Missing it Before Leaving it: American Kindness

written by Adi Pratama from Indonesia

Who doesn’t know the United States. Many prominent figures in the world come from this country. Technology, economics, scientific, almost all sectors become in this country become global gold standard.  No wonder many people dream to at least put their feet in this dreamy land. I am one of them. Going to the United States was one of my biggest dreams. And I was lucky this year I did not just realize my dream but also, what never crossed my mind before, in a country that known to be most competitive one in the world, I found a treasure of genuine kindness.

Last week one memorable thing happened at my worksite, DC Chamber of Commerce. My colleague Valentina was sick and our Supervisor, Margaret Singleton, not only allowed her to go to the doctor but also made sure there is a colleague of us who accompanied her to the doctor. Ms. Nathalie Harris and Ms. Jennie Orange took care of Valentina very well and take her to the doctor. Until the next day they keep checking if she doing fine already. Their concern for us made me and Valentina out of words to express our gratitude. Beside that, our President & CEO, Mr. Vincent Orange also always take time to talk to us to make sure all we need is there. He even sent us to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and give precious lesson from the experience (that I would tell you in another post).

I found another moment when I had the opportunity to visit and study at Destination DC, stakeholders who marketed tourism for Washington DC. At the beginning, I felt that I was coming in a wrong timing because it was a busy week for everyone there, but I was wrong. I was very well received. Ms. Terri Carter Human Resource Manager from Destination DC is happy to give me a brief tour to get around the awesome Destination DC office. Continued by Mr. Bruno Schwartz who is a Senior Manager of membership who kindly explained in detail how Destination DC works. All came and went because they actually have upcoming work, but they really devoted attention and also answered tons of my questions in detail. Ms. Letizia Sirtori and Ms. Lindsey Hill then accompanied me to lunch and was kind enough help me discuss about my outbound project that I will do in Indonesia. The most memorable moment was when after lunch I was invited to join the weekly staff meeting. President of Destination DC Mr. Elliot Fergusson welcomed me warmly and invited me to take a picture with the entire staff of Destination DC. He is very humble and nice. He willing to give a word or two for the activists of tourism in Indonesia through my vlog. I haven’t been there for a day, but already fall in love with this office.

Not only at Worksite, my two weeks with my Host family is also amazing. Lilia Murphy, my ‘Host mom’ treats me very well. I was very surprise when she cooks fried rice for dinner, just because I casually told her that I still need to adjust because I used to eat rice in Indonesia. On the weekend, Lilia kindly drove us to Baltimore and Annapolis on her precious day-off. Last Friday night she held a small dinner and invited some of her acquaintances to give me and host my brother from Brazil culture exposure which is very useful for us. The next day one of Lilia’s neighbors, Barbra kindly drove me and my Host Brother and accompanied us to the shopping center because my Host brother wanted to buy something before returning home to Brazil. All day, she spent his weekend with us and she did it with pleasure.

There is more that I can’t comprehend here. But those already touch my heart deeply. Not just a courtesy to be polite, but something sincere that is hard for us to forget. This country not only has great people indeed, but also people who have a wonderful heart with them. Therefore, I know, even before I go home, I will miss this country and its people very much.

Leave your worries aside and do your best to become a PFP Fellow!

written by Ece Karakus from Turkey

Two weeks have already gone since I got to Salem, Oregon and I have already started to feel myself privileged to be a part of this program. I have a great host family, the Chandlers, who are so welcoming that not only they try to do their best to make me feel at home, but also very generous in making plans for me to travel, meet new people and participate in local events to get a better understanding of the local community. So far, I have already volunteered in a popular local bicycle ride -“Monster Cookie Bicycle Ride” – participated in May Day celebrations in Salem with locals, and went to the Mexican festival Cinco de Mayo in Portland, of which I had no idea before I came here.

Despite being a professional program and offering the participants a great deal of opportunities regarding their professional occupation, I think Professional Fellows Program should also be acknowledged with what it offers to fellows regarding once in a lifetime experiences. As I have said although it has only been 2 weeks since I arrived in Salem, I have already made so many memories. My visit to Oregon coast, Pacific Ocean with my host family is one of those memories which I am very excited about to share with my relatives, friends when I am back at home 🙂

Also in my worksite, Governor’s Office of Oregon, I have such a lovely and inspiring supervisor, Nikki Fisher, that she has been setting up meetings for me to understand the functioning of the state government. I have so far met and get the chance to have a talk in diverse issues with state representatives, Governor’s policy advisors, and representatives of NGOs. But among all, I have had the privilege to meet with the Governor, Kate Brown herself, and even travel with her and her press secretaries to another city, Eugene, where I attended to certain events and meetings. I must say how lucky I felt being a part of it.

