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.

“Battleship” (2012)


“Battleship” – May 2012

Such an amazing experience watching this full of animated-geographically scientific visual images movie! I was amazed by the appearance of the alien spacecraft and the way our satellite system is being used as a means of communication with creations living in outer space (assumingly). From visual images to audio system, the movie did not show any lack of quality. However, some parts of the movie are not using many computer graphic mode systems, except for the image of the alien plane and the visual image of the aliens. This technical part makes this movie looks even better. This movie tells something “as if” aliens will come to the earth.

When I watched this movie, my mind goes back to watching the serial of Alien versus Predator and Transformers. The aliens’ appearances at this movie seem to be similar to those that are seen in the Alien versus Predator. I was given again with the image of aliens with advanced technology that uses multiple techniques and incredible war-like system machines and weapons. The different thing between Alien in Alien versus Predator with this movie is that the alien in the Alien versus Predator came to the earth to make connection with humans and try to save this earth from the attack of the Predator, while in the Battleship the aliens are already trying to attack humans with their massive advanced technology. What makes me surprised is when the aliens came from the outer space right after they received a “certain signal from the satellite”. Does that means the aliens came after this signal? Or, they came after they know that the satellite gave signal to the outer space where the aliens are located? These things wonder me a lot.

When I look at the aliens, now they have unique characteristics. They look “like” lizards, I would think. What does it mean by this? Why did the aliens have the lizards’ eyes? Fiction is always interesting, isn’t it? Then, at the stage where the main characters captured one of the aliens, I imagine that this alien signifies “something”. I saw that the aliens have “beard” now. Fantastic! Why did they have “beard” like form? I would assume that the aliens resemble the image of “Muslims”. Usually, Muslims have beard, just like Osama bin Laden. And, how are about their eyes? Why did one of them give sign to the main character that his planet will be attacked soon by his own peers? This Battleship movie, I think, is more than just a movie about Battleship. It provides clues to many more angles of interpretations. What does it mean with “using the sun as the way of murdering the aliens”? Was that a sign of saying something about “immigrants in the United States”? Well, I may have gone too far in analyzing this movie, but so far, for average viewers, this movie is indeed worth watching.

In general, the plot of the movie is not flashing back, but it is moving forward. In other words, there was no scene where all characters present the historical event, although the movie itself shows some signs of historical events, such as the ship using name of Missouri, in which closing to the end of the movie, some old-people showed up to use the ship. This scene tells me that “respecting the elderly figures is a sign of respecting the history behind the freedom of a country”. The Pearl Harbor tragedy is one of historical events where the United States defeated Japan in the World War II, although before that Japanese fought the United States for similar purposes. This alien spacecraft illustrates the idea of Japan’s technology at its time in opposing the technology of the United States. At the ground of the Battleship, the real image of the story with what happened in the past with Pearl Harbor was almost the same. A deep message of this movie seems to be taken from this Pearl Harbor event.

Subconsciously, this movie is indeed presenting a complicated but yet deep meanings and interpretations. It resembles history, politic, culture, and even gender-based representation in the movie. The death of one of the male characters in the movie also reflects something, which I would think as more than just a death. I would probably go too far in seeing this movie. And, again, what does it mean with that “bombs” that look like bottles? That looks like bombs that are being used by the demonstration at different places on this earth. Looks interesting, right? Rihanna is also there in this movie by playing as one of the ship crews. She is better in the movie than in her songs lately, I assume. From the “races” presented in this movie, most of the races existing in the United States are there as well. This movie also presents male domination, but the presence of Rihanna has made this movie interesting. Besides, the female character with the blonde reveals the system of class and life in the mindset of American people, I think. The man with the broken legs means more than just a man with broken legs. He is the icon of the hard part of being veterans. I guess most American generations owe respect and gratitude toward their old veterans. Without them, their country will stand as it is now. It is the duty of American people to stabilize their country, but of course, the enemy is not just what we can see by our eyes, but it is indeed something dark that lies within ourselves that we need to cure. This darkness is triggering brutal ways of restoring peace. Peace cannot be done through wars. This is an absolute claim. If we could talk, why would we want war?

