A Story of Indonesian Student in China: Education, Tradition, and the News

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

China is becoming one of the top destinations for young Indonesians to pursue their education. According to the statistical report on international students in China for 2018 published by the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China, the number of Indonesian students studying in China reached 15 thousand. 

Rachel Angella Pelle, a graduate of the Faculty of Business of Universitas Kristen Duta Wacana (UKDW) is one of the Indonesian students pursuing higher education in China. Marking the beginning of the year of Metal Rat, Koran Kampus got the chance to chat with Rachel to hear her experience. 

To begin, we asked her the story of how she gets a scholarship to study in China. 

"Since I was enrolled as an undergraduate student at UKDW, besides learning academically, I also worked my time on developing my soft skills. During that time, I met my senior Ko Frista who at that time was in his final year (now a lecturer in UKDW's Faculty of Business). He always supports me by giving advice and sharing his experience," she started.

In her third and fourth year at UKDW, Rachel got a scholarship from Scranton Women's Leadership Center - South Korea and joined UKDW's Office of International Affairs as a student assistant. "I met many international students and gain a lot f experience. It helped me find my dream to study abroad," she continued.

To get closer to that dream, she said, she diligently searched information about scholarships to continue master's degree abroad. "A few months after I graduated -at that time I was still working- I heard about Chinese Government Scholarships. I looked up the information and decided to apply. Praise the Lord! After undergoing the selection process, the announcement said that I passed. That was how I started my study in the city of Xi`an, China," she told us.

Curious, we asked Rachel about the city and her campus.

"I am studying at Northwestern Polytechnical University. I started in early September last year, learning Mandarin. The campus is very big and the environment is clean. I live in the international student dormitory, 15 minutes walking from the campus. The city of Xi`an is beautiful as well. There are many historical sites such as Terracotta Warriors Museum, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, City Wall, Muslim Quarter, Bell Tower of Xi`an, and many more," she explained.

Talking about studying in China, we found out that it is quite different from Indonesia. The schedule is quite tight and long. When we asked Rachel about her daily activities, she answered, "My main activity is of course studying. Here, morning classes are started from 08.00 - 12.00 and afternoon classes from 14.00 - 18.00. A class hour is 50 minutes long with 10 minutes break. Then, there is a self-study in the evening. Classes take place from Monday to Friday. I usually spend the weekends to do my assignments and hang out with friends sometimes."

Now, let's see how the country known as the Land of the Red Dragon is different from our country.

"The foods taste different. For example, I find the food here is more oily and the portion is very large," she shared her thoughts. 

"Early in October, the fall is coming. Leaves change color into yellowish. When December comes, we start seeing a thin layer of snow. With these conditions, I need to adapt to the new environment, getting used to eating in a larger portion and take good care of my body, especially when winter comes," she added.

She remembered during one class, her lecturer gave advice to drink warm water in a cold weather. "Chinese peolpe love drinking tea. By the way, a delicious tea can be fairly expensive. Seeing these people enjoying their tea, I started to like drinking tea myself," said the girl who joined the student choir during her study at UKDW.

We heard that the Chinese government is quite strict in terms of internet regulation. How netizens survive?

"In China, we can not simply access Google, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc since those sites are blocked by the government. To access those sites we need a VPN. China has its own application for mailing, music streaming, movie streaming, and other online activities. For example QQ as email provider, QQ music (music streaming), IQIYI (movie streaming), and youku (similar to YouTube). WeChat is the most popular messaging app in China. For online payment systems, most vendors use WeChat pay or Alipay," she told us.

After several months living and experiencing education atmosphere in China, Rachel said that the most challenging thing is adapting in the fast-paced and long study hour in this country, which might make students quickly bored. "There was even time when I thought I would give up because I was afraid I could not overcome the rigorous lesson. But, I turn my fear into motivation to learn and memorize the hanzi as well as pinyin,"  said the Tangerang-born student.

Responding our question about what she miss the most about Indonesia, she answered, "Definitely Indonesian foods! Sate madura, rendang, ayam rica-rica, telur balado, kerupuk, etc."

Seeing the celebration of Chinese New Year in the land where the tradition originated, must be an exciting experience. 

"During the Chinese New Year, everyone heads back to their hometown to celebrate with their family. No matter how far, no matter how expensive the ticket, they oblige to go home. Interestingly, there is even standing ticket sales for the seats are sold out. Many people don't have a choice but to buy that standing ticket even if the price is the same with the regular one, for the sake of meeting their family. I was traveling to Guangzhou, booked a train ticket to Shanghai. On the train, I saw many people standing during the 16-hour-ride. So you can imagine how important it is to get together with family during Chinese New Year," she said.

Unfortunately, coronavirus overshadows the celebration of Chines New Year this time. 

"It's a quiet celebration. Nobody celebrates it outside. Every family can only gather inside their house," she reported.

"I was in Shanghai with two Indonesian friends when we heard the news that access to all transportation in Wuhan had been closed due to the outbreak of coronavirus. We panicked. We decided to call the Indonesian embassy in China to ask if we should go back to Xi`an or directly take the flight back to Indonesia. At that time, the embassy was still confirming to take a preventive measures such as washing hands, wearing masker, etc. However, the next morning, we heard that three people in Xi`an had been infected by the virus. In the evening, we got call from the embassy, suggesting that we go back to Indonesia for the time being. We immidiately take the flight back home," Rachel described the situation.

"We all hope that the situation will get better in China. I probably will go back to China next month, but I need to wait for further information from my lecturer there," she added.

Closing our chat, Rachel gave some words of encouragement to UKDW students who also want to study abroad, "Pray and give your best in everything you do. Start now, start from yourself! don't be afraid to have a dream that will bring a good impact to our country Indonesia. One thing that we should not forget is to always be grateful for everything we have and every situation we're in." [drr]