Hi guys, I’m back again and this time I am writing from Jakarta!! Yes I have finished my bachelor’s degree in the University of Melbourne and I am going to share my one-year experiences in this blog in several parts because you cannot simply cram one year into one post (even 3-week US Trip blog posts were broken down into parts…hahaha). Basically one-year abroad in Australia has been fantastic! There were so many opportunities which I could not find anywhere in Indonesia, and it will simply broader your mind and perspective about education. Now I know why people decided to study abroad at the first place or even continue their degrees overseas. Well, I’m not saying that all people who had studied abroad were more successful compared to those who studied in Indonesia but honestly there were things that you would not get in Indonesia. Work ethics, perspective, disciplines, confidence and networking are the key things that I got from studying abroad. Frankly speaking, there were more benefits that I got from one year of studying abroad compared to three years of undergrad in Indonesia. Many people said that studying abroad is expensive, well quotes such as “Winners find a way, losers make excuses”, “Losers make excuses; winners make progress”, “Losers Make Excuses… Winners Make Adjustments“, and even Blair Waldorf quoted “Destiny is for losers .It’s just a stupid excuse to wait for things to happen instead of making them happen” said it all. Remember that there is always a way. Scholarships are widely available and as for Australia, there are numerous scholarships including AusAID scholarship by the Australian Government and recently one of my good friends who is currently seeking for a master’s degree abroad told me about a scholarship by Ministry of Finance called LPDP. Private institutions also offer scholarships, which means that there are lots of opportunities.
In case of my situation, going abroad is obligatory as I am registered as a student in the International Undergraduate Program (UI KKI). Universitas Indonesia (UI) has this program in several faculties such as Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Economics, Faculty of Computer Science, Faculty of Psychology, Faculty of Engineering, and Faculty of Social Sciences and Politics (did I miss anything? Faculty of Law also has this program but they don’t do double degrees). This program enables the students to get two degrees within four years, 2 years in UI and 2 years in partner universities (this pattern applies to most of the faculties offering this program, in Faculty of Medicine the pattern is 3 years in UI + 1 year in partner universities + 2 years in hospitals as a clerkship medical physician a.k.a co-assistant/koas. Other faculties also have 2.5 years + 1.5 years scheme). As UI being the number 1 university in Indonesia, their partner universities are also equivalent in their countries and looking at the world ranking, they are way above from UI’s ranking. Partner universities include the University of Melbourne, Monash University, Newcastle University, Deakin University, the University of Queensland, Queensland Institute of Technology, Universiteit van Amsterdam, University of Groningen, and others. So imagine graduating from two world class universities in merely four years, even 3.5 years (mine is 6 though…but it’s not a big deal since other medical students in several medical schools in Indonesia can take up to 6 years to finish the whole thing without a year abroad) so the degrees would be: xxxx (your name), S.E., BCom (Economics major), xxxx (your name), S.Kom, B.Inf.Tech (Computer Science major), and for Faculty of Medicine, the final degree would be either dr. xxxx (your name), S.Ked, BMedSc, dr. xxxx (your name), S.Ked, BMedSc (Hons), or dr. xxxx (your name), S.Ked, MRes. (I have presented this issue during Career Day presentation in my alma mater, SMA Labschool Kebayoran back in 2012, might as well upload the slides :D)
So let’s jump straight to the preparation! Sorry if this list seems incomplete since I did not apply from scratch, but I’ll try my best to explain based on my knowledge from talking to fellow Indonesian friends while I was in Melbourne.