As a last word, all I want a say to those who has been thinking of applying the program:

Leave your worries aside and do your best to become a PFP fellow! You will never regret it 🙂

Ece at WorksiteEce at the Pacific Ocean with host family

A Billion Trees of Aloha

written by Tetiana Simchuk from Ukraine

On my first Saturday in Hawai’i, April 27, together with other professional fellows I participated in the wonderful Community Service Project titled “A Billion Trees of Aloha”. The Project was organized by Eco-Opps together with IHC and hosted by Camp Palehua.

I was really pleased as my host family (host father & three host siblings) joined me for this important mission ;). We have got to know why Hawai’i now do not have the native forest that they used to have many years ago. The hosting organization is trying to bring it back. They experiment with the fertilizers and planting methods in order to ensure that the trees will grow. My family and I chose to plant a koa tree and successfully completed this mission following the professional guidelines of the Project team. Moreover, we even worked on some landscape design around the tree 😀

We have totally worked for much more than the required 3 hours during that day.

Billion Trees of Aloha was the first initiative of the World Youth Congress held in Hawaii of 2017. In partnership with Eco-Opps, the progress of the World Youth Congress delegates and participants around the world are now tracked on EcoOpps Worldwide Tree-map.

And you know what? Ukraine will also be on the map, as my friend Nataliia Shabalova  (Rivne, Ukraine) joined ‘A Billion Trees of Aloha’ project.

So, Nataliia together with her husband Andrii Mykhaliuk and her 5-year-old son Artur Mykhaliuk participated in the project by planting a tree in Rivne (Ukraine).

I believe that initiatives related to environment are a burning issue worldwide and I’m very pleased that I had an opportunity to join this meaningful Project.

Tetiana Simchuck Hawaii Volunteering

YSEALI Story

written by Shirley Chin from Brunei

The first two weeks of arriving in the US has been beyond amazing. We had a couple of days in Washington DC for our pre departure (worksite) orientation and had some free time to roam around at night during our first few nights. We also had the chance to tour the US Capitol in Washington and visited the white house. We have been paired with different fellows intentionally so we are obliged to make new friends and get to know other fellows more. The first few days passed by in a blink of an eye. It is amazing how a short two days in this YSEALI program has open up so many opportunities for us to make good friends and develop great network. It is a little sad that we all have to part ways to go to our respective workplace but I believe we will all come back to the Congress at the end of the month sharing more exciting stories!

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Each fellow has been placed to a different worksite or different state. I am placed at Sacramento, California in a non-profit organization called Visit California. This organization strive to create desire for the California experience and to promote California as a premier travel destination. It is a tourism marketing organization inspiring travel to California.  I had the opportunity to attend the board meeting held every quarterly of the year. This year it was held at Squaw Valley, Tahoe where they used to host the Winter Olympics Games back in the 60’s.

Lake Tahoe Olympic Stadium

At the board meeting, I had the opportunity to meet the President and CEO of Visit California, Caroline Beteta; the CEO of Ridgemont hospitality, Sima Patel; the Executive Vice President of operations of the Interstate hotels, Russ Cox and also the President and CEO of Orange County Visitor Association, Co-founder of Laguna Strategic advisors, Formal President and Managing Director Marriott International- Edwin Fuller. Most of them serve as commissioners of Visit California’s board meeting and I am so delighted to have taken the initiative to speak to them. Their knowledge on the tourism industry has been astonishing and their vision to make California a premier tourist destination has been really clear and goal orientated.

Shirley at Olympic stadium

Of course, this opportunity will not have happen without the help of my supervisor Kayla Wood who is the Public Affairs Manager. We work well together and she has assist me in so many ways that I’m so grateful for.

Besides work, I also had the chance to assimilate the American culture during the weekends. I joined one of the fellows (Funnur- Indonesian fellow) host parents to Oakland to watch the Oakland Athletics vs. the Baltimore Orioles game. It was fascinating to see how patriotic the Americans were during the national anthem before the start of the game. With my little knowledge on baseball game, Jon and Stephanie (Host parents of Funnur) willingly explain what was going on throughout the match.

Shirley at baseball game

I am looking forward to meeting more new people throughout my journey here in the US. I can’t wait to share more stories and I am so grateful for the opportunity the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs (ECA) has provided and also to American Councils for International Education (ACIE) who assists in administering this.

