August in Howard

Per August 1st, me and Nike –my dear Arryman friend- started volunteering at Howard Area Community Center (HACC), a neighborhood-based food depository. In the past, I’ve done voluntary works for children, but never catered for adults. This experience is a completely new one with anxiousness lurking in every corners. Despite worrying whether my English is good enough, and whether my attitude fits or not, I figure voluntary work might be a good chance to engage in a more extensive and intensive environment with native English speakers. Hence, I agreed to this idea after spending a couple of days sitting on it.

Out from Howard Station to N Paulina st, where HACC is located.

Martha, HACC’s volunteer supervisor, assigned both me and Nike to the “in-take” post. As an in-taker, our task is pretty simple. Every “Food Pantry” day -which are Mondays and Thursdays- I have to sit in front of the computer for two hours and welcome HACC’s clients, which are mainly homeless and underprivileged members of the Howard area community. This step is considered vital for the whole food distribution system mainly because we’re the ones responsible in deciding whether a client is eligible for food distribution or not. There are a couple of things that I and Nike have to consider before giving somebody the green light: whether a client is in their thirty-days distribution window or not (come to early, and a client may be rejected!), whether they bring all required documents to claim their food or not, and whether they act according to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) or not.


HACC’s Staff and Volunteers Working together. 

While checking the clients in, and matching their IDs to the Center’s database, I usually slip a bit of conversation starters to know them a tiny bit better; “how’s your day going?”, “is it hot outside?”, “you seem tired, take a quick breather first”, or a simple “hi”. The response varies, it may range from “Hi how are you”, “good thanks”, or even just plain silence. After several tries with different clients, I figure, my initial-customer-care-smile doesn’t always work which ultimately adds more to my pool of anxiousness. Although most of the times all I got was poker faces, there are also people who greets me from afar and just keep on smiling.  S, for example, got in the in-take room with a one-two step dance move, and hands wide open while saying “how you doin’ young fella? What a wonderful day this is, we’re blessed. There are many things to smile about. Wow.”. For people who are open to conversations, I usually take more time to appreciate their friendliness and share stories with them. I enjoy speaking to them, as they embraced me as their own.

Through years of observation in the area, Martha was able to concur that the different response given by clients are mainly due to the different experience they had to deal with in daily basis. One must be aware that most of HACC’s clients are highly exposed to poverty and domestic violence. Some might even had it worse than others; I’ve met with a jobless client who have 10 children, a client who just got evicted with no place to stay for the night, drug and alcohol addicts, etc. Martha was convinced that a client who has been suffering a lot might have a bigger chance of giving bitter response compared to those who had a relatively lax week. Yet, this might not always be the case, because I’ve also met with a client who just got his ID and documents mugged, but can still smile and give positive response.

View of Howard Area surroundings

Whatever the client’s response is, be it painful silence or warm greetings, I am fortunate to get a glimpse of their live. Their response might not fully express their personality, but it tells stories of everyday struggles and joy of living in Howard. From an outsider’s perspective, Howard might not be much due to its lack of infrastructure –some even consider it to be a “no go” area- but for those living in the area, Howard might be a living organism with its own sociocultural dynamics.

As I reflect back to the client’s stories, I realized that I’ve gained a lot from them while it should’ve been the whole way around. Aside from regaining my joy of meeting new people, I also enjoy being thrown out of my comfort zone. On top of it all, I learned to be more appreciative towards small-scattered details in the first part of my US journey. The people at Howard might have little to survive on, yet they still managed to be thankful. Hence, who am I –rather who are we- to not be so?

