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A view from Indonesia

May 2012

My name is Atik Aprianingsih, and I am from Indonesia. I am a Fulbright Presidential Scholarship grantee. This scholarship enables me to pursue my doctorate in the United States for three years. Prior to my studies in the Doctor of Business Administration program at St. Ambrose University, I was a teaching and research assistant in the School of Business and Management at Institut Teknologi in Bandung, Indonesia. This will be the institution I return to following my completion of the program.

My time in the program has been nothing but exciting and challenging at the same time. Everybody has been extremely accommodating. The professors, the international office staff, and the administrative staff provide a lot of assistance to eliminate my anxieties and help me to concentrate on my studies. The small classes in the program provide an intensive learning environment for me. Discussions in the classroom between students and the professor are always stimulating. Coming from a different learning environment, I was always struggling to keep up with the discussion. In Indonesia, it is rare to find a lively discussion in the classroom. In most instances, the professor's voice is all we heard. In that environment, there is an unwritten rule that the professor is always right. Pressure to follow this "unwritten rule" came from fellow students in class. If one asked a question that other students did not see as appropriate, the rest of the class would laugh at the question poser. Therefore, whenever we wanted to ask questions in class, we needed to ask ourselves over and over again whether it is alright or appropriate. In my time at St. Ambrose, I did not encounter such an environment in any of my classes. In fact, I encountered the opposite; the professors and classmates were particularly encouraging of class participation. I hope I can create a similar learning environment when I return to my institution.

As a student, the library is indispensable. Contrary to the library that we have in Indonesia, the library at St. Ambrose provides me with any materials I need for my studies. The librarians are tremendously helpful and very prompt. One of the drawbacks of Indonesian libraries is the hours of operation. Indonesian libraries are usually open from 8 AM to 5 PM Monday to Friday, and 8 AM to noon on Saturday, and there is no service provided during the lunch break. The library at St. Ambrose is always open when I need to go there. For me, it is also interesting to see students working at the library because this does not happen in Indonesia.

As a Fulbright scholar, I also serve as a "cultural ambassador" of my country. Being the only Indonesian in the school is challenging. However, it has its benefits because I have no other choice but to interact with Americans which has helped me to further immerse myself in American culture.

Fulbright also provides the opportunity for me to introduce Indonesian culture in the United States. I have had this opportunity through discussions in my classes as well as in other cross cultural classes held by other departments, such as in the education department and in the health sciences department. In those classes, four or five international students shared the educational and health practices in their respective country and had discussion with the students. I also volunteered for Friendship Force International of the Quad Cities when they had workshops prior to the arrival of their Indonesian counterparts as well as when their members departed to Indonesia. In those workshops, I provided them with information about Indonesian daily lives, especially those that are not covered in the media, such as how Indonesian cannot hold back their curiosity toward foreigners and the use of hypnotism for crime. I am glad it helped prepare them as to what to expect when interact with Indonesians.

One of the most crucial experiences Fulbright has given me is the experience to live as a minority in my belief and ethnicity. It gives me a different perspective on tolerance. I learned that everyone has their own values that each should respect. Before I came to the United States, I had been part of the majority. There was some arrogance in it, in a sense that the best way is the majority way. While I am in the United States, I experience being on the opposite side. In the end, the best way is not the majority way nor the minority way. It is how we can learn from each other and take the best of it.

–Atik Aprianingsih

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