Azhar Amiruddin is a Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) participant from Indonesia studying business management at Edmonds Community College. In this post, Azhar writes about the value of first-hand experiences for cultural understanding.
One of the NWCCI program’s main objectives is for students to learn about U.S. culture. The best way to learn is to experience it directly through NWCCI programs, campus activities, volunteering and participating in major holidays in the United States.
The “friendship family” program offers a chance to have a relationship with an American family. This is arranged by the NWCCI program to help students learn more about American culture by mingling directly with their family. I am lucky to have Rich and Marla Husby as my family. They are always asking me what I want to know or experience in their culture.
My first experience with them was when they held an apple cider party at their home and invited their family, neighbors and friends. This was my first experience with an American family, and I was treated as a part of the family. An apple cider party is an example of an old-fashioned American tradition, making apple juice by using traditional equipment in the backyard of the home. It is now a rare activity. For me, the most important thing about this party, was that it changed my stereotype about the image of Americans being overly individualistic. This gathering showed me there are still many families who value togetherness and closeness.
Visiting a family farm answered my question, “How could a family farm in a western country raise hundreds of cows, because in my country family farms are only able to raise a maximum of 5 cows?”. My friendship family brought me to a cousin’s farm, where I was able to see and experience milking the cows with semi-modern equipment. It was interesting to see that these family farms used equipment that only big companies would use in Indonesia.
Another experience with my friendship family was having dinner on Easter day with Marla’s parents. Not only did we eat together, but we had great conversations. I shared a lot about my culture. Marla’s parents shared their love for music and their expansive music collection.
Caring for society and the environment through volunteer work has also been a learning experience for me. My first volunteer opportunity was at Annie’s Kitchen. They prepare and serve meals for hungry and homeless people. Through this experience, I learned how to cook and serve, but most importantly to care for and help the community.
I also learned about public awareness of nature and society through volunteering opportunities organized by the service learning department on campus. For example, we recently removed invasive plants and garbage at a nearby park on Earth Day. We not only cleaned the park, but we learned about different types of trees and about planting trees.
Another interesting activity during my time in America is participating in the celebration of the major holidays, including Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Everything has a lot more meaning for me now.
Although I have been here for less than a year, I have had much fun and many experiences, and learned many valuable lessons. Learning how to deal and interact with people from different cultures has helped change my stereotype of the image of the “Individualistic American”, what I’ve seen here is that there are still many Americans who care about the environment, nature and society.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.