Opening the Door to a Career
For the acclaimed novelist Ahmad Fuadi, born in Maninjau, West Sumatra, in 1972, “Fulbright was an important milestone in my life. It opened many doors of opportunity for me, among them, the door to university study, the door to seeing and feeling a different culture and interacting with the people of various nations, especially America, as well as opening the door to a career.”
Prior to receiving a Fulbright, Ahmad Fuadi was a journalist for the weekly magazine Tempo in Jakarta. He went to high school at Pondok Modern Darussalam Gontor, a boarding school (pesantren) in Ponorogo, East Java, and graduated from the Faculty of International Relations at Padjadjaran University in Bandung. In 1998, he received a Fulbright scholarship to enroll in a master’s program in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
In Washington, he had the opportunity to visit a community school for children from poor neighborhoods. “Here was an inspiration that could be realized in Indonesia,” he said. He learned how communities can support education through philanthropy and volunteerism.
Later, after he become a best-selling novelist in Indonesia, Ahmad Fuadi opened a similar school. It is supported by the Tower Community, which he established together with fans of his writing. His first novel, The Land of Five Towers, which fosters the spirit to excel, is the initial work in a trilogy that tells the story of his life journey. It was on the Indonesian best-seller list for 2009 and received the 2010 Indonesia Readers Award and the 2010 Khatulistiwa Literary Award. He donated the proceeds from the sale of his books to build his tuition-free community school.
In his capacity as a journalist, Fuadi felt “lucky” to be in America during a crucial time. Together with his wife, Yayi, also a journalist at Tempo— he covered the historic events of September 11, 2001. They both reported directly from the Pentagon, the White House, and Capitol Hill.
Good information is considered a tool for improving international relations, he said. With this in mind he also translated and distributed his novels in English. Ahmad Fuadi evolved from a “pen pusher” into a motivational speaker, a novelist, and a philanthropist.
With regards to Indonesia and the United States, he argues that, “There needs to be a lot of exchange of information and experience between the two countries. Currently there are many misunderstandings and misconceptions on both sides. In my boarding school there was a saying: ‘We are the enemy of the things we do not know.’ In order to be good partners, we must get to know each other better.”
When he came home from his study in the United States, Ahmad Fuadi became director of communications for the Indonesian branch of the environmental protection organization The Nature Conservancy. It was while conducting outreach activities that he wrote his novels The Land of Five Towers and The Land of Three Colors.
“These books brought new activities to me. I was invited to give lectures three to five times a week,” he said. He also stepped into a new role as a motivational speaker, inspiring people to learn and to communicate. With his increasingly busy schedule of writing and lecturing, he finally decided to work independently as an author. Beginning in 2011, he shifted his focus entirely to writing, lecturing, and taking care of his community school for the poor. He also organizes the volunteers who support his ideals.
Ahmad Fuadi recommends increasing the opportunities for exchange between Indonesians and Americans. “It does not have to be a long study program; even a visit of a few weeks can be very beneficial.”
Last Updated: May 31, 2019 @ 11:38 am
This article appears from the book of Across the Archipelago, from Sea to Shining Sea Commemorating the 60/20 Anniversary of Fulbright and AMINEF (Page 74 – 77) published in 2012.
Translator: Sagita Adesywi and Piet Hendrardjo.
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