Revolving Beyond Boundaries

Annisa Apriliani (INA YES to USA YP 16–17)

“…to widen up my horizon of perspectives,”

“…to bridge the understanding,”

“…to become a global citizen,”

“…to expand my insights,”

“…to explore more,”

“…to find ‘me’.”

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I mentioned in my last newsletter that prior to departure day; I was still in a state of disbelief. To be frank, even up to this point, I am still in my state of disbelief. Not only that it turns out that I am already marking the half point of my exchange year in this land of opportunity, but also to realize that there is a lot of things, misunderstanding and tragedies happening in each corner of this world yet people are keep focusing on their own selves only. Stated above previously are the purposes why I decided to put myself into this once in a lifetime experience; exchange year. One out of many things that I want to experience in my exchange year is to understand more about more things, outside and inside of me. Besides that, at this halfway point, I hope I’ve been spreading more understanding to people around me, to help eradicating the world tragedies.

November was a hectic month for international students, who were busy preparing themselves to participate in International Education Week. I jumped on the bandwagon and took my part to celebrate the benefits of international education, especially student exchange programs. I did 33 presentations around my host community here in Upstate New York, sharing about my exchange program and Indonesia. I had various range of audiences. Starting from elementary students, to high school students in the most prestigious private school in the city, to students in less advantaged school, to adults in town’s library and church, even to a 107 years old lady whom I met in an assisted living house. They were fascinated by the new things I shared to them, but I was even more fascinated by the different responses each group had.

December was me, listing Christmas gifts already since day 1, checking it not only twice but a hundred times so that I know for sure what I’d get for them, yet still pondering in front of the shelves as I arrived in the store. December was me, baking and frosting cookies, and struggling to build my own gingerbread cookie house. December was me, balancing myself as I tried not to break any part from my body when trying to snow ski the first time, screaming as I did my first time snow sled, and panting as I did 13,000 steps with the heavy snow shoes. December was the candles that I lit in church for Christmas and New Year services, as I shared about my faith, hoping to enlighten people’s understanding about Islam. December was white and colder, yet the holiday spirit was heartwarming.

January officially started as I rang the huge bell clock tower in Chautauqua Lake. It came along with my so-called New Year resolutions that hopefully will pace me going even further. I finally went to the Buffalo City Hall Tour, went to Congressman Office where I got a certificate for being a Peace Builder, and tried ice skating for time. January was also filled with volunteering activities in Journey’s End, an organization that helps to collect basic needs for refugees. It was wretched for me to see their conditions. I’ve read stories and news about refugees, but to actually meet them was something else. Most of them could not speak English; they had to use their hand gestures to communicate. Some of them did not know the use of the items we gave to them; they did not even know what feminine pads are. They fled from their countries to seek protection and peace, escaping the mayhem in their homelands. It’d be hard for them to immerse and assimilate in here, but at least for them it is safer here. Yet it was just another day for me when my sister back home texted me, concerned with the new federal immigrant policy in the United States. I am, thankfully, not affected by it. However, thinking about those refugees in Journey’s End who might have hard time now to meet with their families still wretched me.

Although January had 31 days, it flew quickly just like that. February slides in, and the first week in this shortest month was definitely my most magical week ever. I really need to put the term magical here, since during February 1st to February 5th, I was spending my time in Disney’s World, Orlando; the most magical place on Earth, they said. Yet to me, it was not just because I was staying in Disney’s World enjoying Florida sunshine and all, but also because I was participating in Better Understanding for a Better World conference. BUBW is an international conference that’s aimed to increase broader understanding in intercultural also interfaith aspects. Needless to say, BUBW was one of the few things that I had in my exchange year bucket list. I accomplished to check that off my list, and that’s what makes it magical. I’ve learned a lot of new things that really opened up my eyes and my mind here, but BUBW was definitely remarkable. We talked about the conflicts in our own country, some of them I knew already; yet most of them, I’ve never even heard about. We tried to write the obstacles that the youth is facing today, and what would be our ideas to overcome those obstacles. We aspire to become global citizens. There were 14 other exchange students who got the opportunity to participate in BUBW, and both the conference and the people there successfully empowered me.

These past 6 months has fascinated me in a lot of ways. It occurs to me now that there is just always more to discover, and life does not only revolve within yourself and your own circle. People say that your life begins out of your comfort zone, now the question is; asides getting out from your comfort zone, would you also be willing to actually revolve beyond boundaries?



The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning Official Partner of AFS Programs

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Bina Antarbudaya

The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning Official Partner of AFS Programs