College of Education > News and Publications > 2017: 04-06 news > Doctoral candidate aims to help his Indonesian students broaden their horizons

Doctoral candidate aims to help his Indonesian students broaden their horizons

Usep Syaripudin hopes to change students' way of thinking when he returns to his homeland to teach educators.

Many students of all ages seemingly want to change the world. Usep Syaripudin simply would like to have an effect in his little far-away corner of it in Indonesia, and he’s pursuing his doctorate in curriculum and supervision to make that happen.

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Usep Syaripudin helps run an Indonesian Student Association and conducts a cultural night for Penn State students and others who might be interested in learning about Indonesia.
He was a high-school English teacher for five years and then taught in the English Department at Teachers College in Indonesia. “I will pursue my Ph.D. (in the College of Education) and go back to Teachers College to continue my work teaching educators,” Syaripudin said.

If nothing else, Syaripudin would like to draw on his College of Education experiences to help his students broaden their horizons similar to the way his have developed and advanced while in the United States. 

“What I like is my professors, they assign me reading, but they cannot enforce us to agree with it; it’s a freedom thing,” he said. “I work in different context. Not all the reading and all the concept of the reading in the classes fits to my context. How do I make it fit then, what kind of adjustment do I need to make, and my professor helps me with that.”

Disagreement with opinions in Indonesia is frowned upon, Syaripudin said. “Our religion is so strong … I’m in a lower level; I can’t disagree with people above me so I learn differently how to express my disagreement. It’s a different concept. I need to be alternative at some point but at the same time I need to be democratic. It’s in the context,” he explained.

What he’s learning in the College of Education is how to change, and he’d like to teach that as well. “What I’m going to change is the way I talk with my students,” he said. “I usually use my work as their lecture and you’re going to do this and this, and next I’m thinking that my teaching has to change, that my style has to change – to be more open and to provide them with the opportunities to express the ideas of what I’m thinking, even though I know it’s not easy to do in my context.”

Syaripudin attended Nusantara Islamic University in Indonesia and earned a degree in English education prior to attending the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville for a master’s in educational leadership. “One thing that I’m really interested in and why I decided to go to Penn State is learning about school and university partnerships in teacher education,” Syaripudin said.

“When I did research about this, I found Penn State is one of the best schools for that. I contacted some professors here to ask if I’m good for this College and they said yes and I applied.” He expects to graduate with his doctoral degree in spring 2019. 

“If I have the skill to speak English I will have more opportunities for employment,” Syaripudin said. “I went to Teachers College for my undergrad but I had no idea to become a teacher at the time. I didn’t want to become a teacher but my first job is teaching.”

“Hopefully by sharing my story with my students, it can inspire them to at least be like me and travel the world. To tell people, especially teachers, this is what I learned." -- Usep Syaripudin

Syaripudin said when students in Indonesia learn something, they have to learn it from teachers. “We do reflection but we don’t regard it as a way to learn something,” he said. “The teacher is a source of knowledge so people can really fit in if they learn something from somebody and not from their reflection. I need to deal with that. 

“You have to look back on your experience and use that to learn something new. I want to facilitate you to do that. When it comes to introducing something new, of course I need to teach them. But when they are implemented and how they learn from it, I need them to reflect on the problem,” he said.

Syaripudin also works with Assistant Professor Amy Crosson in her projects about teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) students. “I’m not only learning about research but about how to teach ESL students because in my country I’m teaching foreign language students, so I learn a lot from this very good experience,” he said. 

His advisers, Assistant Professor Rachel Wolkenhauer and Associate Professor Ann Whitney, have invited him into various programs, and Professor Jamie Myers has offered him a chance to assist in his Professional Development School Secondary English program. 

“It’s really a good fit for me because I’m teaching English teachers in Indonesia and Jamie’s program works with English teachers here, so it’s like how it works working with those teachers,” Syaripudin said.

“After participating in this program, I’m like, ‘OK, how do I make this fit into my context? What should I do? What people do I need to work with to make this thing work?’”

Until Syaripudin returns home to Indonesia to teach, he’s been helping a number of Penn State students from Indonesia feel at home.

He participates in the Indonesian Student Association that has between 50 and 60 students, and he assists them with their programs; he helped them organize an Indonesian cultural night over spring break. “It’s fun to have friends from our country where someone can share,” he said.

Syaripudin entered the blogging world as well, to share what he’s learned in the U.S. with people in his country and with his friends and colleagues in the Teachers College where he once worked in Indonesia.

“I share everything from not only academics but also about my personal journey here, some fun stories,” he said. “I just want to share the story with my people, especially my students. I want them to pursue the big dream, to study abroad, but not everyone can afford it. 

“Luckily, we have so many funding programs in Indonesia; our government spends lots of money to fund people who study abroad, but it’s really competitive. 

“Hopefully by sharing my story with my students, it can inspire them to at least be like me and travel the world. To tell people, especially teachers, this is what I learned. 

“One thing that I’m interested in is about teacher research and I write on my blog about teacher research to share that with them. Academic resources are difficult for our teachers in Indonesia. That way by writing a blog and sharing it with them, I can provide them with how to learn about teacher research.”

And have an effect in his little corner of the world.

Jim Carlson (May 2017)