On American Writers

Sit down. Inhale. Exhale.
       – Gwendolyn Brooks, “To the Young Who Want to Die”

“I’m planning to bring you to the American Writers Museum in Chicago,” said Beth Morrissey, the Assistant Director of Arryman Scholars Initiative. “YES, PLEASE!” I might sound a little bit over-enthusiastic. For someone who knows about the U.S. from afar, some U.S. writers have a significant influence on me. I read Moby Dick, a classic novel by Herman Melville, in my junior high school, but I had no idea about how to read it besides enjoying its great sea adventure and the battle of life-and-death with the white whale (it slightly reminds me of Jonah’s story in the Bible). A few years later, when I became more advanced on reading English book, I found that the novel actually gives an experience; a part of me was floating with the ship, crossing the sea facing the mighty giant that pull me to be intimate with it. Beth’s offer to me and my dear friend, Ara, to go to the museum, recalls my memory about the time I was able to appreciate English, particularly the U.S. literature

The American Writers Museum is located on the downtown of Chicago, on the busy Michigan street where the babel towers eclipse the summer sky. It is not a big, wide museum, but I could sense an intimate feeling. After paying the ticket, we went to a gallery room of children’s literature, and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are was there along with Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat and E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. What a lovely first impression.

Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are

Near the children gallery, we saw a big map of the U.S.A projecting a visual profile of writers across the country. “Nation of Writers” so it says, and on its right side is the central content of this museum: an alley of 100 writers from the era of 1600s, writers across periods, their forms of writing (political speech, folklore, autobiography, memoir, food writing), powerful quotes, and, what I really appreciate, some literary comments toward the text. The museum does not only introduce or expose the historical fact of American writers—who are they, where they live, what they write—but also provides us a brief way of reading their works, closely and critically.

Across the wall of writers is the shelf of surprises where you can see another set of authors and their words. When you open each shelf, you will see a writing explanation about the author and sometimes a video, a sound, or a smell (believe me, the garlic smell in one of the shelves is unforgettable). At the end of the alley, there is another visual projection, namely word waterfall, exposing quotes in motion by using a lightning effect. It is definitely pretty and moving, like a dance; the words dance, playing around, sharing images, and take a pause on something powerful like George Carlin’s “That’s why they call it American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

The Word Waterfall

After that, we continued to the reader corner and writer corner where both have interactive activities for the visitors. On the reader corner, the visitors can make a list of their favorite books (my first choice was Zora N. Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God) and on the writer corner, we can write something using the typewriter and put it on the wall with other visitor’s writing. I did romanticize the idea of putting random words in certain place, so I did my own: started with an almost-sad rant, but then ended up with the reversed version of Dr. Seuss’ “green eggs and ham” because I was hungry (I wrote it “green ham and egg.” Silly me).

Silly poem

Ara also enjoyed his time typing a letter, and after the visit, Beth said, “It was really cool.” Couldn’t agree more with her. We think that the museum is well-curated; we do not see white-male authors only, but also great numbers of women and colored authors. I am very content reading Zora N. Hurston’s profile right in the middle of other white-male authors like T. S. Eliot and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is indeed a chronological consideration, but it still conveys a strong message about the significance of long-abandoned voices in the U.S. history. We hope the museum could expand the list of writers, because I think, personally, Ursula K. Le Guin should be on the list as well.

Finally, Chicago is a dynamic city and it has a really strong (local) history of literature and influential authors—among others Gwendolyn Brooks, Carl Sandburg, and Saul Bellow—whose writings are powerful, beyond time and space, reaching their own people’s heart and inspiring many to read, to write, to struggle.

A Trip to Baha’i Temple

An introduction: many call me Bam(s), and I am one participant of Arryman Program here, at Northwestern University. This is only my first three weeks in the US. Yes, I haven’t been in the states. But, I am not going to talk about my first impression or experience or culture shock in this post. Maybe in another one. So follow this blog! *wink wink

In this post, I would like to share with you about my recent trip to the Baha’i Temple.

About three weeks ago, my friends talked about the Baha’i faith as we passed a sign written Baha’i temple. I just discreetly listened to them as I knew nothing about the faith. Nonetheless, I still had no idea what it is. And today, I was invited to a little trip to Baha’i Temple.

Baha’i faith appears to be a new stream of “religion”. Its history can be traced back as early as the 1800s, when Mirza Husayn-Ali, known as Baha’u’llah found it in Persia. He was believed to be the latest Messenger of God.

Practising and disseminating the Baha’i faith was not easy. Many believed that Mirza’s teachings were devious. The Persian and Turkish governments, then, exiled him. He was banished to the prison-city of Acre in Palestine in 1868. He passed in 1892.

