On wanders and wonders

When I first signed up for the program, all I had in mind was how great such opportunity would be for me to explore a world that is way beyond my reach and means. I wanted to push my boundaries. I wanted to chase the elusive horizon. I challenged myself to open up to greater possibilities that lie in those uncharted territories. But was I prepared enough? I wasn’t really sure. I just counted and faced everything a day at a time. Truth be told, I didn’t feel nor face much dread until hours before my departure flight, when my family was already in tears with much fears and hopes for my greatest venture yet. And armed with nothing much but the thrill of bold curiosity and courage due to everyone’s support, I packed and hauled my bags, wore and walked my grown-up shoes, and thrust myself toward a greater beyond.

I believe that I am quite fortunate and blessed to have stayed at a country that is as friendly and hospitable as my very own. Frankly, I don’t think I would have made it home safe everyday without the help of the many kind strangers who guided me, tried to communicate with me, and taught me how to communicate with them, too. I am in debt and in awe at all the people who went out of their ways just to help me and have thus inspired me to act and do the same. From being a meek girl who was too reserved to bother introducing herself to other people, I became more eager to put myself out there, and respect and emulate other people’s generosity and enthusiasm. I realized that I was very fortunate to come across and be friends with a multitude of people from various cultures and religions who are very much ready and happy to share their stories and beliefs with me.

As cliché as it may seem, leaving Indonesia was truly a bittersweet moment for me. I have grown fond not just of the place but, more so, of the people whom I met and lived with for four months. Tell me: how can anyone not appreciate and admire a country that accepted and deeply cared for helpless strangers like me? I have come across friends and teachers who have all shown the same brand of sincerity and generosity. I have lived with a family who nurtured and fed me as if I was their own, and even took me with them to sightseeing and included me in family photographs. I became really close friends with other foreigners who were just about as clueless and scared as I was, and yet still welcomed me as part of their group, stayed up with me during sleepless school nights, and made me feel as if we have known each other for years. I have been exposed to places and cultures that are by themselves so beautiful, and yet are so appreciative and respectful of diversity. I cannot deny that I was very much excited to finally go home, but waiting for my flight at that same frightening airport also felt like I was leaving a second home. Together with the new language that I have learned and all the stories of the people that I have met, I packed and brought home with me all of the new fears and hopes that I have for myself after having been shaken, awakened, and enriched by my new home.

– Sharmaine V. Hernandez
Home University: Ateneo de Manila University
Host University: Universitas Indonesia


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