As the clock strikes noon on a clear-skied Saturday, Brandon and Bradley Goldstein wait nervously near a temporary stage in Boston’s Copley Square. Donning the colorful traditional Indonesian garb known as batik, the brothers take the stage in front of thousands of attendees and passersby.
Amid the aromas of such staples of Indonesian cuisine as chicken satay and nasi kuning, the two masters of ceremonies kick off the New England Indonesian Festival, the largest celebration of Indonesian heritage on the East Coast.
“I feel like our culture is underrepresented in a lot of ways, so being able to showcase our food, our dance, our music for a melting-pot audience, it’s amazing,” says Brandon Goldstein, the elder of the two brothers, who is studying mechanical engineering at Northeastern.
Brandon says their Indonesian heritage is a major part of their identity. The brothers split their childhood between Singapore and their birthplace in a suburb outside of Jakarta. Brandon arrived first in Boston in 2015, and immediately joined the Massachusetts branch of an Indonesian college students’ union known by its Indonesian acronym PERMIAS. He says he had found his “home away from home.”
“I was able to participate in a warm community of individuals who shared the same core experiences as me,” he says. “Sometimes it’s the small things that make you feel at home—like finding people to enjoy your favorite childhood snacks with.”
Bradley followed his brother to Northeastern the following year, and since then, the two have been active participants in the organization, taking on leadership positions as soon as they could.
Bradley handles the logistical planning of events while Brandon offers guidance and advice to younger students. Together, they help put together the annual festival, coordinate several student outreach events, and connect members to co-op or full-time job employers. They do all of this, they say, to ensure that other Indonesian students feel as comfortable as they did when they first arrived.
“It was remarkable that Northeastern allowed us to find a place where we felt comfortable and fit in,” says Bradley, who is studying bioengineering at Northeastern. “We want others to feel the same.”
Six hours before the festival was set to start, Brandon and several other students began setting up for the day. He called his mother on FaceTime, and with a smile on his face, told her about the day’s festivities.
“I’m just happy to represent my culture,” he says. “It’s the least I can do.”