Visiting Chicago for Two Days – A Short Visit with Nice Impression

First of all, this is the post of my travelling journey to one of the cities in the United States. The city is Chicago, which is also known as the windy city. I went to this city from May 13 – 15, 2012, by using Amtrak train from Alton to Chicago, Illinois. Lucky me, I got the discount ticket from Amtrak train because I have the ISIC card. ISIC stands for International Student Identity Card. If you have this card, you could get a lot of discounts for all travels you will do within the United States. This card is supported by UNESCO.

One of the views in Chicago. This place is around N Lassalle Street, Chicago.

For the purpose of sharing what I have seen in Chicago, I wrote this post in the form of question-answers mode. This would not mean to be a very serious essay, but it is just a simple writing that is intended to share information.

Q: For what occasion you went to Chicago?

A: I went to Chicago for reporting myself to the Indonesian embassy and visiting IIE staff in Chicago. I had to report myself to Indonesian embassy because it is, as I may perceive, part of my responsibilities as an Indonesian citizen living and studying in the United States. Visiting IIE staff is also a thing that I would like to do because they have worked hard to help me, as one of the Fulbrighters, to be able to study in the United States. They make things easier for me. Therefore, it is a matter of courtesy for me to visit them in their busy work. What I found was that they were really welcoming and appreciating for my visit.

Q: Where did you stay? What was your impression about the hostel? How did you get there?

A: I stayed in Hostelling International Chicago. This hostel is meant to be for youth. I chose 10 male economy beds. When I arrived in the hostel and checked-in, I realize that this hostel is really for youth. In one room, there were ten beds, which were used by ten men. It means that we had our own bed. I slept in 319-C, which means my bed was the one that had C letter on it. My impression about the hostel was that it was nice and cozy. It had simple styles, but the service given by the hostel staff was particularly fast. If you did not know something, don’t hesitate to ask. They would help you. This was what I saw. I got to the hostel by walking. I arrived in Chicago on May 13, 2012, at 8:49 pm. I did not know the road or even how to get there, but I asked people on the street. So far, I met good people. They directed me to the hostel, 24 East Congress Parkway, from the Union Station in Chicago. I thanked these good and nice American people.

Q: What did you see in Chicago?

A: I saw different views and attractions. In the morning, which was on May 14, 2012, I went to Indonesian embassy in Chicago. The embassy is in 211 West Wacker Dr, the north side of Chicago. I did not spend times in subway or bus. If I did, I would not see the views outside. I walked around the streets from the hostel into the embassy in order to see different buildings, transportation systems, and many attractions. I went to Chicago Cultural Center, Museums, Dusable Harbor, and Navy Pier. It is a short visit anyways. At night, I went to the hostel and slept because I had to leave for Alton in the next morning.

Q: Any other information for other visitors coming to Chicago?

A: Hostelling International Chicago offers different information for the guests. I could use information that was written by the staff of the hostel. Blues and Jazz Clubs were good places to visit. For instance, Blues: Kingston Mines (21+), Buddy Guy Legends (21+), and Jazz: The Green Mill (21+). For tours, you could have the bike and boat tours. For museums, I suggested you to go to The Art Institute of Chicago and The Museum of Contemporary Art. Crown Fountain and Lincoln Park Zoo are also good places to see. In one day, I could almost visit these places.

Q: What makes Chicago unique for you?

A: Coming from a country with its Eastern culture, I found that Chicago is friendly and full of different attractions. People seem to be busy with their own mind when you walked on the street. Luckily, I went to Chicago when the weather was sunny, so everything that I saw looked bright and clear. Weather sometimes influences your mood, too, right? Life at noon with life at night seem to be different. However, depending on your intention to go to Chicago, you could find what you need here. People say that Chicago is a small New York city, but to me, that makes Chicago better than New York.

Q: What did you experience when you were in Chicago?

