Fulbright – An Example of Study Objective (2010) for Indonesian Applications


My friends in Indonesia asked me several questions dealing with how they should write a good Study Objective for Fulbright scholarship. For the purpose of sharing what I wrote for my application and helping them to achieve a better result for them, I decided to share my study objective in this blog. After learning and studying in the United States for about two years in the Master’s degree, I found many tremendous achievements I reach both as a writer and as a teacher of English. Here is my Study Objective that I sent to AMINEF in 2010. For your information, I did not revise this document because I want you to see how I change and improve myself in terms of writing clearly in English (not just grammar correctness).

Syayid Sandi Sukandi

Master’s Degree

 

Study Objective

I am interested to study in a master’s degree in the field of English language and literature in the United States. The concentration within the field is Composition and Rhetoric. It is relevant to my educational background—Bachelor’s degree in English language and literature—and to the needs of the college where I am currently working. A master’s degree program will provide me with more in-depth learning and advanced training so that I will have the expertise I need inside and outside the academic world. Indeed, a master’s degree will enhance my academic qualifications and help me gain professional development as an English lecturer in STKIP PGRI Sumatera Barat.

In STKIP   PGRI Sumatera Barat, I teach English subjects. The subjects are Writing I   (Paragraph development) and Writing II (Essay writing), Translation I   (English-Indonesian translation) and Translation II (Indonesian-English translation), Cross-Cultural Understanding, Speaking III (Speech), and English Correspondence. Recently, I have a plan to teach other subjects as well, such as Introduction to Literature, Reading Comprehension, Public Speaking, and Academic Writing. Since I do not possess a master’s degree, the chances to realize the plan are still out of reach. Therefore, a master’s degree program in English language and literature will surely improve my knowledge base in those subjects so that I can realize the abovementioned plan.

In the master’s degree program, I will focus my study on Composition and Rhetoric.   This is because the college needs lecturers who have academic skills and experience in all kinds of writing or rhetorical situations. The future objective for this is when I have accomplished my master’s degree program; I will take responsibility as an English lecturer whose specialization is writing. Besides, I will be involved as a member of the editorial board in the research unit of the college. The task of the unit is checking and revising the language of research articles before they are published in academic journals. Considering these goals, I am sure that the skill and experience that I will receive in a master’s degree program in the United States will not only aid my academic development but also empower me to achieve the goals.

The head of the English department and Chairperson of the college have encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree by focusing on composition and rhetoric in English. They officially want me to serve as one of the trainers in the program of Professional Teacher Education (PTE) in 2011 to teach subjects related to Writing in the college. The program itself is conducted under the regulation of the Directorate of Higher Education of Indonesia. Therefore, I need to have a good understanding of composition and rhetoric in order to be admitted as a trainer in the program. Composition and Rhetoric will be a considerable emphasis to the overall program of my study in the master’s degree so that I am eligible to perform the best work in the program and effective in training the students who participate in it.

Regarding this Fulbright scholarship program in particular, I want to obtain a master ’s degree of English language and literature in the United States not only because it is an English speaking country but also because it has an excellent reputation for quality of education. As an Indonesian, I believe that studying English in the United States can help me acquire greater fluency in the English language, which, in turn, will help my future students. When I come back to Indonesia after successfully completing my study, I will have a better understanding of English as both a field of study and a   communicative tool. In addition, I will understand the cultural values of daily life in the United States. These values, then, can be shared with my students in the college in order to help them better understand the importance of cross-cultural understanding.

An additional thing that I want to learn in the United States is to know and understand how American students learn in their class. In this case, I would love to share the knowledge of Indonesian cultures with students in the United   States. This activity will positively contribute to my personal experience as a lecturer and this kind of experience is really a rewarding one for me. When I have understood how the American students learn, I would like to apply the positive sides that I have seen in the United States to my students in STKIP PGRI Sumatera Barat. I hope that a better improvement of cross-cultural understanding between the students of Indonesia and of the United States can be properly maintained after doing the above thing.

To sum up, studying English language and literature with Composition and Rhetoric as its focus in the United States will give me many great insights that I can develop and apply in the college after finishing my master’s degree. Conducting research dealing with students’ ability in composing academic writing and sharing a well-shaped concept of English and American cultures with my students will benefit them in their university lives and in the future. I also hope to enhance and promote the future or long-term objectives of STKIP PGRI Sumatera Barat as one of Indonesia’s important educational assets. In the end, a Fulbright scholarship will help me ensure the future development of Indonesia’s students and teachers.

