The Danger of Arrogance that Lies in Studying Abroad

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In this article, our Editor Zulfa tries to shed light on a potential negative trait developed by Indonesians who study abroad: arrogance. Studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity, yet we must not let it get into our heads to the extent that we belittle others who have only lived in Indonesia. How should we make sense of our study abroad experiences? Read on for Zulfa’s honest reflection of her own experiences. 

For fellow Indonesians currently studying abroad, can you recall the time when you first received the Letter of Acceptance from your dream university? Or when you finally received that e-mail you have been waiting for, indicating your acceptance in a scholarship program? Your heart pounds with joy as soon as your eyes scan the word ‘Congratulations!’. You unconsciously scream and rush to tell your loved ones about what just happened. You all hug, cry, and laugh at the same time, still in disbelief over the news. A heavy burden is now finally lifted off your shoulders, and you are ready to start a new chapter in life.

Fast forward to when you finally start off your first weeks at school. The excitement of meeting new friends, getting to know the neighbourhood, and attending classes still lies vibrant within you. You explore the campus area while staring at everything in awe. You share stories with friends of different nationalities and start connecting with fellow Indonesians that also study in your campus, and those who live in the same city as you do. You start memorizing the route from your home to campus and taking note of the nearest grocery stores or affordable restaurants.

As time goes by, slowly but surely, a little bit of arrogance starts to seep in. As you keep sharing pictures of having trips to city landmarks and having fun with your multicultural group on social media, you start to become irrationally proud of yourself. This might be especially true if you are only the rare in your family or group of friends to have the opportunity to study abroad. You become more inclined to share pictures of studying abroad just to show off, and feel that people who study abroad are more open-minded than the ones who do not. You slowly forget your initial purpose of going abroad, and become overwhelmed at what studying abroad actually entails: hard work.

As someone who is currently studying abroad, I, too, have experienced arrogance throughout 3 years of studying – something I am not proud of. It’s possible that there are people who study abroad and always manage to be humble without the slightest hint of arrogance; however, we should not deny the fact that arrogance is a common trait among Indonesians studying abroad. Given that Indonesia is a developing country, the chances of becoming arrogant increase when we study in a developed country. Many positive things can be attained from studying abroad, but we should also not begin acknowledging that the experience also comes with some possible negative outcomes, one of which is arrogance.

Back home, coming across Indonesians who stare at you in awe when you mention that you study abroad in a prestigious university happens quite too often. Many Indonesians indeed still possess an inferiority complex which leads to an assertion that anything foreign is better. Chances are, you will also get invited to speak here and there about your experiences of studying abroad; at least by the last school you attended. These things can potentially feed your ego until it piles up uncontrollably.

I personally believe that someone is not necessarily better just because he or she studies abroad. Each choice offers its own experience, advantages, and disadvantages. Also, contrary to popular opinion, I disagree with the notion that people who study abroad are necessarily more open-minded. I’ve met people who have studied abroad in more than 2 countries, yet judgmental and closed off to different opinions. I also have friends who have spent their whole lives living in one Indonesian city, but are very open-minded and accepting of differences. Open-mindedness is not necessarily determined by the number of countries you studied abroad in or visited, or by how diverse your social circle is. Studying abroad or international travel experiences might enhance your open-mindedness, but by no means is it the silver magic bullet.

When we achieve something extraordinary, it is normal to feel proud of yourself. However, we should not let our pride lead us to a feeling of superiority over others. We should not allow ourselves to be overly-confident or feel extremely superior just from studying abroad. What matters is how we use our invaluable experiences to help ourselves and others grow. I will end this article with a quote by my favourite author, Alanda Kariza, “Humility will lead you to many places, while arrogance will only bring you nowhere”. 

Photo credit goes to the author.