A Journey to Harvard: Thanks, Indonesia Mengglobal Mentorship Program!

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The Kresge Building at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Source: Megan M. Ross)

How many times have you turned down your grand ambitious dreams? How often have you assumed that you are probably not good enough? Above all, when you failed once or twice or a lot more, did you stop there? Our contributor, Nadhira, has proven that she can get into Harvard, her childhood dream. Yes, she failed once a couple of years ago but she did not give up. Instead, she contemplated her previous method and decided to get herself a Mentor through Indonesia Mengglobal Mentorship Program 2018. Let’s read her story!

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If I could describe my master admissions journey in one word, it would be “overwhelming”. Like many others, Harvard has always been my dream school since childhood. However, it was more like a distant dream rather than the actual goal I really strive for. I never actually thought I would get in.

I have been through the hard six years of my medical school; through failed class, delayed graduation, feeling left behind. It was discouraging at some point, but that was also what made me stronger than ever. I started going extra miles, achieved things I thought would be impossible before. I wanted to prove my self that I am far better than what I think I am.

Yes, I authored some research. Yes, I won medals. But get into Harvard? Nope, still not on my radar.

Growing up with my MSc-sister and PhD-brother, my parents always support me and encourage me to pursue my ambitions, including to apply to a master degree. However, when I first started thinking about college, I was not even considering any top school. It was out of my league.

However, that all changed when admissions season rolled around two years ago. For the first time, I seriously considered applying because my mom convinced me a lot. (Thanks, Mom!) After taking my GRE for the first time, I received a flyer in the mail that said my score was in the ballpark of what they might consider and encouraged me to apply. Long story short, I applied to the Master of Public Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. And on February 27, 2017, I checked my admissions decision.

I got rejected.

I swear I have moved on and forgot my dream about getting into Harvard, until last year, I read an article in my mailing list about this program called Indonesia Mengglobal (IM) Mentorship Program. I did not really know about it back then, but I heard my friend made it to her dream school last year by being an IM mentee.

This idea to once again apply to Harvard crossed my mind. I hesitated initially because I knew the odds were against me (I thought I did my best shot two years ago and the acceptance rate was and still is crazy low). But hey, maybe having a mentor could be the actual help? Also, it is free. Why should not I try?

Going through selections after selections, IM finally announced the list of its mentees. I made it. I was then paired with this inspiring mentor, Sukardi Suba, who is currently finishing his PhD in the States. My impression when we first did Skype call was: “Wow his English is crazy good.” Even better, he gave many helpful bits of advice about applying to college in the States. I can recall that we did a bunch of  Skype calls as he monitored the progress of my master application.

I was really thankful to be mentored by Sukardi. Not only did he give constructive feedback on each of my application items, but he also linked me to his colleague who is an MPH Harvard alumni. It was purely his initiative. He wanted to make sure that my “personal statement” essay met the Harvard admission officers’ expectations because this is always the most challenging part for applicants. In the middle of his dissertation deadlines, he still managed to be committed to doing our meetings as scheduled.

Besides getting paired with a fantastic mentor, IM also gave mentees some assignments that have to be collected according to the deadlines. I remember one assignment that was very eye-opening for me. It required me to list down all my achievements, experiences, and even setbacks and failures. I was also having a tough time recomposing my short and long-term goals after applying to a master degree. This is all needed to be done before I started writing my application essay and resume. I found this assignment is really useful, as it helped us get to know ourselves and study purpose better, and also stay persistent to pursue our goals. IM also put us in a group of mentees with the same spirit and excitement to help boost our motivation when we feel demotivated. Who knows this friendship might become a group of powerful networks in the future. Overall, I very much appreciate this well-organized program.   

Nadhira got herself a Harvard acceptance letter
Nadhira got herself a Harvard acceptance letter

The day eventually came: my admission decision for Harvard. When I saw the word “Congratulations!” on my screen, I remember giving a small gasp and leaning back to my bed in shock. It was 2 AM, and my husband was sleeping. I shook him from his sleep and went ecstatically to my parents’ house in the morning. That moment I felt like all of my hard work had actually paid off. I really love seeing my loved ones proud of me.

All of that said, if I can impart any of my little wisdom gained from this experience, it would be to never discourage yourself. If you want to be in your dream school, then you better strive for it! Dreams will always be dreams unless you really fight for it. I know that applying to college is a daunting process and you may not feel prepared to take it on alone. First and foremost, you do not have to take it on alone. Like me, you can find the resources by reaching out to a mentorship program. Lastly, most people who apply also do not think that they are going to get in. Just present yourself as the best applicant you possibly can and aim for the highest you can shoot for! Best of luck!

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P.S. Prepare yourself to apply for Indonesia Mengglobal Mentorship Program 2019. The application opens in two weeks, from 1-31 May 2019!

Sources of photos: Megan M. Ross and Nadhira Afifa