A year after Mirza passed, the Baha’i was introduced at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, USA. To date, the Baha’i faith has more than 150,000 followers living across the US.

Unlike other popular religions, Baha’i has no clergy. Instead, the faith has elected councils at local, national and international levels who administer the religious affairs. In the US, the Baha’i National Centre is located in Evanston. Yes, a city that becomes my new home.


The Baha’i Temple in Evanston, IL


It was quite easy to get to Baha’i Temple. We just took a purple line heading to Linden and got out at the final stop. Afterwards, we walked around seven to ten minutes following the indication provided.

The temple is so very beautiful. It is surrounded by green and well-maintained gardens (I don’t know how much they spend on the gardens only, let alone the building). The good weather today helped a lot with enhancing the view. Maybe I am a little bit bias here as I love the green scenery. But, the temple seems lush with many green areas covering the majority of its land.


One garden at the Baha’i Temple


One may question what the temple is. The temple is basically open for public. It is used for anyone to contemplate and pray according to their own belief. And because it is designed and dedicated for so doing, one must keep his/her noise level at zero level. Well, you can whisper still tho. There is no sermon or whatsoever related. Instead, they usually do some reading about deity.



Inside the Baha’i Temple


The interior of the Baha’i Temple is mostly filled with red chairs as shown in the picture above. The arrangement is quite simple actually. It is like a classroom if I may say. But, there are a bunch of red chairs situated behind a podium. Perhaps, it is where the elected councils sit during a praying. It is just my guess. I didn’t get a chance to ask that question today.

Part of the architecture remains of a mosque. The temple has high ceiling and tonnes of natural light and doors. In the middle of the ceiling, an Arabic caligraphy imprinted (see picture below).


The high ceiling with the Arabic caligraphy


During my visit, I had a chance to talk with, perhaps, one worshipper, real quick. It has come to my understanding that Baha’i faith seems to acknowledge different religious practices and doesn’t impose its believers to follow certain religious practices. It seems so versatile and open as a “religion”. Afterall, the Baha’i is a unique religious teaching which, still, little do I know.

In case you are interested in learning more about the Baha’i faith, just follow this link.

Please write your thought about the Baha’i faith in the comment section below. That’d be nice to learn together, wouldn’t it? 😉


On Chicago

I arrived at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on July 3rd. It was the first time I landed in the United States. Beth Morrissey, EDGS Senior Program Coordinator, welcomed the four new 2017 Arryman Fellows at O’Hare. I didn’t expect anything, to be honest, in the sense that I planned to adjust as soon as possible, and hoped I wouldn’t cause any trouble for anyone around me or even for myself. After all, I am a transmigrant, I have always been on the move. Change won’t kill me, right? Or so I thought, rather snobbishly. Turns out, Chicago surprises me even now that I actually live in Evanston. Especially after Beth took us to Taste of Chicago, where for the first I tried a very large turkey leg. Chicago really gives me a strong impression.

Giant Turkey Leg


At the beginning of the Fall, I found myself literally blown away by the notorious wind of Chicago. I may have underestimated how fast Chicago’s wind can be. For someone who grew up on a sandy and hot plantation in the middle of Sumatra, Chicago is a radical change. Not a single day goes by without my Arryman Fellow friend Sofyan wondering how the wind can be any worse than it has been. I have to agree with him in silence, since the cold wind makes me unable to open my jaw just for talking.

Aside the wind, Chicago is nothing but beauty. I have heard about problems that build Chicago to where it is now: gentrification, racial segregation, gun shooting. My parents know about this and they are very worried. But I believe each city has its own problems that create its own dynamics. I decide to enjoy Chicago for what it offers. After all, I know Chicago has the vibe of funky blues that always makes me comfortable walking in downtown area.

Speaking about the blues, I am so glad that I live in a city where my favorite musician, Buddy Guy, developed his career and often holds a concert. His club in downtown Chicago, Buddy Guy’s Legend, is like a holy place for Mr. Guy’s enthusiasts. He has a showcase for himself every January, which I’m so eager to watch, forgetting Beth’s warning that January is very cruel time in Chicago because of its winter. I have seen the club, but I didn’t enter because I forgot to bring my passport – here in America, you need to show your ID whenever you’d like to enter clubs and bars. Sofyan also told me that he wasn’t into blues, and I yielded. Otherwise, I would have to walk down to the red line train station all by myself in the middle of the night. I guess I’m not that brave in Chicago.

