Habibi is a Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) participant from Indonesia studying business at Pierce College. He shares the amazing story of how he moved on from a major tragedy in his hometown of Aceh to become a member of the international community, and ultimately, a grant student sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to study in the United States.
It never crossed my mind that the tragedy on 26 of December 26, 2004 would change my way of life. On that date, a 9.0 Richter scale mega earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit Aceh, the city in Indonesia where I live, the city I grew up, the city of my memories, the city I love so much. Approximately 167,799 people lost their lives, 37,063 people were missing, 135,448 houses were damaged and more than 500,000 people were left homeless because of this tragedy. After this catastrophe, thousands of humanitarian workers flew to Aceh and hundreds of nonprofit organization began operating there. Many of them came from Europe, America and Asia, and they spoke English, the language that I ignored when I was in primary and high school. This was the subject that gave me an opportunity to sleep in class when the teacher gave an English lesson.
But I regretted all of that past ridiculousness when many foreigners came to my city to rebuild Aceh. I had trouble communicating with them because all I knew about English was just “okay”, “yes”, “no”, and “I understand” (even though I didn’t understand what they said at all). When I got back to my house in the evening, I opened my English book. Finally, after months, I could communicate with them in two-way conversation and I was really proud of myself. Then, for the next four years, I mustered up courage to work for nonprofit organizations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), the Canadian Red Cross and Australian Aid. I interacted with people from all over the world: Australia, Germany, the United States, France, Iran, Korea, Turkey, Japan, Afghanistan, Malaysia and many more countries. The international community enriched my life, gave me different point of views, opened my eyes and most importantly, they helped my people, and they helped Indonesia.
It really changed my way of life. I believe that all those wonderful experience with the international community brought me to the United States. I also believe that the wonderful experience that I shared with those who interviewed me for this scholarship was one of the reasons they nominated me. Here I am, in the United States, the amazing country that I have dreamed of since my childhood.
I am proud of myself because my American friends have flattered me so much, they said that I must be one of the brightest students because I won a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State, but I felt that I am not that smart or bright. I love my NWCCI friends so much. They have given me many experiences and taught me about their countries and cultures. Some things are the same for us, and other things are different, but for me, it doesn’t matter. In fact, it enriches my values and my experiences. This is the first time in my life that I love many countries such as Indonesia, the United States of America, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Brazil and Uzbekistan. By doing so, I believe that I am on the right track to love the world. This is the story that I will share with my family, my friends and my community back in Indonesia. The story that I will never forget, the story of my life, the story about the United States of America.
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.