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Friday, June 5, 2015

Sandwich Program at the South East Asia Program (SEAP) – Cornell University, Ithaca, New York Februari 1 – May 10, 2015

Sandwich program at one university, primarily in United States of America, is a compulsory program for ICRS student as following process for analyzing research findings and writing one or more (if possible) draft of dissertation’s chapter[s] after passing comprehensive examination. By considering substance of my research project I have opted Cornell University as my destination for exploring literatures pertinent to my academic concern as visiting scholar of South East Asia Program (SEAP) – Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, since February 1 up till May 10, 2015.

• I have received an invitation letter for being visiting scholar of South East Asia Program (SEAP) – Cornell University in November 2014. Afterward I started to communicate with Prof. Thamora Fishel, associate director of SEAP, who continuously guided me in each phase of preparation process, while proposing J-1 visa application to Consulate General of United States of America in Surabaya.
• My visa proposal was approved by the Consulate General of USA though facing some technical hurdles for I just knew when arrived in Surabaya that the Consulate office has moved to new address in Citra Niaga, far away in outskirt Surabaya. By that condition I had to spend two days in Surabaya and stayed overnight at nearby motel to get convenient access for visa application and interview at the Consulate new office. Then, after got J-1 visa I arranged itinerary.
• Although I have already an invitation letter and J-1 visa but I took January 31, 2015 as date of departure due to must accomplish consultations with two supervisors before leaving for USA. The two supervisors, i.e. Prof. Dr. P.M. Laksono and Dr. Eric Hiariej, encouraged me to take the sandwich program by signing approval on my dissertation proposal. Thanks to Dr. Siti Syamsiyatun, on behalf of ICRS core faculty, who also approved my sandwich program proposal though I do not yet present my proposal in dissertation proposal seminar as well as Prof. Bernard Adeney-Risakotta who encouraged me for taking Cornell. Then, I sent the summary of dissertation proposal to SEAP as onward information about my research project for three months as visiting scholar at Cornell University. Based on the summary SEAP assigned Prof. Chiara Formichi as host faculty during my work at Cornell University.
• January 31, 2015 I departed from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, via two stopover airports of Singapore (Changi) and Tokyo, Japan (Narita); by Singapore Airlines (SQ) to Singapore and transferred to Delta Airlines (DL) to JFK New York City arrived on February 1, 2015 which was welcomed by snow everywhere and winter wind throughout the city. For this was my first travelling to New York City (East Coast) I had to stay several days for looking for public transportation to Ithaca. I was fortunate that the Wattimena-Batawi family who lives for years in NYC willing to host me until I got bus ticket heading for Ithaca.
• February 6, 2015 I departed to Ithaca by “Greyhound” bus (ticket $60). The trip from NYC to Ithaca took around five hours. Thanks to Prof. Dieter Bartels who introduced me to Prof. John Wolff, senior faculty of SEAP on linguistic and Asian Studies. “Pak John” – as one calls him – and his wife, “Ibu Ida”, willing to accommodate me at their cozy house in Honness Lane Ithaca while helping me to look for housing nearby campus. On February 12, 2015 Pak John ushered me to new housing 101 Edgecliff Place, on the bank of Fall Creek, closer to north campus. I rented one room in the house of Selvarajah family (India-Malaysian) by cost $575/month with shared-kitchen and shared-bathroom, modest furniture, electricity plus internet. It was a secured-cozy room which situates closer to northern campus (15 minutes by walk). For my weekly needs I had to shopping at Walmart by riding twice bus routes (number 10 and 15): campus (route 10) to Seneca common (transfer to route 15) to Walmart. My struggle and arduous adaptation during first weeks in Ithaca were extremely heavy snow and winter wind persistently on temperature -15 degree Celsius.

