover, I was very excited when it came to speak about my country, my cultures, the way we do things, the way we understand the world and how we interact with people. I realized that in less than two months that many of my childhood and teenage dreams were fulfilled, one was to come is the U.S, another one was to see famous places like The White House, The Capitol Building, The Pentagon, the Washington Monument, and one other dream was to speak before an assembly of youth from all round the World. On the 07, August 2019, we all went to a youth summit in Washington DC, at the World Bank and there, I got the privilege to take the floor and express myself in front of hundreds of people. I still remember when I told the assembly that that day was the Independence Day Anniversary of my country, my dear Cote D’Ivoire; they gave a round of applause before I kept on and once again, I felt grateful.

CCI Participants at the World Bank Summit in Lafayette Square

A brand-new story started, and I am no more the same! Here, I am taking classes of Social Media and Marketing in NOVA (Northern Virginia) Community College – Annandale campus. For me Marketing was just what everyone of us thinks it is but after my first class with an amazing Teacher called Zulma Westney, I understood that marketing was more than that. Every day builds me up and strengthens in me more skills. 

As the story kept on going on, I am still feeling blessed by the crowd of opportunities we are exposed to. Volunteering activities, new places discovery, new food tasting and meeting of new people are making my stay in the U.S. My experience is getting more enriched and amazing through workshops, museums visit, Holidays like Thanksgiving, but above all, the kindness of my Social families (Mindi & Alan) – (Barbara & Wayne). They are always taking care of me as a genuine child of them. Thank you for being so kind and available.

Recently, I got a brand new Internship in Washington DC. I could not believe to get this opportunity at this period. There also, I am learning a lot in my field of study because of the practical thing we do. I am blessed to be part of this program, I am blessed to have met such great coordinators who really help me and all the CCI participants. I am blessed to be part of the G7 Team (the Ivorian CCI Participant) always supported by Mr. Gbagbakou, I am blessed to be part of IF NOVA and I am also blessed to share with you my experience. To conclude I would like to encourage everyone reading my article to strongly believe that nothing is impossible if only we can work hard and believe in us; here is the proof, from the Capitol of Bouake (Cote D’Ivoire), I got to the Capitol of the United States of America. If you do not believe in yourself nobody will do it for you and always remember that by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.

Thank you.

God bless you. 

CCI Through My Eyes

CCI THROUGH MY EYES

Studying in the US was the biggest dream I ever had. I got the opportunity through the CCIP (Community College Initiative Program). Back in India I was studying and working at the same time. I used to work for 14 hours a day; I was working as a Teacher in an organization and on weekends I used to work as a personal tutor. I started teaching in my community when I was 13 years old. I had a big dream to do something different in the IT field but I did not know how to go about it. After a lot of hard work and I came to the USA. New country, culture, language.

(Outside the Alexandria Campus)

Every day I feel like a new life I got here. I found a really great learning opportunity in the USA. I came here with my goals and plans so, whenever someone asked me “what is your next goal?” I always answer sometimes people laugh but I keep focus on my goal. I was pursuing my graduation from distance learning education where I could not learn practical’s. I am a student of IT. As my major is Cybersecurity I learn a lot. There are tons of opportunities for students to learn something new for example, I have been to an event in Marymount university and it was free for students only. There was one guest speaker came who was from NIST (National Institute of Standard and Technology). It was a very great night for me. A lot of information, networking, and I realize that I can achieve how much I want here. Since then I started looking for more opportunities and my coordinator always support me to do. I attend their events to learn new information which is really helpful. One day I was researching health and I read one important thing “ if you really want to be on a track so, keep learning about that topic “ I started following. One day I got to know about Amazon career day and I was so curious to know about it.  I went to the place and I found that Amazon is not a normal corporation because it took 40 min to go inside. There were a lot of people a huge crowd. I got to know there AWS certificate is more important which is provided by Amazon. Since then my hungriness of learning increased.

(Attending a presentation)

(Line outside of Amazon Career Day)

Everyday learning I am able to connect with my main goal. I got an internship which is similar to my goal. I work as an Instructor of Technology in Action and Career Development. I have to make my students enable to get better jobs and help them to find their careers. When I was applying for the CCI Program, my main goal was to provide IT education to students who are really great but could not get an opportunity. This is just one look for the CCI program. I did volunteering, internships, action plans, and fun. These experiences are fun. I generally go to the events for volunteering and I learn a lot about people their culture, countries, their work style. I have an opportunity to learn about American culture through my Social Hosts and our Coordinator. I never realize that I am away from my family as I have my hosts and my coordinators.

Every day It is full of excitement but still, I open my excel sheet about my details and check how many days are gone. This document makes me excited every day and gives more dreams for INDIA for my nation my dreams for my family.

