Strength Lies in Differences, Not in Similarities

I went to Japan in December 2008 as an exchange student from Indonesia. I had been through a very tight selection before I with 59 other students and 6 teachers finally went to a program named Jenesys 2008, which held for giving a better understanding of Japanese culture. But unfortunately, it was not the only thing I got from the trip, because there were 6 other countries, Australia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Thailand, and The Philippines, with different cultures, languages, and backgrounds, participating on that program too, so I also learned about the differences and how to face that.

With massive amounts of people, 60 students and 6 teachers from each country, except Australia which sent more than 240 students and teachers, I had to fit in well. I divided into bus groups with 30 students and 3 teachers each, with 3 students from the same country. I started to learn new things there, when I became a minority in the place I had never been before, with people I had never met before.

What made me different from others was I was the only one who worn hijab. I understood that it might be unusual for some people, that is why they asked my reason for wearing hijab. But after I explained them that I worn it due to my religion and it was a good thing to protect myself from anything bad, they could understand and they respected me as much as I did to them.

Jenesys was a 2 weeks program in which I went sightseeing, experienced Japanese cultures and cuisines, went to historical places, and also home stayed and studied in the local school. For the home stay program, the bus groups divided again into chapter groups, contain of 10 students and a teacher each, with only one people from each country except 4 from Australia. This time was the most challenging part of the whole program because I had to introduce Indonesia to everyone all by myself, and whatever I did people would think it was what all Indonesians did, so I had to think carefully before did anything.

I stayed with a family consisted of 5 people, which only the daughter could speak English and her English was not so good. It was a bit hard to communicate with them because usually they did not know how to say something in English and when I said anything they hardly understood. But it was not that bad because I brought a Japanese-English dictionary, so when they could not understand what I was saying we used the dictionary. Also it was funny to know that we communicated by gestures, because all I knew is everyone was made for communicates with others.

I learned so many things from the family. I slept on the Japanese traditional bed named futon, brought obentou (lunch) to school, drank ocha (Japanese green tea), and many other things. Since it was winter in Japan, the temperature was very different with my country, I got sick. But my host mother took care of me as if I was her real daughter, which made me feel really well appreciated and I could not stop to thank her.

At the school, I and other Jenesys students got some classes to attend such as kanji (Japanese alphabet) making, mocha (Japanese food) making, and others. As a Muslim I had to pray 5 times a day, and I got to pray at the school in the break time. There was another Muslim from Malaysia so we prayed together. The next day, my Australian friend who did not know that I was praying with my Malaysian friend asked me if I saw that Malaysian guy praying the day before. She said that the Malaysian guy did something weird and called it praying. I just smiled because even if indirectly she made a joke about how I prayed, it did not make me angry because I found it good to know people’s opinion about it, especially when they knew nothing about it.

Another great part was when I and others sat down in front of our hotel rooms before the bed time and told everyone about anything we had. It made me know about their cultures and how it was like in their home countries. And we also shared a bit about our talents and I learned to respect about what others had even if it looked so strange for me.

The time flight so quickly and it came the time to say goodbye. People cried as they already found the friendships. I cried too because I felt so sad to think that I might not see them anymore. But I am now so thankful because the trip gave me so many things, friendship, knowledge, love, and respect. It also opened my mind that there is a life out there, out of my own life, which I believe can make me be better if I could experience it, because all I felt in the trip was the increase of my nationality. It motivated me to go somewhere else to tell how Indonesia is and also give good impacts for Indonesia when I return.


This is an essay I made more than a year ago, for college matters. It brought 6 rejection letters and only 1 good news, but still I'm glad I've written this so at least there's a part of my past I won't forget.

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