Meylisa Yanti — KL-YES to USA YP 22/23
My adventure began in 2022, the time I flew far away from home into the other side of thE world. I packed my things, and was ready to spread my wings somewhere far away. Ended up in a place called Idaho that I knew nothing about.
When you see me on social media, look happy ever after, and I seem to have a lot of holidays here, believe it or not those are all true. Everything I thought about America before as a terrifying and strange country, is totally upside down to what in reality I have experienced here. Starting from my school, I’m the lucky one who only has to go to school for 4 days and can spend 3 days off for the weekend activity to explore my world here. But I can’t lie, the beginning of my American school here was tough for me. The differences of school culture, language barrier, hardly make a funny joke to my American friends, and the toilet (there is only paper). I have passed through all of those challenges and I am gratefully still alive and able to share this story with you. And now, I realized that all of those discomfortness shaped me differently, creating a different perspective and helping me understand myself as a minority which I never experienced back then when I was in Indonesia.
Speaking about minorities, can you imagine being a little duck in the middle of a swamp full of frogs and fishes, feeling lonely and insecure because they eat different food, speak different languages, and always use “how are you” instead of “hi” whenever passing someone on a random street? But then finally you meet a duck community who secure your homesickness in the middle of the day. Well that’s what I’m feeling when I found the IndoIdaho community and became part of them.
Believe it or not, I learned a lot about America from Indonesians who live here. They really embraced me and made me familiar with the new culture that I had to face here. One day, I had the chance to represent Indonesian culture to an international community in a place named Global Lounge (it is an international community center in Boise the capital of Idaho). I was nervous and overthinking whether I would do it or not. But there was a wonder woman who became my savior for the whole of my student exchange year, who encouraged me to do the things that I doubted of and who always supported me mentally and physically (besides couches I also got an exclusive massage from her with minyak kutus-kutus), she is Kak Arin.
It is not hyperbole when I said “wonder woman”, because that’s what she is. She is the busiest person who spends a lot of her time thinking about IndoIdaho progress while she also has a full time job, homeschooling kids and a husband to take care of. In addition, she was my welcome house family who saved me from a terrifying moment. So back then at the end of July 2022, I was crying that I did not get the information of my future host family (my eligible American host family had to cancel the application due the host mom had a sudden surgery) yet while the deadline of departure information was only 5 days more. I had given up and threw my American dream away. Unexpectedly a miracle happened to me. Right on the deadline day, I got an email informing me that this kind family who lived in the place that I know nothing about would welcome me as a part of their family. Since then, I will never forget how lucky I am to have been found by her.
Maybe this is the reason why I don’t really get when my student exchange friends say that “exchange year is a roller coaster”, because I had passed it even before I arrived here in Idaho. My current host family, who gives abundant love to me, took me to the places which were in my wishlist such as Disneyland, Universal Studio, Hollywood, Las Vegas, and many more. And then talking about friends, I did not expect that I would make really strong bonds with people here, both with Indonesians, local people and other exchange students. But sometimes I feel bad whenever I have international meetings with student exchanges. They remember my name perfectly but I often forget their name (I’m better at face recognition than remembering the name), don’t blame me because it is hard to memorize foreign names.
At the end of the day, I feel like I have no reason to complain about my life here. This is the thing that I always wanted. Maybe this is the reason why Bina Antarbudaya always reminds us by giving “the managing expectation” sessions both in chapter and national orientation. But I can’t deny that the culture shock really shocked me. There is a huge gap between east and west culture. However, that is what shaped me to be “the new me”. Just like a slingshot, we pulled backwards to be able to accelerate forward.