From Jakarta to Jackson

raska-headshotBy Student Blogger Raska from Indonesia

It almost felt like only yesterday that I was signing up to join this exchange program. It almost felt like only last night that I got an email telling me that I would be placed here. And it almost felt like only this morning I left my humble hometown of Jakarta, Indonesia, heading to Jackson, Minnesota.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” – St. Augustine

I’ve always loved reading books. Ever since I was a child I was quite the bookworm. My sister and I would compete with each other on who had read the most books. My father worked at a publishing house, and he would bring home boxes filled with books to the brim every two weeks. There would be novels, almanacs, everything, you name it. Reading them made us two very creative, imaginative kids. They made into really fun dreams and play times. But of all the books that he had given us, I’ve always loved reading atlases. To look on a map and realize how small one is compared to the world, to try to imagine how life different life would be in another part of the globe, atlases have always made me wonder more about our planet earth.

DSC00919.JPGBut of all the places on earth one can fit between the pages of an atlas, I never thought I would ever spend an entire year living in this tiny, southwestern Minnesota farming community.

Coming from a city inhabited by about 10.1 million people to a little town of 3,299 residents, barely one if it were in Indonesia, it hasn’t been easy adapting for me. It has been 52 days since I last stepped foot on Indonesian soil, and my mother’s cooking, Indonesian weather, and the sheer feeling of being back home has been lingering around my mind for days.

The first day I arrived, I felt it was too much to handle. Moving away from home, to a completely foreign place where I had no friends, no contacts, nothing and nobody I know. I had to be accustomed to all the new customs and culture of the United States.

I felt devastated.  I went into my new room, sat on my new bed, and covered my face with my new blanket.

I am going to be here for 10 months. I am going to be living in this vast, foreign land, with people I’ve only met on the internet, 15,338 kilometres away from safe and sound.

I have never been this far away from home, and for so long.

School started, I met new people, some interesting, some less. Some of them nice, some of them not. Being in a new community in which I have to adapt, to make friends has never been a task too hard for me. After changing schools every time I move to a higher level, I’ve grown accustomed to adapting.

But this is not the same as going to a new high school in Indonesia. This is something totally different. The kids are different, the language is different, the whole system that the school is based on is different.

Jackson is a tiny town not many maps are aware of. It’s located in southwestern Minnesota, 30 minutes from the border with Iowa and 2 hours from the border with South Dakota. The size of the town makes it easy for people to know each other; everybody knows everybody.

The town has an odd, but good feeling to it, a nice, warm one that shows how life here is very slow-paced. Nobody rushes. Everything is done slowly as there is no reason to go fast. People don’t think of problems as much as people do in Jakarta, they just go on with life.

Jakarta, unlike Jackson, is a huge metropolitan city. Home to hundreds of concrete towers, each contributing to the messy, complicated, packed jungle that is Jakarta. It’s dirty, polluted, and stressful.

But it’s home to me. It’s home to 10.1 million other residents, who all in all make me feel safe and happy.

But the idea of going on exchange is not to go to a place where you can feel safe and happy, it is to find safety and happiness in a place that is completely alien to you. The lasting memories, fun adventures, and the unbreakable friendships that you make is part of that discovery.

It is to be able to create a home away from home.

For those of you who have succeeded in doing so, congratulations. For those who haven’t, good luck on continuing your search.

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