A: The nice experience that I had when I visited Chicago was when I was staying at the hostel and walking in the street. I met a nice guy whose name was Tim. He came from Holland. I did not realize that he slept beneath my bed, so we talked about different things. When I told him that I was one of Fulbright students, he said, “Congratulations!” After that, we discussed about different things, especially about the name of Holland, Netherlands, and Dutch. At the hostel, I met some other Korean, too. They were biking from New York to Chicago. I thought it was crazy, but they did this. When I was walking in the street, I did not use my cell phone. Kind of weird, right? If I needed to go to a certain place, I took a note the name of the address and asked random people. People in Chicago seem to have different styles and outlooks. I saw pretty girls, handsome boys, nice-looking women, and charming-looking men. They may be from different backgrounds because some of them have caucasian and asian looks. Beyond that, an interesting thing is that most of them were friendly. They would help if they could. Asking for direction will not take longer times, so you do not need to be worried visiting Chicago.

Q: Will there be any intention to come back to visit Chicago?

A: Probably, I will. I have not visited New York. However, Chicago seems to be a pretty city to me. I would like to spend more days in Chicago again. Whatever I saw in Chicago was actually for broadening my horizon in understanding the life styles of American people who live in Chicago. From bad to good, everything is crucial to know in order to shape balanced view in understanding how the city is. I am sure that visiting this city for only a day would not be enough to know and understand everything what is going on in Chicago. However, good or bad impression always comes at the beginning. Evaluation would come at the end after several days staying there. My evaluation is so far so good.

Attending India Night 2012 in SIUE – “Sanskriti: One Nation Different Cultures”

The Symbol of God in India. The name of the God is Ganesha. Based on Hindu epistemology, Ganesha is the God of Knowledge and Cleverness. I saw this image when I came to the event. The students of SIUE created this image by using colored rice and the rice was put orderly on the table so that the guests can see it directly.

I went to this event on April 7, 2012, together with my host family, Joyce and John, and other friends. The event was started at 6:00 pm until 09:00 pm in Morris University Center of SIUE. I was invited to attend this event because it was something new to me. This event was organized and performed by Indian Students Association at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Besides, this event is such a great time for me to see and know how cultures of India look like. Although I have seen a lot of Bollywood movies that might be useful to watch how people of India represent their cultures through that movie, it does not mean that I have seen the culture directly. Since I was invited by my host family, then, of course, I decided to attend the event.

In this event, I saw many different kinds of cultural performances and cuisine from India. The foods served in India night were so delicious. The menu itself was various. Some of the foods served were Tandoori Butter  Naan, Butter Chicken, Aloo Mutte, Mango Lassi, Condiment Tray, Jeera Rice, Chicken Kebab, Carrot Halwa, and Mixed Salad. I took all these foods to my plate in order to know how the foods taste. Yes, after I ate, it tasted really good. I stopped eating the foods because I felt so full in my stomach. While I was eating the foods, Soorya Performing Arts from St. Louis played some of Indian musics. The musics made the atmosphere of the dinner felt nice. The atmosphere made me felt as if I was in India. I did not understand the lyrics, but the music itself was familiar in my ear. That was enjoyable enough. 🙂

From all activities performed in the event, there were three activities that I enjoyed watching. The activities were Fashion Show, Garba dance, and Classical Performance (semi classical and folk dance) choreographed by Smitha Rajan. For the Fashion Show, there were some wedding dresses performed by Indian Students. Some of the wedding dress were those from Punjabi, Gujarati, Rajashtani, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Christian, and Muslim. For the Garba dance, there were some SIUE students performing the compilation between modern and classic dance of India. This dance showed the image of happiness between young people of India. In the classical performance, there were three little cute girls performing the dance in such beautiful ways. To my mind, the dance showed how the God and Goddess in India, based on the mythology of Hinduism, were working together in keeping this earth in peace. The outfit of the three girls was cute, too.

Overall, my impression after attending and watching the India Night event was that India was such a huge nation in terms of its cultural tradition. Even though the event itself was only performing some of Indian cultures, attending the India Night 2012 was fascinating for me. Actually, there were still many more cultures of India that the students could perform, but considering that the event was conducted by students, the event was done well. At the very least, I knew that the event shaped my mind that each nation in the world has its own cultures. Such cultures make the world rich, especially in its diversity and multicultural perspectives. To keep and make the cultures last longer and be transformed from one generation to the next generation is a very crucial thing that the people of a nation, such as India, should do.

