What life is like at our college
When our students start their time at Erickson-Tritt, they move into a dorm. We do have some off-campus commuter students, but most live here on campus. If they are already married, they live in the married student houses, which are right up the dirt path from our house. These students have tiny houses (they completely fit into the tiny house trend currently happening in America!) that were built right after we got here. Most of them build a little cooking shack off the back of their houses, and four or five houses will share an outhouse shack and a well, where they hand wash their clothes.
One of the families up the road from us is extremely industrious and over their four years here they have cleared a lot of the unkept land around us and grown greens and beans and tubers. The wife and kids and grandma are up at the crack of dawn, planting, harvesting, and going off to the market to sell their produce. They are amazing. This is one of their daughters showing a Chinese long bean they are growing.
The single students are split between a girl’s dorm and a boy’s dorm. The girls dorm is a new building and the boys dorm is quite worn and needs either to be fixed or replaced. There are many projects that need to be completed on campus, and everything requires funding. We work each year to identify projects we as TEAM can help with, and give toward those needs.
The start classes at around 8 in the morning, and are usually in class, or doing other academic work for most of the morning. There is a midday chapel required for all students, and the students take turns leading all parts of the chapel, preparing them to lead in their own communities.
There are some afternoon classes, with the office and academic buildings open until 3pm. We and TEAM have worked quite a bit over the past years to build up the library so that the students have a range of books to learn from, and there is a computer lab for those who don’t have access to a device of their own for writing up papers or doing online research. During the pandemic we also installed wi-fi, which was necessary when the government ordered all schools to go online during the pandemic. For the students that grew up in interior villages, that is a steep learning curve.
The students weekly have a “kerja bakti”/community service time, where they together clean up a part of campus, do landscaping, whatever type of upkeep or cleanup is needed. They all have tshirts to wear for community service time proclaiming “no-trash Manokwari!”
Students also have a practical ministry placement. We have two degrees offered, education and theology, and their ministry placement reflects their goals and degree, giving them practice for leading and giving them an opportunity to put into practice what they are learning. In our church we have students that help run the Sunday school and lead in the youth ministry. This is a real delight, and my heart is so warmed to watch our church kids love and trust some of those student leaders. I really get to see them work to take scripture and make it simple, interesting, and clear for the kids, like when one student brought in a little plant to talk about some of Jesus’ parables. The students that have worked at our church have come from all over and have wildly different backgrounds. .
There are all sorts of cultural moments that set apart campus life here from campus life in the US, like when the boys dorm catches a big snake and fries it up for dinner, or when everyone is up in arms because a wild pig has dug up campus gardens. Petty crime is really common in our town, but because most students and professors live on campus, there is a strong sense of community watch. If someone who is drunk or disturbed begins causing a rukus, there will be a phone call or whatsapp message and in just a few minutes there will be a pack of guys (often including Isaac) handling the situation. When our professors were all gone on a staff retreat, the male students took safety patrols all night long (the gun in the photo below is not a real gun, which civilians are not allowed to have here. Machetes are usually the weapon of choice!).
This campus is affectionately called the “beloved green campus”. When this land was bought, buildings were carved out of the jungle. It grows so fast that it still feels like it’s in the jungle a bit, and it is green and tropical, with a little river flowing on one side and the ocean on another. Campus kids (the children of married students or the staff) roam free, fishing in the river or ocean, racing bikes (for those who have them), running in and out of the offices to see their parents before playing outside again.
Because of the way campus life is considered a communal responsibility, working together to keep up the campus, cook, etc., and because of the way Indonesian schedule in “rubber time”, it is nigh impossible for a student to hold a job while being a student. That is pretty different from the USA. So, many student’s education are sponsored by their home church or their extended family or their tribe. Many students struggle to pay their bills, though they are dramatically lower than a Western college education. We have students do odd jobs for us because it’s a tough situation for the married students who have no income. Below is one of our students raised interior who was helping us work on a tree that was getting too big in our yard. Another student that was raised in town looked on with admiration, as he wasn't raised in the jungle and can't climb trees with the same skill that this guy can!
There is a rhythm to the school year, with a brief summer break, a Fall missions week, big Christmas celebrations before break, a spring spirit week before the celebration of the anniversary of the school’s founding, and exams before graduation. These things mark the year but they flow, with the school’s calendar and big events changing dates multiple times throughout the year. The school and students raise money for all of the events, since the school has little money of it’s own. They are usually occasions of joy and fun and fancy, fostering student life. Trips interior to serve in villages are also scheduled in, led by professors, like the one that recently went across the Bird's Head during our Idul Fitri break.
And this spirit week beach trip with singing, games, and much laughter.
Next time we hope to tell you some about where our students go and what they do after graduation. We love this community and these students!