Research is important because nowadays workplace has become very competitive, especially in welcoming the free-trade era. When seeking for an employee, companies consider lots of factors, but one thing that always matters is educational background. I know that it does not guarantee anything in regards to personality, works ethics, etc., but sure it will get you shortlisted and give you an extra point ahead of others. It is important to look based on the rankings and their reputations. Google always do best for comprehensive search, but if you want to take a look briefly in terms of rankings, Times Higher Education is credible for their World University Rankings as well as QS World University Rankings. Besides the overall world rankings, don’t forget to check for ratings by subject because being the top of the list does not always mean that they are also number one based on the subjects. For example, the University of Melbourne ranked 31st on QS World Universities Ranking and based on the subjects, the highest ranking was achieved by Social Sciences and Management faculty on the 16th rank, therefore it is a good consideration to choose to study Economics in the University of Melbourne instead of xxxx University which was placed slightly higher in the overall world rankings but was ranked much lower based on the particular subjects. Don’t forget to check for their regional rankings as well as rankings for employment. Looked at their alumni, how many alumni were successful in their fields and looked at the testimonials from the alumni or current students as well. What I learned from studying abroad is that if people are satisfied with something, they will automatically say all the good things about it without even asked or paid about that. I talked to my friends who are seeking master’s degree about how wonderful the University of Melbourne is and even to my mother’s friend who is on scholarship in a particular university in Melbourne and considering about transferring without getting paid by the University of Melbourne. They did not pay anything to me for writing this blog post. I do it because this experience is worth sharing due to the fantastic experiences that the University of Melbourne has given me for just one year of studying. Studying overseas does not always mean that the universities are superior compared to the universities in Indonesia as there are many universities abroad placed below the top universities in Indonesia. Therefore, pay attention to the rankings. If you and your families hold on a strong principle in going to reputable universities, do check the regional leading group such as Group of Eight/Go8 (Australia) and Ivy League (USA).
Other important points to ponder:
- Locations: locations determine living cost and if living cost is not covered by the scholarship, you might consider about this. *Bonus: if you enjoy travelling or a certain hobby or passion, a good location means more travelling, more places to explore, more places to be crossed out of your travel bucket list, and more platforms to pursue your hobby or passion! Who knows you will be inspired to do and create something BIG 😀 (e.g. Kaskus was initially found in Seattle, WA, in which the headquarters of Microsoft and Amazon are located and also known as a reputable place to study information technology. My dance teacher Miss Gigi was inspired to open a dance studio based on her experiences during studying abroad in Singapore. Even Farah Quinn the celebrity chef decided to change path to become a chef although she completed a bachelor degree in Finance from a university in USA)
- Tuition fee: this should not become a big deal if you are covered by scholarship)
- Language: non-English speaking countries or universities might be a little bit difficult in terms of adjustment. Well, even most of the people who go to English-speaking universities might find it difficult at first to adjust with the language especially academic language, even though they are fluent in English and their English test score is above average. Studying in non-English speaking countries can affect performances and psychological states, which will further lead to low academic scores during the few first years, but eventually you will get used to it. For people who enjoy learning new language and looking for a bigger challenge, this should not be a problem
- Environment: this is related to opportunity to learn and grow as a person. Environmental factors such as living in four-season countries can slightly affect academic performances and make adaptation process slightly more difficult, but it will go through with time. See whether the city or country has a good and reputable companies related to your fields, therefore the chance to do internship at a good and reputable company is also higher. For example, New York has Wall Street and financial districts which comprises the offices and headquarters of many of the major financial institutions. As a result if you are from finance major, it is a good consideration to study in New York or other cities in USA as you can spend summer period for internship.
2. English fluency requirements
One of the most crucial requirements for studying abroad is the English fluency requirements. Usually countries like UK, Australia, and Singapore ask for IELTS test, while USA asks for TOEFL test. When it comes to IELTS test, there is only one type of IELTS test used globally for education, which is the Academic IELTS test (for immigration purpose, they use General IELTS test). They have official test centres which means if you take IELTS test outside the official test centres, your result is not valid and you can’t use it to apply for studying abroad. You can check out about the IELTS test, including what to prepare, sample papers, and official test centre locations on their website. IELTS test consists of 4 parts: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. All of them have their own score ranging from 0-9. All of the scores will then be calculated to an overall score. For more information about IELTS scores calculation, go to IELTS Essentials. The IELTS score is valid for two years, meaning that if you already had taken IELTS test previously in more than 2 years, you have to retake another one because the previous one is not valid anymore.
