By Rebecca Isjwara
Small town girl hears about going to university overseas from an upperclassman and dreams of doing the same? That’s how it all started for Ellen Putri Edita, a youngster from Salatiga who followed her dreams and is now at Lund University in Sweden studying Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science as her postgraduate degree. She is now entering her third month at the university, and is trying her best to adapt to life on campus.
Upon entering her first class, Ellen was surprised to find that the learning environment at Lund University is very different from what she was used to at Diponegoro University, where she received a bachelor degree in environmental engineering. There were a lot of discussions between the professors and students, enthusiastic question-and-answer interaction sessions, and also voicing of opinions—something Ellen had to learn to get used to. It also seemed that her classmates all knew what they were going to say beforehand, because they all came to class armed with contextual background readings. Apart from being thrown off by the tough class contents, Ellen also felt slightly taken aback by how fluent everyone was in English. It was an environment where a lot of her classmates were native English speakers, but surely she could blend in?
Ellen realized that she had to do some adjusting to make her life at Lund University better for her, so she set a few small goals to tick off during the day. One example would be aiming to ask one question everyday. She doesn’t have to raise up her hand in every single class, but she’d make it her goal to speak up once a day. Sounds simple, no?
Her grammar was all over the place, her voice quivered when she spoke, and she doesn’t know where to look as her eyes dart around the room. She soon found out that none of that mattered, though. She managed to get her point across and her professors could understand her, whilst her classmates would build on her ideas and contribute to the discussion. She realized that grammar is secondary as long as people understood what she was saying, and she gained a little bit of confidence with every question raised. Sure, her voice still quivers, but she is no longer afraid.
One big culture shock Ellen experienced was the attitude her friends had towards learning. It seems that everyone wants to constantly learn. Coming in as someone from an environment where reading is a serious activity, she was surprised to find her classmates turn to books for pleasure whenever they have time. Surrounded by friends who are students by heart, Ellen feels pushed to constantly learn as well, and to be more active in obtaining new knowledge.
Sweden’s cool, but Indonesia is cool, too!
Even though Ellen is picking up a lot from Lund, she feels strongly about the misconception that Indonesia have it worse than other countries. For example, professors from both her undergraduate university and current postgraduate institution would always be receptive to questions and students’ enthusiasm. She has picked up a few benefits from studying abroad, but she feels that her newly obtained skills and knowledge would be much more useful when brought back home to Indonesia, where she can contribute to the nation’s growth.
Tips from Ellen for Scholarship-Hunting
Put in extra effort towards everything. No matter what the task is on your priority list when looking for scholarships, it’s important to fulfill the required certification or test score, and it’s important to do it well. She also recommends putting that same extra effort attitude into looking up information online, such as reading articles, sharing information with friends, or watching vloggers regarding student life abroad on YouTube.
We’d like to extend our gratitude to Ellen Putri Edita for contributing to this article. All pictures are courtesy of Ellen Putri Edita.