Hitting the Ground
First of all, let me say it now: traveling with the blue Somali passport is one of the serious hurdles Somalis face when traveling abroad. But I still do believe our passport won’t receive back its power rank unless the best of us, who go and return to the country, use it. I know it’s difficult and may even cost us important events for our professional career, but it is worth it in the long-term; otherwise, we’ll continue building the individual power ranks of other passports.
As for the US nonimmigrant visa process, consular officers may not approve your applications immediately and might take their time, even if it means more than a year, to do background and name-checks (and surely this will be the case with a Somali passport application), but the US administrative process does work. At least in my experience with other countries.
Unsurprisingly, upon landing in the US, I had to be taken to a separate place for more than 30-minutes of questioning. Since I was prepared for it and I knew my case was strong, I didn’t have any challenge at all. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer was very nice that he ended up taking my business card. The whole experience with the immigration officers was very nice.
Now come to the meat of this reflective post: I have paid a visit to the US for the first time in my life and here are the reactions of my main encounters. Visiting Times Square and the Statue of Liberty in New York, taking a workshop at Harvard Innovation Lab, and exploring MIT D-Lab gave me the taste of living at the heart of the world and the Capital of Education. And did I tell you the MIT tour?
Harvard Innovation Lab (Hi)
I’m assuming no one is here to read the history and importance of Harvard University, but experiencing a Harvard class was always a long-held personal dream. I just wanted to see what it means to sit in a Harvard class. And I did!
I don’t know if a whole university could be judged based on just one professor and one class session, but please forgive me to do so.
I attended a How to Think Like an Innovator workshop by Mr. Howard Kaplan, the Director of Advising of Harvard Innovation Labs. It’s all about getting the mechanics of startups right at the beginning:  coming up with a proper business problem,  understanding the market, and  developing a value proposition so that you don’t get lost in the crowd. The big boo-boos and the hard truths of startup establishment were also shared. A very inspiring and systematic process of starting a startup was the main takeaway of the night.
Unlike the regular Harvard students and Harvard Fellows attending the session, I was observing more than the class; I was keeping track of the whole experience. I don’t know if every other class of Harvard is just similar to the one we attended, but our class was a student-led and student-dominated session (my favorite pedagogical way of teaching and learning). I really do love it when students are given ownership of their own learning journey.
The professor’s role was more of guiding students and giving directions than telling us what to do exactly. At the end of every section, there were worksheets for the students to try the concepts for themselves. Very lively class indeed!
Overall, it was an amazing experience. I don’t know if I can officially say I attended Harvard University, but I will surely add this workshop in my resume (still don’t know if this is allowed).
A Day at MIT D-Lab
During my stay in the US, I also paid a visit to MIT D-Lab, an innovative university-based program in international development and a design lab that works with people around the world to develop and advance collaborative approaches and practical solutions to global poverty challenges.
And who do you think I met at MIT D-Lab? A favorite role model, Amy Smith, an American inventor, educator, and the Founding Director of MIT D-Lab. Ms. Amy is very well known in designing local low-cost appropriate technological solutions to fix tough social challenges in developing countries. It was an honor to see some of her inventions including an incubator that stays warm without electricity, a simple grain mill, and a tool that converts farm waste into cleaner-burning charcoal.
edX Inc. and MIT Tour
One of the main reasons for my US trip was to meet edX Inc. B2B team. Since edX is a pioneer of high-quality online education, we’re collaborating with them through our training programs available at the Institute of Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (IITE Institute).
I had an amazing day with the team. We started with a tour at the edX HQ office, followed by a meeting with the Customer Success team and then lunch. Then, I was taken on a tour at the MIT campus. Posing in front of the famous MIT Rogers Building and the Great Dome will always remain one of my favorite memories in the US. I couldn’t ask for better treatment! Thank you, edX team.
Boston Digital Summit
Another big reason for my US visit was to attend Boston Digital Summit, a 2-days 45+ in-depth, trend-forward digital marketing sessions & workshops – each ton of practical takeaways and ideas to keep you ahead in the digital economy. Oodles of insights from leading experts and brands, including Marvel, Nike, Facebook, Microsoft, Home Depot, Pandora, TripAdvisor, LinkedIn, MGM Resorts, and more! Listening to incredible keynote speeches by Seth Godin, a best-selling marketing author, and Beverly Jackson from MGM Resorts were some of the highlights of the summit.
I’m coming back to Somalia with the most updated content of the latest modern digital marketing practices to share with the Somali community. I can’t still believe the amount of content shared at the summit; the team must have done an incredible job in organizing such a summit.
New York City
Hey gents, there’s one last thing I want to tell you: my visit to the heart of the world, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty.
My reaction to Times Square? I was absolutely amazed at how they brought together commerce, tourism, entertainment, and neighborhood all in one place. Just one place!
Thank you, Beantown (Boston), for becoming my favorite US city. You really have got a big fan!
Till my next US visit, thank you for reading this long thing!