(Attending the Amazon Career Summit)

Rashi Saini

Feeling Thankful

Right from the start of selection, the thought that kept ringing in my mind was how was I to cope with my stay in the USA. I got selected for the Community College Initiative Program. It is an exchange program organized and sponsored by the US Department of State. It brings together participants from 12 countries who live together to study in selected Community Colleges in the US. The Community College Initiative is founded on five pillars which includes academics, volunteerism, internships, leadership and action planning, and cultural exchange. The pillar of cultural exchange requires us to meet new people through sharing our culture with one another and experiencing other cultures too. My few months of stay in the States has brought me in contact with wonderful people. It has open me up to people with different cultures with whom I interact on a daily basis. Being a Community College Initiative Participant requires you to have special people called social hosts. These people are American citizens that are given to us in order to help us better understand American culture. My social host for this program is Torrian. She is an amazing lady who strives to make me feel at home here in the US. Torrian schedules time most often after work to spend quality time with me. She educates me on issues pertaining to America and how to make the best out of my stay here. She is always there for me when I need her and is ever ready to help. Torrian by far is making my stay in the US enjoyable. In this season of thanksgiving, I want to express my gratitude to her. I am thankful for the new family I have got.

Celebrating Kekeli’s birthday at Springfield Town Center
Kekeli and Virdiani with their social host, Torrian

 

Post written by Roseline Kekeli Odzor from Ghana , a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

THE IMPACT OF CCI PROGRAM ON MY ACADEMIC LIFE

The Community College Initiative (CCI) Program is an exchange scholarship program organized by the US department of state. The program gives opportunity to students from about twelve countries to learn about the USA culture as well as exchange theirs with others. In my opinion, this program brings peace and diversity among students. Participants get the chance to learn new things and develop action plans, engage in volunteering activities that will be helpful to their community back in their home country. Academics as one of the five pillars of the CCI program, has had a great impact on my educational life within this three months of my stay in the USA as a CCI participant, I have found great impact on my educational life at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) as I experience some resources used on campus that I do not have in my country. These include using Blackboard service, Library and academic success center to help students in their academic life.

Library on the NOVA Alexandria campus

The college has a library and academic success center that helps students with difficulties in their courses. The library has variety of books that are free for students to have access.  They provide database of articles and resources that are well cited and can be used for research work. At the library, there are lots of computers that students can use for studying, a quiet study area and a space for group studies. The librarians help student to search for books relevant to their courses and help them in editing their essays and articles. On the other hand, the Academic Success Center has a writing center that helps students with writing essays and provide guidelines for writing good research works. They also have tutors that help students to gain further understanding in their field of studies as well as organize seminars for students on how to be successful in their Academic life. I personally attended a seminar organized by the success center on how to manage time and making effective use of it.

Having a discussion with a tutor at the Academic Success Center.

The college uses blackboard service which is used to access student’s portal. This service is very important because it displays announcement of the different courses that students take. It also has a discussion board where students can ask questions and interact with their professors as well as other students in their class. This makes posting of announcements, assignments, and other information easily to be accessed by students.

The CCI Program has expose my understanding in my academic life where I meet and study with people of different culture and background. I have more resources on campus that helps me get better understanding in my field of studies which is engineering. My interaction with others in class is improving my communication skills and confident level. These resources have helped me improved my academics in this few months.

Valentina with other CCI participants at NOVA

Post written by Valentina Asempah from Ghana, a 2018-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria.

Three Months Ago

Three months ago, I was in a process of being selected for something that would change my perception of the world, community, kindness. Three months ago, I embarked from Brasilia, DF to Washington, DC. At that point, I already imagined the challenges I will encounter, such as adapting to a new form of living and speaking a new language that I wasn’t quite used to speak.

Being an international student is not a piece of cake, especially when you do not speak the language. I remember going through several linguistic tests before coming to the United States, but even with that experience I had some difficulties once I arrived. The first one was on my way to DC, in the John F. Kennedy airport, where I lose a flight because I couldn’t communicate myself properly. Experiencing difficult times to speak the language didn’t stop me from improving and as a popular saying says, “when there’s a will there’s a way”, meaning that nothing is impossible if you really want it, and I was sure I wanted this, so I figure out some ways to improve my communication skills.

Lelre with Nora Lopez, Director of Programs and Service at ComputerCore

For me, the best way to learn the language is by getting involved with the local community. So, in my second month of exchange, I began volunteering in a non-governmental organization, just as I was doing in Brazil. Helping students to conquer fears of learning computer and internet basics, thus giving back to the US the opportunity to learn to the less fortunate citizens at the same time as practicing my English. I taught seniors and adults how to work with a computer for 1 month, not only developing professional but personal skills.

Lelre with David Drake, ComputerCore lead instructor, and Sundar, CCI participant from India

I was also introduced to amazing people from other universities that were doing volunteering at the same place, young students and even graduated people were there helping seniors and foreign citizens to master technology. Something that impressed me greatly was the mutual interest from local citizens to help others without making any profits, but only the satisfaction of making a significant impact in other people lives.

So far, I have had a great experience in CCI Program, since the friends I have made to the challenges that I have faced, challenges that have been improving myself as never before.

