The decision to study abroad is not necessarily a light one to make. Sure, you might think: “Really? Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to pursue higher education in another country – the traveling, world-class education, new scenery?” Well, if you think more about it, it is frightening, at least for some as it requires them to leave behind Indonesia’s constant summer weather, loving circles of family and friends, and that outright feeling of familiarity in exchange for (likely) harsh cold days filled with trips to the library and stacks of thick books amidst strange faces. Theresia Nadya also fought so many battles in her mind before deciding to go to the University of St. Andrews to expand her knowledge in management and marketing. Yet, she confronted her fear of the unknown and made the courageous decision to fly miles and miles away to ultimately live her dream in that bubble she calls a ‘home away from home’.
As a keen marketer – or a marketing student for now – who regularly deals with cases involving human behaviour, I always try to look beyond the surface when it comes to people. Trying to comprehend humans’ mind fascinates but baffles me at the same time, that it is in substance encompasses more convoluted and profound ideas than what the scholars pointed out in their writings, particularly when it comes to myself.
One thing I grappled the most with was this tendency to hold on to comfort, to certainty, to the safe life I had in Indonesia back then. The question of “Should I go 11.779 km away from all I have back home to explore the unknown?” seemed inscrutable at first. But then, I remembered that on average people make more than 100 decisions per day, so basically, we are all trained decision makers. Thus, I began asking myself: “What are the hassles for? What can I get that I cannot get by staying put?”. On account of all the prayers from my parents’ mouth to God’s ear, I triumphantly got rid of my fears and lukewarm apathy to hold myself back and made the decision to go. Although my decision to go was not by any means unguided, the verifiable truth that I was always surrounded by fortunate circumstances in Indonesia made the whole process of preparing for my postgraduate study abroad rather melancholic and dejected. I wanted to remain encircled by loving family and friends, to quickly secure a competitive job that fits my passion, and have the luxury of summer weather all year long. Yet, in a moment of clarity, I defied my risk-averse nature and dared myself to venture into the unknown – hoping for a greater reward at the end of the journey.
In the wake of those tough stages when anxiety was great within me, I did my fair share of research and attended several education exhibitions to figure out the best university for me as someone with a deep passion for marketing. Afterwards, I applied to several universities – 16 of them, to be exact. Owing to God’s providential grace, I got accepted in most of those universities and was very humbled that my top priority, the University of St. Andrews, wrote back to me their unconditional offer along with better news of a scholarship.
St. Andrews is what I like to call a magical ‘bubble’. It has always lured golf enthusiasts as the ‘Home of Golf’ and tourists as an isolated ambiance with considerable distance from the hustles and bustles of big cities, such as London, with only around 18,000 inhabitants. St. Andrews looks very much like Hogwarts with castle ruins and old buildings, and yet as it is located on the coast, it also offers beautiful skylines, clear blue waters, and two sandy beaches where you could have a little picnic with a flock of seagulls. The town also has this intimate feel to it; people are always so friendly with each other, something especially augmented with the close proximity between university facilities, residence halls, and the rest of the town.
Founded in 1413, the University of St. Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland and third oldest university in the English speaking world. Not only does it hold a prestigious rank as the third best university in the United Kingdom after Oxford and Cambridge, St. Andrews is also acclaimed as the second best mid-size university in the world after Brown University in the United States. Having run for more than 600 years, many notable figures have experienced the charm of that pretty little town as a university student, including none other than Prince William and Princess Catherine, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The University of St. Andrews also boasts a line of age-old traditions, including Academic Gown, Raisin Weekend, Foam Fight, May Dip, balls (Christmas Ball and Kate Kennedy Processions), and the Pier Walk. It’s (literally and figuratively) a mile away from what I was used to in Jakarta, yet St. Andrews managed to captivate my heart as one of the most unique and delightfully convenient parts of the world for living and studying.
When it comes to marketing, University of St. Andrews offered me more than mere theories and principles. As a student there, I was constantly demanded to showcase critical thinking skills and exposed to various schools of thought which encouraged me to be critical of my own assumptions and judgments. A stimulating yet intimidating experience, I sat in the same room almost every day with 40 bright, bold, and enterprising classmates with diverse intellectual, social, and cultural backgrounds. Even though the underpinning philosophy of the learning program was focused on developing us as marketing scholars and strategists, University of St. Andrews also complemented our experience with other courses which enabled us to gravitate our knowledge in the larger context of contemporary global issues. All those basically delivered by excellent teaching staffs with a real passion for teaching and fostering students’ capacity. In St. Andrews, it is also not surprising for students to be in contact with exceptional academics whose books or journals they have been reading the night before class!
From this truly intellectual and global community, I developed a holistic, unique outlook on marketing which combines various perspectives and traditions. But even deeper, going to St. Andrews had a large impact on me as a person and my outlook on life. This experience has brought me fond memories, invaluable lessons, lifetime friends, and new homes around the world (yes, it is where my friends are now). I have really come to love that bubble and really missed it when I left.
Reflecting upon the last year, it became apparent that my key takeaway from living alone as a postgraduate marketing student abroad in St. Andrews was not only resonated around the ability to balance time between buying groceries, surviving sleepless nights at the library, finishing impending deadlines immaculately, attending social events, and finding time to Skype people back home. Well, I learned about that too, for sure. But, delving deeper, I learned more to embrace the process, be more grateful for my own company, and be more able to constantly live in the moment. Also, to be braver and more thoughtful in taking chances. I believe that making a decision is not about finding that one right answer which is exactly the same as everyone else’s. I now understand that there are multiple right answers or paths people could justify as being the best for themselves.
If there is one key message I can give you here, I would say: stop waiting for life to happen and just go ahead make decisions! If you managed to choose something in life, or in this case, if you are unsure whether studying abroad is for you, just pray, fight persistently, and incessantly believe in yourself. You will be astounded the second you realize what those decisions could bring to your life.
Here’s to all of you brave ones; the nonconformists, the risk takers.
All photos are courtesy of the author.