Tag Archives: Relationships

Rijal’s Blog: Gratitude, Self-Reflection, and Valuable Lessons

Since I was kid I never had the vivid dream of wanting to go to US. I was aware I neither had capability to afford much money to travel and was scared of dreaming big. But when I was 18 years old, I was exposed to many things about US because of TV show that I watched back then. Since then, I told myself: ‘I have to go there when I am 25 years old’. Here am I now !

Being a part of CCI Program is the most incredible chance I have ever been given in my life. I am so grateful of everything I have experienced because of CCI Program. Before I start telling what great things I have done so far, let me write a dedication short paragraph to important people in my life.

Dear, Dad and mom.
This is not my accomplishment; this is yours, dad and mom.
Being able to step my feet on the United States of America, a country in which I have never imagined I would be able to go to, is both exhilarating and emotional. Words do not suffice to depict the exhilaration I have felt since the first day I came here despite the few difficult days of adjustment; but the excitement is somehow being followed by this emotional feeling that I can identify as sadness. I am sad because every time I go to a new country—a new place which enables to me to visit its renowned places along with the foods— I do not go with the ones who contribute to make me who I am now, my dad and my mother. My mother is someone whom I owe everything in this world. She is the one who successfully made me fall in love with English. Regardless of her little to no knowledge about English, she did her best to nurture my fondness towards English. What my mom did was likewise done by my father. My father is a strong figure who passed down important traits and values. He was the one who managed to make me become a strong and independent person who does not forget to be grateful of what I have accomplished.
Mom and Dad,
I am not proud of what I have accomplished; I am proud of having you who contribute to make me accomplish things in my life.

Rijal enjoys traveling by himself and getting on the metro is his favorite thing to do.

Let’s get this started.

Being in Virginia makes me much more thrilled than I ever imagined; I had the chance to be able to visit Washington D.C., the capital of US, every week. Travelling alone is one of the things I like in the US. Travelling alone makes me grow.  Having been in the US for almost four months teaches me a lot of things: First, independence: I have had the chance to do everything by myself and arrange everything by myself as well. Second, selflessness: I used to be a very self-centered person, I didn’t care what people are doing or pay attention to what they are experiencing. Here, I have been able to learn from others and am open to others. I used to like to speak more than listen, but now I realize that being a listener is ok too. I have more compassion for others who are different from me, and many other important values that make grow not only as individual but also as a member of community. Hence, I could not be more grateful of the path I have been given so far.

Rijal enjoys hanging in White House street
Rijal looks exhilarated to visit the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Words cannot depict this profound gratitude I have in my chest now. The chance I have been given now is the ultimate reason for me to give back to community and use the skill I have gotten here.

Gratitude continues.

Post written by Khairur Rijal Usman Abra, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Indonesia.

Sharing with the Steelmans

Traveling to a new country is a great opportunity to learn, try new things, make new friends, to expand your horizons, and why not have fun, but sometimes understanding the culture of that new place can be a big deal. In order to make easier that process, the Community College Initiative program works with social hosts, who are volunteer people that help introduce the American culture to the new participants.

In my case I am so lucky having Mr. and Mrs. Steelman as my social hosts, they are a retired couple who really enjoy sharing their stories, and believe me, they have a lot to tell, having been in many countries in the past, there are many things that you can learn from them. I can simply define them as incredible people; Mrs. Steelman with her kind smile is always ready to reply to your hesitations and Mr. Steelman is a wise man and without doubt a good example to follow.

The Steelmans and Oscar Ivan enjoying the Irish Festival.

One of our first meeting was the Irish Festival, which was carried out in old town part of the Alexandria city. This event was fascinating, it was a great opportunity to learn about the Irish community in the US, their impressive dances and how much they love to drink beer, but the most interesting part was learning about how Irish culture has influenced the American one, and a good example of this is the famous St. Patrick’s day.

