Interaction with Southeast Asia Students - Essay on Course Review

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George Washington University
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Globalization, Theatre, and Performance in Southeast Asia was a fascinating course that I took this semester. I familiarised myself with the main contents of the course, and I was able to learn and engage in several issues of tradition, modernity, culture, and history of the Southeast Asia. There are rapid changes that have stemmed from the varied levels of globalization, industrialization and multiple aspects of colonization that have led to complex and exciting questions about identity, culture, memory, and nationhood. I attended this course with students from Indonesia, and I enjoyed the class because we discussed the course together freely, listened to each other, argued and learned diverse perspective from them. Since these Indonesian students do not speak English as their official language, the course was technical for them at the beginning because they needed to read many pages of books and translate some vocabularies. This took time for them, but it became helpful as they practiced English as their second language, learned new vocabulary that helped them to understand most of the books read in the course. Despite the little time I spent with these students, I learned about their culture, what makes us similar, and some traits that make them unique.

The first thing I learned from them is that they are Indonesian students who were on an exchange program. They signed up for this through the schools they attended and were granted after few weeks. I was charmed by one Indonesian student called Dinda Huda who shared with me the experience he went through while preparing for this program. He said that when he signed up, his parents were totally against him leaving Indonesia. This is because he has stayed with his parents since birth and has never been away from home for more than one week. He had never been on a plane, had never seen snow, and the host family thought him hilarious the first time he saw snow falling, and he ran around trying to catch the falling snowflakes. Dinda said that they are high school students and he attended one of the best schools in Indonesia because his parents could afford to pay him school fees. They are here because the Indonesian government offers yearly exchange programs and the finances them. Their government booked a flight for them, provide them a monthly stipend, and has committed to pay their fare back home when the program is over.

Secondly, students from Indonesia are hosted by hospitable families who let them live in their houses like their children and are provided with free food and accommodation. Most of these students do not have any relationship with the host families and were accommodated because these families have reached a time in their lives that they are no longer financially strained when they host students. Also, I learned that these families are hosting the students so that they can give them an adventure at the course of the exchange program and make their studies go on well. I talked with one Indonesian female who said that she stayed with a temporarily host family as she waited until family was found. At the course of them staying with these families, they have become attached and part of the accommodating family. They love the host family and appreciate their new home as well as the children of these families. They have made new friends, but they may not understand what they are saying all the time because of the limited competence in English, but they still stay with them. Most of them have sincerely confessed that they feel they could have been born here because everyone is welcoming and kind.

Furthermore, Indonesian students have a culture which is different from ours. Indonesia is a Muslim country, so these students follow their religion strictly. The female students wear hijab as dictated by their culture. I found the hijab a good attire because it is a loose-fitting and a non-revealing clothing. What I found interesting are the reasons for putting on the hijab. One for instance, one student told me that they wear it because they believe that it is an instruction from God to fulfil the commandment on modesty. She said that wearing this cloth is a personal choice that shows how one is devoted to God but others wear it because it declares the Islamic identity, a witness of their strong Islamic faith, and as a form of cultural identity. On the contrary, there is a student who felt that wearing hijab is a form of oppression where women are forced into it and do not appreciate or understand why their culture forces them to wear it. She thought it is absurd for young girls and women to cover themselves against their will. This mode of dressing brings the difference between the Indonesian students and us because of the dressing here is entirely different. Despite the adherence to their culture, they are civilized because they appreciate other lifestyles since they showed a lot of interest in Kpop music which dominates the South Korean culture.

Another striking difference that I noticed is that these students have a strong faith because they pray after every five hours. They prayed at fixed intervals and is not dependent on how busy one is. Some of them could leave what they were doing and go for prayers. I was curious to know why they pray often, and Dinda told me that such prayers reminded them about God throughout the day and is considered as an important Islamic pillar. What stroke me more was the way they prayed. I saw them pray in a series of movements, Quran recitations, and supplications. I later learned that Muslims view prayer as a physical and spiritual act which symbolizes their devotion and service to God (Neusner 153). They pray in varied movements such as bending, standing and prostrating posture which is different from our prayers that do not decree the number of times to pray and the traditional position one assumes while praying. I also observed that whenever they go to the mosque or any prepared room for prayers, they must take their shoes off. They wash their feet, hands, and face first and get into the room without shoes so as to prevent dirt from the outside into the mosque.

Moreover, the students have experienced different meals that are different from what they eat in Indonesia. Most of them have commended the delicious meals that they have come to like, but they say that lunch is not similar to what they usually have in Indonesia. Despite these students living away from their parents, they have experienced some home sickness and have looked for food that they usually eat at home. Most of the students have said that lunch was not similar to Indonesian food, but they said it was delicious. They have missed this meal several times because lunch is served while they are in classes. What I want to learn more about is the food they eat in Indonesia. For instance, I was told about an ordinary meal which comprises of steamed rice and a dish made of either meat, fish, vegetables or chicken, which sometimes include soup all served together. This meal is eaten with fingers using the right hand only while the left hand is used for other matters. When eating this meal, you should leave some food on the plate or drink in the glass to indicate that you have had enough.

In conclusion, Globalization, Theatre, and Performance in Southeast Asia was a captivating course that has made a difference in my life. Through this course, I was able to meet students from Indonesia who I got to know about their culture and their strong faith. These students were on an exchange program and were sponsored by their government to come and study. They are hosted by different families where they are given food. The culture of these students is different from the western way because female Indonesian students wear a loose fitting cloth called hijab. They wear this for reasons such as the belief that God is fulfilling the commandment of modesty, showing their Islamic identity, and as a way of devotion to God. Besides, these students have a strong Islamic faith because they pray after every five hours while bending, standing and a prostrating posture. They also wash their feet, hands, and face before entering their prayer room. Also, they have eaten different meals from the ones they take in Indonesia, but they say these dishes are delicious.

Works Cited.

Neusner, Jacob, ed. World religions in America: an introduction. Westminster John Knox Press, 2009. Print.

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