The world is simply beautiful by its diversity and colorful view – Syayid Sandi Sukandi, April 8, 2012


Attending the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Denver, Colorado 2012

Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Denver, Colorado 2012

One of the great activities conducted for first-year Fulbrighter is known as Fulbright Enrichment Seminar. I had an opportunity to join this seminar on March 8 – 11, 2012. All first-year Fulbrighters were selected randomly; therefore, those who could go to this event would have a great time to experience meeting with scholars from other countries. In that seminar, there were scholars who came from, roughly, 75 countries. They brought different perspectives and thoughts to the seminar. However, although there were so many differences that the scholars had, eventually, they were blended as one. They share something in common among them. To me, attending this seminar was absolutely an enriching experience, not only in terms of expanding my horizon but also in terms of widening my perspective beyond the border that I usually have as an Indonesia citizen. In order to share my perspective on this seminar, I would spare a bit of my time to write about this. This would be a way for me to express what I thought as the most important thing from the seminar. I hope that the things that I write here will bring advantages for people who read this post. However, if you are also parts of this seminar, you are more than just welcome to add something to my post by commenting on it. Your comment and feedback would be important for this post and for all people who will read your comments as well.

The scholars who attended the seminar came from different backgrounds, namely countries, as well as from different major in their studies. Some of them studying at universities located in the east, the west, and the mid-west of the United States. This has made the seminar rich, especially when it was viewed through the diversity of thoughts and emotional scene that they personally had. During the seminar, there were a lot of things that all Fulbrighters could learn. I would say that each Fulbright scholar would have a different thing that he or she has in mind after attending this seminar; nevertheless, the most important thing to bear in mind after attending this seminar (in my perspective) is to have the mutual understanding and cross-culture understanding beyond borders become more enhanced. As the head of the seminar had pointed out, Joey Ham, the seminar was conducted as a way for all these bright scholars to engage in world-leaders activities and outgrow international mindset in fostering well-peace relationship among different countries. This statement would seem to be hard to perform solely or individually; nonetheless, the good relationship between countries is actually started from the good relationship between person to person and people to people. As a result, this sort of relationship will eventually transform into a good relationship between countries due to the application of mutual understanding. If the relationship between people is good; the possibility for good relationship between countries will be far from its stake in the future.

Why was the seminar held? In order to answer this question, I would refer the answer to the information mentioned in the book provided in the seminar.

The Denver Fulbright enrichment seminar was one of nine enrichment seminars hosted across the United States by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) as part of its flagship Fulbright program. These enrichment seminars, an integral part of the Fulbright experience, benefit first-year Fulbright foreign students and support the overall mission of the Fulbright Program – to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

The purpose of the seminar was great. As someone who came from outside the United States, the purpose of the seminar really made sense. A lot of students who came to the United States to study met in one place, which was known as Denver Fulbright Enrichment Seminar. It was such a great event for all participants of the seminar to see and understand how similar we were in terms of commonalities that we have, although we came from different countries.

A statement which was meaningful  from the seminar for me is this:

Today, Fulbright is the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program in the world, supported for more than half a century by the American people through an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress and by people of partner nations. The program actively seeks out individuals of achievement and potential who represent the full diversity of their respective societies and selects nominees through open, merit-based competitions.

From its inception, the Fulbright Program has fostered bilateral relationships in which other countries and governments work with the U.S. to set joint priorities and shape the program to meet shared needs. The world has been transformed in ensuing decades, but the fundamental principles of international partnership and mutual understanding remain at the core of the Fulbright Program’s mission.

The above statements clearly depict the good intention of the government of the United States: to make students from countries around the world be connected in a specific event and in a special circumstance through Fulbright scholarships. Those students might share different perspectives and ideas with American students and international students who came from other countries. This scholarship is not only giving great opportunities for the selected international students but also making good connections for American students to know and have friends who come from the world outside the United States. Because this scholarship is prestigious; therefore, those students who were selected to participate in this scholarship were prestigious students, both for academic background and personalities.

In the seminar, the participants were encouraged to engage in a lot of activities. One of the activities was a panel discussion about the growing minorities in changing the political landscapes in the United States. This panel was conducted by selected speakers in the United States. There was also an activity called as community service. All participants were divided into several groups. My group was the one that went to Montessori School. When my group was there, everyone seemed to be very happy and engaging. I became more welcoming to new friends. Another activity was joining the mock-presidential election. The demographic group in which I was participated in was the democrat. Overall, the activities in the seminar were great. This seminar is not only broadening my horizon but also expanding my point of view in understanding the system of how democracy turns into action in the United States, especially in looking at how the process of presidential election was conducted in the country. This is a great opportunity for me to learn about such a political system, though my field of study is not politics. All in all, this seminar enriches me with something beyond the perspectives that I have as a graduate student of English department.

