“Every day I walked to campus I had to pass the river, the beautiful river, wearing my hijab. In the summertime, people would be sunbathing in bikinis. And here I was, walking among them fully covered head-to-toe, but nobody said anything.” With these thoughts, Texas State Alumna Nita Novianti reflects on her time at Texas State as a graduate student in the MA Literature program, expressing that her memories are of the kindness and acceptance that have extended beyond her time in Flowers Hall. From her current home on the island of Tasmania, she says, “learning [at Texas State] gave [her] so many invaluable experiences,” and that even when she felt like “an alien in the fields of bikinis,” she was reminded of how welcome she was.
Before walking her kids to school on an April morning earlier this year, Novianti relayed these fond and powerful memories from her experience studying at Texas State, while her children laughed and played behind her. She had been awake since the early hours of the morning, completing work on her Ph.D. in Education with a focus on teaching critical literacy through fairytales. Studying at the University of Tasmania, Novianti explains that the roles she balances each day — “a Ph.D. student, a mother to two children, a wife, a daughter, a lecturer for [her] University in Indonesia, and also a translator,” embody the global journey she has taken through her study of literatures in English.
After earning an undergraduate English degree from the Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (Indonesia University of Education) (her home country), she enrolled in Texas State’s graduate MA Literature program after being awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to support her studies. Her time at Texas State was her first time abroad, so choosing the right program to enroll in for her 2-year Fulbright Scholarship was important. Of her first experience corresponding with the English Department, Novianti fondly remembers that, after receiving a personal response – rather than an automated reply – to an email she sent asking about the program, she immediately thought, “I need to go there.”
Among the scholarly interests she explored at Texas State are postcolonialism and feminist literature, interests she attributes to her “background as a woman from a Southeast Asian country that was one of the colonized nations in Asia; I feel like this literature represents who I am.” She also notes the influence her children have had on her work, “I also love children’s literature, especially since I gave birth to my two beautiful children.” Initially, she says, children’s literature was not a topic she was particularly interested in, but “now [she is] in love with it.” Today, her interest in children’s literature is her main research focus for her current studies toward the Ph.D..
During her Master’s degree, she was able to explore her interests as well as investigate new ones. Realizing English literature was “even wider in scope than I thought,” she lists Chicanx and Native American literatures as examples of types of new texts she was exposed to at Texas State: “I thought [English Literature] was just, you know, canonized, white, male literature. I came to realize it is beyond that, so I felt enlightened in so many ways.” Expanding her exploration of English Literature with the Department’s faculty also brought useful challenges to the way she teaches, writes, and reads; she recalls in particular the support of several professors, including Steve Wilson, Robin Cohen, Nancy Wilson, Paul Cohen, Nancy Grayson, Daniel Lochman, and Rebecca Bell-Metereau.
Since graduating with her MA Literature degree in 2010, Novianti had the opportunity to discover a passion for teaching at the university level, using her graduate work to secure a Lecturer position at the Indonesia University of Education, where she was the first English Lecturer to hold an M.A. in literature. She notes, “many of the Lecturers graduated after studying English education, so I felt like it was a blessing.” She also works to share her passion for reading and the inspiration she gets from it by posting read-along videos to YouTube. Starting as an activity shared with her children, her videos allow her to share her storytelling and “the joy of reading” with as many people as she can. Maintaining the YouTube channel and her personal blog have since become some of her favorite hobbies.
Now living off the coast of the Australian mainland, she continues her global journey, as well as her study of literature: “It’s beautiful here…. I really like it. It kind of reminds me of Texas; the people are so bubbly here.” While maintaining her many roles, Novianti continues down the long road to her Ph.D. work, sharing that many of the skills she gained and experiences she had at Texas State were invaluable for success on the path she is now traveling.
– Kennedy Farrell, English Major