The Irish Festival, August 24th, 2019, Alexandria, VA

That day was amazing because I could learn more about my social hosts, I discovered that Mrs. Steelman has Irish roots, and even together we found the emblem and the origin of her family name on a map that was posted in the event. It was fascinating understand how multicultural is America and how immigrants that have arrived to this country have contributed to make this land an awesome cultural place.

Share with the Steelmans is gratifying, they are people who you can have deep conversation but also funny ones, friendly people that offer their time to share their stories but also always ready to listen and help. The exiting thing is that this is only the beginning of many incredible adventures with them.

Oscar Iván Barrera.

Post written by Oscar Ivan Barrera Barrera, a 2019-2020 participant from Colombia studying at NOVA Alexandria.

An Open Letter to All CCI Alumni

Hey everyone, this is Marlin Estevez, a CCI Alumni from the Dominican Republic. I was part of the 2018-2019 generation of the CCI Program. Today, I am writing an open letter to every CCI Alumni across the world, because I feel there are some issues that needs to be addressed.

Although, I’ve been wanting to write this letter since the first week back in my country, I wanted to make sure I gave myself enough time to experience the whole cultural shock, so that I can be more objective and write something that bring value to your life and this new path you are taking now that you are back in your country of origin.

Here’s what this is about:   CCI you are a seed, you will blossom not matter the place or the circumstances.

It has come to my attention that some of my CCI friends and myself included have experience what it’s like to feel that you don’t belong anywhere once you return to your country. You get to miss your friends like never before, even the ones you didn’t spend much time with, but somehow everyone became part of your family.

CCI Cohorts and Lieutenant John Weinstein from 2018-2019 at the beginning of their year.

You also have a hard time defining thing like Happiness and home. On top of that, you struggle with readjusting to how thing work in your country, the things that aren’t that well accepted in your society, the lack of tolerance or respect towards everyone’s right to choose how they live their life, make decisions and what they stand for.

Sometimes (and I am going to be realistic here) you even wonder if you should settle and act like everyone else (been there done that), so that you don’t feel pressured because you think, and perceive life different than everyone else.

CCI Participants with Sarah Yirenkyi and Kelly Forbes during Spring Break

Here’s my point, that happens to you, because YOU ARE DIFFERENT. You experienced almost a year in a society that taught you to be independent, bold, to set clear goals and make sacrifices to achieve them. You proved yourself what you are capable of. You let go of fears, insecurities, a fixed mindset, assumptions and everything that was keeping you down.

I am not saying being back is going to be easy, I am just reminding you how capable you are of achieving anything you set your mind to. Don’t settle, don’t give up and don’t you dare to forget how special you are. And if you do, remember you were chosen among many other people around the world to be part of a program such as the Community College Initiative Program, which means, everyone involved in taking that decision thinks there’s something SPECIAL about you, so why wouldn’t you think that way about yourself too?

Marlin back in the Dominican Republic with some of her CCI peers and her sister

Here’s some of the things you can do when you need some motivation:

  • Sit down and think of what makes you happy or whatever goal you want to achieve and build a MoodBoard (also called Vision Board) and paste it somewhere you can see it every day.
  • Break down your goals, what is that that you want? What steps can you take RIGHT NOW? Set due dates and start step by step. Think of each day as if that’s the only one that matters, but don’t forget your vision.
  • Connect with other CCI Alumni, ask for advices, email some of your professors if needed or the CCI Staff and coordinators. I assure you, they want to hear from you, and they can keep adding value to your life from distance.
  • Find a way to release stress, whether it is by doing some exercise, going to a park or Facetiming with your International Friends.
Marlin and her mom

Finally, I want to say goodbye with something Leeza Fernand told me once during my CCI year “People say they will do many things, but only a few take action”   

Be one of those that act and remember, if you need someone to talk to, you can count on your CCI Fam.

  • Marlin

How do you measure the impact of the CCI Program?

