There were two classes that I didn’t like at school: history and geography. I had many difficulties in remembering names and dates and unfortunately, those two subjects forced me to do so. Therefore, I got bad grades for those two subjects.
I remembered that I had to read so many (boring) books for those two classes, I had to memorise countries’ name and each of its capital, i had to memorise list of heroes’ name which sounded so abstract for me because I only saw them on pictures and I hated reading historical stories because they were so serious and it was hard for my elementary-until-senior-high-school brain to understand, I also felt that each of historical stories seemed to have no connection at all (well, now we know that those stories indeed have connections.)
Now you know why I used to hate them, right?
Yes, I used to. and now I regret that I hated them.
I agree on someone who said that “seeing the world will open your eyes”. That quotation did a good job on me. My Erasmus Mundus experience gives me whole new perspectives on history and how I see the world. I have never been this regretful on being ignorant of my country’s & the world’s history and THE WORLD’S MAP! I met many friends from different countries, talked to strangers (fyi, my parent used to tell me not to talk to strangers.), visited EU countries, etc and those activities I did or many things I encountered during my first Erasmus Mundus year has successfully opened my eyes that the world I live in is not only the small city I come from, but also the whole whole world with so many countries, so many people living there, and so many things happen there. Meeting and talking to new friends from other countries made me learn about their countries. Although maybe only a little, but at least I know where those countries are, how do the people look like, and their accents and gestures (for example, Italian hand gesture).
When I went to Amsterdam, the Netherlands (NL), I stayed with a Dutch family and the man works as a writer. He was so interested to know many things about Indonesia. He asked me, “Do Indonesians still hate Dutch people? You know we were so cruel to Indonesians.” and I answered, “Those bad things were on the past. I think nowadays most of Indonesians want to go to the NL or maybe thinking that living here is better than living in our country.” Then, he continued his talking about Multatuli (he’s a Dutch writer who wrote about Dutch colonialism in Indonesia, fyi) and some Indonesian histories that he knew. I was thinking on my head, “Sh*t, I remember almost nothing.”
Then, my travel to Eastern Europe countries enriched me with World War II history. When I visited some countries in Eastern Europe, such as Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary; I saw some monuments to remember those who were died and killed during World War II (some were placed near synagogues). I bet you all know about Nazi, but do you remember the story? I didn’t remember at all. I was stupidly stupid because I didn’t even remember the differences between WW I and WW II. My Hungarian friend guided me and my friend around Budapest and she knew many things– about the history of Buda and Pest, the synagogue, etc. After I had arrived in Porto, I googled some references about World War II and I was like, “OMG! I should have read these first before coming to those countries. I would have not just taking pictures but I also would feel some deja vu because I read their histories then I saw those places with my own eyes.” I HAD NEVER BEEN THIS EXCITED OF READING HISTORY! tho I wasn’t able to see WW II pictures. I didn’t have the courage to see😥
Two months ago, the director of my faculty introduced me to a professor (Prof. Antonio Barbedo de Magalhaes— you can google his name if you are curious about him) who have been working in East Timor and had been working on Indonesia-Portugal and East Timor issues for many years before. In short, I met him and surprisingly, he was a good friend of GusDur (Indonesia 4th President) and he met SBY (Indonesia current president) before. We discussed about some issues related about that time when East Timor separated from Indonesia (He talked more than me, of course). When I was talking to him, I was like opening my mouth widely because I was blank. Indonesia-East Timor-Portugal conflict was in 1999 and I was in elementary school. I barely remember any detail except that East Timor used to be a Portuguese colony but now East Timor is an independent country. I never met any East Timor people also before in Indonesia but now, I have many friends from East Timor whom I met in Portugal. FYI, they are very very veeeery nice and bright friends. They are able to speak Indonesian and I felt like I met my old friends. So happy to have this opportunity here.
I believe we don’t need some embarrassing blank-of-history-or-geography moments to make us realise how important those two subjects are. Tho I admit that the way those two subjects being taught is boring. At least that’s what I experienced. Having students to read so many sentences on books with those serious sentences written there with not-so-many pictures, memorising dates, or memorising which country belongs to which continent is so outdated. We have the Internet right now. We have those museums. and proudly, we have those developers who make games based on our historical stories and cultures and also those creative movie makers, animators, and authors who bring those (boring) historical stories on notebook into more interesting and understandable ways. Those stiff studying methods need to be changed. We have those people around us who have been through many experiences in life or who have visited many places. Ask them to tell their stories.
When my families asked me to show them my travel pictures, I brought my map. I showed them where were those cities and countries and told them little histories I knew about those countries. I want them to see the map and not to be late to realise how cool it is (I was late to realise it!). I want them to have the dream that it is possible to go there (Europe seems so far far away for my families). I put the EU map on my room and I marked which cities I have visited and which cities will be my next destination. and I marked on my world map also which country will be my next study destination –Insya Allah. A friend of mine has more creative idea to put a big map on his children’s wall (see his post here).
So, what are you waiting for? Open your map and history books. Don’t have them? You always have Mr. Google😉