Buddy Guy’s Legend


I enjoy Chicago too much. I spent the whole time on my second week in the US visiting a lot of places in Chicago, from the north side, to the south side, and to the west side. I have heard many shady stories about people on the west side or the south side, particularly about the culture of gangs there. But I fully agree with Khadin, one of the mentors at International Summer Institute (ISI, a program for international students at Northwestern to reduce their cultural shock in the US and to learn American English). She said that she didn’t like the concept of ‘no-go neighborhoods’ because of certain social problems. “They are people. They are not just about their places. They are communities with their own lives and dynamics. I don’t think it’s fair to label people like that based on what happens in their areas.”

And it’s true! I can’t imagine what kind of gems that I would miss if I never visited the south side and the west side of Chicago. I visited Forest Park to see Emma Goldman’s mausoleum – a feminist icon whose writing is I find very agitating and sharp. On the South side, I was charmed by the University of Chicago’s old British building style, its excellent bookstore called Seminary Co-Op, and the DuSable Museum of African American History which overwhelmed me by its collections. I have to give credit to the ladies at DuSable Museum who welcomed my ISI friend Yannick, his lovely mother, and me so warmly at the Museum’s gift shop.

Chicago has its highs and lows, hardships that I cannot feel as a foreigner, but can sense in the air or read in the news or books. Yet, to quote one of Buddy Guy’s song, Chicago is still a “Midwest hunny”.

A Short Reflection from Evanston

Since I graduated from Universitas Indonesia (UI), I never thought that I would be able to go abroad to continue my study. I still remember back in 2010, I thought being employed in one of Jakarta’s offices—regardless of which sector it would be— was still the best thing to do. That is the same reason why I took my first official research project at Center for Health Research UI. It was just because I wanted to work and earn some money for my family. I did not realize that I had been working on various research projects, until I got the opportunity to become an associate researcher at Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences UI. As an associate, I learned so many things that I never knew before. I read books and articles that I had never read. For me gender and sexuality was a new topic and I had to read many materials until one day, I realized that I love my job so much. Since writing and reading are inherent in being scholar, I decided that I want to chase my dream.


I have to write about my background because I think not so many people know that it is not an instant process to become a scholar. It could be varied among people, and the story I mentioned above is one of the stories. Becoming an Arryman Fellow is one of the greatest opportunities that I could have in my life. I never imagined that I would go back to academic life and have the great opportunity to read and be involved in scholarly activity. It is a privilege for many people like me. I applied for the Arryman Fellowship twice, and the women essay competition is one of the ways I tried to get this opportunity, unfortunately, I failed last year. But my experience taught me to never give up my dream, so when I succeeded this time, I felt beyond happy. It was just like the right opportunity at the right time.

chicago-sdr evanston-sdr

Now I am having a great time in Evanston. I believe that Evanston is a great place to incubate energy I needed in this journey. Just so you know, you can reach down town Chicago easily and enjoy its amazing architectural buildings. Or if you prefer to stay in this beautiful suburb, you can find plenty of bookstores in the neighborhood. I think there is a unique combination between studying and having fun in this city. For some of you who know that I am also finishing my masters from Amsterdam, this new city is totally different. I think with its enormous lake, Evanston is truly a place where you can spend your time studying, and living your life in a calm environment. The Arryman Fellowship for me is a platform where I can continue to chase my dream to become an Indonesia scholar. Stable financial aid and a friendly atmosphere in your PhD life are among many opportunities that deserve your attention to apply and become part of the Arryman family.  And I bet you will find yourself happy to study in this city!

