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)