I had always wanted to continue my study abroad since I was still in my senior high-school year. I just wanted to have the experience of living and learning other cultures in different countries. My whole family, however, believed it would be an impossible thing to do. They knew they wouldn’t be able to fund me. So I started to look for a chance to go on some non-self funded exchange programs, but when I found out about a great program called the AFS, I was too late to even be able to register to it. It was a bit hard to find other opportunities as there weren’t that many sources of information back then in 2006.
In the meantime, I continued on working on my English and living the life as a regular high-school student. My intention to travel around the world remained strong in my blood. The first country I fell in love with was the United Kingdom, thanks to the Harry Potter movie series. At the end of my 7th semester, I got into a motorcycle accident which made me unable to walk normally for some time. As a consequence, I was late again when I learned about the opportunity to get full scholarship from the Australian Government. I felt like a failure.
For me, that was only a start as I continue to search for international opportunities. Back in 2009. I applied for PPAN Jawa Timur, Global UGRAD, and several other opportunities but I always went back empty-handed. But I did not stop. I knew if I wanted to make my dream come true, I gotta work on it. I then started to write not only about my dream, but also how to get there. I understand that to succeed in getting international experiences, first I had to get familiar with the condition, the international environment. The next step I took was to make friends with people who had experiences abroad by joining an international organization called AIESEC which at that time had a network in 113 countries (and now, 124 countries) and looked for a way to get scholarship.
Before you read this article in further, let me get it straight: my mom is working as a Civil Servant and her position is only a staff. Her income was less than 400 USD per month. On the other hand, my father (Alm), as lawyer, was neither working in law firm nor having his own big law firm. His office is based in Kediri and his cases were mainly for social motives. Trust me, both of their income was only enough to cover our daily needs. I am the youngest child in the family, having two older siblings. We’re lucky to never felt inadequate, just enough. If you in this kind of condition or doing much better, then you can do it. Going abroad is no longer a dream. It is possible!
Most of my international experiences was actually funded by my university, Universitas Airlangga (Well, mostly by my faculty, which is the Faculty of Law) and surely it was not always fully-funded. I would always have to find additional fund to make it enough for the event. How do I do it?
1. Build yourself.
So you want to be funded? Then give them reasons why they should fund you! Build yourself and keep improving. Do you have a good GPA? Are you active in university activities? Are you joining student or youth organizations and leading a team? Are you a faithful person? Yes, personal branding is important. Not to build a false image, but more about creating the better version of you. If you want your university and company fund you, then join a research or national competition. Strive hard and prove that you will always give the best effort for everything you do and they will see you. Just for a short comparison, if you’re a company and you have 2 CVs that have the same GPA, but one of them had lead a national event, joined a competition and had a good internship experience while the other CV doesn’t have any experience at all, which one will you choose? See the point? Trust me, building yourself is the first step for you to get yourself funded.
2. Look for university funding
This is what my team and I usually do. We never register for an event before appearing in our Head of Student Affair’s door (Kepala Kemahasiswaan) or Vice Dean of Finance and Human Resources’ door (Wakil Dekan bagian Keuangan dan Kepegawaian) and asking for funding. No, we never did. It will kill us if they suddenly didn’t want to fund it. Therefore, before joining an event we always discussed with the university first. My team and I would always schedule appointments with the university and ask their opinions about the events. Most of the time, they will ask us to come back with proposal or discussion and if we’re lucky, a decision whether this would be funded in advance or not so we can decide earlier whether we would be able to join this event or not. Every university has their own policy. Universitas Airlangga for example, has a policy that in one year, each faculty can fund a maximum of 12 students for international experience, with 3.000.000 IDR fund for ASEAN Countries and 5.000.000 IDR fund for ASEAN countries for a short program. (If you are UNAIR student and you’re reading this and you think the amount is wrong, please let me know). My faculty, the Faculty of Law, is one of the most generous faculties. They always give more than we think they would give to us. In my experience, the fund from both my university and my faculty were always almost enough to fund me. When I joined MUN in Bangkok back in 2012, both my flight and hotel were fully covered by my university and faculty (I got less than 80 USD for roundtrip promo ticket to Bangkok from Surabaya and promo hotel for 15 USD per room-night for 2 people). My flight to Abu Dhabi from Surabaya was covered too (it was only around 650USD for round trip promo ticket), another promo flight to Cambridge I took for MUN was also covered by my university (I got Jakarta-London-Jakarta ticket for only 800USD with Emirates). See how the duet of university funding and sudden promo time work for you? Yes, the universe will conspire to help you if you really want it to make it happen! Your university doesn’t have such fund? MAKE THEM DO! In my university, they always make a financial plan earlier in the year and review it in the middle of the year, so if you want your activity to be funded or at least be considered, then discuss with them before this period and of course, to have the power in every kind of discussion and negotiation, you have to first convince them why they should considered you. Your personal branding is, in fact, important. You have already done this but still your university doesn’t want to fund you? Don’t worry; there are many ways to Rome. Find another way!