Welcoming Fall Quarter

It wasn’t my first time to come to the United States when I arrived at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago last July. But, I have a different purpose this time, doing a year-long fellowship program organized by Arryman Fellowship at Northwestern University (NU) in Evanston, Illinois. I was admitted as one of six fellows who have received a one-year pre PhD program at NU by Indonesian Scholarship and Research Support Foundation (ISRFS). Six of us are enrolled in three different departments at the university. I am enrolled in the Political Science Department. In this one-year program, we are allowed to take one class per quarter based on our interest. We also have to prepare our PhD application during our fellowship as well as our paper that has to be presented at the Arryman symposium by the end of the program, both at Northwestern University and in Jakarta.

For me, after working as a journalist covering primarily economic and business news, taking a master’s program in economic policy in Singapore, and spending most of my life in Indonesia, there are many things that I have to adjust when to coming to the US. First, although I had been to the Chicago area, I still need to adjust myself to how daily life works here. The first time I came here, I was only a tourist, vis a vis my current status as a student. Now, I have to figure out how to find an affordable yet comfortable apartment for a student in Evanston which only is adjacent to Chicago, set up my cell phone plan which is a different system from Indonesia and Singapore, understanding the health insurance system, and even choose outfits that are suitable for the “yo-yo” weather of Chicago.

Second, understanding American culture apparently is not as easy as watching Hollywood movies. I have learned many things about American culture (well, they do have culture!) from a tutorial and course the Arryman fellowship provided to help us to adjust ourselves to living in the US. It also registered us to join the International Summer Institute (ISI) together with other international students. Well, we know that there are words which have different pronunciations in American English vs British English. But how would I know that a native American English speaker would find it difficult to understand someone who speaks American English but with different intonations and word stress? Apparently, have to understand and practice stress and intonation in a bid to be more understandable by native speaker. For example, in my previous sentence, you should read “apparently” with the stress on the second syllable, the “par”. That also works to differentiate between words that have different function, that is as a verb and noun, for instance, “present” as a verb vs noun. In that case, you have stress “pre” if you use it as a noun and stress, “sent”, if you use it as a verb. I know, it sounds complicated, doesn’t it! Other than that, I also have learned about tipping culture, small talk culture (apparently Chicago is very keen on small talk!), and idioms!

Last, I am currently still adapting myself to teaching method at NU. Different from the education system in Indonesia and Singapore, what I feel so far is that the professors here tend to urge me to take classes that interest me the most. In Singapore, I was advised to plan ahead on what courses I should take in order to reach my final goal. I was surprised when I consulted with my mentor here on which class to take and he said, “take whichever classes interest you and you don’t have to worry about the symposium paper.” Well, it seems that my planning ahead and control freak self should step aside now. It is always interesting to learn new things, especially things that are completely different from your existing perspectives. It is like challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone.

Overall, I am blessed with the chance that ISRSF has given to me as an Arryman Fellow. Learning a completely new discipline and living in a new country is like having a restart and take second chance beside of what you have been doing so far. I hope that this experience will enrich my perspective and deepen my analytical skill.

Ravinia Festival

Ravinia Festival is an enduring music festival that can be dated back to 1904. It is a famous summer music festival which has hosted a wide range of musical performers—from Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald to John Legend. Located in Highland Park,Illinois, Ravinia Festival holds the status of the oldest outdoor music venue in North America.

I have been eyeing the Ravinia Festival since I first heard about it. Luckily, the Arryman Program has arranged free tickets for all the Arryman Fellows this year. A nice way to welcome August in a new country. On July 29th, the Ravinia Festival presented the movie Titanic (1997), while the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played the legendary musical score by James Horner in the background. . . LIVE! I have no musical understanding, but I would say that the music performance was hauntingly beautiful. It was hard not to feel the melancholy as we watched the famous Titanic set sails for New York City, never to come ashore. Shed some tears? Maybe.

For those who wonder what all the fuss is about regarding the Titanic, I quote this paragraph from a National Geographic article:

“For some the sheer extravagance of Titanic’s demise lies at the heart of its attraction. This has always been a story of superlatives: A ship so strong and so grand, sinking in water so cold and so deep. For others the Titanic’s fascination begins and ends with the people on board. It took two hours and 40 minutes for the Titanic to sink, just long enough for 2,208 tragic-epic performances to unfold, with the ship’s lights blazing. One coward is said to have made for the lifeboats dressed in women’s clothing, but most people were honorable, many heroics. The captain stayed at the bridge, the band played on, the Marconi wireless radio operators continued sending their distress signals until the very end. The passengers, for the most part, kept to their Edwardian stations. How they lived their final moments is the stuff of universal interest, a danse macabre that never ends.”

