Let's Study Abroad

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Many people think that studying abroad is difficult, complicated, expensive or even scary. Although there are many good reasons to pursue higher education overseas, some obstacles and "myths" around studying abroad might be getting in the way. 

To open students' eyes that studying abroad is not something unrealistic and how interesting it can be, the Office of International Affairs (OIA) of Universitas Kristen Duta Wacana (UKDW) joining hands with Inspira Solution organized a seminar entitled "Let's Study Abroad" on Friday, October 18, 2019. This seminar is part of Inspira Solution's Jogja Roadshow. With nearly 90 participants, the event was conducted at Rev. Tasdik Seminar Room. In her opening remarks, Arida Susyetina, S.S., M.A., the Director of the Office of Partnerships and Public Relations encouraged the students to take this opportunity to find out important information about studying in their destination countries. "Don't hesitate to ask, I'm sure our speaker today will gladly help you," she said.

At the beginning of the session, participants were invited to take an online survey about their study abroad motivations, destination countries, and obstacles. This survey aimed to draw some pictures for the speaker to focus on the audience's circumstances. The speaker in this seminar was Dewa Ayu Diah who received the Chevening Scholarship for her master's degree at the University of Warwick in the UK. She started with some motivations people have to study abroad. "Whatever your motivation is fine, it can be the source to keep you going. The thing you need to take into consideration is, when writing a motivation letter to apply for a scholarship, you have to understand who gives the scholarship and what are their concerns. Try to align your motivation with their interest!", she pointed out. Here are some reasons for studying abroad that can motivate us, according to Diah: to study in top universities in the world, the library and its complete facilities, to know ourselves better and love our country more, to get experience for a lifetime, to build networking and new inner circle, and to travel and see the world. 

Digging further into the topic of this seminar, Diah talked about the myths around getting scholarship for studying abroad such as you need a nearly perfect GPA, complicated process and hard to find campus, limited scholarship, you have to work in government sector or NGO, you need to have a great number of experiences, homesickness or can not adapt to the learning process overseas. In fact, those myths are not entirely true. GPA is important to assess your academic performance and to ensure that students fulfill their responsibility, but it is not the only determining factor. With a GPA of 3.0, the chance for getting a scholarship is still wide open. If the GPA is below 3.0, Diah advised students to improve their GPA. For final year students who think that they lost the chance because they can not increase the GPA, Diah said, "If you have an extraordinary organization experience, for example, or skills that are highly needed, the opportunities are still there for you." 

You indeed need to invest your time and effort to find information about scholarships and campuses abroad. The keys are to read the guidelines and make a list. As for the myth about a limited number of scholarships, she responded, "Australia Award Scholarship (AAS), LPDP, and Erasmus are few of the scholarship people often heard. The number of scholarships might be less than the number of applicants, but if you are willing to look up for information, there are so many scholarships available. For example, in the UK there are scholarships from Jardine Foundation and Wells Bank. Universities also provide scholarships, though only partial. Besides, there are also scholarships from governments around the world, such as from Hungary, Estonia, Japan, China, Russia, France, Korea, and many more.” 

To break the myth that applying for a scholarship is only favorable for those who work in government or NGO, Diah shared her story of receiving a scholarship with work experience in the private sector. She explained that scholarship grantors are more concerned about professionalism and your plan after finishing the degree - how will you use the knowledge. Likewise, the assumption that you need to have a mountain of experiences to get a scholarship is not completely accurate. Experience is indeed necessary, but more importantly, you need to have a vision and mission for your future. Lastly, worrying about not being able to adapt well in the learning environment and feeling homesick might be a hindrance, but there is a support system that will help you to cope with these problems.  

Many people are not sure where to get started with scholarships. While every scholarship is different, there are certain similarities in the process of getting a scholarship. Naturally, the first step is collecting scholarship information. Do some research and write down the requirements and deadlines! The second step is the application process, including preparing the required documents such as motivation letter, academic transcripts, IELTS, letter of recommendation, and a conditional Letter of Acceptance (LoA). The third step is the scholarship interview. “Usually the questions are about your motivation letter and topic related to your field of study,” Diah said. Since the idea of interviews can be stressful, the best way to face a scholarship interview is to be well prepared which can be achieved by practicing. The last step is getting ready for the departure, including obtaining the visa and unconditional LoA. “After getting the scholarship, we must read our right and obligation; what is covered by the scholarship and when the scholarship money is available,” she concluded.

In the question and answer session, participants eagerly asked questions that led to a discussion about the possibility to take another undergraduate program, getting a master’s degree in a different field, coping with the language barrier, and how the university and scholarship grantor deal with mental health. 

The pursuit of higher education abroad is considered as an experience of a lifetime, worth for personal and professional development. Choose the country, field of study, and university! Believe that studying abroad is no longer an impossible dream! [drr]