Aka N’gouan Bertrand Abo is a student from Côte d’Ivoire studying at Pierce College in the Northwest Community College Initiative Grant (NWCCI). He is currently working on a certificate in business at Pierce College. Here Abo takes us through his experience of initially learning about the Community College Initiative program, his application process, and finding out he was selected. He also reflects on the cultural diversity of the CCI program.
A rainbow is an arch of colors formed in the sky in certain circumstances, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun’s light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere (Wikipedia). A rainbow appears after a rain and is an announcement of a very good and warm day. I decided to use this beauty of the nature to describe my experience with this program. A rainbow is full of different colors and unique as a whole.
I heard about this program about a year ago when from my friend who invited me to read an announcement from the U.S Embassy Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs. He was at the same time part of the CCI program in Houston. I have to recognize that at the beginning, I was not really aware of the real content of the program. I just knew that it was a possibility to develop leadership, awareness of cultural diversity and to visit the United States. I just filled out my application, added the required documents and applied. I did not get any feedback after sending my application and I started thinking that it was a fake program just released as a means of advertising for the US Embassy. Then, a month later I received a call from the US Embassy in Abidjan announcing that I was shortlisted and I was invited to a second test, an English test, inside the embassy. I was so happy and at the same time scared about this test.
In my country, we know that few people get the chance to go inside the huge building of the US Embassy, and I was now one of them. The test was stressful but quite fast and I always kept in mind that “Everything will be alright” and “It’s not your last opportunity until it does completely fit you and until you are alive.” Those two sentences run my entire life and help me get on the right track when I am stressed. Fortunately I succeeded at all the tests, and went through a six-month process until we got the final approval for the scholarship.
It was only at this time that I informed my parents that I will go to the U.S for approximately a year. My parents were so excited and so happy that they could not contain their feelings. Nobody expected this kind of news, especially because we all know how is difficult to get a visa to even Europe. I wish I could explain all my thoughts and feeling, but I think that even the 600,000 words of the English language would not be enough.
Today, at the time I am writing this post, when I look back I realize the path I have traveled in my life and the uniqueness of this opportunity. It not because of the scholarship or of the opportunity to visit United States, it mostly about the IMPACT that I will be able create for my people, to my community, and to the youths that I was leading as president of the youth organization I worked with before coming here to the United States.
Because of the difficult economic and employment situation in my country, young people stop believing that working hard can pay in life. Today, I know that some of them are conscious of that, and when I read some post saying that “Bertrand, I am proud of you” or “Bertrand, you are my model,” I know that those people now understand the value of working and the value of volunteering.
I spent six years working part time and the last year full time as volunteer in AIESEC, an international youth organization present in more than 124 countries around the world and working in developing young leadership for a positive impact in the world. My last year as member in this organization was as national president, a very challenging and character-building position.
A rainbow is colorful and beautiful and nobody in the world can argue against that. My first week in U.S was remarkable. I was amazed by how colorful can be a CCI Group. I spent my first week with an entire group of talented people coming from all around the world: Ghana, India, Turkey, Pakistan, South Africa, Indonesia, Colombia, and Cote d’Ivoire. We all came with our own perspectives on the world and we decided to share our richness together. I do know how rich can be a mix of different cultures, different languages and different races and colors. For me that’s the power of this program. The cultural diversity is like a rainbow; it’s beautiful because of the different colors that it contains.
A rainbow is a sign of hope and destiny. After a few months in the country of Uncle Sam and the “land of opportunity,” I am pretty sure that this experience so far has helped me to find myself and what really matters for me in life. I am not sure that writing THANK YOU on the Pan-American Highway – the longest road in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records – could be enough to explain my gratefulness to the initiator of this program and to my wonderful host family.
I will finish by sharing a personal thought with you: “Be the best version of yourself everyday, and give the best of your life to what really matters to you.”
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.