In January two Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) alumni, Emre Aras and Yulia Rahmi, got married in Indonesia. The couple met as students at Edmonds Community College while on the NWCCI program in 2011 and maintained a long distance relationship for a year and a half after completing the program. Below they share their story of meeting and falling in love in the United States, staying in touch while they lived on two different continents, and deciding to get married and live in Emre’s home country, Turkey.
Tell us about your experience getting to know each other in the United States.
It was an interesting experience from the very first day we met and then getting to know each other. We first met in the classroom during orientation in August 2011. We didn’t speak at all, and we saw each other again at the community transit center the following day but we still didn’t start communicating. It was in English class with Chuck and Chris, the pre-academic program instructors, that we started to get to know each other and our NWCCI group. The first group gathering was on September 3rd because Chris told us to make surprise for Emre’s birthday, which she had seen the date on Emre’s paper earlier. In fact his birthday was in March 9th, but Emre mistakenly had put the date on the paper in Turkish format (dd/mm/yyyy) rather than American (mm/dd/yyyy). On the “birthday” night, while the others were baking the cake and preparing the surprise, the group sent Yulia to keep Emre busy until everything was ready. From this moment on, we started hanging out. After we finish with Chuck and Chris’s English class on Sept 10th, we started getting closer. Both of us and some other friends from the group made plans for playing soccer in Lynndale park and continued to have dinner together at Emre’s place. Some other nights, we got together to watch movies. We bonded closer and closer as we stuck together even for grocery shopping.
During our long distance relationship, once we went back to our home countries, we continued constant communication through Skype and Whatsapp. It wasn’t really easy to communicate through Skype. Sometimes, we didn’t see or talk to each other for months, but Whatsapp kept us close and updated our daily lives. Although it was so expensive, we used phone calls for emergency communication.
Why did you decide to get married?
We decided to get married because we love each other and we are also best friends. We wanted to be together forever, and there is no reason not to get married. Also, being in a long distance relationship is hard. We actually wanted to get married sooner than this, even when we were still in the U.S. However, a wedding is a big thing and it’s so important that we wanted to include our families back home and not to rush this relationship. After much consideration, we put off the plan to get married in the U.S. and were willing to go through a period of having a long distance relationship until we found a perfect date to finally tie the knot. Months passed by and we settled in our home countries having jobs and living like normal but there was the feeling that something was missing in our lives because we were far from each other.
Through constant communication every day, we always made plans for the future and discussed how we were going to do it. After more than a year, when we were finally financially ready, we set a date for the wedding. We got the date and everything just happened from there, all the preparations for the traveling, the wedding, and all the small things to do this marriage successfully. It was still surprising news for some of Yulia’s family and friends that she was willing to quit her job and have a new life in a foreign country far away from home. She had to convince her family and her friends that her happiness was above all, and this was what she wanted to be happy. Probably because mixed marriages are rare in her family and amongst her friends that they were so worry about distance and adapting to a new culture.
Yulia has Minangkabau descent, and it is a matrilineal tribe in West Sumatra in Indonesia. Since we had the ceremony in Padang, it was done according to Minangkabau traditions. We didn’t combine it with Turkish culture. The Turkish wedding itself is actually wearing kind of black and white attire just like in Europe and the U.S. nowadays. Minang wedding clothes are so unique that we wanted to wear it and experience being king/queen-like for once in our lifetimes. The wedding was held in Yulia’s house inviting all of her neighbors, family, and friends. We had a two-day wedding ceremony; Friday Jan 10th was the official sacred Ijab Kabul performed by an Imam at the office of religious affairs and Sunday Jan 12th was the wedding party in Yulia’s house.
Do you think there are any cultural differences that you will need to work out to have a successful relationship?
So far there has been no significant cultural difference in this relationship. We see Indonesian and Turkish cultures are much more alike in terms of behavior patterns and perceptions in living life. We are family oriented people, and having relationship means not only the relationship for both of us, it’s a relationship for the whole family. There are only differences in lifestyle and other minor things because as we know Turkey is closer to Europe and a secular modern country while Indonesia leans towards traditional lifestyle of true Indonesia (except in capital/big cities).
What are your plans for the future?
We have no specific plans for long term. We are simply enjoying being together and living life one day at a time. However, maybe like most married couples, we look forward to building a family, having our own house, being able to visit the family back in Indonesia, and advancing our careers and education.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.