Kesan, Pesan untuk Mr. Syayid


Pengetahuan lebih baik daripada banyak harta. Meskipun banyak harta, tanpa pendidikan, harta tersebut tetap akan habis. – Syayid 2012

Jika anda adalah mahasiswa yang pernah saya ajar, atau mahasiswa yang skripsinya saya bimbing, atau mahasiswa yang saya menjadi penguji paper atau skripsinya, atau mahasiswa yang saya menjadi pembimbing akademiknya, maka pesan, kesan, dan saran dari kalian sangat saya hargai.

Sebagai seorang dosen, saya tentu ingin belajar lebih lanjut lagi untuk menjadi dosen yang lebih baik, baik dari segi pendidikan namun juga dari segi kepribadian dan kematangan kepribadian (kualitas mental dan perilaku).

Kalian boleh menyebutkan nama dengan lengkap beserta NPM, jika dirasa perlu. Jika  sungkan untuk menuliskan nama, boleh memakai inisial  (seperti: JS). Saya terbuka untuk saran, kesan, dan pesan dari mahasiswa. Secara pribadi, saya adalah seorang pembelajar.

Mohon gunakan bahasa yang sopan, santun, dan ber-etika ke-Indonesia-an ya. Boleh dimulai dari kesan yang baik, interaksi yang kalian harapkan, cara saya berkomunikasi, atau cara saya mengajar di depan kelas, atau bahkan boleh perihal bagaimana sebaiknya saya di dalam membimbing skripsi bila dibandingkan dengan pengalaman bimbingan skripsi teman kalian (tanpa menyebutkan nama dosen lain). Komentar dan evaluasi dari kalian, besar kemungkinan juga bisa bermanfaat bagi dosen lainnya yang mungkin juga akan membaca postingan ini.

Sukses untuk kalian, dan untuk masa depan yang lebih baik.

Salam sukses! Untuk diri kita, keluarga, dan Indonesia.

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Tujuan dari postingan ini adalah sebagai wadah evaluasi diri selaku dosen, dari sudut pandang mahasiswa. Tindakan ini sangat bermanfaat untuk tumbuh kembang pribadi dosen yang cendekiawan dalam kehidupan berbangsa bernegara dan dalam kehidupan sehari-hari.

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.

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. 🙂

“Ways with Words” by Shirley Brice Heath (1983)


A good book to read, but you need a critical Professor in Rhetoric to accompany you reading this is you are not from the United States. I like this book.

Two communities that were obvious in Heath’s ethnography studies: Roadville and Trackton. Both of these communities seem to share similar circumstances, but the core principle living was not similarly portrayed. In these two communities, an interesting aspect that is mainly exposed by Heath is the ways language evolved from the early generation to the next one. Since my reading is until Trackton, I found that the social circumstances influence the process of how children acquire certain language abilities. It means that the process of reaching literacy competent was largely influenced by the society. As Heath states, “The ways of living, eating, sleeping, worshiping, using space, and filling time which surrounded these language learners would have to be accounted for as part of the milieu in which the processes of language learning took place” (3). When I come to reading the first session until the third session of Part I of her book, I found logical connection. The ability to use language properly is dominantly triggered by the society in which a child lives, especially the parents. For instance, we could see from what is happening with the community in Trackton. Their language spoken system tends to be the same, although particular individual may find new interesting influences from town-blacks.

From Heath’s ethnography studies, the variety of domestic problems and the dynamics of financial matters also shape how literary comes to emerge in such society. Then, if the question is, “What is literacy?” in this context, then, the answer is that literacy is the ways in which the possessing of language ability could possibly adjust the improvement of such community to a better state. These poor black people might live in their limited social circumstances, but to certain degrees they share the same principle, which is coping and working to live. As the times pass by, these two communities emerge into new forms, in which they give significant influence each other, as I may suppose.

Children Language Acquisition and Literacy

The detail description of Heath’s ethnography studies has enriched my horizon in terms of knowing that what we see and hear can be used as tools in creating new knowledge empirically. From the beginning of this book to the end, a vivid reader can see that Heath has written more than what she has composed in her book. What I mean by saying this is that she might have been writing complex draft, arranging relevant materials, and composing all events chronologically. At the end, I can see the link between the title of the book Ways with Words: Language, Life, and Work in Communities and Classrooms with all details in the book. I see this through the connection between children language acquisition and their coming to literacy.

I can see the connection between social circumstances and literacy toward children language acquisition in these statements about children of the two communities. “Children in Roadville grow up surrounded by print: their room decorations, homemade alphabet quilts, books, toys, and church experiences give them an abundance of reading materials”; meanwhile, “Trackton children have no books, and they find their reading in tasks which evolve for them in the house, the plaza, and at the neighborhood store” (Heath 233). We already know that literacy cannot be built in a vacuüm. It is wide open. It is triggered by external factors of an individual. When children come to this world, they will learn to grasp everything around them, especially from parents. However, as children develop their own thinking after looking at different things in their life, they begin to ask questions. The answers of their questions can only be answered through the state of inquiry they have. This is a form of literacy in critical thinking.

To my mind, Heath has described all series of the complexity of needs in life that can influence how someone can come into literacy. Many types of society in the world face the same process as well. The needs to survive and to achieve many things in life have made us creative in fulfilling those needs. We speak, we exist. We write, we alive.

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The above writings were written for my Literacy class at SIUe. I took the class in Fall 2012.

Information about the book:

Heath, Shirley Brice. Ways With Words: Language, Life, and Work in Communities and Classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. Print.

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.

Disclaimer:

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. ^_^