“I am very strong inside, but I didn’t realize it.” –Azizah Puspasari
Azizah Puspasari graduated from Western Michigan University with a Master’s in Public Administration on 12/17/16. Receiving a Master’s degree is a remarkable accomplishment for any student; however, it is truly special for international students. Azizah was born and raised in Indonesia and came to the United States for the first time to pursue her Master’s.
Azizah’s undergraduate degree was in accounting, and she later transitioned to the Public Administration field. Before coming to Michigan, Azizah worked as a civil servant at the National Institute of Public Administration in Jakarta Indonesia. She will return home to Indonesia in January and continue to work for the government. Her Institution has three divisions consisting of research, policy making, and training/education. She works in the training/education division which correlates with her Master’s concentration, Human Resources.
The Institution she works at, and her government highly value education. They help employees pursue advanced degrees in other countries. This process is not easy, and Azizah was tasked with learning English, leaving her family and home, and adjusting to a new country. The flight time from Michigan to Indonesia is 20 hours so returning home for a visit is a rare occurrence for many international students.
When reflecting on her time in the United States, Azizah discussed some of the things she missed most about home. Unsurprisingly at the top of the list was her family. Azizah is married and being away from her husband was difficult. She also missed the food and weather in Indonesia. Her favorite dessert is called Serabi, and it similar to a pancake and contains coconut milk. After living in Michigan, she has a lot of recommendations for international students pursuing their Master’s in the United States. Some tips she has include finding foods to eat and what to buy in preparation for the snow. A lot of her friends were amazed by her winter pictures and would ask, “What does snow taste like?”
Some of the other adjustment challenges Azizah faced included deciding what to write about for papers due to the differing education system. After choosing a topic, it would take Azizah much longer than a student whose first language is English to write a paper. Studying for quizzes and exams, as well as typing also required perseverance because of the language barrier. Azizah only took English classes once a week for three years in high school, one semester of English in college, and then an extensive English class for nine months before coming to the United States. Some programs offer culture classes to students; Azizah’s did not so she did not know what to expect.
There were many things that Azizah loved about living in a different country. She liked that there are rules for driving such as the requirement for children to sit in a car seat. Azizah was also impressed with credit card security. Someone used her card once, and it was an unusual transaction, so she received a call from the bank to alert her. She could not believe that stores allow you to return items. In Indonesia, if you’re allowed to return an item, you will not be refunded the full amount. Azizah was also impressed with the streaming quality in the United States. She was happy she made great connections while in school and will miss those friendships, she plans to keep in touch via email and social media.
Azizah needed constant motivation to get to the finish line, graduation day. Her husband and mother were her two primary sources of strength and they provided prayers, listening ears, and reminders that she could do it! She also credited some of her classmates with inspiring her even when they were unaware. She does not fully understand it, yet Azizah was admired by her classmates and professors alike. To know a student is nervous to speak, but watch her share her opinion and experiences, is incredibly powerful.
Azizah has dreams to pursue her Ph.D. in Public Administration one day. She would like to continue enhancing her English skills and learn more about research in preparation for that journey. She would love to study in Australia because it is much closer to Indonesia. Other bucket list items she has include having children, returning to the U.S one day, and travel to Mecca. Receiving her Master’s in a different country was the hardest experience Azizah ever had. It taught her to “let it go,” live and experience life, and not worry so much about the future which she recommends for others as well.
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