Tag Archives: Washington DC

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. 

Look for opportunities by going your own way

What would you do if you apply to the CCI program and get a NOT as an answer three times in a row? Would you give up on your dream or would you remain stubborn, and try one more time in an effort to finally be selected? The answer seems obvious now, but after a 4th attempt, I was finally chosen to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. Being a CCI participant to me means that dreams actually do come true. I know it sounds cliche but I did not stop until I reached this spot where I am today and that’s the best definition I could find for it.

Ten months may look like a long period of time, but actually that number is not that big as one might think. Let a day pass without taking advantage of it; then you would have wasted an opportunity. When you fight hard for something the way I did you realize that there is no room for wasting chances to meet new people and learn. It is equally important to move out of your comfort zone, go your own way, and seek for those things happening around you. The day I arrived in the United States, I set as a goal that I was determined to bring out the best in me, and so far I am achieving and molding this new philosophy in my life every single day.

District Creatives: A Creative discussion with Rebecca Stonebraker

I am well aware that opportunities never knock twice the door; you have to look for them! Something I love about the Washington DC Metro area is the creativity pouring from every corner. In DC, for example, designers, communicators, and entrepreneurs gather together to create groups with the objective of mutual learning, exchanging of ideas, networking, and genuinely growing; whether is a workshop, a panel with experts, or just a meeting in a cafe I always learn something different from each one of them.

ONA DC, Media Entrepreneurship workshop

The first event I attended was a meetup in a group called “District Creatives.” This group focuses on creative careers. This is an excellent place to learn and know what is trending today in our field. There are a lot more groups and communities I have successfully joined and they have been providing a platform to show myself and make connections. ONA DC, Design + Donuts, and Design Thinking: DC are just a few to mention. I am a firm believer that people should not be scared of walking alone in order to find ways to improve and grow just as I am doing here. Four months have passed and I feel like I have been here for two years.

National Public Radio panel

I would like to finish with the following example: Lindsey Stirling, the famous and super talented violinist was once told she was not marketable while participating in America’s Got Talent and was eliminated from the competition. This event did not stop her; she knew her worth, she continued learning, and practicing; today, she is one of the most successful American performers. The process of learning never ends if you know what exactly it is what you want; limitless chances are waiting for you but the question is: Are you willing to work for them?

Post written by Juan Gabriel Tangarife Usuga, 2019-2020 CCI Participant from Colombia

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.

Conferences as a Medium of Learning and Growing

Presenters discussing girls education

One of the things I like about America is, here, people like to research on different topics and then share it with other people at a conference. So if you have interest on particular subject, you will find various conferences or workshops on that subject which helps a lot to know more about recent studies. Being so close to Washington DC, we get more chances to attend conferences and the best part is, some of them are free for students! Last week I attended a conference on “Girls’ Education Research and Policy Symposium” at Brookings Institution. I was overwhelmed when I found one of the guest speakers Kazi Nasrin Siddiqa was from my country, Bangladesh. I also met some other Bangladeshi people there and that was an amazing feeling to be with some people from the same country who also have passion in the same field.

I found people who work in Bangladesh!

In the conference, they focused on girls education from an early age to their working age. Three different people from three different countries are working to empower women in three sections such as early childhood education, science education for teenagers, and practical education for job. As I am studying Early Childhood Education, my main focus was on this area which I believe will help me in my career in various aspects. But the concepts presented about girls education blew away my mind and made me think more practically. I especially like when the speakers talked about the obstacles they faced and how did they overcome them. Their experience will help me to work on my project in the future.

Along with learning, conferences are a great opportunity for networking. If you look properly you may find the perfect person who can be your mentor or may help you with your dream profession. I also found people who works with my favorite NGO’s and working in my field of study. So next time, if you go to any event like this, you should focus on networking and do not forget to take your business card with you. Because Porter Gale said, “Your networking is your net worth”. Hope all of you attend various conferences to increase your knowledge and networking through this whole CCI journey.

Post written by Ayesha Akter, CCI 2019-2020 participant from Bangladesh

Sharing the Dominican Culture with the Girl Scouts

My adventure During the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with a Girl Scouts Brownie Troop, led by Sara Mohamed. Someone I knew for being the Senior Program Manager for the CCI Program, but who I had the chance to know in what I perceive as one of the most important roles a woman can assume, being a mother.

Sara started this group because she wanted to give her daughter the chance to become a Girl Scout, but she couldn’t find enough leaders to start a troop near to where she lives, so she decided to be one. This was the beginning of a group of smart and kind girls that will later give me the opportunity to share my culture and identity as a Dominican citizen. We had several meetings with the girls where they learned some of the most important facts about the Dominican Republic. From our flag colors and what each of them means for the Dominican nation, to our delicious national dish called “La Bandera”. A plate conformed by rice, beans, chicken and green salad. They also learned about our traditional music, merengue and bachata, and we even had the chance to dance a few times.

Through an amazing internship I am doing at the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Washington DC, we arranged a visit for the girls and a very special meeting with our Ambassador, José Tomás Pérez. My colleagues greeted the girls with so much love and excitement that I must exalt and reinforce the capacity of the Dominican people to make everyone feels welcome and loved when they meet us.  The girls and their parents were so thrilled to have this opportunity. They went beyond that when the Chief of Academic Affairs, Angie Martinez, told them that we were going to surprise the Ambassador in his office. They even learned how to say “Hola, Embajador” (Hi, Ambassador).

Girl Scouts with Jose Tomas Perez, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic in the United States.

The girls are learning about the Dominican Republic to represent my country at the World Thinking Day, an international event celebrated in 150 countries by Girl Scouts and Girl Guides on the month of March. The mission of this event is to show the girls the world we are living in and the impact each one of us have in our communities. I cannot end this post without giving full credit to my friends Eylül and Sara, from Turkey and Egypt, for being part of this experience and sharing the thing they have learned about my country with the girls.

