In this last post of mine as an Indonesia Mengglobal columnist, I want to share with you the 7 important things that I learned from studying abroad. I got these after reflecting back on my time as an international student in Australia.
1. You will survive, no matter how bad the beginning is and you will grow as a person.
I still remember the day I arrived in Melbourne. I arrived just okay in my accommodation but was much disoriented with everything. Everything was new and I was not used to speak English with every person that I met on the street. Maybe I had told the story somewhere else but I stuttered when ordering a sandwich at Subway, a fast food chain. Luckily the server was very nice and patient with me. As someone who was “Fresh Off the Boat”, I was very frustrated with Australian English. I knew my English was good; I graduated at the top of my class, from English Education major in Indonesia but I started to doubt myself. I was nervous and could not really understand people. For example, $17 (seventeen) became $7.10 (seven-ten). I walked everywhere but could not find a single Seven Eleven store to buy Myki, a transportation card used in Melbourne.
Dinner and breakfast in my accommodation was no different as well. It was like high school cafeteria because naturally there were cliques and groups of people. Thankfully people were nice and I made friends. Time was needed for friendships to be made and there were times when I cried alone in my room but everything went okay.
I learned how to locate the nearest public transportations, how to distinctively pronounce “water” in Australian English because people will not understand me if I do not pronounce it that way. I learned to feel okay when I was alone and learned that the quickest way to make friends was to be yourself. I did grow and am still growing as a person in Australia.
2. You will learn to be independent. No one will do your own things for you.
In Australia, people are much more independent. No one will serve you as much as in Indonesia. I learned to wash and dry my clothes by myself, I learned to scan things and pay them in supermarkets and department stores. I learned to be more proactive in asking questions at my classes, studying in groups, and even in planning my activities every day.
If you are sick, you call the after-hours doctor or you go to the university clinic for a GP (general practitioner). When you are away from home and family, no one can fully take care of you when you are sick. Friends can help but they have their own activities to do and limitations as well.
3. You will meet new interesting people around the world but you will want to be careful when choosing your close friends.
Yes, you will meet interesting people all over the world, especially in Melbourne because it is such a melting pot for different cultures. However, you must be careful in choosing your friends. As it applies everywhere in the world, there are fake friends everywhere, friends who will stab you at the back, and friends who will contact you only when they need you. However, there are true friends though, those who are worth keeping close with. These people will influence you and will make your stay worthwhile. You will be doing things and having fun together. Time will tell. But hear me out on this: do not hang out exclusively with other Indonesians only. You will miss out.
4. You might miss your family members; especially those whom you had arguments with.
Yeah, that’s really true that distance makes all the differences. I miss my family and will Skype with them almost once a week. Some people will feel homesick very much and want to go home all the time. Thankfully, I did not really experience it to that extent. However, my relationship with my sibling is better now that we are in greater distance. It’s weird, it’s funny, but that is really true.
5. You will value time.
Oh, you will learn to be punctual. Lecture at 8am and the travel time takes an hour? You figure how! People here are punctual and they expect you to be as well! We Indonesians are famous for our “rubber band time” (jam karet). Nah, you cannot do it here, not the Indonesian way! Last time, I had a friend who will comment harshly if we are late more than 10 minutes. As a result, everyone feels determined to be early and not to be late, which is good for the group. Everything went well.
6. You will value your own country and be proud of its unique culture more than you used to.
When people ask you, “where do you come from?” You will immediately say “Indonesia” proudly. In a Culture Day or a day where people cook their national dishes, you will be proud to say you have your batik and you will wear it or you have a lot of traditional dishes from Indonesia and ask them which ones that they prefer. You have identity, you have culture, and you have national food, dances as well as fascinating natural wonders. You have so much to be valued and be proud for!
7. In the end though you will realize that there is no place like home: Indonesia.
In the end, we were born and raised in Indonesia so it will still be our home. Even when you have worked and lived abroad, you will regard it home still. You will miss your family members that stay there, the different yummy food there, the local cultures or even the traffic jam. Okay maybe not the last one but only the martabak manis (Indonesian sweet pancake). Love it or hate it, I think you will miss it!
Photo courtesy of the author.