What to consider before going (or not going) abroad and what you should do about it
Recently, studying abroad has become an emerging trend among young Indonesians, particularly in the next 2 months (March and April) when these folks had to finalize their choice for their future education. This trend might happen for various reasons: effect of globalization, easier access to the destination country and (most importantly for me) the presence of English-based program. Yupp guys you know it, language has become one of the biggest barrier for us students to consider going abroad. As I imagine myself, let’s say, studying Politics in Turkish, I foresee that I’d be having twice of the work: learning the difficult lesson itself through a difficult language that we’ve never been acquainted before. This is one of the biggest reasons that motivate us (me, my friends, and perhaps you!) to dare ourselves for studying abroad, as Indonesian students in general have a sufficient ability in English. Even so, pursuing bachelor degree through non English-based program (which often happen in German, Turkey and Japan) is still a desirable option for these ambitious youngsters.
I’m quite sure that you folks had once read an article about “tips kuliah di luar negri”, “what to prepare for studying abroad”, etc ; and just to make it clear, what’s inside here are more or less the same thing…so don’t expect anything special (I’ve warned you ._.) However, albeit being discussed redundantly, perspectives about this topic are obviously worth sharing. So here we go!
- INTENTION a.k.a NIAT : Before you plan to study abroad, take a break and ask yourself: why do you intend to do so in the first place? Intention is crucial since a lot of Indonesians, at least in my experience, are interested to study abroad for trivial reasons, such as for the sake of prestige (lebih keliatan kece kalo kuliah di luar negeri) or only for travelling (which is sebenarnya bakal susah dilakukan karena tugas kuliah yang numpuk). This point is ought to be stressed because some universities in Indonesia has even greater prominence and quality compared to those abroad (check this post). In other words, I think that exerting such a big money and effort only to have some jaw-dropping instagram posts or self-admirable experiences are just shameful, if not pointless at best. A student exists to study; thus, academic consideration should matter most when you plan your post-highschool agenda.
- JOB MARKET : Another point to consider is of course your employability. You might want to imagine what kind of work you want in the future and where, because sometimes not having an Indonesian bachelor degree might trouble you if you want to work domestically. For instance –correct me if I’m wrong– I heard that to become a doctor in Indonesia you have to possess an Indonesian medical diploma; some other jobs also require such thing. But if you’ve already planned to work in multinational corporations, international organizations, world level research centers or other jobs requiring global standard competencies, then study abroad might be the right call for you.
- SCHOLARSHIP : For me, the availability of scholarship is a “harga mati” that is not open for bargain; its presence is a must. In general, studying abroad would cost you a lot of money. In my case of Japan, it’s not only about the money for school that matters but mainly the crazy living cost here. Like, the cheapest barbershop that I could find here cost me roughly Rp150.000 per cut –given that I usually spend only Rp10.000 to a barber near my house, this is just too “sakit”. So I personally recommend you not to go abroad if you don’t receive scholarship. The pain just doesn’t worth you the gain.
- FELLOW COUNTRYMEN : Also consider whether there is a community of your nation (like in our case Persatuan Pelajar Indonesia) in the place where you’d like to study. I think this is important because at the first two or three months abroad, you’ll be doing a lot of paper-works, administrative procedures and of course culture adaptations that can be a bit stressful. By having fellow countrymen on your side, you’d be able to hear their experiences, tips and, if you’re lucky, their sincere assistance when you face new problems. As Indonesians, in particular, our bond is very strong. They will visit you when you’re sick, lend you their car when you want to move your furniture to your new apartment and help celebrate + organize your wedding in that country! (if you’re lucky enough to experience one)
- RELIGIOUS PRACTICE : I perceive Indonesians as very religious people. Whether you’re a follower of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, KongHuCu or other believes, access and feasibility for religious practices would definitely be a priority. As a Muslim, I first spent a small research upon the presence of Mosque (since I have to go to Jumat prayer each week), halal food and an Islamic community in the neighborhood before going to Kyoto. It turned out that Kyoto is a very Muslim-friendly city. Despite only having one mosque and few halal restaurants, Muslims are not treated with prejudice by the people so life’s here is really pleasant.
- PARENTS : Last but not least is of course your parents. I won’t talk much since you guys must already know about this, but make sure that your parents permit and bless your intention to go abroad. Sometimes, your parents might have different opinion from you and they might somehow disagree with your plan but please listen to them. Although your and your parent’s opinion might diverge at a time, remember this: FAMILY COMES FIRST. So, omongin baik-baik dan pikirkan matang-matang. Because, your college life might be your last chance to live one house with your parents.
If you’ve already read the 6 points above and you thing you’re still okay with going abroad, then let’s continue. Written below is a sort of tips for you to do in preparing your study abroad agenda. Since there are a lot of types of study abroad program, I’d like to narrow down my explanation only to ENGLISH-BASED PROGRAMS. Japanese-based program or other programs not delivered in English (such as Mitsui Scholarship, Monbusho S1, etc) are excluded from my discussion, since I have limited knowledge about them. Given so, here are my personal tips:
- Take IELTS or TOEFL immediately! You guys have to focus on Ujian Nasional (National Examination) in the second semester, so you’d better start doing your foreign language certification.
- Start to learn local language, which is Japanese in my case, even just the most basics like the letters (hiragana-katakana) and daily conversation. Though you’ll be learning in English, you’ll find hard to live if you don’t have any basics in Japanese at all
- Never underestimate attendance and assignments! I know that in High School, most of our grades are assessed from monthly test (ujian blok atau ulangan harian) and also final exam (UTS, UAS, UKK, etc). It’s really common among us, Indonesian students, to ignore homework and assignments. However in Ritsumeikan, my campus, assignments are really crucial to determine our performance. Being able to attend classes also give great contribution to your final grade
- Learn sophisticated vocabs. For example, you can just search “SAT words list” in the internet such as and you’ll see academic vocabularies that you’re not accustomed to (e.g. redundant, to elucidate, ravenous, jeopardy). However knowing these scholarly words are important so when you are reading papers, journals and materials, you don’t need to consult the dictionary really often.
- Along with the sophisticated English, you also need to familiarize with casual English. This might sound trifling, but it’s going to be a bit weird if you’re conversing with your friends in too much grammatical-slash-academic English rather than casual one (see how “how do you do” and “what’s up!” differs). Since I can’t really do casual English, I can’t make jokes and I don’t understand my friend’s jokes, which makes me omoshirokunai, uninteresting (?), or jayus *criesinside*
- Try to open the PPI website of your planned destination country; you’ll find myriad of information there. If you got the fortune, there might be a generous PPI member who’d greet you in the airport, help you settling in, give you second-hand furniture for free (I’m humbled to be given a free bicycle by an Indonesian friend), etc. Just start making connection before you depart and you’ll be fine.
I hope this article help and good luck with your future studies! I’m looking forward to seeing and helping you guys when you arrived here in Kyoto!