3. Find your own regular scholarship.
This is not the type of scholarship to fund you to go abroad. This is just a regular scholarship for your study that you can use for your trip. Beasiswa Djarum, Beasiswa Pertamina, Bank Mayapada, Beasiswa Angkasa Pura, Beasiswa PPA/BBM are scholarships with their own characteristics and amount. Instead of using them for your daily needs or a trip with your best friends, why don’t you start to save it for your international experiences? In 2011, the first time I went abroad to India for self-funded exchange with AIESEC Surabaya, I had my saving of around 360 USD which I got from PPA Scholarship for a year (They gave me in two periods, first was 150 USD and then 210 USD). Also, after that I received another 210 USD in one semester from PPA which I used to pay for my flight to Singapore to join the National Leadership Development Conference in December 2011. Later on, I got Beasiswa Djarum which summed up to around 850USD in total. I used 500 USD of it for joining MUN in Cambridge, 150 USD for 10 days in United Emirate Arab, 150 USD for 10 days in Thailand and the rest for my daily needs. As far as I know, up until now, if you can get Beasiswa Djarum, you will receive around 70USD/month for a year, Beasiwa Pertamina around 35-40USD/month for 2 years; Bank Mayapada and Angkasa Pura will give you around 1200USD for one year. Each of the scholarship has its own terms and conditions. For example, sometimes they only want student from a specific department or faculty. Just be open to any form of scholarship.
4. The power of networking
If you know that your program would not be funded fully, then you should start to think smart on how you can take advantage of your network. Every form of networking is, in fact, important! I was supposed to lose 10 million IDR during my competition in Abu Dhabi since we needed to pay for our hotel and at that time we have to split the amount among the three of us which was too much because we still have to pay our own food, daily transportation, and so on for 10 days. Luckily, one day before we departed, the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia for United Emirate Arab replied our email and said that they would love to host us. Amazing. Unbelievably miraculous. Guess where we got his contact from? Our Vice Dean of Finance and Human Resources! In Cambridge, My team and I also saved more than 500 USD for our free room in Churchill’s College. She was the President of AIESEC Cambridge whom I knew randomly from my AIESEC network and turned out she gave her room for us for 5 full days. So, widen your circle, be brave to make a call but stay alert with new people.
5. Utilize your alumni network
Your alumni network is golden. “Been there done that”. They have the experience in searching for funding, looking for cheap flight, and organizing events. It should make it easier for you to get funding from a company, because truthfully, it would be hard for you to get funded if the company doesn’t know you at all. When you have contacts internally, they can help you convince their boss in the company to fund your events and the school alumni are the best resources in this case. They have the same “Almamater” as you and they were in your position back then. For example, my friends (not me), got around 1500 USD from an oil and gas company for their competition in Romania. Only from one alumnus. Having a good relation with your lecturers is also important. They can connect you with the best alumni your university has.
6. The power of convincing your Parents and Relatives.
I still remember the first time I went abroad. The trip was self-funded, and it was to India for a total length of stay of 6 weeks. I told my Dad it was now or never. I told him that the range of the money needed was around 1200-1600USD in total. I told him I will try my best to look for funding and I had my own money around 360 USD that I got from previous scholarship, but at the end of the day, if I can’t get the money, then I really need him to lend me his money and pay him back in the future when I work. So he used all the money he had in his bank for me, gambling, but it was a week before my departure that finally I can collect all the money I can get from funding and pay him back directly. Point? Your parent knows how determined you are, how you’re not only asking but also have your own saving to make your dream come true. At the end of 2013 when I needed at least 5000 USD in my parent’s account to apply for UK’s visa, I convinced my parent to help me get the money and how I will not use it and it’s only for the purpose of obtaining the visa and at the end, my uncle transfer the money to my parent’s bank account which made my application smooth. Luckily, my uncle was really concerned with me that it’s okay for him when my parent paid him back after I went back from London (in case there’s something happen to me) and I didn’t touch the money at all. I used my own saving of about 500 USD from my previous scholarship for my daily needs in the United Kingdom for a week.
7. And in case you still don’t get it.
Like seriously, don’t worry. I am being serious when I told you that there are many ways to Rome. If you’ve been dreaming to study abroad, there are many ways to do it. The newest program that our government has is LPDP and Beasiswa Presiden RI. Everyone can apply for this scholarship. No matter how rich or how poor you are, if you can get through the selection process, you can get it! Improve your language skills, your experience and never stop looking for information. You can search more information about studying abroad and scholarship through: DAAD (For Germany), AMINEF (For USA), USAID (For Australia), NESO (For The Netherland).
Just remember that it’s important to keep yourself motivated when your surrounding keeps telling you that you probably can’t do it. Don’t let those idea linger in your head. Because the one who can make yourself success, is you. And surely, always remember God. So, Godspeed.