The movie, although fictional, is a story of love, humility, and a divided society. The Titanic was a ship built for three classes, and when it sank the passengers’ fates depended on their designated classes on that supposedly unsinkable vessel.  Only 25 percent of the steerage women made it onto the life boats, while 95 percent of the first class women were rescued. The Titanic has been the object of scrutiny not only because of its superlative story and its death toll but also because of the multiple interpretations of life in that particular era. This story attracts many of us, as Rose’s wish of a classless world is not uncommon. In a compelling review, Nelson Lichtenstein wrote:

“Drifting off into a death slumber, Rose’s heavenly dream is that of a socialist fantasy, in which the proletariat from below decks, along with the few bourgeois of virtue and justice, literally occupy the plush salons of the now departed ruling class”

– Class Struggle Aboard the Titanic (1998)



Activities in July: ESL Intensive Courses

At the peak of the summer holiday, I and other Arryman fellows arrived in Evanston and started to settle in for our new chapter at Northwestern University (NU). Classes don’t normally start until September, but we arrived early to participate in two programs to help us transition into American educational culture: The International Summer Institute (ISI) in August and an English as Second Language (ESL) intensive tutoring in July. So, starting from the first week, we took daily ESL lessons from Jen, a tutor from NU’s Linguistics Dept.

The ESL class was actually more like a small workshop than a course. We were practicing our English by discussing topics and chatting actively, rather than attending a one-way lecture or seminar. Jen has designed a syllabus around several topics: conversation, pronunciation, writing, and culture, equipped with a set of assignments to help us prepare. The cool thing from this course—which sets it apart from other typical ES L courses—was that we were not forced to achieve any particular expected learning outcomes. Instead, we set our own personal goals in this training and we are working to achieve those using the materials and lessons provided. Therefore, the schedule and lessons were subject to change, based on our needs and progress.

I like this method because I think it’s important for the learner—in this case myself and other fellows—to challenge ourselves in an individualized measurement. We might use different expression and our goals varied. So, it made more sense to evaluate our own progress than comparing our progress to those of other fellows.

ESL Sample Syllabus

ESL Sample Syllabus

The ESL courses lasted for three weeks in total. In the first week, we listed a set of achievable individual goals for this ESL and ISI. Each of us also took general assessment of conversational, writing, reading, and pronunciation skills. The first week was basically about the introduction to American academic and social culture. We were talking about culture shock, general do’s and don’ts in various social context and academic integrity in Northwestern University. At the end of every week, the course took place not in the classroom, but in a coffee shop. The coffee shop meeting was helpful to get us familiarized with Evanston neighborhood and also get us accustomed to etiquettes in the US—such as tipping culture, customer-service interactions, coffee-shop talks, etc.

In the second week, we were more focused on discussing about academic life as a graduate student at an American university. We practiced and worked on basic skills required in educational situation, such as reading and identifying key information, writing summaries, organizing arguments, presenting opinions. One of the remarkable activities for me was a three-way debate (pro, con, and indifferent) about a particular topic. After that, we were asked to write our genuine opinion (not the one of our stance in debate) in an editorial article. Those exercises were not only exciting, but also comprehensive and useful in boosting our skills in analyzing, speaking, writing, as well as presenting arguments.

What we had in the final week? An exam? Nope! You should not expect any test or so in this course. However, we did have a review and evaluation for the past three weeks in the last day meeting—on which I was absent due to sickness. Besides that, we also covered additional skills required in academia, for example focus group discussion, short speech, definition and concept development, as well as peer-review process.

ESL Last Day

Selfie with Jen, our tutor, on the last meeting. Too bad I was sick that day.

