After more than 28 hours of cramped jet cabins, incessant transitions at the most modern airports in the world and facing an amazingly friendly first point of entry at Denver, I finally got to set my feet on the USA.
No, I did not lose my bags to United Airlines. Yes, I fumbled with something as simple as a cash transactions to buy a banana smoothie at Seattle. And yes, I did stupid stuff like crossing through the Singaporean immigration when I WASN'T SUPPOSED TO, causing myself to wander around the T2 Terminal like a zombie when I could be in slumber heaven at the T3 Transit Hotel.
I expected to face such stuff but hey, making mistakes is part of this awesome journey too! Where was I? Oh, yeah, back to America. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to be exact. It's a lovely city which, in my opinion, portrays the 'real' America: small cosy individual houses with big lawns, great church communities, friendly people walking their dogs and not a sight of towering infrastructures; accommodated by the beautiful parks, lush greenery, beautiful rivers and big blue skies. (I plan to have a separate blog post on this, just be patient! ^^)
And here is my host institution, Augustana College! It's one of the best private colleges in the MidWest. And it employs a liberal arts education system, which is something I have deeply wished to experience myself all along. The best part is, this year, it had a record high number of international students enrolled!
A tour along the Augie campus: The statue in the middle is Ole the Viking, our mascot. The first picture is the Center of Western Studies, which is uniquely shaped like a Native Indian teepee. The library has top-notch facilities. It is also supposedly guarded by Moses.(which really looks like Hellboy carved into a statue to me)One feature of this campus is that it is dotted by many pieces of art and architecture, reflecting the vibrant appreciation of aesthetic values by the community. The main area on the ground floor of the library is my favourite spot. It has an amazing collection of encyclopedias and magazines of just about anything: Lutheran, Time, Academe, etc.
I witnessed my first ever live American football game! It was the Augustana Vikings against Minnesota-Duluth (which are the national champions) I find that football games are an important family affair: scores of kids throwing football around the field and hordes of old people seating below tents munching on free burgers. Everyone was proud to display their team jersey. It was a nerve-wrecking game! Especially when Augie performed well in the first two halves. I thought we were going to win! A few mistakes were costly and the opposing team successfully gained ground. It was an interesting event, with the occasional explanation by friends on the rules of the game. (Anyway, I still think soccer is a better sport to watch)
The opening convocation at the Elmen Center where all professors came with their fancy academic robes. Me with college President Rob Oliver.
One very poignant moment occurred to me last weekend. It was when all Americans stood up to sing their national anthem before the football match. Lead by a local singer, (who, interestingly, belted out the lyrics in her own style like an American Idol rendition) it was a truly fascinating moment.
2 sentences strike my chord the most. The portrayal of USA as the "land of the free" and "home of the brave". I find it extremely true in this great country. True, we will inevitably say racism still exists and the economy is in bad shape... But through my very own eyes, I see how the Blacks, Latinos and Whites happily joke around while preparing our meals. Through the papers and news, I see from afar how brave American civilians and soldiers went through 9/11, as the 10th anniversary of that unfortunate day is arriving.
It touched me to a certain extent. Why? Maybe because it reminds me of the things back in Malaysia. Can the Malays, Chinese and Indians genuinely embrace each other one day? No stereotypes, no awkwardness, without the ghost of racial policies haunting above? When can we truly accept one another as equal human beings with equal rights and with equal chance to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Because that's what I learned when I had the chance to interact with so many international students all across the globe. There was only one race (like what my friend, Wilson mentioned): the human race. If only we treat each other as that, then world peace is very much attainable.
Sorry for the idealistic talk. It's just me. I'm excited of many more encounters, experiences and people I will meet in shaping my opinion about America and the world. Until then, bye! And the best wishes to Malaysia come Malaysia Day on September 16.
By: Lim Wei Jiet (UGRAD 2011-2012)
Wei Jiet can't wait for the 3 day Black Hills trip next weekend! He's even more elated to know that Global UGrad will have a Fall Pre-Departure Orientation at Washington DC on November 16. Lots of travelling and exploring to do!