Our columnist, Nefertiti or Inef, has a great opportunity to interview Raisa Nabila Junaidi, who is currently pursuing her Master’s degree at Cornell University. Raisa talks about her journey to pursue higher education and how the challenges she had to face have shaped her decision to continue her study abroad.
Raisa Nabila Junaidi is one of the officers at the Indonesia Mengglobal’s Analytics team. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing management from Prasetiya Mulya University, and is now pursuing a master’s degree in the New York School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. I had the chance to ask her about why she decided to further her education abroad, the many different challenges she faced along the way while preparing her application, and her advice for everyone else who might be inspired to follow in her footsteps.
The journey was not easy, but it was worth all the efforts
“As far as I can remember, I have had a dream to continue my education outside of Indonesia, but I didn’t get the opportunity to turn that dream into reality until around 2017 or 2018,” Raisa said when I interviewed her. “My background is in marketing management, but I was lucky to get exposed to the world of human resources management through my workplace. I used to have a marketing lead position in one of the start-up ventures in Jakarta, and then I realized that if I wanted to improve and keep on growing as a professional, I need to go back to school.”
At first, Raisa was uncertain of which countries she should set her eyes on. She researched the requirements to get scholarships in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands before she found a suitable program for her in the United States, which fortunately was funded through the Indonesian Endowment Fund for Education (Beasiswa LPDP) from the Ministry of Finance.
“I was happy to finally find a good option to consider, but even then, my struggle only barely started,” Raisa recounted. “I had to manage my time well, dividing my energy between tackling my workload in my office and studying for GMAT.” Raisa admitted that the hardest part of applying to Cornell University was not necessarily in the paperwork aspects like getting all the important documents or writing a personal statement, but in preparing for the required tests. She was lucky to find a testing center nearby her office in Cilandak, South Jakarta, and tried her best to balance her responsibilities. “In between working hours, I also had to practice doing the exam questions. The testing center gave me a lot of homework to ensure I would be familiar with the format of the test way before I planned to take the actual test itself.”
First impression about Ithaca
Raisa enjoys her academic and social life in Ithaca, especially since her professors are super friendly and supportive. “All of my professors are extremely receptive to honest feedback from their students, and they are always available to help even outside of classes!” Raisa explained. “They really value open communication with their students and welcome criticism, which means they encourage my classmates and me to speak up our minds.”
When I asked her whether she experienced any problem adjusting to a new environment, Raisa laughed and told me that her only complaint is the cold weather. “Compared to Jakarta, the harsher and colder climate here can be annoying. It is currently spring, so I expect warmer days, but right now, the temperature can still fall to 5 degree Celsius.” Another thing that surprised her was the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of Ithaca. “It’s really a huge change after living in a busy and bustling metropolitan city. Ithaca feels like a small town; I walk everywhere because I don’t drive and there are not many Ubers around.”
Misconceptions and truths about human resources management
In Raisa’s opinion, there is still a widespread misunderstanding among the general public about what studying human resource management really means. “When I tell people about my specialty, they assume that I only study employee administration and payroll,” Raisa shared. “But that’s not true. The field of human resources is a combination of behavioral management, business management, psychology, negotiation, and organizational skills, among other social sciences.”
One of the advantages of being a student at Cornell University, according to Raisa, is the ability to take multiple interdisciplinary courses beyond one’s own academic department. “I acknowledge that as a future leader in the human resources industry, I have to be able to think strategically and understand data. This is the reason why I also took classes in statistics, for example. No field of study ever exists in a vacuum, and there are always overlaps between different disciplines.”
Advice for IM Readers
Raisa acknowledged that the most common hindrance in achieving one’s dream to study abroad is impostor syndrome or insecurity. “I was once pretty insecure, thinking that my ambition was too big or too impossible to come true. However, I have a good friend who always asked me what’s the worst that could happen? What do you have to lose? My friend’s encouraging outlook motivated me and made me believe there’s no such thing as too big of a dream. It’s a matter of being brave enough to take action.”
In addition to being optimistic and not letting fear stops us from accomplishing more, Raisa also said that those who dream of studying abroad need to have a clear intention. “You need to have a strong sense of direction. Know your purpose! Know your drive!” She wanted everyone to think beyond superficial motivation, such as peer pressure, showing off on social media or following a trend, or finding a foreign romantic partner. “Your main goal should be to gain more knowledge and be a better person, right? If your intention is pure, then the universe shall open doors to enable you to achieve all of your dreams, but you have to start with the right intention.”
*All photos were provided by Raisa herself
Raisa short bio:
Raisa is a graduate student at Cornell University, USA, majoring in Master of Industrial and Labor Relations. She has 4+ years of experience as a human resources practitioner and currently works as People Analytics Lead at Mekari, an Indonesian technology company. She is passionate about building a better and kinder workplace.