The minimum score depends on the program and university, but remember always to aim higher than the minimum score to increase your chance 🙂 Based on my experience, I must say that IELTS was quite crucial when UI students (especially FKUI KKI, but I have heard stories from different faculties as well) transferred to the partner universities. The minimum score for FKUI KKI students to be accepted in University of Melbourne (from now on let’s refer it as UoM) is 7.0 with minimum writing score 7.0, which means that although your overall score is 7.0 but your writing score is 6.5, you need to retake the test. Writing is crucial because in Australia, most of the evaluations and assignments are in essay form, even exams! They are very meticulous when it comes to grammar and they don’t care whether English is not your first language. If your writing is bad, they will not mind giving you a low score. Therefore, if your writing is below 7.0, they will not accept you because they know that you will have difficulties in dealing with the assignments. Coincidentally, writing is the most difficult part of IELTS test and it is also one of the main reasons why UI KKI students failed to transfer on the usual intake. Remember that IELTS test happens only once a week and the results will come up in two weeks, so please bear in mind with the test date, the result date, and the submission date.
Tips for IELTS test-takers:
- Sign up for IELTS prep: although you are fluent in English or you have studied English throughout your life, at least sign up of the 3-day or 5-day workshop. If you still think you need more preparation, sign up for IELTS preparation program which can take up to 3-6 months. You will be given test tips and practice materials so that you can focus on those 4 aspects that will be tested in the test. You will be given drills on each part so you will know what to expect in the real test. Usually the teacher are also registered examiner so they will give you tips on how to score higher.
- Listening tips: practice, practice, practice. Remember to read the question on the exam paper first so you know what you are looking for during the listening period. The recording will be only played once, so make sure that you listen and pay attention to the conversation. Frankly speaking the accent was kind of weird and unusual, so make sure that you practice a lot.
- Reading tips: again, practice makes perfect. Practice on how to do skim reading and find the important information. Don’t spend too much time on reading as you still have writing. Remember to use your time wisely and efficiency, therefore it is important to practice skim reading.
- Writing tips: again, practice makes perfect. Practice by writing from the topics given from the practice materials and submit your writing to your instructor or your English teacher and read their feedbacks. In addition, you can read sample writing results from band 8-9 so you will have a good idea on how to get a good score for writing. Try to copy the format, vocabularies, and linking words used in the sample writing results. Try to enrich your vocabularies and linking words as well. In addition, make sure that you have the topic sentence in each paragraph and what you are writing on each paragraph is in accordance with the topic sentence. Another crucial factor is grammar, make sure that your spelling and grammar are correct because your score will be deducted if you got them wrong.
- Speaking tips: same with the previous tips, practice makes perfect. Practice by recording your answer to a certain speaking test topic from the practice materials and look at the time because during the speaking test, there is a part when you only got 1-2 minutes to answer the whole question. Make sure that you have a point in your answer a.k.a not bluffing and make sure that you answer the question. Take a deep breath and be confident! Remember to speak clearly and carefully plan your points before speaking.
Sorry I could not give any tips regarding TOEFL because I haven’t taken any TOEFL test…I have taken two IELTS test (first one was when I applied to FKUI KK and the second one was when I applied to UoM) so I can give you these tips which I also gave to my friends who are going to sit for IELTS test. Another consideration is that IELTS test and prep is expensive (one test could take up to 2 million rupiah, exclusive to the prep) so it is important to pass on the first attempt to save money 🙂 Regarding TOEFL test, please bear in mind that there are many types of TOEFL tests and make sure that you got the correct one. For instance, LPDP scholarship asks for TOEFL ITP® 500/iBT® 6, so you either go to official ITP® test centre of IBT® test centre. Don’t be fooled by TOEFL prediction test as it is only a prediction test and not valid to be used to apply to universities or scholarships. Find out more about TOEFL in their official website.
3. Extra Documents
Since there is a partnership from FKUI with UoM, I don’t have to prepare for other documents besides application form. Application form can be obtained from the universities’ websites or local representatives, for example UoM representative for Indonesia is located in Kuningan, Jakarta. If the universities don’t happen to have a local representative, you can contact them through agents, but beware with agents because there were stories about scams. Official agents are written on the universities’ websites so if they are not listed, don’t bother going to the office and ask for their help. Agents can be beneficial because they have direct contact with the universities (only licensed and official agents have the privilege to do so) and they can assist you with almost everything such as requirements, documents, application form, visa application, pre-departure briefing, and giving suggestions and consultation about which universities should you apply to. Please check out the universities’ websites first for the authorised agents and contact the agents listed on the websites.