What an unforgettable experience! To all Fulbright Students who attended the seminar, miss you all! 🙂

Below is the video to the event above. The video was inserted on March 10, 2019 (6 years after the creation of the video). I am sorry for the ‘young’ face over there. 🙂

Credit: The first picture was taken by Antonio Tahhan, a staff of IIE in New York, the United States. Together with Maha Kamal, he worked as a photographer in the event. The text typed in the picture was created by Syayid Sandi Sukandi.


This post is solely based on my perspective. It does not represent any formal documentaries of the U.S Department of State or the Republic of Indonesia. This writing is published for the purpose of sharing only. Anyone is welcomed to give his or her feedback in the comment boxes under this post, especially if you are one of the awesome Fulbrighters in the picture above. Thank you. ^_^

Fulbright: Attending Africa Night at SIUE

Africa Night by African Students at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, the United States

On February 25, 2012, I had a great opportunity to attend an event called as Africa Night. This event was professionally performed and organized by African Students who are studying at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Edwardsville, the United States. After I attended this event, there was something that came across my mind, especially knowing what Africa is. Besides, of course, as I did in the same way with other people, I had some concept in my mind about Africa before I attended this event. I come to this event together with Ankur Patel, a graduate assistant and a graduate student at SIUE from India; Susanna Lu, the same with Ankur Patel but she came from China; Joyce and Dorris, the people who have great heart to deal with international students to have the host family program; and Majid Darvis and his friend who are from Iran. In this event, there were, of course, a lot of things that I have seen. Then, through this post, I would like to share what I had seen in the event. What I write in this post might be from my perspectives; however, if you want to add more points, please, do not hesitate to give your comments under this post.

What Africa Night is

This event, as you could see it from the picture above, is an event which was organized by African Students Association who are studying at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Edwardsville, the United States of America. It was started at 06:00 pm in the Morris University Center of SIUE. I was so fortunate to come to this event on time (even earlier than that, that was at 05:30 pm) so that I could have the red carpet event session. This session was done by the committee as a way for them to respect guests who are coming earlier. Because my host family and I came earlier; therefore, we could reserve our table. Susanna Lu, Ankur Patel, Majid Darvis, Majid’s friend (I forget her name), Dorris, and Joyce were sitting together at the same table. At 06:00 pm, my host family, friends and I had a great time for dinner. There were salad, fried rice, chicken, and all other foods which are traditionally regarded as cuisine from Africa. It was indeed a precious time for me to attend this event. Well, overall, what it means with the name Africa Night is, in my perspective, an event for students from Africa to perform their cultures and unique things about Africa.

My impression after attending Africa Night

After I attend the Africa Night event, my impression was “oh, so, I thought I knew about Africa, but, in fact, what I knew was just a little”. From fifteen activities done in the event, there was a unique thing that I see from Africa. The session for this was entitled as “(My Love and Pride) The Africa they never show you”. I was literally impressed. I personally never went or travelled to Africa, but, after looking at the video; if I am rich, I would love to spend a couple of weeks in Africa. The message of this event would be informing people to know more about Africa. I am an Indonesian. I never know how Africa is. What people told me about Africa is that Africa is a place of so many forests and the people living in this place are staying in a very traditional house. In fact, I was wrong. Then, in this case, I could blame news that present about Africa. Why I only know bad stuffs about Africa? In this event, I saw another beauty of how God creates human. Therefore, a point that I want to write here is that Africa is beautiful.

My personal note:

Impression that we make based on what we hear from the news is always bias. However, when we make impression based on what we directly see, that will be another story. This event is indeed broadening my horizon as a student from Indonesia at SIUE – USA and, in particular, as a Fulbrighter who would try to get involved with activities of maintaining international peace and freedom.


Edwardsville – Glen Carbon, Illinois, the United States

Edwardsville-Glen Carbon in Illinois, the United States

Life in Edwardsville – Glen Carbon, Illinois, the United States:

First of all, this post is not intended or even created as a tourist guide. This post is written as a way for me to express what I thought about Edwardsville and Glen-Carbon in the United States. There might be some other good places in the United States, but, since I am only a student here; therefore, this is what I could tell so far from what I see and from what I read from the above magazine.