I have been a program coordinator for the past four years and it has been an amazing and life changing experience. It’s not without some hesitation that I am leaving, but it’s time. I was asked to publish my remarks from our end of year ceremony on May 10, 2019, so here they are…

We often talk about the impact of the CCI Program—the impact the program has on the participants and the impact the participants have on campus and in our community. Leeza mentioned the extraordinary number of hours and the associated dollar value that this amazing group contributed through volunteering and internships. What I think is more extraordinary is the immeasurable impact that they have had on the people who they have met during their short time here.

How do you measure the spark of creativity when several minds from diverse backgrounds and different countries come together to solve a problem, whether it’s in the classroom, Model UN, or at MyBook?

How can you measure the excitement of the young girls who got to visit the Embassy of the Dominican Republic and meet the Ambassador with Marlin and Eylül or the excitement of the children who had lunch with Santa and a Brazilian elf named Schawany?

How can you measure the pride and sense of accomplishment that children felt when Sundar taught them how to play chess, when Sara and Masud helped them solve a math problem, or when Helen helped them make crafts at a kids festival?

How do you measure the awakening of a young explorer who learned about Indonesia for the first time from Elfis and Virdiani when they interned at FACETS?

How can you measure the joy that Sibusiso, Kekeli, Williams, Emmanuel, John Evans, and Patrick brought to the residents at the Lincolnia Senior Center?, where combined they volunteered over 300 hours serving meals, playing games, and simply having conversations with the senior residents, some of whom have no family close by to visit them.

How do you measure the gratitude an event organizer feels to have reliable and enthusiastic help to pull off a successful event?, whether it’s a book sale at a local library, the Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-a-Long,  TedEx Tysons, or a large festival? I don’t know how to measure it, but I know that they feel it, because they ask for the CCI participants to come back and help again and again.

How do you measure the friendships and bonds that were created over the past ten months between these CCI participants from 12 different countries and between them and their social hosts?

How do you measure the lessons learned, the culture and traditions that were shared, the mutual understanding that was built? We may not be able to assign a numerical value to these things, but the impact is no less valuable. These are the stepping stones for building more peaceful and inclusive societies, where people recognize the value and strength in diversity. This is the foundation for strengthening relationships between our countries—those people to people connections that start with the CCI Program and last a lifetime.

Post written by Kelly Forbes, CCI Program Coordinator at NOVA Annandale from 2015-2019.

Photo credit: Marlin Estévez

Friendship Beyond My Expectation

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.

Kiki (Indonesia), Diana (India), Abibata (Ghana), & Shwethana (India)

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

My Experience in First Two Weeks

I am Shruv. When I reached at Washington DC I was very scared, unknown country, unknown people, and unknown rules. There was a lot of thoughts in my mind, But when I came to my apartment I was just shocked my roommates were too friendly with me, which I never expected. They treat me as a younger brother.

When I went to the campus I was silent and I just talk to my few friends, but the other guys came to me and they want to know about me which I had lack in my country. Now every single day I feel like a celebrity everyone want to know about me, my culture, and my customs. My friends never said anything wrong about my English cause my English is not good yet.

After joining this program my confidence level is increased day by day, also I knew a very important thing that is ‘don’t judge a book by his cover’.

This program is not just going to teach me about my major subject this will also teach me how to be a good person in life. Not only this program every single participant taught me something. Sometimes I inspired by their lifes how they achieved this opportunity. Now I am able to know many countrys culture, ethics by their ambassador beside if this thinks we have  a guide a very caring guide miss Kate and Kelly who teach us how to deal with our problems and encouraging us.

So it is a very nice experience for me to join such a huge program and thank you so much.

The thing I most like about people they listen to me and they tell me what is good for me . Thank you so much for a beautiful journey which just begin now.

 

Post written by Shuvajit Saha, 2017-2018 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria from India

My educational experience at NOVA Annandale, US

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 …!!!

Professor Stacey “SLY” Young while conducting a session

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.

