Personal Statement: Master of Science in Environmental Technology

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Note on the Essay

This essay will be submitted as a personal statement to Imperial College London’s Master of Science in Environmental Technology program. (no max/min word limit)

The Essay

“Climate change is mainly a social problem, an issue of people, rather than a scientific problem”.

The sentence above was my first piece of knowledge on the nature of climate change problems from the social perspective, gained through participation in a massive open online course on the subject of climate change. I discovered the accuracy of that statement through this experience, working as an analyst for the Expert Staff on Climate Change to the Minister of Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency. Even though I have been interested in the issue of climate change for quite a while from the scientific perspective, evidenced by my undergraduate thesis – exploring the impact of climate change on rainfall variability; the job was my first real exposure and a turning point for my dedication to climate change and sustainability. At that time, despite a fresh graduate, I was immediately given the responsibility to produce a collaborative research paper on climate finance within the transport sector in Indonesia, a task that deepen my knowledge and skills within climate change. The nature of the research involved experts’ reviews and a number of focus group discussions; this condition gave me massive opportunity to learn from representatives of ministries and international development partners who had been working on the issue of climate change since the inception of Indonesia’s own nationally appropriate mitigation action to reduce our greenhouse emissions.

Throughout the research processes, I noticed that even though Indonesia had taken a step forward to response the issue by passing Presidential Decree in 2011 on national mitigation actions, there are still substantial works that need to be done. A national framework on climate change mitigation for all sectors had been established, but on the other side, the government have yet to take a deliberate policy action, either using quantitative or price-based instruments to encourage climate change and low-carbon development activities. Changes and reforms have been slow because ministries and local governments are struggling to implement climate change initiatives and programs due to limited understanding, lack of political wills and technical capabilities of climate change and sustainability, even though financial resources are abundant.

In accordance to the theoretical knowledge I gained beforehand, I finally understood through these experiences why climate change are more of a social problem; it is because mitigating the risk of climate change requires social changes, and these social changes included the management, economy and aspects of politics. With climate change as an example, I realized the importance of understanding not only the scientific or engineering aspect of environmental problems, but also the social sciences aspects of them. This realization reinforced me to continue my study within the environmental field that adds comprehension on the management, science and policy divisions of the environment. Along with this reinforcement, due to the recent mainstreaming of climate change and sustainability issues into the national development planning in my country, I also gained the insight that there will be growing demand of talents in the field of climate change and sustainability but limited human resources. That insight strengthen my motivation even more to pursue this field of study, to fill the needed roles.

Because of these reasons, I found that The Master of Science in Environmental Technology program is highly suitable for me. The holistic approaches, interdisciplinary programs and leading courses in the environmental field will advances my scientific and quantitative skills that I have gained in my undergraduate study, but also equip me with critical economic and sociological understandings to solve environmental problems.

Review from Ariana Alisjahbana

Awesome work and I am glad that you want to fill the gap in skilled professionals within the environmental policy world. I have worked in this field in the past and agree with all of your analysis on why the field is important. I also know that the MSc program you’re applying for is very well-regarded in the field. My edits are all suggestions only. You can choose to include them or not. Personal statements are very tricky, especially one where the prompt is not well-defined. However, you did a great job by writing about your very relevant work experience,  your big “AHA” moment, and how the MSc in Environmental Technology can fill in the gaps you identified.

General comments:

  • You should be very proud of your experience working as a climate change analyst at Bappenas. Most people applying to programs like this are fresh graduates who do not have work experience that is as relevant as yours. You worked with many of the most interesting people in the Indonesian climate policy circle and you need to highlight that. Most people in other countries can only do what you did after they receive a MSc or PhD degree.
  • You have a strong essay, now make it stronger. I made a lot of suggested edits because what you say is very compelling, but your writing style is not very clear. I deleted a few sentences that were repetitive.
  • The biggest room for improvement is “Why Imperial.” What I felt was missing is why you are applying to the MSc in Environmental Technology at Imperial. There are many MSc programs that teach the management, economics, and politics aspects of climate change policy, but why are you applying to this one? You can strengthen your essay by writing about specific classes, Professors, or other parts of the program.