Dear PRESTASI,I am more than happy to share my memories way back to the very first day of my journey in America.Prior to my departure to the United States, I had no doubt in choosing New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) as a place to study about my growing interest: disaster management. As far as I know, Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy at Tulane University is one of only two schools in the US that offer graduate studies on disaster management from both US and international perspective. It’s true that there are many graduate programs about emergency management in this country, but most of them focus on domestic issues like homeland security—which is definitely not a subject I was looking for. Besides, everyone knows that NOLA is notorious for the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. So, is there any better place to study about disasters? Thus, I threw away any hesitation about living in a Southern state’s city, including a silly thought that I will not be able to experience a snowy winter.
To make a story short, being as one of only four international students out of 21 new students in my department, Disaster Resilience Leadership, School of Social Work, is very challenging. It’s tough at the beginning. We are demanded to actively participate in classes. Language barrier is the first thing to overcome as well as the ability to think critically. The good thing is that my professors and my classmates always respect my ideas whatever ridiculous they are. Thus, I then found a coping strategy for myself: I frequently shot the questions and answers in the beginning of discussion. Usually, good things will follow. Either I get constructive feedbacks or the more important, my voices are recognized. I speak, therefore I am.By the time, the fear of getting low results following my first rigorous semester vaporized. My GPA goes far beyond my expectation. I can say now that I am enjoying my studies here. For many reasons, I found the courses are very interesting. At one time, I devoted my time to design a children game for trauma healing program. At other time, I was appointed randomly to play a role as a “city mayor” in a Harvard Negotiation Project simulation. I had to lead an imaginary city’s council meeting to discuss about a disaster mitigation oriented-development planning. Another unforgettable moment is when, as part of the task of sharing stories about internally displaced persons around the globe, I initiated to write a short drama script on former African child-soldiers issue and shared it in front of the class. My, oh, my, what a creative assignment! Indeed, those are my cup of tea.
Apart from academic life, I also have taken part in a couple of social activities. Last March, along with other Indonesian students at Tulane, I participated in Tulane International Music and Food Festivals 2015. We cooked some Indonesian authentic cuisine like Rendang and Sate, which the visitors could enjoy for free. All of Indonesian students, dressed up with traditional ethnic costumes, went onstage to sing the songs like Yamko Rambe Yamko and Laskar Pelangi. Gladly, many guests were impressed by both our performance and our food. Later in May, I joined Tulane Fulbright scholar community to volunteer in Habitat for Humanity. It was one day-voluntary activities to help AmeriCorps in building low cost houses for New Orleans residents who can’t afford to build houses post-Hurricane Katrina. Those experiences are delightful and surely unforgettable.Life in New Orleans itself is enjoyable and lots of fun. After living in this city for a year, I just knew that this birthplace of jazz is very popular among American citizens. Historically, this city is very unique. It was bought by the US through Louisiana Purchase from France during Napoleon Bonaparte era. Therefore, its French influence in culture and architecture is so deep until now. French Quarter, the city’s oldest neighborhood, along with its Bourbon Street is renowned especially for its nightlife. Seeing street musicians is common here, night and day. There are also a lot of annual festivals like the legendary Mardi Gras—a cultural legacy from French colonial times—in February or Jazz Festival in between April and May. Even Tulane University has Crawfest, a spring cuisine festival where Tulane students, staffs, and faculties can eat crawfish (freshwater lobsters) as much as they want for free.
Talking about local food, the Big Easy, another nick for the city’s easygoing atmosphere, has a rich variation in style. For instance, it has Cajun (French Louisiana culture) and Creole (another French rooted culture) food. Unlike in other cities in the US, the local food is distinguished for its spiciness (it’s not as hot as Indonesian food though). Some websites have crowned New Orleans as the best food city in the USA in recent years (please feel free to look at the list on the sites like thrillist.com, travelandlesisure.com, or travelchannel.com). In addition, New Orleans recently has been called as Hollywood South—as a result of numerous movies being filmed here including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and 12 Years a Slave. Even some scenes in 22 Jump Street were literally shot inside Tulane University campus. The famous couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie even have a house in French Quarter. After all, having cozy milieu, warm weather, and various choice of food, which is not drastically different than Indonesia, this city is like a second hometown for me.To wrap up, it may sound cheesy at some point, but I am more than happy to ask you (PRESTASI potential future scholars) these questions: Do you want to taste the rich American experiences in academic and authentic social life altogether? Or do you want to get a high quality school at a warm place without fear of being frozen by snow? If so, please come and see Tulane University and New Orleans then! Warm regards from the Crescent City!
New Orleans, 20 September 2015NugrohojatiMS Candidate in Disaster Resilience LeadershipTulane UniversityNew Orleans, Louisiana