The question of whether to return home after studying abroad or to stay in a foreign country with seemingly better opportunities always wanders the mind of Indonesian students who are about to graduate from foreign universities. Here’s the story of Permata Indwita and why she has chosen to return home after completing her bachelor degree.
In 2012, I left Jakarta to pursue my undergraduate studies in the University of Melbourne, Australia. At that time, I was not entirely proud to be an Indonesian. I strongly felt that Indonesia is not a comfortable place to live; the public infrastructure and services are limited and majority of the people feel powerless to make any real changes to the current unfortunate conditions. When I arrived in Melbourne, I was determined to work hard and take this golden opportunity to find a job and live in Australia.
Only a few days after landing in Australia, a friend invited me to volunteer for the Indonesian Film Festival — an event that screened 4 Indonesian box office movies in Melbourne Central. I only accepted the invitation because I considered the opportunity to be an excellent addition to my CV. However, my initial reasons changed immediately. During the first meeting, I was amazed to see numerous Australian volunteers, some of whom spoke fluent Indonesian and had a deep understanding of Indonesian’s culture. During the event, tickets were sold to attendants who were mostly Australians. One of the attendees came all the way from Perth – a 3.5 hour flight from Melbourne and stayed in the city for the festival. That event was one of the first moments in my young adult life in which I felt truly proud to be an Indonesian. In seeing how others viewed my country, it helped me to become more grateful and to appreciate what I have as an Indonesian. Over the following years of my studies in Australia, I became an active member of organizing committees in several Indonesian societies.
I came to realize that in general, Indonesians commonly share a collective mindset of requiring validation from foreigners. Even though we have a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism, we still harbor deep insecurities of whether we are good enough or capable enough as compared to our Western counterparts. When I decided to return to Indonesia to work after graduation, I had many friends and family questioning my decision. The typical question was, ‘Why would you want to leave Australia and work in Indonesia?’. As if returning home to work requires an explanation beyond the fact that Indonesia is my home and it is where I belong.
Reflecting upon South Korea’s ‘The Han River Miracle’ phenomenon, where within a few years, one of the poorest nations in the world transformed itself into an economic juggernaut; I came to learn that their impressive transformation started with an inspiring leader who was fully supported by the South Koreans’ commitment towards innovating at a global standard. Indonesia is fortunate to have a respected President that supports the growing momentum of old and young leaders creating world-class experiences from airlines, properties, tourism, taxis to tech innovations. I truly believe that this is the time for all Indonesians to recognize the economic and cultural values we can offer to the world, to capture the countless opportunities we have to help Indonesia establish its position on the global map and therefore, to be a proud Indonesian. One of the most well-known Indonesian technology startups, Go-Jek, recognized the untapped value of motorcycle taxi drivers that were previously ignored for generations and transformed it into a multi-billion dollar business, changing millions of lives.
My dream is to witness my fellow Indonesians who study abroad to no longer be confronted with questions relating to the reasons why they want to return to Indonesia. My dream is to witness my fellow Indonesians to be asked this following question instead, ‘why not return home?’.