Coming to the U.S., and specifically to Chanhassen, was a revelation for Ariq Ramdhany, 16, of Semarang, Indonesia.
“I was not a reader and a computer geek at all before I got to Minnesota,” Ariq explained in a recent email interview with the newspaper. “I just realized this a couple months after my first day in Chanhassen. I love reading, coding and sometimes graphic designing. I make small games and simple apps. I read mostly nonfiction books and I like playing badminton — I can hardly stop if I am in a game.”
The Rotary Club of Chanhassen hosted Ariq this year as its international exchange student. His family in Indonesia includes his parents Lisa and Asad, and his brother Anang. His mother is an advertising manager in a television company, and also teaches meditation. His father is a businessman. Ariq lives with his grandmother to attend his school in Indonesia; his older brother lives at home now that he is attending college.
Ariq became acquainted with the Rotary International Exchange program through his mother, who persuaded him to participate.
“And with all the things happening in the world, I think it is important to know how people from the other side of the world see these things,” he said.
LIFE IN U.S.
Ariq arrived in the U.S. on Aug. 27, 2018. His first host family were the Nolls — Marty and Greg, and their children Ava, 13, and Zach, 19.
“They taught me a lot about living in the U.S. and Minnesota,” Ariq said by email. “They taught me about American breakfast, and other American culture, like foods.
“I learned about the school, how to talk to people at school, and how the schedule works. I learned a lot about American football, too.”
During his time with the Nolls, he experienced autumn and early winter in Minnesota, playing in piles of leaves and making his first snowman and snowballs. He participated in his first Halloween and went trick-or-treating.
“We went to each house of the neighborhood and asked for treats!” Ariq marveled. “I got about 120 candies, it was really nice, but cold, too.”
Ariq’s second host family was the Senns — Willa and Jeremy, and their children, Claire, 5, and Niles, 10.
“Here, I figured out that American dinner is the best thing I’ve experienced in Minnesota,” Ariq said. “At each dinner, we talked about our days, then moved on to one other topic. At home, dinner is just my grandma and me; it’s different.”
He also celebrated his first Christmas, and accompanied the Senns to Nebraska where they spent the holiday with grandparents.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Ariq said. “I got a lot of Christmas presents and got to see the capitol.”
His third host family was the Lohmanns — Gretchen and Kevin and their children Otto, 9 and Hugo, 12. His time with the Lohmanns included movie nights and playing board games. By then it was spring and warmer, allowing Ariq to bike and explore around the city lakes.
“The dinner at the house was delightful, too,” Ariq said. “We would say grace, eat, and talk about the day.”
During his stay at all three host families, Ariq attended Chanhassen High School. In Thailand, he attends SMA 3 Semarang (Semarang 3 Senior High School).
“At home, we don’t change friends (or classes with) each subject, so we get to be together for the whole high school year. In the U.S., I learned to move from class to class and meet a lot of people.”
Ariq’s impression is that school in the U.S. is easier.
“The homework is less frequent and is given clearly by the teacher,” Ariq said. “At home, we do a lot of group projects and sometimes have to meet during the weekends. Also, we wear uniforms.”
It felt strange to call teachers by their names in Chanhassen, Ariq said, compared to school in Indonesia, where deference conveys respect to the teachers. “However, this doesn’t mean better nor worse,” Ariq said. “It’s different.”
During his time at Chanhassen High School, he joined the robotics team, competed in Science Bowl, and played in the orchestra.
“Orchestra was my favorite,” Ariq said. “The classmates were fun, and the class doesn’t give homework and tests. We did three concerts and some playing meets. Sometimes in class, we did games along with having doughnuts and drinks, which was fun.”
Currently, Ariq is on a two-week trip to the East Coast with other exchange students. He’ll return to his family and home in Indonesia on July 10, taking with him a love of reading, coding and badminton.