I would always remember that day, June 16, 2006 when I was having my interview for Fulbright scholarship. I was sitting in front of a panel of three comprising senior American and Indonesian scholars assessing my eligibility to be granted the scholarship. At the time I got the admission letter from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, I knew that soon I would be pursuing my MA in Political Science at the home of the greatest person in history, late Senator James William Fulbright. Understanding fully about Fulbright objectives of mutual understanding, I was exposed to such moral imperative to be the agent for delivering the message.

I have been joining International Culture Team (ICT) since Fall 2010 Semester. At first, I valued ICT as the venue that gave me many opportunities to engage in the process of creating mutual understanding. Later, I started to realize that ICT filled in the emptiness I always have. It is not easy being away from home. Even though my presence here is for a reason; a higher degree of education that would expose me to a brighter future, but these two years away from home is not very pleasant. I tried to make friends with as many people I could. Often times, I was willing to help my classmate with their assignments. It turned out that a friendship they value lasted as long as they were benefited from it. Once the semester was over, no such friendship prevailed. I realized that my true friends actually are the international students.

I started to value my involvement with ICT more. It is always ICT members who greeted me and gave me hugs when we met anywhere in campus. It is always ICT members who were willing to listen about what was going on with me. Without having to tell them the complete story, they were willing to give their insights and encouragements. It is being among ICT members that I felt I am home and accepted.

In my own way to pay back what I valued as my home and my family, I always try to join as many ICT events as I could. During 2010/2011 academic years, I joined more than 30 ICT events ranging from presentation for some schools to fundraising activities. Among some schools that I had visited for presenting Indonesia are Green Forest Middle School, Holcomb Elementary School, West Fork Elementary School and Holt Middle School as well as Root Elementary School and Leverett Elementary School that I visited during 2009/2010 academic years. I helped the Razorback Relief Operation for preparing 1.4 million meals for Haitian after I got email from ICT Coordinator, Ms. Cynthia Smith, encouraged ICT members to help the fundraising event. I also presented ICT for UoA Japan Tsunami Relief fundraising and was able to raise more than 70 dollars alone.

In addition to this, I also tried to bring diversity into UoA community by volunteering my self to become human book for Living Library Event since Spring 2010 Semester. Starting from having no times reserved for my book at the beginning, moving to have four checked-out times in Fall 2010 Semester and other four in Spring 2011 Semester, satisfied my personal goals of bringing the diversity at minor scale to the UoA community. I personally touched that my book titled “My Mutual Understanding Journey: from AFSer to a Fubright Scholar” inspired a UoA undergraduate student to study abroad hoping to involve in cross-cultural understanding’ experience. While my other book, “2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake-Tsunami and My Humanitarian Journey” had inspired one of my readers to sponsor a child in Africa after knowing that I did sponsor a child in the past.

I was selected as ICT Core Team for two semesters consecutively. The team was responsible to help ICT with the events throughout the year such as the monthly meeting, immersion, school’s international celebration and others. In fulfilling my duty, I always tried to give insight about how we designed and organized each ICT monthly meeting and what task would be assigned to each core member. During Fall 2010 Semester, I always cooked for the ICT monthly meeting but was not able to do the same for Spring 2011 Semester because the monthly meeting always conflicted with my class schedule. I chose this task because I knew that ICT always had more eaters than cookers. ICT meeting is famous for its free food but not so many members are willing to share their food themselves.

I have learned from my ICT presentation experiences that I have to be always creative to bring joy into the classroom. I used various presentation aides to engage my audience into my presentations. My favorite one -apparently kids’ favorite too- is Indonesian Batik Map where I could show them Indonesian islands that are scattered along the equator. I taught them my traditional dance, Tarek Pukat, that involved a lot of patience since the kids themselves couldn’t tolerate mistake their friends made (please see the att. video). I let them trying my national custom, Kebaya and Sarung. I challenged my self to bring different face of Indonesian culture to my audiences, such as cooking food from the Eastern part of Indonesia. Above all, I always gave my personal touch to what I did. For example, whenever I made the pie for Japanese earthquake fundraising, I enclosed my personal thank you note and shared the recipe with the buyers. Or, whenever I cooked the food for the kids or ICT members, I made them from scratch. By doing this, I set my own high standard of gaining respect toward mutual understanding journey that I am currently taking.

In sum, no matter how small my contribution toward ICT’s bigger objectives of bringing diversity to the UoA community are, I am glad that I am an active participant of this on-going effort. My two years experiences with ICT made me understood that I did build the language of love and mutual understanding through the children, the future of today’s life, whom we borrow the Earth from.

Background Note – This was the essay I wrote as part of application for 2011 Outstanding ICT Member Scholarship. In fact, I was awarded with ICT Spirit Award, that was given to recognize the member of ICT who embodies the spirit of ICT. The Outstanding ICT Member Scholarship was awarded to my Indonesian fellow: Petra Kristi Mulyani. In addition to this, Indonesia won Country of The Year Award for two consecutive years, in 2010 and 2011 respectively.