The Arryman's Summer

Posted: 23-08-2014 | Rahardhika Utama

I feel that I am a particularly lucky student to have a chance to be an Arryman Fellow. The Arryman Fellowship that has enabled me to attend Northwestern University is a well-designed program to prepare me to be a full time graduate student.  People might say that the first months living in the United States to start in higher education is a challenging experience, but I would say that I have a different story.


My story dates back to April 16, 2013 when I received an email from the Fellowship Selection Committee stating that I won an Arryman Fellowship Award to start my new path as a future Indonesian scholar in the social sciences. I could not have been happier to know that the other three selected Fellows were Fajar, a former student in the same Department of Sociology as me, at University of Indonesia; Nay, a friend I knew from undergraduate activism; and Luthfi, a bright young scholar from Padjajaran University.  We met together for the first time as fellows in May on the shore of Kenanga Lake, Depok on for our official photo session as requested by the Committee.  It was a perfect moment to begin our friendship as a team.

We started our one-month intensive English course at University of Indonesia’s International Language Institute in June. I benefited tremendously from this preparatory session for TOEFL Internet-based Test (iBT). Trained by three professional instructors, I found myself learning effectively how to prepare for my first TOEFL iBT. A month after I finished the training, I sat for the test and I achieved a satisfactory score for applying to the PhD program in Sociology at Northwestern University.

On July 3, 2013 I went to Soekarno Hatta Airport escorted by my parents, other relatives, and many friends. The bittersweet truth is that the trade-off for studying abroad is leaving beloved ones. I left them with a promise to give my best in the Fellowship program. The three other Fellows were also escorted by a lot of people. It was the most memorable departure scene that I’ve ever seen: almost fifty people gathered in front of the boarding gate to say goodbye (and taking pictures, of course) to four Fellows who were feeling awkward as if they were in a heroic movies.

Having arrived safely at O’Hare International Airport, we met Ms. Elizabeth Morrissey, the Arryman Fellowship program manager, who helped us get established during our first days in the United States. The same day, we moved into Engelhart Hall, graduate housing at Northwestern. I think, this is the best place to start our cultural adjustment because I met American and other international students and also had access to many informational resources about campus and the city. I started to learn about the city where I will be live in. Evanston is an historic suburb at north of Chicago and located along Lake Michigan. It didn’t take long for me to relish the area and mingle with local people. I was invited by an American family to enjoy Evanston’s 4th of July festivities including a parade, an open-sky music concert, and amazing fireworks galore. My July was even more interesting when I started English tutorial sessions instructed by native speaker tutors and also engaged in a student discussion group every Saturday night. By the end of July, I was no longer a stranger in a new city anymore.

August 2013 was another wonderful month I had. I participate in International Summer Institute (ISI), facilitated by the Department of Linguistics at Northwestern. The program was designed to help new international students to improve their English language skills and to get involved in the campus academic environment. In addition to pronunciation and presentation classes, ISI students have chances to improve their English by participating in various social events and doing group projects. In the middle of the program, Professor Jeffrey A. Winters, the chairman of ISRSF, encouraged me to attend the annual meeting of American Political Science Association (APSA) in Chicago. I met many political scientists whose names I only recognized from many publications that I read years before. Fortunately, I also had a chance to present my research proposal at the ISI academic conference. By the end of ISI, I collaborated on an interactive map project, performed in a contemporary play, and won the ISI Olympics. The best part of being in ISI was that I made a lot of new friends from fifteen countries across the globe.

I cannot thank everyone enough for their meaningful support enabling me to experience fruitful days as an Arryman Fellow. I believe that such an opportunity to study at one of the best university would never been possible without strong determination, willingness to learn, and generous support from the others. I encourage my fellow young scholars to apply to this Fellowship program as a meaningful step toward a future as productive Indonesian scholars.