• My first activity since arrived in Ithaca was inform my arrival to Cornell’s Central Administration of International Student Affairs at Baldwin Hall as well as met Prof. Thamora Fishel and SEAP secretary, Betty Nguyen, at the Einaudy International Student Office – SEAP, Uris Hall. After completed some working documents at SEAP office I must wait for couple days to get my Cornell net-ID and ID card as staff/faculty from Day Hall. With the net-ID I had full access for online information and libraries at Cornell. Afterward I met Edmund Oh, a Cornell’s Ph.D candidate and building manager of the Kahin Center, who brought me around the campus and had shown my office-room (808) at the Kahin Center.
• My weekly regular activity was attending brown-bag lecture series each Thursday at the Kahin Center. This was regular presentation and discussion by interdisciplinary scholars whose concern on Southeast Asian studies with multiple academic research experiences. In addition, I have once participated in 17th Annual Southeast Asian Studies Graduate Student Conference: What’s Hot in Southeast Asia? – March 13-15, 2015 at the Kahin Center. The participants and panelists were graduate students who came across from USA, Canada, Europe and Asia.
• I spent most time at Olin/Kroch Libraries which have huge collections (printed and online) of Southeast Asian Studies, rare collections and archives. Olin/Kroch Libraries are two libraries in one merged big building with specialty on humanities studies and Asian Studies. My works were supported by two generous librarians, i.e. Jeff Petersen (Southeast Asia collection at Kroch) and Ben Abel (general desk at Olin). They had invited me personally at their cubical office to talk about my research project for three months at Cornell onward. Then, they regularly shared resources (online, books, articles, journals) for me that relate to my research topic. I was able to work intensively due to the length work-hour of Cornell’s libraries which open at 08.00 am to 02.00 am (except Saturday and Sunday that close at 10.00 pm) with supporting facilities as work stations, scanner/copier machines and microfilm reader machines as well as interlibrary loan and borrow direct services.
• In addition to independent work at the libraries, I had three times conversations with Prof. Chiara Formichi about my field research and some prospective points of my ongoing writing. It was uneasy to get consensus deal with meeting-time due to her busyness as a new faculty at Department of Asian Studies and researcher of SEAP at Cornell. However, our critical conversations provided me new insights for continuing the research, especially toward the existence and identity of Muslim-Shiite community in Ambonese islands.
• Also, I was fortunate to get time for pleasant conversation with Prof. Audrey Kahin, a senior historian and wife of deceased Prof. George McT. Kahin, a pioneer of Southeast Asian Studies (especially Indonesian studies around 1970s) at Cornell. She invited me for lunch and we had long talk about recently political issues in Indonesia and certainly about my research project as visiting scholar, while encouraging me to use as much as possible all resources at Cornell’s libraries and Kahin’s archive collection.
• I have also opportunities to talk with Prof. Kaja McGowan, director of SEAP. We had more family-like discussion since her husband, Ketut Raka, and their son, Kadek Surya, always participated together. Even Ketut kindly offered his time to usher me for shopping at Walmart or brought me to visit interesting places in Ithaca. The family had several times invited me to participate in gathering events with SEAP’s faculty families, once at Prof. Benedict Anderson’s house for Easter gathering. Unfortunately, I could not meet him since he always stayed in tropical countries, mostly Thailand, during winter season.
• April 27-28, 2015 four core faculties of ICRS visited SEAP – Cornell University to introduce ICRS and talking about possibilities for collaborative academic programs between these two institutions. They were Prof. Bernard Adeney-Risakotta, Dr. Dicky Sofjan, Dr. Siti Syamsiyatun and Dr. Jeanny Dhewayani. This was part of series visitation to several universities in USA, such as Yale University, Hartford Seminary, Georgetown University, and Cornell University.
• Intensive works at Olin/Kroch Libraries had resulted drafts of four chapters of my future dissertation. I am going to consult these drafts with two supervisors for getting feedback and onward ideas for next parts of my dissertation project. However, the only significant issue which has to do is that looking for native-speaker editor to check/improve my English structure and logic.
• On May 6, 2015 I have ended my sandwich program as visiting scholar at Cornell and went to New York City by “Greyhound” bus. During three days I stayed again with Wattimena-Batawi family and departed to Indonesia on May 10, 2015 left behind wonderful experiences during three-month works as visiting scholar at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

• Three-month sandwich program provided me such a valuable opportunity to compose my academic plan and wrote some drafts of my dissertation chapters. Three-month work was obviously too short for doing comprehensive writing. However, I felt lucky for during my work was helped by many scholars of SEAP and Cornell librarians who support me in many ways they could do, e.g. giving critical advice for onward research project and sharing information about resources pertinent to my dissertation research project.
• One errand that wiped most time during first weeks was looking for housing which barely difficult in spring semester. I would like to suggest that after having agreement for collaborative academic programs, the issue of housing may be facilitated so that next visiting scholars can work intensively and concentrate on his/her works without wasting much time to search for cozy and secured housing for short-term literature exposure.
• Last but not least, finding native-speaker editor is an important issue for ICRS so that each student can send properly structure writing in English to their supervisors in Indonesia and having critical substance before going back home after finishing sandwich program.

Closing Remarks
This brief report is one part of my academic responsibility to ICRS as home institution and United Board as benefactor institution which made my sandwich program possible for three months as visiting scholar at South East Asia Program (SEAP), Cornell University. I would like to convey humbly my gratitude for both institutions.

Yogyakarta – May 20, 2015

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One Earth, Many Faces

One Earth, Many Faces