From what you can read above, you can see that I tend to compose my ideas on grammatical aspect too much. As a result, I did not let my ideas out on paper. Perhaps, this very aspect was the thing that created a gap between me as a student of English as a foreign language with most Americans who are, of course, native speakers of English. Now, after learning Writing in the United States, I am able to use my own linguistic abilities to argue and even compose my own ideas in writing – truly with my own “voice”. Writing in English has become one of the joyful experiences I have in me. Every time I read a book, I could hear someone is saying something to me through his or her works. Besides, I also learned how to engage with American and international students in the classrooms in order to see how they argue and think as well as react about different things.

To be honest, I did not travel a lot around the United States due to several circumstances, but by reading, I can have a thorough comprehension of this country. It turned out that being an American is not as easy as being an Indonesian. America is so complex in lots of aspects, especially after the influence of European settlements in history, the riot of civil wars between “white” and “black” people, and the political interests of this country over other countries that might not be interpreted well enough, given the barrier in language. I am also aware of how Americans frame certain ideas in English because, sometimes, what they intend is the same with mine, but because of the language barrier, the same intention is not translated well across different types of English language users on the globe.

For my friends who want to apply for this Fulbright scholarship, please remember that this country is not as singular as your country, Indonesia, especially on the basis of race. In this country, you cannot call others based on how they look. You need to respect one another. You also need to be respected by others, equally. I thought that I would see blonde and light skin people all around, instead, I see people even within the same color as I am – Asian American. Therefore, I cannot judge others on the basis of skin colors in the United States. Also, religion-wise, you will see the reality of how people see your religion through different lenses. Since I am a Muslim, I know that not so many people in the United States know clearly what Islam is. If I accidentally meet people who disrespect it, I tend to explain to them that what they did was disrespectful. If they still do things that harm me emotionally, then I will better go and leave them, for good. The more you understand this country, the more you will see that basically, people everywhere are the same. What makes them different is what came to them for the first time. My point is: before you came to this country, please be prepared mentally and socially. Never lose yourself as an Indonesian because they basically want to know you more, individually, because you are the “chosen” people from both countries. They also want to know more about your country through you. Sharing what you know to the best you can is a good thing to do. In spite of that, do something as you need. You do not need to do things that do not resemble yourself. If you do not eat pork, for example, tell them. If you do not drink alcohol, inform them. They will respect what you believe and choose. However, always set your studies as a priority. In my case, if I let myself drowned on traveling too much, I will end up learning nothing for my professionalism, especially since I focus on the Teaching of Writing. Without practicing Writing, never dream to reach a point where you can write, deeply on “your style.” I think I have achieved it now. In years ahead, I hope I can write my books. 🙂

Good Luck with your applications. Oh, before I forget, please remember that the living costs in the United States are high. Sometimes, this situation does influence your mood to learn and study. All the best to you!

2013 – A Year of Achievements and of Learning the Beauty.

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Fulbright: Being a Scholar and a Student – An Indonesian EFL Perspective


Studying in the United States, especially as a person who carries the word “Fulbright”, asks me to learn more than what I was required to do. In my understanding, being a Fulbright scholar is not easy. It needs a lot of efforts on the academic scope. Since I am a faculty member in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia, I use this Fulbright scholarship to adjust my professionalism in the field I am dealing with, which is English Language and Literature – Teaching of Writing. Even being a scholar for my field of study needs times and a lot of efforts in order to be a “scholar”. I would assume that it is a moral duty of mine to study seriously and read exponentially in order to be reliabe for calling myself as a “Master” for a specific field. Since I am studying Teaching of Writing (Rhetoric and Composition – part of the big scope of English Studies); therefore, I would expect that most of my times would be spent for reading and writing. For some people, these two things are very boring activities to do, but for me, these two are very enjoyful. A lot of insightful perspectives, theories, concepts, and ideas are sparkling in my mind after reading many wonderful textbooks. Reading the works of other scholars improves the way I think and the way I make decisions dealing with a lot of different things in life. At this point, this is the reason of mine to study in the United States under the name of Fulbright Master’s Student Program. To briefly illustrate the reasoning behind my motives in studying English in the United States, especially as an international student whose first language is not English, I divided several points below to explain my own thoughts dealing with the title “Fulbright Scholar”. What I write here is merely my own arguments. For you, in case you are also getting involved in this Fulbright scholarship, of course, you have your own thoughts that might or might not be the same with mine. You may dislike or argue the following arguments by composing your thoughts, feedback, or comments under this post. If you are not part to this scholarship, I suggest you to read this writing as a way for you to know my own point of view about what it means to study overseas. However, your input is also suggested. 🙂