Post written by Lelre Ferreira da Silva from Brazil, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria.

THREE MONTHS IN THE CCI PROGRAM

AN OVERVIEW OF MY EXPERIENCE OF THE LAST THREE MONTHS IN THE CCI PROGRAM

I have now been in America nearly for 3 months and I am having the time of my life. From the moment I set foot in this country life has been nothing but a fun filled but an academically awarding roller coaster.

Coming from a background in India where you are living with your parents and are basically dependent on them for everything, being on your own is a big change. Luckily for me I have really good housemates who make me feel at home at all points of time. Though all of us are from different countries we yet put in effort in understanding each other and respect each other’s way of living. What this has done for me is that it has taught me to adapt and make most out of what I have and I feel that is a very helpful skill for anyone from anywhere in the world.

Three of Aaron’s housemates from South Africa, Kenya, and Bangladesh

My CCI Coordinator at NOVA, Kelly has been Nothing but a mother to me and all the CCI participants she has  helped us with the smallest of things and knowing she’s always just a phone call away is like a safety blanket for all the CCI participants here in NOVA.

Being on the NOVA Annandale Campus one can argue confidently that they are in one of the best colleges in America. There are numerous facilities in the campus like the language Lab, Writing Centre, library Media room etc, that are really helpful for students with the help of these facilities one can gain a lot of knowledge. There is always some event or the other going on in campus by the various campus clubs; therefore there is always a fun and festive environment in the campus. The teachers and staff here in NOVA are very helpful understanding and brilliant. They make sure that you understand what they are explaining and until you don’t, they won’t move on.

On field trip to Manassas National Battlefield Park

Northern Virginia and Washington D.C is one of the safest and kindest areas in America. People out here are so genuinely nice, kind, helpful and polite that on instantly feels welcomed and happy. I have made so many friends in events and volunteering activities so quickly due to kind nature of people out here. Even your teachers are so nice that you don’t hesitate to share a problem you’re facing in class as you now they will help you out.

At the United Nations General Assembly Youth Blast Meeting.

In conclusion the CCI Program has been nothing but a dream for me. I feel grateful to be part of this program and wish to participate in it complete and to the best of my abilities. I feel I can give back so much of what I have learnt here back home and implement great change in India. I have seven months left to go and the only feeling I feel right now is excitement for what the future here in America holds.

Post written by Aaron Mistry from India, a 2018-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

An Anecdote of Hope

The reminisced of getting final selection for CCI Program always fascinated me. Before getting final selection of CCI Program, I always saw the ramble of my dreams besotted with immense tranquility. I can clearly remember the day when I got a congratulations mail from American Center, Bangladesh about the final selection of this Program. I can explain about how to go forward for catching up a dream but it is quite impossible to explain of my feelings of during that moment. All I can say is that my aim and dream were shaking hand and walking on the same road. After saying good bye to my parents & well wishers, I started my journey to the United States. How easy to say by words but by feelings it is really polar opposite. However, getting finally selection wasn’t easy for me. It was as tough as my first few weeks after arrival in United States. Immediately after landing it seems like I am a single small drop in this extensive world.  Whatever, I got the solution of my silly imagination when I saw a beautiful lady waiting for me in the waiting area of airport and said welcome to the United States with her smile. Yes, she is my coordinator Kelly Forbes. What metaphor should I put for her I don’t know but she is the hope on the horizon.

Zulfikar with program coordinator and fellow CCI participants at the cross cultural pot luck luncheon.

Needless to say, there are lot of new experience are waiting for me. My Coordinator brought me in the apartment. Everything was fine. But I started introducing with the word CHALLENGE when I felt hungry. This was because; I didn’t know how to cook. It was really hard time for me. Whatever, the repercussion of the challenge was tremendous. In a few weeks, I learned how to cook by the helping of my apartment mates and my willingness. Now I can proudly say that I am a good cook. I can survive anywhere in this world. Eventually, I am facing lot of small and big challenges and trying to acclimatize with this new lovely environment.

In front of the World Bank before the International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) Global Youth Summit.

Every challenge what I’m facing teach me that everything in this world happens for a reason. Every single thing in this world is valuable. Even it can be a small failure step.  CCI Program is helping me to learn something new, to experience something new, and to do something new for making a better world for living. In CCI Program every participant is meritorious and talented. Everyone is doing awesome job. Everyone is the future leader. Staying and living with future leaders always makes people productive.

Moreover, besides studying I’m participating lot of conferences, team work and Volunteering. It’s making my life more productive.  It has been more than two months in the United States and I’m hardly trying to find the answer of a simple question that can’t I do anything for this habitable world? I don’t want to get lost from this earth before making a positive impact in my community, before bringing a little change in my community, and before bringing a step ahead my community. I don’t know will I get this beautiful time back again or not but I want to go beyond and beyond by keeping the sweet memory of CCI Program. I want to hear the sweet melodies of these words “CCI Program Exchange our World” Thousand million time.

Blog written by Zulfikar Belal from Bangladesh, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.