City of Edwardsville is the third old city in Illinois, a state in the United States. Based on the information written in the above magazine, this city was pioneered, or, let’s say, started by Bejamin Stephenson and Ninian Edwards from Kentucky. From 1809 until 1865, this city is becoming to be expanded. The name of Edwardsville is taken from the name of one of governors in Illinois. It was Edwards. “Edwards then served as governor of the state of Illinois from 1826 to 1830” (Price 6). He was the one who then influenced the naming of this city.

A remarkable historical data from this magazine indicates that several external factors had influenced the development of this city. One of the influences is from N. O. Nelson. “Around 1890, industrialist N.O. Nelson began a project of progressive vision and effective action that would forever enhance the fabric of Edwardsville” (Price 9). From that time until today, this city seems to develop in various ways. In the 20th century, as the information presented, there were a lot of business activities growing and expanding. This seems to make this city is going to be emerged in a lot of senses in the near future.

As someone who comes from outside Edwardsville, even from outside the United States, I view this city to be pretty and beautiful. I arrived in this city after “flying” for about five flights from Padang, Indonesia, to St. Louis, Missouri, at the end of August 2011. It was my first time to be on board internationally. Anyway, alhamdulillah, I arrived at my destination safely. At that time, it was at night. In the following day after my arrival, though I still had a jet-lag, I tried to see the scenery outside my apartment. Days and days have passed since that time and I am not bored. This city has something unique. Something which I could not know how to express it in words. For some people, it was common to go to crowded places, but, for me, having a nice and calm place to live is a big deal, especially I do realize that my purpose to come to the United States is to study.

In this city, there is a well-known university in which I am, at the time I write this post, studying at it. This university seems to bring a new notion and dynamics of this city. The university is known worldwide as SIUE. SIUE stands for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. I am fortunate enough to be able to study at this university. From what I read in the website of SIUE, this university looks excellent. For sharing purposes, I copied the information about SIUE in the following quotation:

For the third consecutive year, SIUE is cited by its peers and reported in U.S.News & World Report Best Colleges of 2012 as an “up-and-coming school.” SIUE is listed as one of seven Midwestern regional universities—one of only three public institutions—for recently making “innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, student life, campus life and facilities.” The “up-and-coming” category includes a total listing of 46 colleges and universities (only 17 public institutions) throughout the country.

U.S.News & World Report Best Colleges of 2012 lists SIUE among the top 15 public universities in the best Regional Universities Midwest (master’s granting) category for the eighth consecutive year. The overall scores are based on the academic preparedness of students, graduation rates, faculty characteristics and the reputation of SIUE in higher education.

For the second consecutive year, Washington Monthly, a national magazine, ranks SIUE among the Top 50 master’s granting colleges and universities in the nation; SIUE is 13th among public institutions on that list. Ratings are based on institutions’ commitment to the public good in three broad categories: Social Mobility, Research and Service. Under the service category, SIUE was ranked first again in the percent of federal work study funds dedicated to students employed in community service programs. The University placed sixth in expenditures for research—up from eighth last year.

The Corporation for National and Community Service named SIUE to the annual President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the second consecutive year. The University is listed in the Distinction category for the first time. The list recognizes colleges and universities that demonstrate a commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.

The nationally recognized online news magazine, The Daily Beast, ranks SIUE 21st in the nation among its Top 50 Safest Colleges. SIUE police officers are academy trained and engaged in a Community Policing program. Under the SIUE Campus Violence Prevention Plan, there are more than 80 emergency phones on campus.

If you want to know more about SIUE, you can click this link. SIUE. (For SIUE, keep making great efforts! I am happy to be here in SIUE).

Well, as days gone by, and, again, at the time I write this post  and post this post in this blog, I have been staying in Edwardsville almost seven months, Edwardsville is still a nice place to stay and study, especially for me, someone who never went out to see the world through his own eyes. However, despite many beautiful places to see, the friendliness of the people in this city is the highest reason of why I would dare to say that this city is beautiful.


Syayid Sandi Sukandi (A graduate student at SIUE – wishing to continue his study further to Ph.D for his students)