Understanding the Core Aspect of Being a Scholar versus Being a Student

For some people, being a scholar means you have a Ph.D or you have an approval from the institution where you work in order to enable you to be called as a scholar. To be honest, though, after I read some of the interesting journals and writings in American textbooks, I concluded that being a scholar means you know what you are studying in your field. In my case, I learn English, wish the emphasis on Teaching of Writing. Of course, for English-speaking people, this field of study might sound, “ah…not that challenging”, but for me, it is indeed challenging. Considering my background as an English as a Foreign Language speaker, coming into a society where English is being used all the times give me a new perspectives. English is my language, now. How about being a student? Being a student means you are in the process of becoming a scholar, although it will not make you automatically become a scholar in your field. Being a scholar requires you to have a responsibility over the knowledge that you earn through the process of studying and learning that you do.

Appreciating the Value of Your Times when You are in the United States under the Government Visa

I know that I am under Government Visa. It takes me two years to complete my study in the United States. Frankly speaking, the good thing I have learned so far is to see directly people who come from other countries, such as Japan, China, India, Taiwan, Morocco, Latvia, Turkey, Korea, Nigeria, and many more. Of course, I also talked to many types of American students. I talked to them as friends. It turned out that I found many similarities that I have with them. Then, at this point, actually, I mean that I spend my times not only studying but also having conversation with those folks. I tend to be not too be pushy to myself. I like it in a slow process. If some of them become good friends, why not? Although differences do exist, but those differences are very tiny compared to many similarities that we have. Human beings. Only bad human beings that make harmful actions in the society. Do you agree?

Having times to be in the United States for only Two Years asks you to Make Options before Arriving in the United States: Studying or Learning, Travelling or Sight-Seeing

This is a common question I have from my friends in Indonesia. To be honest, though, I did not travel a lot, for I know that the costs to travel are high. In reality, I can be in the United States to study because of scholarship. Also, considering my purpose in that place as well. I went to Denver for a seminar, Chicago for reporting myself to the embassy, and St. Louis to enjoy some of Middle Eastern styles. How about other places? Well, for these things, I need to be realistic. I know my financial condition so I decided to not travel. Not because that I did not like those places, but more on money. So far, I have studied many things about the United States. From its policy up to social issues. I have come deeper to understand the United States, more than I would know before.

Appreciating the Different Choices that other International Students make regarding their individual circumstances (academic goals, personal habits, times and allocated stipend)

This point is crucial. For me, I came to the United States to study. I learned very much from my Professors and classmates. We shared our own experiences. I learn to see how individual American people have individual history of live that I personally never encounter. Some of them might view me as a stranger because I have different views. However, that would be a good point for them, too, to learn something new from others. I learn from them, the good things, and they learn from me, the good things. We can make our world better, with that attitude. Going back to each and every individual international student, the decision is in their hands. They do, of course, have purposes that they need to achieve while they are in the United States.

Referring back to your own Study Objective in the Fulbright Application Document and to what you had promised at the Fulbright Interview Selection

I never forget this part. I used to view myself how lucky I am to be selected by AMINEF in Jakarta to be a part of this prestiguous scholarship. When I was being interviewed by the panels, I answered all questions as truthful as I could. Then, I am in the United States, then, of course, I need to do all what I said in the interview as real as possible. Even though at some points in my life that missing my family is a big challenge, but I know that at the end, it will end in happy ending. I become a person with a high credibility and professionalism in my field.

How about the following points? If you are a good student, I believe you know what I mean.

Setting your Academic and Personal Goals: Long-Term and Short-Term – Setting Priorities

Writing a Solid and Thoughtful Research Article – Between Grades, Knowledge, and Skills

Deciding what is Crucial, Important, Necessary, and Necessity during your Times in the United States – Contextual Approach

Concluding – It’s All Yours to Decide – What you are doing and reading will essentially be your own knowledge and experience.

