A Reflection on J-Term

Part way through her university education, Lulu Zakia Qonita, Class of 2021, wrote a reflection piece on her January Term experience in Sydney.

Lulu Zakia Qonita, Class of 2021.

During the first year of college, I saw NYUAD upperclassmen posting so many fun pictures of their J-Term experiences — smiling faces at the Great Wall of China, wearing colorful dresses in front of the aesthetic walls of Buenos Aires, to exquisite dishes in Florence. 

I used to associate J-Terms with having fun but it is so much more.

Lulu Zakia Qonita, Class of 2021

Politics of Belonging looks into how we belong to groups within a community, a society, and a nation, and why we draw boundaries around our communities and exclude those we perceive as “strangers.” It provided new perspectives to the world that I live in.

The Acknowledgement of Australia’s Past

In class, the conversation about reclaiming Australia’s past continued beyond our visit to the National Center of Indigenous Excellence.

A group in our class presented a final project on interviewing old and young people on “Australia Day.” We discovered that younger generations were more likely to call the day “Invasion Day.'' They were also more open to speaking about the Stolen Generation where many indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families in the past due to governmental policies.

I also learned about a time when the White Australia Policy was in place, hindering people of certain backgrounds — mostly Asians and Pacific Islanders — to immigrate there. As an Indonesian, this knowledge made me reflect on how my dream to move to Australia when I was younger would have been impacted, and how government policies affect people’s sense of belonging.

Life at a Different Pace

Aerial view of the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney taught me a very important life lesson too: There is life outside of work. Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, I am used to the perception of 24 hours feeling like 10 hours. 

In Abu Dhabi and New York, everyone is always busy studying — a norm. Studying hard is important but Sydney taught me that taking care of myself was just as important. 

This J-Term made me realize that I am capable of so many more things. I had challenged myself to surf at Manly Beach, tried skydiving for the first time in my life, and learned to appreciate nature when I hiked for hours in the Blue Mountains. I also love the relaxed pace of the city where baristas gave fist bumps and a reassuring smile when handing over your coffee.

I came to Sydney as someone who was anxious about many things, and I left being at peace with myself. J-Term in Sydney is not just a crash course on identity politics. I have started thinking about where life beyond campus could take me to.

Lulu Zakia Qonita is a third year student student at NYU Abu Dhabi majoring in Social Research and Public Policy. She has also completed minors in Theater and Social Entrepreneurship from NYU Stern School of Business and NYU Wagner School of Public Services. Her January Term (J-Term) was held in Sydney, taking a course called Politics of Belonging.