4. Visa Application
Visa is also crucial since you can’t set foot overseas without any visa (except ASEAN countries, but in order to study you still need Student Visa). Agents or local representatives will assist you with visa applications because there are lots of things to be submitted such as official documents and financial documents. If you are on scholarship, the fee will be covered but if you apply by yourself, you need to make sure that you have a financial guarantee because visa application requires a certain amount of money to be available in the bank on the visa application. For example, you apply for Australian student visa in April, therefore by April you need to attach a copy of your parents or your bank statement with Rp. xxxx available on the account (according to the requirement). Overseas countries are very strict about that because they don’t want you to discontinue your education in their countries and become moneyless or even homeless because it will increase their nation’s burden. Please allow several working days in order for your visa to be processed, therefore do not apply at the last minute. (Australian student visa requires 14-21 working days, exclude weekends or public holidays)
Once you got your visa and your departure tickets ready (will be covered by LPDP), it is better to find accommodation prior to the departure. You can ask your friends or colleagues who are also studying there or you can join the Facebook group of Indonesian student union/Perhimpunan Pelajar, such as PPIA in Australia, PPI in UK, and PERMIAS in USA. Each university has their own student union, for example there is PPIA Monash, PPIA UoM, PPIA Deakin, under the regional PPIA Victoria. You can ask questions through their e-mail or Facebook and they can assist you with that. I got my accommodation through my senior and so did my mother’s friend who already secured her accommodation prior to her departure through her senior. This will be easier because you don’t have to worry about being homeless and you can just focus on your study there. In Australia, if you want to rent an accommodation, you need to make appointment with the agent and come to the property to do inspection with other people who are also interested with the property. If you are satisfied with the property, you have to submit the application form as fast as possible to avoid competitions. Imagine how tedious the process is! Therefore it is better to do it beforehand. If your university happens to have a dormitory, it is also a good option if you want an adjacent place with a good value or you can stay there while you are looking for a better place. Of course dormitory means sharing kitchen and sometimes bathroom, but if those are none of your concern and you are looking for a place with good value and university atmosphere, dormitory can be a good consideration. Few things to be considered:
- Location: again this is important; if the accommodation is located near the university, you don’t to spend money for transportation, which is good. Besides, the air quality overseas is way better compared to Indonesia (no pollution!) so walking is a good and healthy option. Besides if you need to spend more time in the universities (e.g. studying late in the library; this might be uncommon in Indonesia but in other countries if exams are coming, libraries are filled with people even until midnight!) you don’t have to worry about going home alone at night. In addition, if you often wake up late (like me ;p) it is better to find places near the university so you won’t arrive late (time is money and they are very strict with time so try to be on time overseas). Since you are not equipped with private transportation, it is better to find an accommodation near train stations, tram stops, or bus stops so it will be easier for you to get around.
- Type: Like I have said before, you can either choose an apartment, dormitory, or shared house. For me apartment is more convenient because you don’t have to wait to use the bathroom or kitchen unlike in dormitory or shared house. Looking at the price, apartment is way more expensive compared to dormitory or shared house, but you can always share an apartment with your friends to minimise the budget. There are also full-furnished and unfurnished apartments. If you rent an unfurnished apartment, you should buy the furnitures on your own but you don’t have to be fancy and try to make it as convenient as you can with minimal stuffs. There are lots of furniture stores (IKEA is good, affordable, and widely available in most countries overseas) and you can buy secondhand stuffs with good condition in garage sale or moving sale. Furnished apartment is more expensive since it comes with the furnitures, but sometimes you still need to go shopping for additional furnitures although it is already equipped with TV, kitchen utensils, etc. Again, it is based on preference!:)
This is the end of part one and hope these tips help! To be continued to part 2 very soon! 🙂
For more info about UoM, go to futurestudents.unimelb.edu.au
GOOD LUCK AND SEE YOU IN ‘STRAYA! (or the other side of the world!) Remember to live your dreams!!!
Disclaimer: I did not get paid of any party for writing this, this blog post is solely based on my experience and like I said, because I am satisfied with what UoM had given me and several friends and juniors are asking about UoM, I decided to write a blog post about it 🙂
Feel free to write comments, additional info, or ask questions!