Insya Allah, I will be a good Muslim scholar. It takes me a great moment to be in Dunya and Hereafter to do good deeds. However, I am still trying. Learning is a never ending effort if we want to be a good person not only for ourselves but also for others around us. Amen. 🙂

Fulbright: International Night 2012 – “Fusion of Cultures”


International Night SIUE 2012I found a great pleasure and an excitement when I involved in the event called as the International Night 2012 at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. This event was conducted as a way for the International Students and Scholars Services Officers to build and help students to engage together in one international activity. Coming from a country where most of the students were not mixed in terms of race and nationality challenged me, somehow, when I wanted to take part at this event. Last year, I had participated as well in the same event by doing the Flag and Culture Show, but for this time, I involved myself by doing something different and challenging for me. I performed a Rantak dance from West Sumatra Province, Indonesia. I did not know why I was so fascinated to involve at this event, especially knowing that I am a “Fulbright” scholar. Honestly, I know that I am a scholar, a big title for me by the way, but I feel that I do not consider myself as that “high”. I could think as a scholar-like, but in terms of personal and attitude, I do not have any difference with anybody else. I loved to engage with friends and hang out but, of course, this activity should be done for positive and useful purposes. For the purpose of blending and learning together with other students and friends from other countries, I said to myself that I had to take part, especially after knowing that life and living at SIUe are peaceful, in my terms. Although I did not have many Indonesian friends with me at SIUe, I did not feel lonely for I view and see the American and international students are just like me. We can talk and discuss different things, although at some points, especially dealing with “cultures and habits”, we tend to be different in unique ways respectively.

From Indonesia to the United States and to the Way of Recognizing and Understanding the World

I began to be interested in joining this event since last year, Fall 2011. I involved in the event called Flag and Cultural Show, which was handled by the same credible and friendly student from Nigeria-mix-the United States, SL (her initial). She helped the International Student Committee in handling the event by focusing on the Flag and Cultural Show. Of course, as usual, an event could not be handled by one single person, so the other stuffs were organized by other students as well. When I was in Indonesia, I always loved to participate in different events. I participated in the local and national events, either in the form of seminar or academic scholarly panel. I loved to participate at such events. Usually, I participated in the events like debate or speech competition. Now, I have something different. An event that is way so much different from what I used to face. This event is considered as an internationally-based event. Then, at the moment where I am in the United States now (at times I am writing this), I took a chance to join. I decided to join in order to expand my potential and unseal another talent I have within me, perhaps. Growing up in Indonesia was tough because things were not as I would perceive. I had to work and study hard to get a chance to study in the United States under this prestigious scholarship supported by the U.S Department of State.

When I involved at this International Night event, I saw many students came from different countries. From what I learn before coming to the United States, I knew that people coming from different countries will have their own persona and culture. So, it was true! I talked and discussed with them as if they were my friends from Indonesia. The only thing that is different between us is language. They have their own native language and so have I. We communicate in English to overcome these differences. As an English lecturer myself, I noticed that many students speak in different accents. In spite of that, we still communicate each other well. To me, I tend to view others as nice. I tend to avoid having negative thoughts about others. I do not like politics because people who come to this stuff, usually, tend to make things politicized, for I know that, not everything in this life can be politicized. The attention from parents, for instance, cannot be politicized. At this event, I tend to view myself as a student who learns new things. I open up my mind for everything, but of course, as a Muslim, I would not do anything that is forbidden in my religion, such as having promiscuous life, stealing, raping, or any other bad things. Although I am being surrounded with students who have different faith from mine, we could still talk and hang out together nicely because I did not see the differences as the big wall that blocks the way we communicate.

To make this International Night event came true, many students were needed and asked to be dedicated to come to the meetings, practices, and rehearsals. I view these things as ways for me to meet and talk with other students in such a natural context on campus. I met a student from Nigeria. She was so passionate and full of spirit in handling the event. I met students from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Latvia, Spain, Mexico, Morocco, Ghana, Iran, Turkey, Brazil, and from many other countries. Most of the times, other students and I talked and practiced before the events. I tell you one thing. It was so difficult to manage time and place to make these students could come and meet together. Everyone had their own stuffs to do. I had my schedule and so did other students. I had many texts to read and some assignments to finish. I would assume that other students had their own schedule and activities as well. However, we finally made it. We finally could realize it. Usually, we met in the afternoon at 5:00 pm before practising in the Morris University Center building. It took times for about almost six weeks before the actual performance.