Well, after you watch this movie, please let me know your opinion. I would love to hear your answers on my questions above. Is it worth watching for different times? Yes, it is! Does it have sexual explicit movie? No. This movie is open to all ages, I think.

Have a great time from finals for all graduate and undergraduate students in the United States by now. Take care!

“Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter” (2012)


I was a bit surprised of knowing that a “horror” movie would have a historical title in line with Abraham Lincoln, one of impressive figures in the United States, especially dealing with the effort of banishing the slavery phenomenon. After looking at its name, what does it mean? I was so curious and I decided to watch it. The result is, “well, yeah, the historical part was great, but the vampire part, well, I cannot say it was bad, but it was a bit boring”. You want to know why and how, read the following comments, just for you.

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Abraham Lincoln is very well-know for his effort is establishing the process of uniting the United States as a country. A big part that I envy is where he stated that the slavery and freedom from oppression are the keys of establishing the unity of the United States. For this part, I really do like it, and I agree a long with what he stated. At the beginning of the movie, I thought that it would talk about historical movement in the United States with a “serious” demographic visual represented story about the anti-slave establishment. Then, here comes the mixing of this historical part with the story of “vampire”. Now, it seems that I was given a picture that those who live with the blood of the slaves is called “vampires“. Because Abraham Lincoln fought with the oppressor of the slaves, therefore, he would be called as the “vampire hunter”. It is interesting, isn’t it? However, my simple question at this point is that “what would Abraham Lincoln think when he knew that his name is being used as a vampire hunter”. From me, Rest in Peace, Mr. Abraham.

On the surface, I could see that the vampire part is almost similar to that in the Twilight, except the one that could kill the vampire is a living man who is free and healthy. Abraham himself loved to write (like me) and he is also literate enough in “reading” codes being sent to him to catch the vampire. Unfortunately, the driven power that brings his efforts to kill all the vampires is “revenge” when he was looking at the scene where his mother was being killed by a vampire. He saw that when he was about to sleep in the middle of the night at that time. Her mother was dead and soon he figured out that the person who killed his mother was a vampire.

If only he was not driven toward the revenge of killing the vampire, Lincoln would seem to be portrayed as the humble person with a noble character. He has a nice and lovely wife who always takes care of him and a cute boy who is so polite in front of his father. This character is then mixed with the characteristic of “vampire”. I am curious to understand the aspect of the “vampire” in this movie. To which extent does this vampire stuff deal with? I would assume that it could deal with the symbolic meaning of “enemies”. However, which enemies? Perhaps, the enemies portrayed in this movie are those that oppressed the slaves. This interpretation is only seen on the surface. It could be much deeper than this.

When I read this movie through present lens as a global citizen, Abraham Lincoln himself can be read and seen as the Americans who are willing enough to free any slaves from being oppressed. Vampires are those that do the oppression. The slaves are those that live their life in misery and poverty because they have been put in an unfair treatment throughout the story of the anti-slaves movement. From these three big stuffs, why does Abraham Lincoln fight with the vampires? Uniquely, there is a misleading vampire that also has revenge to his “big” enemy. This misleading vampire wanted to kill the big vampire, but he could not do it because he has turned into vampire. The rule is, “vampires cannot kill vampires, only a living man could”. The only thing this misleading vampire could do is to find an ally that has this quality. Then, in a such fortunate event, he found Abraham Lincoln who has high level of revenge to kill the same target, the big vampire.

Ideologically, though, this movie seems to present us with a mixing historical story. It is good in terms of its historical moment. What makes me keep thinking is the existence of the “vampires”. There is a scene where the big vampire mentions the slavery during Jews and Christians era. I would think that these “vampires” are the symbol of the oppressor. At this point, if we look at it through our current lens, we can ask ourselves, which oppressor? What makes someone or something being called as the “oppressors”? From which point of view we see the oppressor as the oppressor?

