Catatan dari Kelas Sejarah Amerika Serikat


A month ago, I went to a place where I was expected to cast my mind a few hundred years back, to a place where the words of Andrew Carnegie, the great depression of 1929, and Theodore Roosevelt were brought to the surface. A place that gave me a chance to explore every nook and cranny of America.

I had been contemplating the idea of taking a history class since last winter. I knew that an American history class would require a lot of reading. Apparently, I am a natural sloth when it comes to reading English, and the dictionary is still my best buddy. It takes me twice the amount of time to grasp what an author is saying. Taking a history class was my first phase of fear that I had successfully tackled. My reason to add a new index of knowledge about how people’s interaction and past events shaped the way the world currently perceives America, outweighed the anxiety I had before enrolling in the class.

I thought my fear had vanished. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the class, yet the second phase of fear started to sneak up on me. As the course demanded more space from my brain and I was expected to finish five to seven chapters twice a week, I was perplexed most of the time. I really felt like a cluster of nerves during this time. People in my class seemed delighted to be there, especially two students majoring in history who sat in the second row as I did, and a combat veteran who sat in the corner who often said “Yes, sir!” to emphasize that he understood the instructor. The other students were thoughtful and enraptured during the three hours long lecture.

I could have withdrawn myself from this course immediately after my instructor handed me back my first quiz and exam. I earned horrible scores. Instead, I thought, “There will be an improvement and leaving this class before it officially ends is abhorrent to every instinct in my body.” I remained calm and worked twice as hard. My scores did improve, but they were just mediocre. My hard work was pointless. I was preoccupied by the thought of wanting to learn since I didn’t have much background about America and getting an A which would look good on a college application. I thought that once I performed poorly, my chances to transfer to a high acclaimed business school would diminish.

I can’t recall, but someone in my life said that arrival in a new place is like a birth. You have stacks of rules to learn, and your ignorance is forgiven, like a child. As I thought about this analogy, it didn’t seem quite apply to my situation. I wondered: “If my ignorance is forgiven, would my opportunity of transferring to my dream school diminish?”

Despite the fact that 99 % percent of me wanted to quit, there was 1% of me kept flickering a light. That 99% hissed to me that I wasn’t capable of passing the history class, and I was taking too much of a risk by continuing. On the other hand, the 1%, convinced me to stick it out and put the thought of being rejected from my favorite university aside. It also reassured me: if I kept going on and failed, I would still have time to pull off great things in the upcoming semesters. After the second test, I worked harder and more insane than before. Persistence indeed paid off. I ended up getting a C, which to me was far more satisfying for someone who knows next to nothing about this country.

I was grateful to have let my ears listened to the 1% side. If I had not taken this class, I would not have known that America had a long, dark period—the depression, which was considered the worst disaster the United States had faced since the Civil War. Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of United States optimistically proclaimed in his inaugural address of March 1929 that he had no fears for the future of America. In addition, people were ecstatic because by the beginning of 1929, the nation seemed to have reached a permanent state of prosperity. Until the crashing of the stock market, a gray cloud hanging above America, and the homeless begging for food became common fixtures.

After familiarizing myself with an important part of America’s history, everything started to make sense. I have always questioned why this country seems unbeatable and has everything that other countries don’t. When the others countries were still in dreamland, America had jumped out of bed, taken a shower, made scrambled eggs for breakfast, and readied itself for work. People say that 1908 signaled America’s rise to a world power. It was the year when nearly two-and-a-half-hour flight by Wilbur Wright was considered the longest ever made in an airplane. Henry Ford’s genius successfully introduced the automobile, the Model T, which almost every American class could afford and changed Americans’ life. The events that occurred within a year put America on par with Britain and Germany as global powerhouses.

I proved that challenging myself was a great decision. I would never be able to measure myself until I immersed myself in a circumstances that orbited out of my comfort zone. Almost no one likes engaging themselves with things they are unaccustomed to. Otherwise, success is within reach and is not a valuable commodity. Playing outside of my comfort zone allowed me to get to know myself better. I knew which skills demanded more attention. I knew the paths I should take if I had to face a similar issue in the future. In addition, I learned how to be a survivor.

I am not saying that fear, self-doubt, anxiety and I are not going to hang out for the upcoming school semester. Having a sense of fear is part of human nature. It happens to everyone. Yet, at least, this American history class shaped me to be more confident in tackling the obstacles and assured me that every existing problem has a workable solution. I began to believe the social Darwinism theory of “survival of the fittest,” which claimed that in human society only the fittest individuals survived and flourished in the marketplace. Last but not least, without this newfound confidence there wouldn’t be these thoughts, which I hoped will inspire someone out there, especially international students to cheer, “If this dude can do it, why can’t we?”

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