Here at Anacortes high, we have quite some diversity, and that diversity includes our one foreign exchange student from Indonesia, Felicia Aldiyani. She agreed to share her perspective by answering ten questions during an interview about her home country and her experience here in Anacortes.
- Why did you choose to become a foreign exchange student?
Becoming a foreign exchange student gives you a wider perspective in terms of what other parts of the world look like. Everything is different, and being an exchange student gives you new things to try. It gives you a reason to feel blessed for the things you have in your country. Being a foreign exchange student pushes you to be more active and also inspires you to make changes in your own country. There are also a lot of benefits to being an exchange student; for example, you get to make new friends and expand your international relations. I want to share about my culture and my country, especially in the United States. In my, perspective America is a great country, and depending on where you’re from, you view the people of America as wealthier with higher wages and a good education system, and I feel blessed that I get to experience it myself.
- What was your first impression of America?
I had very high expectations for America, and in the beginning, I felt very homesick. The best thing to do if you’re about to become an exchange student is to manage your expectations because when you go somewhere new, you think that you’re going to have a new life, a perfect life, but it’s not. It’s very similar to your normal life, and there are challenges that are really hard, but nobody sees that because when you post something on Instagram, all you see is the happiness that you’re experiencing with your friends. That way, everyone thinks that being an exchange student is great, but sometimes it’s not as great as it seems. So yeah, just manage your expectations.
- What was the first big difference you noticed between America and Indonesia?
There are a lot of differences. The first one I noticed was the education system. In Indonesia, we have to pick at a young age what path we want to go down. So if you want to major in science, you go down the road of science, and if you want to major in Social studies, you go down the road of Social studies, but you can’t have both. Here in America, I get to try both. Even when we’re 16 years old, 15 years old, 14 years old, we’re still blind, and we have no idea what we want to do in the future. I think it’s great here that we get to try everything, and we get to say, oh, I like this subject or no, I don’t really like this subject. I really like the education system here where we can have seven classes instead of 15 as we do in Indonesia. Every day in Indonesia, we have a different schedule, and it’s a lot. Here in America, people find support in technology because the schools provide us with Chromebooks which makes it easier to do the schoolwork and other things. In Indonesia, the education system is more strict and limited. In America, we don’t have uniforms, and we can wear whatever we want, unlike in Indonesia, where we wear uniforms every day, so uniforms are definitely part of the difference. Language is another big part of the difference here. English is my second language, and in Indonesia, I speak my native language. The way people interact with each other is different in America too. In Indonesia, we are very collective, which means we like to do everything together, but here people are more independent in a positive way.
- Do you sometimes find it difficult to communicate with others?
It was very difficult for me in the first couple of months because I couldn’t translate English into what I say in my language. After all, there are grammar and writing structures and other things that I have to take into account. As time goes on, it gets easier, and if there’s a word that I hear and I don’t know, I’ll just translate it so I can use it for the future in order to improve my English.
- Would you recommend being a foreign exchange student? If so, why?
Yes. I really recommend becoming an exchange student because the experience is amazing. At a young age leaving your country is like leaving your comfort zone and being able to see the differences and the unique and new things that that country has to offer. It’s a really great opportunity to help yourself become ready for what you want to achieve in the future. It makes us independent, and it’s a great way to improve yourself as a person.
- Who has been your biggest supporter throughout your foreign experience?
Many people because before I came here, I needed a recommendation letter from my teacher at school. My middle school teacher wrote a recommendation for me as well as my friends, my parents, and even my neighbors to show that you can create a positive environment at school, at home, and really anywhere. Every few weeks, I meet with the other foreign exchange students who are participating in the same program. The people doing the program this year are from around 30 different countries around the world, and they all came to America this year to learn. I get to ask them questions about their home countries like ‘how is the education system in your country?’ or ‘how is the culture in your country?’ or ‘what do you usually learn in school?’ My host family has also been a huge supporter throughout my experience; they volunteer for us to feel welcome. My friends and my teachers here also support me, so not just people from Indonesia but also people from here.
- If someone was to visit Indonesia, where would you recommend them to travel?
If you visit, you must go to Jakarta because it’s the capital city. There are government buildings, and we have a tower like the statue of liberty. There are also a lot of historical places in Jakarta. Indonesia is popular because it’s natural. I’m from Bali, but outside of Bali, there are lots of places you can visit because it’s so beautiful like the other islands. You can go so many places because each area will give you a different experience because they have their own unique culture and language.
- What do you miss most about your country?
Definitely the food. The food is so different here. Indonesians like to eat spicy things and savory food. Here most people like to eat sweet food or food like pizza and cereal. In Indonesia, we eat a lot of rice. Besides food, I miss my friends and my social life because it’s totally different. I had to adjust to a new environment and new things, but it gives you a new experience.
- What do you think you’ll miss most about America?
The people because I’ve met a lot of great people here from my teachers, to my host family, and my friends. They helped me adjust to my new life in America. I’ll miss my friends from other countries, the other foreign exchange students. In Indonesia, I’m not really into sports. I’m not a sports kid, but here I like to try a lot of new things. I joined cheerleading, and it gave me a new experience, and it’s so great so I’ll miss my team here.
- What are your favorite activities to do outside of school?
I joined the Speech and Debate Club, but the season is already over. I joined Key Club and Cheerleading. I also like to do volunteer work, so that’s what I’ll do in my free time. I volunteer at my church, the thrift shop, and the community near my house. I also love to spend time with my host family. Usually, we share about how life is in Indonesia, like how’s the culture and other things. We also watch movies together, and I like to do fun things with my friends.