Edisi Kembali Ke Sekolah

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2003, a freshman at the University of Indonesia.

Last month as my editor, Ms. Artricia Rasyid, and I were brainstorming some ideas for my next article, she asked me, “Why don’t you write something that would pertain to going back to school?” I was pretty sure that was because I look so young, she’d want me to write something about freshmen life. But just to make sure it is what I thought it was, I asked her to elaborate what she means. She said, “I mean, looking back to the time when you were a student, maybe write something about things that actually matter in a long run and things that we shouldn’t really sweat.” Oh. So it’s not because I look super young and/or hot. It’s more because I’m at that age where I can pass on some lessons from years that have passed by. Well. That’s ok I guess.

The first thing came to mind when she said that, was the word “relationship.” Who we build our relationship with can either lift us up or drag us down – sometimes permanently. The second thing is, this pop-culture ideology the media has been planting that “your happiness above everything.”

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In my college life, I put a lot of effort to make my romantic relationship work with the guy I dated at the time. Whenever we argued, I found it difficult to concentrate in class or to do any task I supposed to finish. I became dysfunctional. Don’t ask me what I did when the relationship finally came to an end. It involved a lot of sleeping and ice cream. Unfortunately, I missed some classes, too.

Four years after I finished college, I am married to an amazing man. Whenever I looked back to that one relationship I had put so much efforts on, I’d shake my head. My my my. I wish young Kitty knew better. According to BusinessInsider.com, only 28% of college couples end up marrying each other. That’s less than 3 out of 10 couples. That is not very many! I acted as if it was the end of the world while I wasn’t the only one who had to go through this!

I am not saying that your college romance is not worth fighting for. All I’m saying is, when it does not work out, it’s not the end of the world. Close that chapter. You’re young, people come and go anyway, and there are still all kinds of possibilities for you out there. Learn your lesson, re-set your focus, and carry on.

However, there are relationships that you want to build and keep. We call it ‘networking’. I recently got a temporary job to teach Indonesian language in a program funded by the U.S. Department of Defense at the University of Montana. Guess who helped open the door for me to get this job? My fellow Fulbright scholar who went to the same college I did. He worked at the University of Montana and when the opportunity came, he recommended me to the head of department.

Grab coffee with new people. Maintain professional relationship. Come to business events. Carry yourself professionally. Dress well. Be kind to people. Show interest in others’ stories. Always be thirsty for new knowledge. Spend time getting to know real people; don’t get too caught up with all 6 of your social media outlets. Get your name out there. Stay humble. Some people may see it as a waste of time, I see it as an investment and relationships can be built only if you invest time in people. I think that’s just how nature works. We tend to help and give a chance to people we know personally or have a connection with. Throughout my professional life, I have benefitted so much from networking. You’ll never know what doors can be open for you through your network.

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Next is this hype the media created: Your happiness is everything. Only work a job that makes you happy. I find it to be a very misleading idea.

When I was a student at the University of Indonesia, I worked as a part-time tutor to be able to pay my Kos rent and daily necessities. I didn’t have a car so I took Kopaja combined with ojek. My day started at 8 AM, went to school until 1 or 3 PM and went to work after. I always came home after 9 PM. I did that my whole university years. I remember many days and nights I spent in Kopaja wondering if the situation’s ever going to change to be in my favor. To be honest, sometimes I couldn’t help feeling a little envious seeing my friends whose parents provided them with cars and free pocket money. But then I reminded myself that everybody is given the life according to their strength, so I stopped my pity party. I wasn’t always happy at the time. Most days I came home exhausted. However, two things are for sure: never compares yourself to others, and hard work always pays off. I reap every single thing I plant.

Jakarta, May 2013. I was hired to do simultaneous English – Bahasa interpretation for Muhammadiyah Team of Social Worker Researchers in collaboration with a New York-based humanity NGO called Family For Every Child. Muhammadiyah is the second largest Islamic organization in Indonesia with 29 million members.

It is funny how the media truly encourages the young people to ‘travel’ and ‘see the world’ but fails to emphasize the importance of working hard to earn that travelling money (I hope you don’t think it’s free?!). Most of the time earning that money involves working on jobs you’re not necessarily happy about.

I am holding tight to an old Indonesian proverb in this matter:  “Bersakit-sakit dahulu, bersenang-senang kemudian.” (Go through the pain, reap the happiness after).

That’s absolutely fine to not look glamorous during your college days. That’s ok, too, if you can’t post as many travelling pictures as your friends. Instead, take pride in hard work – then see yourself harvest every single thing you plant. Logically speaking, it’s the law of gravity: what goes up, must come down. Better believe it. I wish you the best of luck in this new semester!

Content Edited by Artricia Rasyid

Photo credit: Author’s Personal Collection