My seatbelt is locked tight and the moon is shining outside. Now, I only see the sky with the clouds and fading city lights. Just a couple of hours ago, it was me, mesmerized by the Philadelphia sunset inside a sedan on the way to the airport. Then, it is finally the same me boarding the 16,000 kilometers-long flight back to the place where I called home, Jakarta. Though it has been a really exhausting day, I couldn’t sleep and could only reminisce about the precious moments I’ve been through during my semester here.
It all started around the middle of the year when I was finally accepted to join a scholarship program by the Indonesian government called the Indonesian International Student Mobility Awards (IISMA). Under this program, I and other Indonesian fellows attended the upcoming fall semester at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, U.S.A. Here, I studied a wide range of classes from engineering and business to communication and media. Each class was a different challenge to face, from doing lab work every week, preparing presentations every few weeks, doing negotiation simulations, to simply regular class discussions. I was quite overwhelmed, but I still remember my first excitement for the first week of those classes in the sunny days of late August – unlike today.
For me, being in the various classes here was really a lesson of not giving up and keeping your head up. Not just to overcome the language barrier, but to keep up with the pace when failing some quizzes, struggling through lectures, or even missing home. However, sometimes there was no remedy to the struggle but time, support from people around me, and gratitude for the chance I had of being in the classes. It took time, but eventually, I felt the classes became really enjoyable and insightful. What I liked about being here is, compared to my home university, the classes are highly participative where students are eager to explore the lecture topic. I found the professor was also very dedicated to helping the students through providing discussions and open hours.
And it was not just the classes that were interesting, I will never forget the time I participated in an aerospace club, Indonesian student club, and several student events and competitions within the University. Out of them all, joining the board to arrange the first Penn Indonesian Cultural Fair was probably the most lingering story to tell. We were together planning the event, exploring Indonesian food and culture in Philly, preparing for the Indonesian Maumere dance performance, and cooking our lovely specialty foods. It was a whole package to see hundreds of people coming and enjoying our event. Another unexpected highlight was winning second place in a local startup competition. It took several sleepless nights to prepare for the competition, but it left a special mark for me. Together with other pals from the same program, we presented the startup idea to solve the climate change issue in Indonesia. I still can’t believe we nailed it. These were some really great opportunities contributed by Penn to help us become a part of the Penn community. This is also something that I could improve for my own community in the future.
Well, besides all of the craziness during my studies here, I could also spend some time enjoying my lifelong hobby of traveling. Starting from strolling around beautiful parks and old buildings in Philly, taking the night buses to New York, Boston, and Washington D.C., screaming in a coaster ride in Orlando , getting lost around the Golden Gate Bridge, and feeling one of the best moments I captured in my life visiting the Grand Canyon National Park in Nevada. Everything seemed like a wish come true when I remember it all. Not to mention, all the wonderful people, new friends, and families that I met along the way from Penn, the Indonesian diaspora, and the spiritual brotherhood who helped me strive and feel better every day.
Here I am now, I am going back from pounds to kilograms, driving from the right to the left lane, and going from eating cheesesteak to nasi Padang. What I can say is just how grateful I am to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I hope more Indonesian students, like me, can experience the joy of learning and contributing in a similar way such as this. Anyways, for now, let’s have some sound sleep before the sunrise.
Josiah Enrico S | University of Pennsylvania/Fall Semester 2021 | Home Univ: Universitas Indonesia/Teknik Mesin 2019