John Dewey, an American philosopher and education reformer I absolutely admire, famously said, “We do not learn from experience …. we learn from reflecting on experience.” Within the next 10 reading minutes or so, I will reflect on my experience in acting as the President of Persatuan Pelajar Indonesia-Australia (PPIA) at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Hoping that it will help future Indonesian students as they continue their study overseas, I will explore the underlying motivation behind my involvement in this organisation in the past two years and, more importantly, what I have gained from this experience.
Regarding PPIA itself, while each university branch may have their own unique vision, it is a student organisation unique for its minimal language and cultural barriers for Indonesians to converse and work with other Indonesian students in a semi-professional environment. Having spent most of my primary and secondary school in a bilingual national school, being actively involved in the PPIA committee is naturally easier as I am able to disregard the language and cultural differences in communicating my thoughts and aspiration in project management, event planning, and strategic management to grow this organisation.
Having been living for almost two years in a city famously known for its coffee culture (Melbourne!), I have developed a decent appreciation towards the meticulous process dedicated in producing a great cup of coffee. It turns out that an important aspect which distinguishes “great” coffee from “good” coffee is the precise range of brewing temperature within 91-96 degree Celsius. If the temperature is lower than 91 degree Celsius, the coffee will not be extracted properly. Otherwise, if it is higher than 96 degree Celsius, the coffee will be overheated and burned.
Similarly, my experience tells me that the way PPIA produces leaders is similar to how a good café produces a great cup of coffee. This organisation provides a favorable growth environment that is neither too cold nor too hot. For example, managing a couple of projects and events with other people had inevitably brought conflicts and differing opinions throughout the process. These dynamics are the ‘brewing process’ which required me to grow and transcend my limit. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the workloads, pressure and risks were not ‘too hot’ in the sense that it does not expose me to unjustifiable risk and consequences. PPIA remains a safe and effective learning platform to hone and sharpen my leadership skills and gain invaluable organisational experience.
One of the best parts of my experience being actively involved in PPIA is the connections and networks built over the past two years. As a student studying development economics, I am rarely, if ever, exposed to people from engineering, geology, agricultural and biomedical science backgrounds at campus. PPIA provides an encompassing platform which connects me with all these folks from vastly different backgrounds which brings a mind-opening and unique way of thinking to the table. Subsequently, this highlights the limitations of my way of thinking, which in turn enriches my thinking structure as I work and get to know them more.
Finally, in a lot of ways, being involved PPIA is like hitting a few birds with one stone in a sense that the same people with whom I have been working through several projects end up being not only great co-workers but also my long-lasting friends. It is also a common case that the friends I met in PPIA events or committee happen to be in the same course, which allow us to study together.
Within the next few months, my PPIA journey will conclude. Can I eradicate poverty with PPIA? Certainly not. It is an organisation with its own flaws and limitations just like any other organisations. However, being involved in PPIA in the past two years has given me the opportunity to discover myself, better my work ethic, to meet like-minded people, and to form long-lasting relationships through a semi-professional working environment. I believe these growth dynamics and opportunities are the key values that PPIA has to offer to accelerate my personal growth and prepare myself for the final year of my university journey, and more importantly, the next chapters in my life.
Photos provided by the author
Edited by Hadrian Pranjoto