Life after Studying Abroad: The Realities of Professional Career

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Dwi Wahyuningtyas attended LPDP annual gathering in Auckland. Source: Personal documentation
Dwi Wahyuningtyas attended LPDP annual gathering in Auckland. Source: Personal documentation

“Many people say that the realities of life await us after university life. Once we graduate from the uni, we will face many things and stories that have never been experienced before. We will also encounter a new environment that we should adjust to”.

It was also experienced by Dwi Wahyuningtyas, an alumnus of Victoria University of Wellington, who encountered ups and downs in her initial career as a university lecturer after she completed her study in New Zealand. In this article, she shared what to and not to expect regarding our career after completing our study overseas.”

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Before commencing my Master of Arts in TESOL degree at Victoria University of Wellington in 2016, I had worked as an English teacher and instructor at the University of Muhammadiyah Malang, teaching English for Specific Purposes for first-year students. Therefore, I am not new to teaching anymore.

However, after completing my study at the uni, I experienced constant pressure, demand, and obligation as a university graduate, particularly as a recipient of the Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP) scholarship. Further, I should seek another opportunity after completing my degree and returning to Indonesia. When I was still in Wellington, all I had to do was studying and enjoying road trips sometimes. It was different after I decided to work again after university life.

Working at my previous alma mater in Malang 

I was glad to work again in my previous alma mater in Malang and as a non-permanent lecturer. I was in charge of teaching at Language Center and English Department. I also taught at Universitas Islam Negeri (UIN) Malang, teaching English for Specific Purposes for Chemical Engineering, Architecture, Elementary School Education, and the Arabic Language Department.  I was excited as I taught many classes, around 16-18 classes a week in total, equal to 37-41 credits (SKS).

Working at UIN Malang as an ESP lecturer. Source: Personal documentation
Working at UIN Malang as an ESP lecturer. Source: Personal documentation

As a non-permanent staff member, I was not assigned to perform a lecturer’s tasks such as researching, community service, or publishing an article; I was only asked to teach students in a classroom. That was when I felt that I missed something. Besides teaching, I want to conduct research or send my article published in a journal or presented at a conference, but I did not get the opportunity due to my status as a non-permanent lecturer. I was thrilled that I could spend much time teaching my students as I had to teach them, but again, I want a new challenge and a more stable career at the same time. Besides teaching in uni, I was also invited by some institutions and organizations to be the speaker of scholarship sharing sessions. I could share my stories, experiences, and views with university students who want to study abroad, and that was fun!

Since I was teaching in two universities, I had to manage my time well. I usually started my day by teaching at the University of Muhammadiyah Malang until the afternoon. Then, I continued to teach at UIN Malang until 6 p.m. Sometimes, if my students asked me some questions, I still discussed them and came back home at night around seven or even 8 p.m. If there were some events in the uni, I was also asked to join to be a committee. This activity made me keep connected with other non-permanent lecturers as we barely stayed in the office. Most of us opt for going back home once we finished the class.

Dwi went back to Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang as an ESP tutor and English lecturer. Source: Personal documentation
Dwi went back to Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang as an ESP tutor and English lecturer. Source: Personal documentation

Relocated to Surabaya

In 2020, finally, I was accepted as a permanent lecturer at UPN (Universitas Pembangunan Nasional) Veteran Jawa Timur. Again, I was assigned to teach English for Specific Purposes, this time for Law and Economic Management Department. Now, I must publish articles in reputable journals, initiate community dedication programs, and some other programs that I must conduct to fulfill my duty as a full-time lecturer.

It was pretty exhaustive, and I often imagine if I could turn back to the time when I happily lived in Wellington with only one duty, study. However, I have to remember as a scholarship recipient, I must serve my country and its people by teaching as it is part of my duty as a lecturer. I have already published some articles in some journals, both accredited and not accredited. My research interests are Sociolinguistics, English as an International Language, and Language and Identity. I was interested in those topics that I had already published some papers under those topics in some national and international conferences in Malang. Hopefully, I will be better and more productive shortly.

Dwi moved to Surabaya and started her career at UPN Veteran Jawa Timur. Source: Personal documentation
Dwi moved to Surabaya and started her career at UPN Veteran Jawa Timur. Source: Personal documentation

What should and should not be expected after graduating from uni?

A morning situation at Wellington City Library. Source: Personal documentation
A morning situation at Wellington City Library. Source: Personal documentation

After all, not all our expectations after uni life must come true. We cannot make it accurate after coming back to our country regarding work after uni life. First, we can expect ourselves to be more open-minded and critical after graduating from the uni. Studying abroad means where are connected with the international scope and make connections with people from different countries and backgrounds. That means our exposure will be broad. Our mindset might change. That is fine as long as we believe in that. That does not break the norm that we adhere to all this time. Being open-minded also means that we can understand and feel what other people think. When working, we must face many people with different personalities. If we are open-minded and mindful enough of them, our relationship with our co-workers will be good, influencing our work performance.

In addition, we can be more critical of what happens around us. Living abroad makes us analyze every action that we are going to take and think about its consequences. Not all information that comes to us must be accurate; we must recheck it. That makes people believe us as we avoid saying or doing things that we might not know whether it is true or not.

Kelburn Campus, Victoria University of Wellington. Source: Personal documentation
Kelburn Campus, Victoria University of Wellington. Source: Personal documentation

Furthermore, we should not expect too much from the company or institution that will employ us. Graduating from a university abroad does not automatically mean that we can easily accept working in a company or institution. Some institutions or companies may offer overseas graduates a bigger chance to join their company for certain positions. However, many graduates still feel no difference between the graduates from Indonesia and graduates who did their master’s or bachelor’s degrees abroad.

Also, in salary, some companies have the policy to pay the workers equally, no matter where they graduated. Therefore, lowering our expectations might be one of the best ways to be disappointed after facing reality in our country.

In the end, we have to adapt to the change after study. Our tasks and responsibilities will be different after we finish our duty. We will soon face the fact that life needs us to be more hardworking until study feels like an easy task compared to the responsibility we bear after facing the realities in work life.

Also, there might be some things that we can and cannot predict and expect. So, try to be the best version of ourselves. Keep growing, learning, and moving!

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Editor: Yogi Saputra Mahmud

 

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