Once a Dream, Now a Reality: Devina’s Semester abroad Experience in the United States

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Devina Wibowo is currently participating in the Indonesian International Student Mobility Award (IISMA), a new program launched by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology in 2020. She will spend this semester at Boston University, Massachusetts. In this article, she shares her story of how she eventually joined the program and what she has learned so far from the program.

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I have always thought about participating in a study abroad program, and it has always been on the list of things that I want to do throughout my years in college. I would wonder what it is like to live in a different culture, along with meeting with a diverse group of people and enlarging my understanding of the world. Little did I know that this dream turned into reality.

In April 2021, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology announced a new program called the Indonesian International Student Mobility Award (IISMA), which is also a part of Program Kampus Merdeka. This is a fully-funded program that offers undergraduate students to study at the best universities around the world for one semester. Visit this website for more information.

Indonesian International Student Mobility Awards (IISMA) aims to allow undergrad students to learn culture and practical skills in overseas universities.
Indonesian International Student Mobility Awards (IISMA) aims to allow undergrad students to spend a semester in an overseas university to learn new culture and hone their skills.

There are several requirements to apply for this program, which include English proficiency test certificate (TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo English Test), academic transcripts, and a recommendation letter from the home university. Potential awardees should also answer some essay prompts as a part of their application.

A few weeks passed by before I got the announcement for my interview. At that moment, I was hesitant and was going back and forth about participating in this program. A bit of a back story, I wanted to accelerate my graduation in 3,5 years. By joining this program, there could be a possibility that I will graduate a year longer than my intended graduation. I was contemplating my decision alone since I didn’t tell anyone about my application, not even my parents.

However, I thought to myself, “This is a rare opportunity. If I were to get in, this would be God’s plan and I’ll just have to graduate a little later compared to my peers. It’s so much better to try instead of regretting not trying”. I decided to come into the interview which was only a fifteen-minute session. A few weeks later, I got an email saying I got into the program. At that moment I realized going to the interview was the best decision that I made.

Receiving my acceptance letter, I knew that I made the right decision.
Receiving my acceptance letter, I knew that I made the right decision.

The reason why I chose the US was that this is the one country that I haven’t got the chance to visit, and why specifically I chose Boston is that there’s something about Boston that attracts me. Of course, Boston University offered a lot of courses that sparked my interest.

Altogether, I went on this journey with 19 other students from different universities in Indonesia. We departed at the end of August. Approximately 32 hours later, we arrived at Boston Logan International Airport. Tears fell back into my eyes when I heard the stewardess say, “Welcome to the United States of America,” (and yes, when writing this, I still have chills). Everything just felt so surreal that I had to pinch myself just to prove it was real.

Had a a picnic in Boston Commons with international friends from Boston University
Had a picnic in Boston Commons with international friends from Boston University

My first weeks were so hectic. I spent my first night unpacking, and the next morning I met my roommates for the first time. I share my room with two other students, Megan and Julia. They are so nice and they helped me in adjusting to life in Boston. I learned how to use the T (subway system) to get around, went across different places to get to know the buildings, and of course, explored the city. In just a few weeks, I think we have visited most of the touristy places in Boston.

So far, I am living my best life in what I could’ve ever experienced. I was amazed by what this city, and particularly Boston University, has to offer. I was astonished by how this university has everything. Besides the conventional facilities like classroom buildings, auditoriums, and dorms, the campus even has a massive fitness center (like literally, a mega gym), stadium, and even a skating/hockey rink! They also offer outstanding resources to make sure you can develop your potential to become the best version of yourself. Besides student clubs, a variety of resources are provided, such as entrepreneurship centers, language classes, nutrition workshops, mental health counseling, writing tutoring, and plenty of other things that are offered at no additional cost.

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Visiting Faneuil Hall, one of the tourist attractions in Boston

After doing virtual lessons for almost 2 years, transitioning back to on-site schooling is a big adjustment, let alone doing it in another country. I need to be prepared for classes by doing a lot of readings. In class, it is important that students speak up their opinions and actively participate in discussions, which those pre-readings will come in handy.

Another adjustment was how one has to be agile in making small talks to strangers. It is not very common to talk to people back at home. Here, I feel like it’s so easy to make friends with anyone by just asking them simple questions that strike up a conversation, such as asking them to sit together for lunch while queueing up, or when waiting for the bus. People are more likely to welcome you and there you go; you have a new friend! (Not everyone is going to respond in a friendly way, you need to read the situation)

I have no words to describe how lucky and grateful I am to have this opportunity and study in one of the best schools in the world. It is truly a dream come true. To the readers, I encourage you to at least try and enroll in student exchange or study abroad programs since it will be a life-changing experience. Take my word, you are not going to regret it.

Attended Minister Talk with Pak Budi Gunadi Sadikin held by Harvard Indonesian Students Association (HISA)
Attended Minister Talk with Pak Budi Gunadi Sadikin held by Harvard Indonesian Students
Association (HISA)

Let’s connect via Instagram (@devinafausta) or LinkedIn (Devina Faustanisa) if you want to ask questions or anything related to the IISMA program!

Photo credit: author, IISMA

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