In the beginning of his graduate education journey in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Imanuddin Razak faced several obstacles adapting to campus life. But years of professional experience and adept networking skill helped him settle and strive in pursuing his long-time dream.
There is nothing extraordinary or excellent behind my personal account in obtaining my master’s degree abroad. This story of mine is basically about a middle-aged individual – a veteran journalist of English-speaking Jakarta-based The Jakarta Post daily – who got the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. It was a one-year master’s program, unlike many master’s programs that are typically between one-year-and-a-half and two-year full-time study.
Originally, I was a registered student for the 2013-2014 academic year as I had passed all the requirements and secured a seat for the beginning of the academic year of 2013. However, it turned out that my wife and I were entitled to go for the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in September that year. Therefore, I decided to ask for a postponement of my master’s program to the following year, which was thankfully approved by RSIS.
A rocky start
The story of my master’s degree pursuit proved to be a journey that was neither smooth nor easy as I had to deal with a number of obstacles. Two weeks before I flew to Singapore, I was hospitalized for dengue fever. At that time, I was supposed to go to Singapore to settle a number of administrative requirements from both NTU and RSIS before the class started in August 2014.
So, I flew to Singapore in late July 2014, when I was supposed to be in my recovery period. It was very hard for me to complete all the administrative requirements as I had to move from one corner of NTU campus to another, which was not a short distance for a limping person who just came out of hospital. And I did all those on my own, without anyone’s assistance.
Moreover, I was not yet familiar with the NTU campus as I did not have the opportunity to tour the campus before the administrative process. I came to the campus for the first time on the day that I had to settle all my administrative obligations.
Being put under such circumstances, I remembered one popular adage in Bahasa Indonesia: Malu bertanya, sesat di jalan (Better to ask the way than go astray). So, I asked for campus directions many times – to campus officials, to students, or even to strangers who I thought looked like they know the campus well – in order for me to be able to reach all of the administrative process locations.
Another problem was that I had to get a place to stay for my one-year in Singapore, since I could not manage to get a room in the NTU Student Dormitory and had to look for lodging outside the campus compound. Fortunately, I had an Indonesian friend working in Singapore, who happened to be my office colleague when I was an employee for a Japanese company operating in Batam Island, next to Singapore. It was he who informed me about a vacant room in his apartment that I could rent.
In short, I eventually managed to settle all the campus bureaucracies and the housing problem in time before the classes began. However, it also turned out that being part of an international graduate studies program was not an easy task for me to do, at least during the initial weeks.
A student once more
Part of the problem was that I was not accustomed to the campus life in Singapore, NTU or RSIS particularly, that it took me several weeks to adjust myself with the new environment. Another problem was my age: I was already in my late 40s when I began my master’s at RSIS and age never lies. I found myself to be slower than all the rest of my classmates – who happened to be only as old as my oldest son – in understanding the subjects of the Strategic Studies program.
But, fortunately I was a graduate student with quite a long job experience, a benefit that my younger fellow students did not have. It was indeed experience that helped me in understanding the subjects and complemented my slower academic agility due to the age factor.
Back at the Post
Time flew fast that the one-year master’s program eventually ended. I was fortunate that I could finish the program on time despite all the shortfalls.
Upon completion of my master’s in August 2015, I went straight back home to Indonesia to continue my job at The Jakarta Post. I had to get back to the Post because it was part of my agreement with the office that I had to be back to the office after my master’s program ended. Also, I love my job in journalism!
Subjects that I learned from the Strategic Studies program ended up helping me with my job as a journalist, particularly in reporting and writing on Indonesian politics, as well as security and defense issues.
Photos provided by the author