Someone or something can mean the oppressor for that particular individual, but for others, that someone or something may not or even cannot be seen as the same thing. At last, however, this movie is a bit entertaining, but the scary part is not that much challenging. Viewers need to watch this movie carefully. If you watch it on the surface, you would not be impressed with the existence of the vampires. If you watch it through different lens other than what you already have, you would be impressed of knowing what the vampires entail and imply at the end.

Have a good week everyone!

“Humanizing” Our Writing


“Easy reading is damn hard writing” Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Difficult reading is always a form of the writer’s ego to show off his credibility, which is not needed by the readers” – Syayid Sandi Sukandi

This post has been discussed in one of my classes in Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. It turns out that I even fall in love with writing. “The more I read, the more easier how to understand my writing is. The more I discuss with open-minded people, the more I can feel what the magnificent use of writing is” – Syayid Sandi Sukandi, A Fulbright Scholar of English

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To those of you who love to write, putting your ideas into writing would seem to be easy to do, especially when you have gained a lot of experiences in writing and jotting down your ideas into a meaningful piece of text. However, sometimes, before writing something, please ask yourself these questions, “Why should I write? What is it for?”

The questions of “Where are my readers? Who are they?” are connected with “Why should I write? What is it for?” These four questions are actually connected with the essence of the purpose of why we write. This is where the process of humanizing writing starts. From a novice writer into an advanced one, readers are always involved in certain ways. Peter Elbow, a distinguish Professor of English in the United States has stated that someone may write well, even without a teacher. It does not mean that the person does not need a teacher. What it actually means is that the teacher is only a facilitator. The one who should write more is the person him or herself. Understanding grammar well is not enough if someone wants to write well for the readers, except for him or herself per se. If you could answer the two questions above, you will have a sense of to whom your writing will be intended. In other words, your writing will have a purpose. Eventually, your writing will likely be successful.

Therefore, writing something complicated by using an easier written expression, help the readers understand our writing well. Briefly, specific words are for specific readers. As Georges Gusdorf mentions in his book, Speaking (La Parole), translated by Paul T. Brockelman in 1965, p.44, “…language cannot justify anything and everything. It is up to each person to assure the responsibility for his own language by searching for the ‘right word’”. Words will work better if the words can work well in the mind of the readers. If the readers do not have the same meaning as what the writer perceive about the word, the use of the word will create chaos in the mind of the readers. Eventually, what happens is, your writing becomes useless and meaningless. You don’t want that happens, do you? Or, after you wrote something, and suddenly said, “That’s it! I am done!” Is that all? In fact, writing is more than that.

What about writing for public? Writing for a larger audience? If you are a native speaker of English, what about writing for second language speakers of English? The specific “form” of language is used for specific “purposes”; even English has its specific form that is known as English for Specific Purposes. Namely, there are several words that can only be used within the context of business. For instance, “The bank has set its interest rates”. The word “interest” here is not the same as it is found in, “She interests me”. Consequently, we need to adhere that the words we use in expressing our ideas should be properly chosen for the readers. If you speak or write something interesting in your mind, but your listeners or readers do not understand what you are saying, the communication turns into a deathly hollow. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee mentioned in his writing Why Billinguals are Smarter in New York Times, “Nobody ever doubt the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?” Then, the question is, “Will a writer’s work be read if the writer writes with words that people rarely use?”

To make it brief, it can be stated in this simple phrase, “Think deeply; write simply”. Whatever we write in our writings, always consider the readers. Making our thoughts easier is a lot more useful than making it complicated for people. In this digital world, writing has become a life-style. Readers are the people whom our writings will take us to the next level. Humanizing writing sounds a pretty good thing to do by everyone, if they are in need of being understood well in this enchanting world.

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“A student without having an ability to show his or her credibility in an appropriate occasions will look like never learning anything” – Syayid Sandi Sukandi 

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