At times when I involved at the event and talked to the other students, I noticed that we only had differences in terms of “nationalities” and “borders”. Outside of that, we were the same. We were students of SIUe. When I viewed them, I felt like I viewed myself. Differences that they had in the form of traditional dresses empowered me to see that beyond differences, there are similarities. Some people in the politics forgot about this thing. From every practices that we did, I learned that the meaning of being cooperative in international setting means we could work together hand in hand despite many differences that we may individually have. I was the only Indonesian person in this event, although later on I had Susi as my partner in carrying out Indonesian flag on stage. When I look at the different countries, I realized that many news that are presented in media did not present every people in an individual basis from that country. I met some lovely and nice students from Iran, although I usually heard some random stuffs about this country from news. When I met the students, I did not see any problematic things I saw. They were just like me. For other things that I would see as a “bit” different was the idea of me being a Muslim. I was surrounded by many friends who were believing in other religion, but I still could coöperate with them. I never see the differences as something problematic. However, as long as we keep focusing on the thing that we would like to pursue, then everything else will not matter.

Lessons that I could take from Participating at this Event

I learn a big lesson from this event. It is, “To be respected, we need to respect”. I do not think that every individual person on earth would think the same way as I do at this point due to different particularities that they individually may have, such as in what society that they grow up. However, I realized that everyone needs respect, but not everyone understands that to get respect, we need to give it first. I came to a point that all humans are made to be equal and no one deserves to call himself or herself superior that the other. In my belief as a Muslim, everyone bows and knees to Allah SWT, no matter who they are. Everyone respects one another and everyone does not sacrifice their pride over something that is materialistic. For other people, it might not be working as it should be, but I would argue that differences shall not make us all in barrier. Everyone deserves rights to live in a way that he or she needs. At last, understanding all these international communication and partnership helps me build positive and balance relationship through equal opportunities in such a wonderful international setting. Thank you, Fulbright, for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to learn and engage with many international students, including American students, to seek for meaningful social engagement. I learn new knowledge through the inquiries I have and I learn how to humane myself as an individual person in front of many people. I learn how to control and behave myself in front of people who might look different from me in terms of personal background. As a Muslim, coming to the United States strengthens my faith that all humans are the same in front of God (Allah SWT), but the thing that differs people is the actions that they do on earth. If they are Taqwa and doing good deeds, they are successful dunya and akherat. From my general perspective, I view that in this world, there are two types of people: bad and good. Bad and good could not be justified through individual assumption. Bad and good can be seen from our own attitude. If we do bad stuffs that harm our body, for example, we already are bad person. We do not want to be like this, right?

May all international students who participated in this event are granted with good grades and success in their life! Sekinat, Ashley, and Anni, without your hard work, this event would not be real. I enjoyed having nice conversation with you. Good luck!

All the best,
Syayid (December 14, 2012 – the end of Fall 2012 term at SIUe)

(Video of Rantak Dance that I performed at SIUe – just to share with you)

Madison, Wisconsin, July 19-22, 2012


Menghargai kata-kata sendiri berarti menghargai orang lain. Seseorang yang bertindak tidak sesuai dengan kata-katanya tidak akan dihargai oleh orang lain, apalagi oleh dirinya sendiri

“Well, how is life?” I remember this question was asked by a new person whom I met in the United States. I would reply that question by saying, “I am pretty good, how about you?” The same question with the same expected answer. However, after a year living in the United States, I am getting used to it. This post is a short narrative of my short visit to Madison, Wisconsin.

This time, I went to Madison, Wisconsin on July 19 – 22, 2012 for attending COTSEAL and SEASSI. COTSEAL stands for The Council of Teachers of Southeast Asian Languages. SEASSI stands for Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute. Both of these academic institutions are available in the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Wisconsin, the United States. I went to University of Wisconsin – Madison because my abstract was accepted by the committee panel of the conference.