Overall, the ESL intensive course was truly a fun and collaborative learning experience. It was meant to be some sort of a prep-class before we embark on the upcoming academic year. I like that the tutoring session was not only a great place to learn English but also to bring fellows close to each other. A perfect warm-up, no?

Indiana Dunes State Park

In the International Summer Institute (ISI) Northwestern University, there is an interesting activity called “learn-by-doing.” Basically, the idea of this activity is to gather students with similar interest and let them learn English by doing activities and projects together. There are several available types of learn-by-doing activities, such as photography, social media, improv, traveling, food and shopping, coffee culture, etc. The ISI staffs assigned me to my first “learn-by-doing” preference, photography.

Learn-by-doing activity is very fluid, the students get to decide in which direction the activities and projects would go. After several meetings in my group, we decided to work on some projects. One of them is providing documentation service for every other learn-by-doing group, so we take pictures of other learn-by-doing groups’ activities.

Last week, one of my friends in photography group asked me to cover him for Traveling group’s activity documentation, as he had something more important came up. I said “yes” almost instantly, because the Travelling group was going to go to Indiana, a state located northeast of Illinois. Specifically, they were going to go to Indiana Sand Dunes for hiking. I was excited because not only I would get to visit another state in the US, but I would also get the chance to do one of my favorite outdoor activities, hiking.

Just a day after I was asked to replace my friend, I travelled to Indiana by car. There were five of us; one of my friends from South Korea drove the car. When we were on the interstate highway, we were fascinated with the fact that motorbikes are allowed on highway in the US!


Twenty seconds after completing the 3 Sand Dune Challenge

When we got to Indiana Sand Dunes, we decided to take route 8 and challenge ourselves by taking the 3 Dune Challenge. Taking this challenge means we had to hike the three tallest dunes at Indiana Dunes State Park. The third sand dune was the most challenging as it was the highest sand dune. Fortunately, there was a stair besides the tallest sand dune, so when I felt tired on my halfway through the top, I went to the stair and walked to the top easily. Only two of us who successfully made it to the top without using the stair, and they were very proud.

At the top of the third sand dune, we were rewarded with the views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. We really wanted to stay for a while longer and enjoy the natural environment, but we really had to rush back to Evanston as we had to attend a dinner party there. We were very tired after hiking the sand dunes, three of us including me slept almost all the way back to Evanston. It was a good thing that our friend who drove the car didn’t fell asleep!

The Art Institute

Some people consider Chicago as one of the coldest cities in America. Others say that it is the windiest. However, Chicago is widely known as one of America’s center for creative industry and arts. Indeed, there is a selection of art and photo galleries in Chicago, and you will never run short of events such as movie screenings, theatre shows, or music gigs. Nevertheless, one of the most renowned is The Art Institute of Chicago, which is located on 111 South Michigan Avenue. Boasting a collection of approximately 300.000 artworks, this museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Chicago.

We visited The Art Institute of Chicago in a Thursday evening. The reason we selected that particular day is because the Museum has Free Night every Tuesday, which means that the museum was open for all Illinois residents free of charge from 5.00 PM to 8.00 PM. This is a very useful tip for those who already have an Illinois State ID or who want to visit Chicago with a local friend. Be advised though, for the extended queuing time because Chicagoans are flocking towards the museum (obviously). Serious art aficionados might find this annoying because it would be too crowded for those who want to enjoy these artworks in peace.

Some the most impressive artworks in The Art Institute of Chicago are the paintings. You can see the works of famous painters such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georges Seurat, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Edward Degas, among others. There are also sculptures and other artifacts if paintings are not your cup of tea. The museum is truly a haven for those aspiring artists, students of art history, or the common art lover.

There are literally halls and corridors filled with works of renowned painters and sculptors that are familiar to us—usually we see them on popular media such as movies and television shows—and they are meticulously arranged in a certain way. The artworks are divided between their respective genres, such as Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and American collection. They also have an extensive collection on Asian art with a section on Southeast Asian art, including some artifacts from Burma and Indonesia. For those who are visiting Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago is a must-have in your travel itinerary. The Institute is enjoyable not only for art geeks and for those who aspire to be a painter or sculptor, but also for those who possess a love for art.