The Land of Dreams

written by Aqmarina Andira from Indonesia

Reflection One: The Land of Dreams

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I have never set a foot before in this country, yet somehow everything feels so familiar. The United States of America is indeed the land of dreams. And as a dreamer myself, to visit and to experience living in this country is indeed feels like coming home. I mean, growing up watching, reading, and listening to songs about the States, I am feeling super nostalgic.

The 24 hours and 16,344 km journey from home is totally worth it.

 

Indonesian Fellows with Linnea

Reflection Two: The Avenue of Hope

“The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy, the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see, or may see it more accurately. The simple purpose of the exchange program is to erode the culturally rooted mistrust that sets nations against one another. The exchange program is not a panacea but an avenue of hope.” — J. William Fulbright

Reflection Three

“Let me give you a hug,” Mae said to me. “I know how hard it is to start and to keep going”. Ina and SirasarThe thing I love the most from a program like this is seeing genuine passion in people’s eyes.
I saw passion in Mae’s eyes when talking about the preservation of traditional Thailand’s music. I saw lots of passionate eyes from young people in this Professional Fellows Program. I saw courage, persistence, and the most important thing is the willingness to keep going. And it is indeed very beautiful.

First Week of YSEALI PFP

written by Exan Sharief from the Philippines

The YSEALI Professional Fellowship Program on Economic Empowerment opened many wonderful beginnings in both my professional and personal life.

I was more than excited to put my feet and leave an impressive mark on the land of freedom or most of the times called as the land of dreams and opportunities. Starting with the orientation at Washington DC, I was profoundly inspired how the American Councils have started engaging these young leaders from different parts of the world into understanding the American culture and eventually bring home lessons learned. Very significantly, I felt the genuine welcome and the sincere interest to foster connectivity among these young leaders, more especially with the American government in terms of sharing best practices and applying them in the home country. I could not believe my eyes when I finally got inside the US Capitol and got as close as I can to the White House and even jogged around the Washington Monument. More than the sightseeing, I was impressed with the historical significance of bearing the “E Pluribus Unum” at the Capitol. This essential principles that built America is so valuable that I had to ask a taxi driver how does he lives the American dream.

When the work placement to Hawaii finally surfaced my thinking after a long flight, I felt home in that feeling of happiness and sense of belonging in living the American dream. In Hawaii, I’ve met and talked with quite a number of Asian Americans who have consistently told me how they found unity in diversity. It is that one solid purpose of being a nation rather than being a single individual that struck my interest. Immersing myself further, I truly appreciate the kindness shown by the people as manifested on simple greetings of hello from a neighbor to another. On a positive note, I learned how to be independent despite living with a host family. I am just so overwhelmed with the positivity shown within and outside my workplace. There’s that forward mentality to do things best and improve on candid suggestions rather than repel them with a heavy heart. A little far from what I’m used to at my home country but I am hopeful that all this learning will have to be replicated as soon as I get back.

I have always believed in the Aloha spirit that is profusely embodied in the US Declaration of Independence stating, among others, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Dissimilar Similarities

written by Tetyana Simchuk from Ukraine

When I first got to know that my fellowship would take place in Hawai‘i, I not only got very excited by this unbelievable opportunity, but also thought that the islands would be something TOTALLY different from whatever someone may imagine about the mainland USA. To some extent, this appeared to be absolutely true… However, on the other sides, lots of things, events, and, what’s even more important, PEOPLE demonstrated how similar Hawai‘i is to what I’m used to in Ukraine.

Common issues, common views on political events and figures, common approaches to reporting… and different attitudes, different perspectives, different methods of arranging workspace driven by transparency and openness…

My first week started in Representative Lauren Matsumoto’s Office, Hawai‘i State Legislature, and frankly speaking, after seeing the sessions of the House of Representatives, I realized that politics is absolutely the same everywhere. The parties fight over bills, ensure alliances in private talks, and very often act like their image is more important than the benefit of the people. Nevertheless, on the contrary to Ukrainian practice, in the long run, at the closing of the session, the opposing members of the House expressed deep gratitude to each other for the common work. Furthermore, the House and Senate closed their session by joining hands in a circle of unity and singing “Hawaiʻi Aloha,” also called “Kuʻu One Hanau,” which is a revered anthem of the native Hawaiian people and Hawaiʻi residents alike.

Thus, being inspired by the amazing person whom we have got to meet here in Hawai‘i – Maya Soetoro-Ng, the maternal half-sister of the 44th United States President Barack Obama, I would like to summarize the first week of my fellowship with the quotation of the John Hume, 1998 Nobel Peace Prize Winner:

“Difference is of the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

Aloha to all of you!

Tetyana Simchuk Hawaii CapitolTetyana Simchuk with Colleagues