When Eleven Nations Come Under a Single Roof

By Diana Nadira and Arham Muhammad, Contributors

The Community College Initiative (CCI) Program is an international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State in collaboration with the Community College Consortium (CCC) and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which hosts students from different countries in the United States. This program gives students the opportunity to experience U.S. culture, study two semesters in a specific field of study and enhance their personal and professional skills through different engagement activities. Through the CCI program, more than 75 community colleges across the country have hosted 2,800 participants from 21 countries so far.

This year, Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) hosts 30 participants from Brazil, Columbia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Ghana, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Bangladesh, Turkey and the Dominican Republic. During their stay in U.S., these students participate in community engagements and cultural events, serve the community through volunteering and performing unpaid internships as a part of developing their professional expertise.

The participants enroll in different courses like hospitality management, early childhood education, internet technology, business management, engineering, media and journalism at NVCC.

“Studying in the U. S. challenges me to get out of my comfort zone, especially because of the language barriers,” said Sarlotha Mandosir, a business management and administration major from Indonesia. “But, those challenges help me to be stronger. I learn leadership and communication qualities, moreover gain a profound knowledge in my field of study.”

Giving back to the community through volunteering is another aspect of the program that students enjoy. By volunteering, they get to know about U.S. culture, build a strong network, and grow a sense of community service mentality.

“I have volunteered almost 150 hours in different organizations, such as William Centre – for homeless people – and Salvation Army,” said Ayesha Alam, a business and marketing student from Bangladesh. “It helps me to understand the people and the cultures of the United States better. Americans are very friendly and welcoming people, so I was able to fix some of the stereotypes I had before.”

Another achievement of CCI participants is that they are able to perform unpaid internships in their required field of studies, which gives them immense opportunity to experience the real working environment in America. The internship opportunities they have here will contribute to their career development in back home.

“During my internship in food department of George Mason High School, I learned how to cook American food and improved my management skills,” said Abibata Yakubu, hospitality management major. “This experience will help me to open my own restaurant business back in Ghana.”

Through the CCI Program, these students received several opportunities to be part of very diverse and significant programs, like The World Bank’s  International Youth Leadership Assembly, The 2017 New York City (NYC) Marathon, and U.S. Institute of Peace Workshop, etc. Apart from that, many of them traveled to different states and explored some iconic places like the Grand Canyon, Hollywood, Universal Studios,the  Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, etc.

CCI participants explore not only American culture, but cultures from 11 other countries through spending their time together. They learn from each other and take great lessons of harmony and collaboration between multicultural groups. Surely, the skills and knowledge that they obtained during their ten months in the U.S. is remarkable and will help them to impact their community positively.

CCI Participants in Mason

This year NOVA CCI participants studying journalism and social media networking received a great opportunity to do an internship at Mason’s Office of Student Media. They worked at Fourth Estate and in the COMM team. The five interns from CCI – Liaden Herman AKE from Cote d’Ivoire, Diana Nadira from India, Kris M. Silitonga, Muhammad Arham, and Reski Sululing from Indonesia – found this opportunity to be a rewarding experience.

Silitonga and Herman worked for Mason’s Public Relations Department and consider their internship period as productive and valuable . “In George Mason, I interned in their Social Media and Public Relations by researching on their social media outreach,” said Herman. “The opportunity let me implement what I have learned from my classes and I can say George Mason Student Media offered me a very professional working environment that I always dreamt for.”