Yudith Listiandri is a graduate student of CRCS who has the opportunity to study at Florida International University, Miami, under Henry Luce exchange program 2011.
Studying in the United States was tough, but also a life-changing experience and one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
First of all, it was a chance to familiarize me better to US academic atmosphere. And from my perspective, this means dealing a lot with the online system. I searched the classes online, I registered to courses online, the professors gave the course materials online, I turned the papers in through an online system called Moodle, I bought the books online, and even to view my grades or to pay the tuition fee, I can do it online. Sometimes it makes things easier, particularly because I can access the internet both from home and on campus anytime, but when something goes wrong and I do not know how to proceed or where to click, it could be frustrating because there is no one to ask.
Other than that, the academic atmosphere in class was pleasant. Students were very active and given the chance to ask or discuss their questions in mind. The readings were a lot, and for a non-native speaker like me, it was tough, especially when the text books are using a highly academic language. To cope with the problem, I used some internet sources as a bridge to understand them.
Studying in the US also enhanced the value of my degree. While abroad, I can take courses that I would never have had the opportunity to take on my home campus. For example, I take a course about Rastafarian, Voudou, and Santeria, a topic that is very far from my own cultural and religious backgrounds.
Studying in the US was the optimal way to learn English for me. Inside and outside campus, I always encounter the culture that speaks the language I am learning. I am surrounded by the language on a daily basis, and am seeing and hearing it in the proper cultural context. There is no better and more effective way to learn the language than under these circumstances. Furthermore, in Miami, I should be able to learn Spanish beside English because the enormous population of Hispanics here, but unfortunately, the burden of the academic credit would not allow me to do so.
Studying abroad also provided me the opportunity to travel. Weekends and academic break allowed me to explore my surroundings. In addition to that, during the break between spring and summer term, I managed to travel to Philadelphia and New York. I was able to learn more about both the historical and the pop-cultural things about the US. Until today, I still remember the beauty of the brick buildings in Philadelphia, and still wondering how I am able to see the Statue of Liberty with my own eyes. This could only happen because studying abroad put me closer to places I might not have had the opportunity to visit. Studying in the US also allowed me to get to know another culture first-hand. I can experience cultural differences personally, for example, the cultural background of my friends from India, Kuba, Panama, Haiti, and some friends from other cities in the US. On weekends, there are many times my friends invited me to visit their homes, or to explore the city. Together, we went also to a Thailand Buddhist temple to celebrate the Songkran festival and experience how the Buddhists pray, how they seek blessing from the monks and the elderly people for the coming new year. We were also fascinated in discovering the food, the meeting with the community, and the friendship that they have toward someone from different cultural and religious background like me (I wear headscarf, so it was obvious to them that I am a Moslem). Even the abbot welcomed me personally as any other guests. He shared his personal experience when first came to the US and even gave me a bracelet as a souvenir from the temple. The experience allowed me to feel the cultural differences that are more than just differences in language, food, appearances, and personal habits. The culture also reflects deep perceptions, beliefs, and values that cannot be experienced in a classroom setting. Encountering an entirely new cultural setting is sometimes scary at first, but also exciting. Being in a situation that is wholly unfamiliar is a good opportunity for me to learn to adapt and respond.
Being very far from home was a very difficult time, and there were some days where I just felt like giving up, however I somehow managed to pass my classes and live in a foreign country for nearly six months. However, it also enables me to have a dialogue with myself, a thing that sometime hard to do while I am among family. It also allowed me to make friends with other international students who are as far from home as myself. I feel like knowing myself better. I return home with new ideas and perspectives about myself and my own culture. Some experiences challenge me to reconsider my own beliefs and values. Some of them strengthen my values, and some of them made me abandon them and embrace new concepts. In encountering with other culture, I can see my own culture through new eyes. So this program also helps me to learn about myself, as well as it expands my worldviews. I return home with a less biased perspective toward other cultures and peoples.
Living in a country like United States has taught me so much. Not only have I improved my ability to speak and understand English, but also have discovered so much about myself and have gained so many perspectives of the world. Especially in Miami, where most of the inhabitants are Hispanics, I encountered and learned a lot about different cultures. Over all, I think my experience living and studying in the US makes me more self-motivated, independent, willing to embrace challenges, and able to cope with diverse problems and situations.