My Story in UGRAD (Part 4)

April 9th, 2018

I believe that the way we respect our country relies on how we respect others. it shows our identification and people stereotype us from that. This week, I attended the Ethiopian night since I got invited by my Ethiopian friends. I also happened to be invited to Sri Lankan night but both events were held on the same time. So, I didn’t pick side, I picked randomly based on who sent their invitation first. In ended up with I decided to go the Ethiopian night. it was funny tho, I got invited but I had to pay the ticket to get in. it’s fine. They did not want to make money. It was just a small appreciation for their presentment. I even used glasses just to show how excited I was to be present. It is something since I don’t use glasses in daily basis. Lol.

It was a blast. I encountered with my Ugrad friends and happened to meet these two cute Arabian girls. We finally got along and sat close to another. They are really charming tho, I aint gonna lie. Making friends is always my priority.

It is the part of the tradition that in the beginning of the show, they will serve us with traditional food of Ethiopia. They don’t eat rice very much but more like teff flour doughened. The texture is sort of spongy and tender, so called Injera. This food comes with the goat meat, eggs, and vegetables. The seasoning it has is similar with the rendang. I made my plate a bit gravy and mingled with people.

We were dazzled by their stage act. It was a quick night. maybe because how wondrous their shows were. There were drama, stand-up comedy, dance, music, and short presentation. the stand-up comedy was hilarious, I almost peed my pants. Lol.

I somehow imagined how if we have this Indonesian night here in Mankato. That’d be dope. But I do realize that we are outnumbered. We are only 5 people. in order to do that. We must form an Indonesian organization first whereas establishing an organization will need at least 20 students. maybe not this time.

I spared my time to talk and to take selfies with my Ethiopian friends. That night would be that last night we have ever met. So, I took my phone to capture the moment. my program is coming to and end. It is only less than one month left.

April 14th, 2018

As the part of UGRAD fellowship. We have an honor to present our country. I don’t see it as an obligation because I would have done it for free. This took place on Ostrander Auditorium. Two weeks ago, we were summoned by our International Advisor to inform about this presentation. it also happened to be on the International Festival where all nations were going to participate. On this annual occasion, people can introduce their countries by selling traditional foods, books, flags, and so forth. I was both excited and scared. How if I screwed it up.

The advisor was very helpful. He called us one by one to practice. He even gave corrections to our slides. To be frank, compared to other, I was the worst during the rehearsal. Others were really controlling the atmosphere. Their English was even way better than mine. That also helped them a lot to rise their confidence.

The advisor gave me a lot of advice. It made me stressful really bad. I do realize that my English skills is not as better as others so I was trying to find my way out. If I can be better on the delivery, I should make a better-looking slide. I put a lot of necessary animation combined with pictures and video. Having a good slide does mean I could be slacking off. I worked day and night to practice alone in my room and lounge. I’d not want to let down everyone who have faith me. Never! On the last rehearsal in my advisor’s room, I finally did it. He said that I have significantly improved and am ready to go.

The day had come, the first presenter was my friend from Panama. She did it really quick and perfect. she went down from the stage and got back to her seat. Not it’s my turn. I held the microphone she handed me and started to greet them. I was really jittery. As the presentation was coming to a close, I felt relaxed and all my burdens flew away.

The audiences were pretty big. After the presentation, the spectator could ask us questions. The questions were kind of easy and general so we could get it all well answered. What a big day for me. I promised myself to not be pessimistic and willing to struggle to achieve anything in life. There is no such thing as a short way. The toughness what makes it great.

April 21st, 2018

my time in the US is coming to a close. I started to realize it when I attended the End of Program in Washington DC Workshop (EoPinDC). The EoPinDC is a semiannual event to those who are grantees of Global UGRAD. in this event, all grantees will gather in Washington DC and be given education about how to be a future leader in our society after going back to the home country.

this event has gone rollercoaster for me. The event was actually commenced on April 15th – April 18th 2018. We were supposed to leave Minnesota on the day before. Everything had been settled, that included the itinerary, the land transportation, the hotel, everything. On April 14th, I and other UGRADers from Mankato had gathered in the lobby from 4.30 AM waiting for the airport bus to fetch us. we had been warning few days ago that it was going to be snowstorm and that day. I just couldn’t imagine how the heck it became this bad on spring. That does make sense at all.

Anyhow, we got out from the lobby and standing in the bus stop. The bus was scheduled to arrive at 5 AM but nothing showed up. We were standing there and the snowstorm was killing us. it was -350C outside, and because it was windy so hard, it became chiller. We were standing there for like 30 minutes or so idk, I just couldn’t get my mind straight. In the end, until 5.30 and so on the bus did not come. we were very sad. EoPinDC is like the UGRAD’s dream. To not be able to follow this program is so hurtful. Things could not get any worse, our flight to Washington DC got cancelled due to bad weather. We heavily went back dorm.

It was until the evening we received the email from our world learning advisor. The table had turned, we got the new flight tickets and the new schedule. It took longer and further route but we didn’t really mind. We believed that our effort was going to be paid off.

The next day, we went the same bus stop and luckily the bus did show up. We loaded our packed stuff and finally to the airport. On the same day, our friend who had already in the Washington DC had taken some pictures, had visited some iconic places, museum, etc. we were really jealous actually. But everything vanished right after we walked our first step on Washington DC. It was really beautiful. I have never imagined how such lucky – village guy like me would ever breath the Washington DC air. I realized that I should be grateful for God’s Grace. I could not have done this for my own strengths.