The Girls creating their poster of the Dominican Republic for the World Thinking Day.

I feel honored for being given this opportunity and I hope the girls continues to grow and learn about many other countries of the world.

Looking forward for March!

Post written by Marlin Chabely Estevez  from the Dominican Republic , a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale.

 

International Young Leadership Assembly- Aug.10.2018

Alka Sharma (India) at the International Young Leadership Assembly at the World Bank in Washington DC

As we fly from our home country every CCI participants dreams about their successful academic and professional development. In order to take a step towards our professional development we got the chance to meet some important delegates, entrepreneurs, social activist and some business professionals of our various fields of study at the International Young Leadership Assembly, which was held at World Bank, Washington D.C. on August 10 2018.It was a great platform for all of us to interact with different people, discuss about major topics of concern to the world and how as a young generation, we can contribute our quota..

There were many young and motivated people. The experience for all of us was new and knowledgeable. As an individual, this platform was right for me as I also want to lead as well as give back to my community. The many entrepreneurs shared their experiences, ups and downs and how they overcame their problems. To be a leader it is important to have the full support of your team, and to lead your team from the front. The most important thing that struck me was   that age is just a number. As young as we are, we can impact to our societies greatly both directly and indirectly to the world. I want to open an institute that helps underprivileged students living in my community. I did not know how to go about it, but now I can work on my plan and give it a right start. The best part of the whole assembly was where we were given the chance to ask for advice from the experts. It really helped to erase many doubts we had concerning our future as young leaders.

The whole experience widened my knowledge about many things and increased my confidence for the start of my future.

Blog written by Alka Sharma from India, a 2018-2019 CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria. 

My First Three Weeks in the United States

I remember the day I was finally in the Pre-Departure Orientation Process at the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic, I was feeling anxious, excited and even afraid of what was about to happen. I knew that, in just a few days my life was about to change in such a positive and more productive way, and if you add the fact that it takes 5 months to complete the whole process and be selected for the CCI Program, I’d say that not even believing that you were awarded the opportunity to study abroad for 10 months, seemed like a very normal feeling.

When I landed at the Washington Dulles everything was just as expected, I met Kate Burkett, the program coordinator for NOVA Alexandria Campus, and the others CCI cohorts, and from that moment on I’ve been feeling nothing but joy, gratefulness and an immense desire to get as much knowledge as I can not only in my field of study but also about the American culture and my CCI friends cultures as well.

Cross-Cultural Potluck lunch on July 22, 2018

One thing that made an impression on me was that my first week in the United States happened to be my very first travel outside of my country but to my surprise, they were many others participants going through the same experience, so with the help of my program coordinator at NOVA Annandale, Mrs. Kelly Forbes and Ms. Kate Burkett from Alexandria, we quickly started to get set up into our new life; meeting our apartment mates, getting to know the cultural similarities and differences that we have and taking our first steps into the Community College Initiative Program with the Gateway to Success Program.

Marlin with LaRita Campbell, Program Officer at the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, and Sara Mohamed, CCI Senior Program Manager.

So far, I’ve been in the states for three weeks, but the things I’ve learned in this short time makes it feel like it has been months. Such as cultural diversity, cohabit with people that are not you’re family or your lifetime friends, but somehow are becoming the first thing you think when someone mention home and how not to stand out how gently and helpful Americans have been with all of us during this process of getting used to a new system. Once again, I confirm that there must be opportunities like this for people like me and whoever is reading this in order to help us grow and realize of the power and impact that we all have in life and most important in our society. Thank you to the US Department of State, the Community College Consortium and The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for taking a chance on us and believing in young people as the future of our nations.

CCI NOVA 2018-2019 Cohort

I’m looking forward to all the opportunities that this year may bring.

Post written by Marlin Chabely Estevez Leon, 2018-2019 CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from the Dominican Republic

CCI Cohort Visit to the National Museum of the American Indian

Shuvajit Saha (India) and Vuyani Maduna (South Africa) outside of the National Museum of the American Indian

Self-determination of nations is very vital, more and more of previously colonized and oppressed people of the world are trying to recapture what they lost as a result of being invaded and subjected to pain and suffering. The natives of America find themselves still fighting for self-determination and self-government in the United States of America. The NOVA CCI cohort visited the National museum of American Indians to learn about their history, Culture, Suffering and oppression. When the colonizers arrived in the Americas they found native people living in the land – the colonizers wanted to expand the kingdom of their native lands and they were determined to conquer the new world by all means necessary, others were driven by creed and the love of money which turned them into ruthless and heartless people.

The invasion of America by foreign forces destroyed the native people, there were wars and conflicts that resulted in scores of deaths on both sides. They two sides realized there won’t be no solution to their fight they decided to enter into agreements, these agreements would ensure that the invaders would live in America but they should never try to conquer the lands of the Natives. These agreements were called treaties, but as more invaders came to America, land was needed for the people – these new pressing development led to the invaders breaking the treaties and those actions led to more wars between the Natives and the invaders.

Shuvajit Saha (India) and Muhammad Arham (Indonesia) at the National Museum of the American Indian

The invaders were determined to build a new nation in a land they just invaded and conquered. The thirteen States of America were formed with George Washington becoming the first president of the United States of America, the concept of the United States spelled destruction for Native Americans – the more the new country expanded the more the treaties were broken and the more the natives lost their land. The worst president for the Natives was Andrew Jackson who initiated the forced removals of

 the natives to make way for European settlement, and these forced removals are notoriously known as “the trail of tears”

Even in the present USA Native Americans still face oppression and their lands which are called reservations keep on be undermined and disregarded by fellow Americans and the government.

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