Picture taken with Professor SLY

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

Touch Your Society

Coming from a country like South Africa that has a history of white supremacy and black oppression, I always knew that racial differences exist and are becoming problematic yet again in other countries including the United States of America. I had heard of people saying there are way too many racial issues in this country, I am fortunate so far to have never came across any racial prejudice but this has impacted my stay in this country in other ways. I am one person who loves having the television playing in the background when I study and often I’d be drawn by a racial incident involving a white cop and a black child, or some comment made to the Muslims / Mexican people. I can always feel the hair on my back stand up every time I see a police car; I am terrified to even help people in the street because the popular belief is that black people aren’t capable of any good deed. When I walk around campus, seeing Muslim students my heart aches with pain because I can almost smell their fear due to the current political climate that is building up in the country.

Hearing about how innocent people are killed and mistreated because of their race, religion, sexual orientation etc really boils my blood and it gives me even more motive to encourage people to travel more often and to connect with people outside their race, religion, tribe and country. And you probably asking yourselves why I’m talking about racial issues well let me take you out of the curiosity box: our scholarship program exists for cultural exchange, academic reasons and building relationships. It is important that we as beneficiaries of this program go back to our home countries and erase all this myths and stereotypes that exist in our own families and societies about other people.

I feel that it is now our responsibility to create world peace, honestly we cannot change the globe at once but if each and everyone one of us touches their society eventually the entire globe will see the light. Sometimes people are not even aware of their discriminating comments, not because they are ignorant but simply because they are not informed and were never exposed to a different group of people. We have been afforded the opportunity to learn about 13 different countries, their cultures, the traditions and their belief about other people-what now ? Now you go back home and be an ambassador for a world free of discrimination & the elimination of any supremacy.

The world is big enough for everyone to live in harmony and peace, without fear of being mistreated or killed for being different.

Post written by Ramaabele Millicent Mabotha, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, South Africa

Time Creates Relationships

Nothing can heal the wounds of time.  When global strangers
meet for the first time, it is impossible to quantify the depths of relationships that would soon develop.

Although the following few months these strangers ssifiso-blog-3pend with each other can be dubbed as great times, they are faced with unceremoniously relinquishing the bond that each has developed.

The Community College Initiative (CCI) was an opportunity for me to meet students from different parts of the globe and take part in a culture exchange to create awareness/consciousness about South Africa and our standard of living while learning of cultures outside mine.

The time we were to spend in America seemed immense in the beginning; many of us took longer than others to adjust to being away from family and doing things on our own. This was a challenging transitions that required great patience and understanding.

sifiso-fransis

 Fransis and Yeison had become my new family and our apartment had become my new home. All three of us were bringing different experiences, cultures, customs, religions and ways of life into one house. Like any family, we had our problems but always found a way around them.


friends-for-sifiso-post
Time had brought a lot of us closer than we had anticipated. We always celebrated each other’s victories and achievements; encouraged and gave each other a shoulder to cry on when things got overwhelming. We became each other’s biggest fans and sometimes worst critics.

 sifiso-blog-1Like most people in the program I had pockets of homesickness; for the most part it felt as though the closer we edge to our departure date the more excited and anxious we became. Our last month was perhaps the most ‘confusing’ emotively. I was excited about going home to my family and friends in South Africa but also saddened by the reality of having to leave my family and friends in the United States of America.

The CCI-NOVA participants had become family; a home away from home and for the duration of the program they were all I had. The day we had to separate and all head back to our respective countries was perhaps sadder than the day I had to say goodbye to family and friends when I was coming to the USA.sifiso-blog-2

Perhaps we were overwhelmed by the spatiotemporal limitations and having to readjust to not seeing each other as often as we were. Fortunately for us, we live in the age of technology where communication isn’t restricted to people in the same country or area anymore.

It is a pleasure to have met each and every person in the program; It is an honour to have shared and learnt from your advise, wisdom and sometimes encouragement to just “relax and take it easy”

I trust that time has strengthened our bonds to overcome the Kilometres that stand between us. I still maintain that we all have what it takes to change and shape the world to the kind of society we envision for ourselves and future generations.

 We are the ones we’ve been waiting for…

2015-16-group-for-sifisos-post

Post written by  Sifiso Ngobeni, CCI participant at NOVA 2015-2016, South Africa