We ordered Uber to drive us the hotel. As soon as we dropped our stuff on our room, we promptly went to another building which the other UGRADers were attending the workshop. As soon as I got there. My advisor hugged me but it felt so comforting. I joined other UGRAD afterwards.

One the evening, I made new friends, mostly Asians and they took me for a walk. I also happened to meet another UGRADer from Indonesia. We strolled the Washington DC sightseeing the White House, the Washington Monument, the city and purchasing some souvenirs nearby. After a few moment being with them, I could get along with them and become very close. We became friends ever since.

On the second day, until 3 PM, we were staying at the workshop room and following the lectures. All of that was about the advantage of being in the part of International Exchange Alumni such as the proposal funding to $15000, networking and the probability of joining another Fulbright’s program. it encourages with those facilities they have offered that we will be the future and drive a change to our community. at the evening, we made it to the Capitol Hill where the congress is. The architecture kind of reminded me to the Greek empire. It is so classy

Save the best for the last. One the last day, we had the opportunity to present our country to others. it could be either from song, dance, poem, drama, or presentation. one the previous semester (fall semester) the representatives from Indonesia had performed on the stage so we didn’t take action this time. I and my Indonesian friend were only staying on bench enjoying the show. No pressure. Be humble, sit down. Sometimes, the presenter invited us to dance together on the stage and without commanded we just jumped crazily and shook our hips like crazy. Happiness was in the air.

It was both thrilling and sad. It was sad because it might be the last time we would meet. All of us must go back to our home country to wait at least for 2 years to apply for another Fulbright’s program unless some people are crazy rich and could afford it to the US. we never know. We cherished the moment by taking photos for the last time. I even took selfies with all the of them one by one. One notion popped on mind. If I ever got the opportunity to travel the world, I would have somebody to escort. I now have friends all over the world.

The day after, since we got the flight the earliest flight we had to leave first. It was kinda hilarious. we came last and go first. So, I snuck up behind the tight time to talk to them and to hug them. It was extremely dramatic. We went to the airport with having any disturbance and made it safely to Mankato.  That was a dope week!

April 28th, 2018

last weeks I had the worst snowstorm in Minnesota. I could   not even do any outdoor activities. The trees were freezing and the grass turned white. Few weeks ago, I could see cycles were parked with their tires sank in the snow. Whenever I went outside, all people had to fully cover their body with a really thick winter coat, hats, boots, gloves, and face cover. In the way, looking at people rubbing their hands to generate heat. While they were speaking, the fog coming out from their mouths.

Most people were sitting in the café with their pals while sipping their coffee. Some people were happier to be left alone to do whatever they were doing. I saw the most romantic scene ever, standing right behind the couple who were holding hands and smiling at each other breaching the cold air. Why am I being so sensitive. Maybe it is because of the winter blue. People tend to be more vulnerable when they are alone and noticing the “frozen water” falling to the earth. Who doesn’t? it’s like when raining so hard and you don’t feel like doing anything and recalling your nostalgic moments with your precious ones.

The snow has vanished! Finally. Those views I mentioned earlier had gone. Everybody is so hyped and happy. I can now enjoy people playing some outdoors sports like volleyball, and frisbee. It is so crowded outside. All students wear no winter coats but shirts, tank tops, crop tops, or even singlets. Some student welcoming this season change by playing skateboards and roller skates. The cycles are not chained anymore. They are operated. I also happened to spot people relishing on the tree swings. Neither do I, I started to keep my jacket in the closet.

I travelled to somewhere nice on Mankato with my friends to celebrate this warmth. We drove away to the dead city, it is so called dead city not because its populaces were murdered but because it used to be a pretentious city and for some reasons people left. So, we could still look at the old – fashioned house and payphone. it was so classy. I could finally see the water ripple on the lake after we went to some bridges. The fall has finally transformed into spring!

The fun is beginning to sallow. Next week I am going to have a lot of finals. I have to start over from the first day to recall all the lectures. It looks like I don’t have much time to enjoy what nature finally has something to offer me. But I don’t really mind. My education comes first.

May 4th, 2018

My time in the US has ended. Everything is not that easy. I had been through tough times and somehow, I could manage to surpass it all. It is not because of my own capabilities but the relentless grace God bestowed upon me. I am not going to deny that part of my success here is because of the life values rooted in me since I was in Del. The 3M is the real deal. It helped me survived during hard times. I think it works for everyone who is committed to live it.

I am not going to say much about my finals. Let bygones be bygones. I did pretty good job tho. I just want to say thank you for all the supports and the wishes I got during my stay in here. I hope I can be the proud of my family, my institution, my friends, and foremost to God.

Yesterday, I had packed all of my stuff into a giant briefcase and two backpacks. I was really afraid of paying more cash due to baggage policy on airport so I left my utensils, clothes, pillow, etc. in the dorm. I also have completed all the checks in dorm and paid all my debt to the libraries. That’s why I can be here right now in hotel, waiting for my flight tomorrow morning,

Before I left, I was stealing time to probably take the last pictures with all my homies in the campus. I hugged them all. It is pretty sad actually. I am probably not going to see them ever again.  I wish nothing but the future will cross our paths.

Being a UGRAD grantee is not about travelling and studying. It is a life-changing experience.