When I was in Madison for these four days, I stayed with Prof. Dustin. He is teaching Arabic in the university. What made me surprised after meeting him in person is that he could speak Bahasa Indonesia in such a clear way. I was thrilled. He picked my from the airport and then we went to one of his students’ dorm where he taught Arabic. Surprisingly, I met some American students and one Indonesian student who were practicing Arabic at that time. I felt like I was completely a stranger. Everyone was speaking Arabic. Even though I could read and write Arabic, mainly the one that deals with reading and rewriting Al-Qur’an, but I am not that fluent in speaking Arabic. In that moment, every student asked me, “Khaifa haluk?” And I replied this question by nodding and smiling. After a few short conversation, I could catch the always-being-spoken words, “Na’am”. Then, I said, “Na’am” every time someone asked me. Well, this moment did not last longer since I had to go to Mr. Dustin’s home. What a lovely and kindhearted man he is!

In the following day, of course, as I had planned before arriving in Madison, I presented my teaching experiences dealing with teaching English writing to ESL students in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia. The presentation went very well. Most of the audience were interested in the topic that I addressed. Compared to other speakers, I might differ in terms of the types of the students we discussed. In my case, I talked about Indonesian students who learn how to use English in writing. For other speakers in the conference, they were talking about American students who learn how to use Indonesian, Thailand, Philipines, and Tagalog language in speaking and writing. An interesting experience that I met was when I had a nice conversation with American students and some international students who could speak Indonesian language. Again, I was so impressed by knowing how well they spoke in Indonesian.

In the same day, I was invited to attend a poetry reading night in the university. Then, I went there. I saw some international students practicing their own language and some American students practicing speaking in languages of Southeast Asian countries. Looking at these experiences broaden my horizon that everyone can learn languages. By learning more languages than our own, let’s say, in my case, I used to speaking and writing in Indonesian, and then I used to speaking and writing in English, adding another language adds something great to it. There was an American student who read a novel written in Indonesian language and he directly translated it into English right after he read it. This was a brilliant movement in terms of linguistic activities across borders. Doesn’t that good that all the students in the world can speak more than two languages? If a country learns other languages only for equipping a nice communication in the world, then, I believe that there would not be any misunderstanding thing can happen. English is still a dominant language being learned overseas. However, learning minor languages allow the process of enriching a well-established person to person connection so that at the end, mutual understanding between countries across different continent can be positively achieved.

One of videos of mine when I read Minangkabau poetry. (I was kind of nervous at that time, but I enjoyed it after I read it. One of the Professors said, “Kamu bagus sekali” to me after I read this. I felt so relief when he said it). SEASSI and COTSEAL Committe, thanks for inviting me. It was such a pleasant moment! 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gn1xp2zz9I

Ramadhan dan Idul Fitri di Edwardsville, Amerika Serikat 2012


Minal Aidzin Wal Faidzin (Mohon Maaf Lahir dan Bathin) 2012.

Pengalaman Ramadhan kali ini cukup berbeda dengan pengalaman Ramadhan yang biasanya saya alami sewaktu saya tinggal di Indonesia. Biasanya, saya pergi ke Mesjid Al-Hidayah yang lokasinya berada persis di dekat rumah, yakni hanya berjarak sekitar 50 meter saja. Cukup dengan jalan kaki, sampai menuju ke Mesjid. Postingan kali ini, saya akan berbagi pengalaman mengenai hal-hal baru atau hal-hal lumrah yang saya jumpai dan alami selama bulan Ramadhan di kota Edwardsville, Illinois, terutama sekali selama berada di kampus Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Hal pertama yang saya alami adalah menjalani puasa dengan rentang waktu yang lebih lama daripada biasanya. Ketika saya tinggal di kota Padang, saya terbiasa berpuasa mulai pukul 5 pagi hingga jam 6 sore (kira-kira, rentang waktu ini selama 13 jam). Di Edwardsville, saya berpuasa dari pukul 4 dini hari hingga pukul 8 malam (dengan rentang waktu sekitar 16 jam). Yang jauh berbeda dari biasanya adalah jam 3 pagi, kadang saya bangun untuk memasak. Itupun kalau tidak letih, kadang saya memasak dua porsi pada sore hari agar sambalnya bisa digunakan untuk sahur. (Maklumlah, hidup membujang di negara orang memang harus bisa masak sendiri). Meskipun rentang waktu berpuasa lebih lama dari biasanya, alhamdulillah, puasa bisa saya jalani dengan baik. Bila banyak kegiatan dan sibuk, puasa jadi tidak begitu terasa. Namun, pada awalnya memang agak sulit, karena puasa kali ini bertepatan dengan musim Panas, di mana suhu dan tingkat kelembapan udara sangat tinggi. Tidak jauh berbeda memang dengan kota Padang kalau untuk suhu. Yang membuat rasa panasnya berbeda adalah panas di sini terasa seperti lengket di kulit. Ibaratnya, kita seperti berada di ruang yang panas tapi pengap dan kalau pun berkeringat, keringatnya kurang bisa menguap. Setelah beberapa hari dijalani, puasa selama bulan Summer bisa dilalui dengan baik.

