Letter to USAID Prestasi

Dear Prestasi,

I have just begun the second year of my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My first year has been a wonderful experience and I would like to share some stories with you about my academic life, organizational and voluntary involvement, and personal experience.

I still remember one morning on February 2014, I got a phone call from Mba Wiwin, and she told me that I was accepted at my first choice university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At the moment I was screaming and jumping like crazy, and at the other end of the line instead of cooling me down, Mba Wiwin was screaming along with me. I felt so happy to have been accepted into one of the most competitive schools of education in the U.S. University of Wisconsin-Madison is the number 1 ranked school for Curriculum and Instruction in the U.S. and the quality of faculty, facilities, and overall educational experience has shown to me that this reputation is well deserved.

The UW Madison school of education boasts many big names such as Michael Apple, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Thomas Popkewitz who are leading figures in worldwide education research with their outstanding theories and publications. However, in spite of all the great things they have done and continue to do, they are just ordinary and reachable people who say hello and call you by name in the hallway, like your picture on facebook, and ask you to get together for a discussion in the coffee shop or brunch restaurant. My advisor, Catherine Compton-Lilly is more like a mother to me. She will always try to be available for me no matter how busy she is. The professors open their ears to critiques and suggestions, listen to their students’ arguments, and treat us as their colleagues. This experience has inspired me to be an educator who has broadminded knowledge and progressive research but is also humble at heart and attitude. Because after all, no matter how academically smart you are, your attitude matters.

By coming in the United States, I am able to look deeper into worldwide curriculum issues in general and that each country has its own challenge so our curriculum do not have to be “westernized” or Americanized but must be formed based on the context and needs of the local population and at the same time equip students with the tools and qualities to be globally competitive. Last April, my research proposal about Indigenous Curriculum was selected to be presented at the pre-conference of American Educational Research Association in Chicago, Illinois and hopefully I am able to finish this project by the end of my master’s study.

I have always enjoyed being part of organizations and voluntary activities. Although sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the amount of activities, it is important to me that I use my talents and take opportunities to learn new things while I am here. I have joined a variety of organizations such as Curriculum and Instruction International Student Association as a member of the executive committee. I am also involved as a volunteer at the REACH International which allowed me to present Indonesian Culture through playing Sasando, Angklung, singing Indonesian songs and speaking about education or political issues in Indonesia to various audiences from elementary school students to my peers in university. One memorable voluntary experience is when I joined a nine-day spring break voluntary trip with 43 other UW students travelling by bus to 6 different states and helping various communities. Through this experience I was able to see the problems facing American society today and getting really close to all the participants who have a heart to serve others. In addition to that, in order to maintain my relationship with the Indonesian community, I have been part of PERMIAS Madison’s executive board since 2014 and currently serve as its President for 2015-2016. Therefore, do not forget to always check on Permias Madison’s website and facebook to see activities and projects that we have been up to!

Moreover, let me get into the most interesting part of my life here. Not only the exposure to the world-class institution, studying abroad has also given me the chance to see a totally different part of the world which I only able to see through pictures and movies before. I love to do a lot of fun activities and my friend in Indonesia once asked my whether I am going here to study or just travel based on the amount of pictures I have on Facebook. I said both! As an outdoorsy person who loves to travel and experience new things, the U.S has provided lots of things that I enjoyed very much. I have traveled to 26 states in this past year, experienced four different seasons, and made bunch of new friends. I feel so comfortable living in the beautiful city of Madison that is surrounded by four different lakes. On warm and sunny days, I used to spend time biking, hiking, camping, barbecuing, kayaking, or simply watching sunset and sitting at the Terrace by the Mendota Lake. In winter, I tried skiing, and walking on the frozen lake. I also checked off some items from my extreme sport bucket list such as jet skiing, skydiving, hiking on a snowy mountain, and skiing. Yes, I am so happy!

Nevertheless my life is not just filled with happiness, there have been days when I was stressed out because of final papers and tons of material to read or depressed because of the very brutal and long winter. I truly missed a whole year of summer days in my hometown sometimes. Life in here has brought me to meet a lot of lovely and warm people. I cannot thank God enough for allowing me to be surrounded by very good friends, and a lovely and warm community which has always supported me in the good and bad times. I found the key to keep my life balance and full of contentment. I have always remember that by the end of my days either those are happy or sad, exciting or exhausting, healthy or sick, energetic or tiring, I am not walking by self, there are always people who pray and support me and most importantly there is God who always be my refuge and strength. Counting my days, there eight months left until I finished my master’s study. I am sure within this half period of my journey here, there are much more priceless things that I can learn and experience before I go back to Indonesia. Thank you Prestasi for this wonderful lifetime experience!

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