A Letter from Fajar



I was so happy when I just woke up, an email popped up in my phone and I found that was from you asking me to write this letter. I jumped onto my chair, opened my laptop, and started writing this short letter. Well, it’s been a while here and of course there were many things I have had so far either good or bad and you might want to listen to me telling this story. Grab snacks and soda! So let the story begin.

A flashback almost a couple years ago, when surprisingly letter of acceptances from universities came to my inbox. Without doubt, I grabbed the one from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and put aside the other. I was thinking that coming to Chicago would bring me into happiness only, yet arriving in the U.S. was just a new beginning of the real battle. My first three months summarized every feeling I had as an alien in this super country. The rest? I am just feeling like home afterwards.

I do enjoy my life in this so-called windy City. Wait, windy city? Is Chicago so windy so people call it a windy city? For those who do not know maybe would say YES but the fact is actually not. The nickname ‘windy’ was actually used around 1800s to represent Chicago’s long-winded unstable political situation at that time.

For me, Chicago is a city that is worth to live, a big city with its beautiful landscape (thanks to Michigan Lake), iconic skyscrapers, interesting museums, good public transportation, and not to mention its delicious food. Chicago deep-dish pizza is the only pizza in the U.S. that has different style with other common pizzas we know. It has a deep surface and high edge fully filled with cheese and tomato sauce, so yummy! Another a must try snack from Chicago that you might already know is Garret Popcorn that was found in 1949 and has unique blend of flavor, a good companion for watching movies. But my favorite feature is its bike paths that give access for bikers, like me, to go around the city by riding bikes. Fave track? Lakeshore drive! While the thing I dislike from Chicago at most is its cold winter that freezes me with its blizzard and polar vortex.

Talking about study in the U.S. can never get me enough. There are many things that I cannot find in Indonesia to compare with. I was firstly amazed with my professors’ enthusiasm to teach, their professionalism, and also willingness to help students grasp knowledge of courses they teach. Another thing is the facility and services offered in my campus library that are very helpful. Campus libraries in the U.S. are mostly well designed and have great services to create conducive ambiance for students to stay in. Even, during finals students can sleepover at the IdeaCommon room at UIC library and it offers shuttles for students who want to get home in the midnight, awesome right? The library also provide three types of study room to accommodate student’s study habit: open, semi-closed, and closed place. Where can you find me? I mostly spend my time studying in a quiet study room in the third floor at UIC Daley Library and occupying a closed cubicle.

Though studying is important, it is also necessary to keep your life in balance. You might not want to keep yourself buried in assignments, course readings, and other materials all the time because those could make you bored and overwhelmed. Therefore, I have joined some interesting activities. Since my first semester I always go to English Exchange in Fridays, a program provided by the Academic Center of Excellence (AEC) UIC. In one and half hour I and other international students accompanied by a mentor have discussion of any topics, games, also snacks for free (yeaay!). This semester I am joining two activities namely Trade Winds and Conversation Partner which are run by the Office of International Services (OIS) UIC. Both programs paired international students with local students to promote cultural understanding through some fun and voluntary activities. In Conversation Partner, I once had partners who have been in Indonesia and speak Indonesian well.

Outside the campus, in my second semester I participated in activities provided by the Indonesian Cultural Center (ICC) in Chicago where I learned Indonesian traditional dances and also Gamelan. It was a pity even though I am Javanese but this was my first time playing Gamelan. Through this activity I, so far, had experiences performing traditional dances in some events in greater Chicago. Those were priceless for me and I am planning to join ICC again starting on this March.

Getting involved in those events does make me feel engaged with my campus, Chicago, and the U.S. as a whole. Through those programs I met good friends from all around the world, let’s name Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Germany, India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, and many others.

Well, without realizing it, time unfortunately flies and I just do not believe this is my last semester. Yes, I would be happy of going back home this May but I cannot deny that I might be missing UIC and Chicago a lot then. I really thank God for these great experiences. It is something that pushes me to get off of my comfort zone and it could be pain at first, but when you get a grip, you just relish every single thing you have. It is a learning process through it we seize new knowledge and absorb skills that, I think, need to be shared with others who are thirsty of it as I am a big believer of the adage “knowledge enlightens people”.

Chicago, February 11, 2015

Salam Semangat,


Fajar Rochadi

P.S. If anyone wants to ask anything about study in UIC, Chicago, or the U.S. in general you can reach me at Alamat email ini dilindungi dari robot spam. Anda memerlukan Javascript yang aktif untuk melihatnya. or if you have time please visit my blog at http://frochadi.blogspot.com. I would be happy to share with you all.