Kalau untuk sahur memasak, lalu bagaimana dengan berbuka puasa? Alhamdulillah, di kampus saya ada organisasi yang namanya Muslim Students Association of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Mahasiswa yang ikut organisasi ini, sesuai dengan namanya, adalah mahasiswa Muslims. Anda mungkin bisa menebak mereka dari negara mana. Ya, sebagian dari mereka berasal dari negara Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Amerika Serikat (tidak banyak), dan Indonesia (saya sendiri, kebetulan rekan sesama Indonesia sudah pindah ke luar kota). Kelebihan dari berteman dengan rekan-rekan dari negara ini adalah mereka sangat respon terhadap teman yang minta tolong. Jadi, setelah saya menyelesaikan satu term untuk Summer (alhamdulillah, dengan hasil sangat baik – berkah Ramadhan), saya dan beberapa rekan pergi bersama ke Masjid untuk melaksanakan berbuka puasa, shalat Maghrib, shalat Isya, shalat Tarawih dan Witir bersama. Kebetulan saya tidak punya mobil, maka saya minta tolong sama mereka untuk mengantarkan. Mereka begitu ikhlas, hingga akhirnya saya bisa penuh shalat Tarawih dan Witir di Masjid, meskipun pada awal-awal bulan Ramadhan tidak bisa karena ada kuliah malam. Oh ya, untuk makanan berbuka puasa, saya mencicipi makanan yang enak ala India dan Pakistan. Salah satunya bernama Gulap Jamun. Makanan ini berbentuk bola, tapi sangat enak. Kegiatan ini, alhamdulillah, penuh dijalani selama sebulan penuh. Hingga akhirnya, pada tanggal 19 Agustus 2012, saya dan rekan-rekan di organisasi ini pergi ke Masjid di Belleville, Illinois, untuk melaksanakan shalat Idul Fitri.

Berkah Ramadhan kali ini adalah saya bisa menyelesaikan Summer term dengan baik, bisa memenuhi panggilan shalat dan berbuka puasa di Masjid dengan khidmat dan penuh syukur, bisa bersilaturahmi dengan saudara Muslim lainnya yang berasal dari negara lain, dan tentunya bisa mencicipi makanan lezat dari negara lain. Di samping itu, yang tidak kalah serunya adalah pengalaman pada saat berpuasa di mana orang-orang di sekeliling bersantap ria. Masih ingat saya pada kesempatan di mana saya diundang pada sebuah pesta. Pada saat saya menerima sebuah gelas jus dan sepiring kecil kue coklat, saya hanya bisa menenteng-nentengnya saja. Hingga akhirnya semua orang yang ada di pesta tersebut melirik ke saya. Setelah saya menjelaskan bahwa saya seorang Muslim dan saya sedang berpuasa, mereka pun akhirnya mengerti, meski pada awalnya cukup seru karena sebagian menunggu-nunggu waktu saya berbuka puasa, hingga akhirnya semua makanan pun dihidangkan. Saya jadi merasa terhormat waktu itu. Kenapa? Masak karena saya puasa pula semua makanan belum dihindangkan, padahal waktu itu cuma saya seorang yang berpuasa. Hikmah yang bisa dipetik di sini adalah rasa segan itu ada pada semua orang, meskipun berbeda budaya dan bahasa. Sebaik-baik bahasa adalah sikap dan tingkah laku yang sopan dan santun terhadap sesama. Alhamdulillah, Ramadhan kali ini terasa damai dan tenang, meski tidak dihiasi dengan takbiran atau ke-heboh-an pada waktu malam menjelang Idul Fitri.

Jika ada niat yang kuat, insya Allah, rintangan akan bisa terlewati.  Iman itu terletak pada niat, dan ditekadkan melalui perbuatan.

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Teruntuk mama dan papa serta adik-adikku tercinta, rekan-rekan dan teman sepergaulan di Indonesia, Mohon Maaf Lahir dan Bathin.

Selamat Idul Fitri 1433 Hijriah. Minal Adizin Wal Faidzin.