A Birthday Note

I know, this is a way too long overdue to write a birthday note to myself. I will write this anyway as a yearly tradition and as a self reflection.

I turned 31 on February 25th. My colleagues asked whether I had a party to celebrate my birthday. I said “no”. They replied “oh how sad!”

As I grow up, I don’t fancy birthday parties anymore. Birthdays, for me, is one of the times to reflect what I have done in the previous year and planning what I will do in the next year.

In the previous year, I have managed to survive my first year as a PhD student. When I started my PhD in the end of 2017, I thought I could not juggle between attending classes and performing my experiments. But I made it! Even my abstract was accepted in a mini-conference and I could present my preliminary results there. It was not a real big international conference, but still I was really delightful.

Surprisingly, I also obtained good grades on the courses that I attended. Me and Physics have been arch enemies ever since I started to learn it in junior high school years. Last semester, I must take a course called “Molecular and Cellular Biophysics”. I was just expecting to pass the exam with a “just ok” score, actually.

Talking about traveling, I visited some cities in Germany with my best traveling buddy, Mbak Wulan. 🙂 This year I expect less traveling, though. My research apparently need more of my attention.

On the other note, I’m growing into an even more independent person. I have no choice. This has been, so far, the longest period for me living abroad. Last year, my bestfriend here moved to Frankfurt following her husband who received an offer from a company there. She was living in Duesseldorf before. Previously, whenever both of us need to talk, we just texted each other and arranged sudden meet-ups. Now we cannot do such activities anymore, sadly. But I learn to be comfortable in my own company.

Yes I’m 31 young now. I have supportive parents (who–most of the times–still over-worried about me being faraway from home). I keep my circle of friend small. And I have a super-understanding boyfriend.

Cheers to even more amazing adventures to come!

You Complement Me

If you’re a Christian, if you believe in God, don’t worry about your other half. HE will find the perfect one for you. Your task in life is to work, improve your quality as a person, and pray. You need to realise that God is currently preparing you for that perfect person. And HE is also doing the same thing to your (future) other half. You never know, your other half could be the one who has been so familiar to you. Or he might be someone whom you have never met before. God will make both of you meet when both of you are ready. And regarding relationship, it is not the quantity. It’s about the quality. You don’t need to have countless relationship before you get married. Maybe up until today you’ve never been in any relationships, but one day you will have your first and last relationship. And that will be with the man whom God has prepared for you (maybe ever since you were born)

I wrote those phrases in one of an old articles I posted in this blog back then in November 2014, according to a video that was sent by a good friend of mine. Sadly I can’t access the video anymore now.

November 2014 was the time when I thought I found that one person in my life, before I realized that we have different faith and he is already in a relationship with another girl. After I was finally moving on with this guy, I trapped in another one almost relationship, one platonic friendship, and one toxic relationship. I also thought that I found my other half in that platonic friendship and actually was hoping that it could lead into something, until I let myself to stay uncertain for around two years. The toxic long distance relationship ended up leaving me a little bit traumatic and eventually came into a conclusion that I cannot get along with Indonesian guys in terms of maintaining a romantic relationship.

Last year I decided to heal my heart, focusing on my studies and research project, having fun with my friends, traveling, and not trying to find another guy to fill up that empty space in my life.

I reached a certain point when I feel that I’m happy with my life. I have reached more than a half of my dreams, and now actually I’m living my dream. I have a very supportive parents who never stop praying for me (and they never ask about my love life anymore. I think they’re also getting bored asking me that question). I have my friends who always there when I need them. What else should I ask for?

Perhaps a life partner. I was thirty years old, happy with my life, and having a stable emotional status. I told myself : “It’s the time to open up your heart again and give love another chance” And so I went out of my comfort zone, started to talk with new people without trying to change myself into another person.

I met this one person, with whom I can be my true self. On our first meeting, we talked for hours like we had known each other for years. It was very unusual of me.

It was not a love at the first sight for me, although later he told me that it definitely was for him. Weeks later, after our third meeting, I realized that I’m falling in love with him. This is not a kind of love that fulfill the empty space in my heart. I was happy with my life before I met him. Now, I am happier. This is not a relationship that grow out of loneliness. And I’m really grateful for that.

On the night after we officially started this relationship, I told God : “Thanks. You always have the best plan for me. He’s  worth the wait”

There are not so many differences for me,  between being single and being in a relationship. I think that’s a sign of a healthy relationship. Letting your significant other to grow, while holding hands to face whatever obstacles that might come during our journey towards our future together (hopefully).

To you, who always be kind and patient with me. To you, who let me be my true self. You don’t complete me. You complement me. Thank you. I thank God for making us to find each other.

And happy belated Valentine’s Day!

Essen, 16.02.2019

2019 Resolution : Social Media Detox

Hello everyone. We almost reach the third week of January 2019, but please allow me to say happy new year to all of you, dear readers!

It’s been years I stop making resolutions at the beginning of every new year, because I know at the end I will not fulfill them. However, I set goals for my academic life. That’s my top priority at the moment.

As the title implies, it’s true I’m trying to do a social media “detox”. It’s not really a 2019 resolution, but it’s my continous life project. I have started it since, I think, two years ago.  I feel much better about myself now and I hope it will get better as time goes by.

I must admit that internet and social media are very useful in our lives, as long as we know how to use it well. In this modern era, they support every aspect of our lives.

It was all started with my old Twitter account. I made that account in 2009 when I was a college student in my early twenties. I used to rambling around and exposing my personal matters there. You know that age stage when you tried to find your life direction. Years later I realised that I shared way too much in Twitter. I decided to delete my account in 2015. At that moment, I also in the middle of my PhD scholarship selection process. A friend of mine reminded me that there is a possiblity for the selection committee to track our activities in the cyber world. After I left Twitter, I found it hard for me to get news update. Whenever I wanted to update myself on the current news, I should go to the specific news portal website. Such a waste of time. Later on, I signed up again for a Twitter account and I use it mostly only for updating myself on current issues. I find it useful, especially since I am currently living outside Indonesia.

The second one is Facebook. Probably I am among those people who started using Facebook since its early year. I remember Facebook used to be that cool. In these past few years, people use this social media to spread hate campaign and to provocate others in bad ways. Most of the (normal) people in my generation has left Facebook nowadays. I still choose to actively use my account, though. This is the only social media that connects me with my family back home, especially the elderly people. Come on, they don”t know (yet?) about Instagram. 😀

Last but not least, the third one, is Instagram. With its Instagram stories feature, people tend to expose their private lives to public. When they have problems with other people, instead of trying to solve the problems, they share them on Instagram stories. Other people (who are actually outsiders) start to make speculations. And the drama begins. Some people also like to share their holiday pictures on this social media. There is nothing wrong with this, but nowadays people prefer to visit those so-called “Instagrammable” destinations just for the sake of their social media feeds. I’m mostly “hanging around” in Instagram, because in my opinion it is still the most fun social media platform to date.

When you think that you expose your private life way too much on social media, perhaps you can ask this question to yourself : “I’m not a public figure, then what’s the point of me sharing about my life to public?”

In conclusion, my 2019 resolution is to do a social media “detox” which include :

  • Sharing only positive vibes and useful information on my social media platforms
  • Trying to be totally “present” outside social media, spending times with those people who love me and I love
  • When I’m traveling, I will enjoy it to the fullest without much thinking whether those places are “Instagrammable”
  • Reading more non-academic books or books outside my field of expertise (this is quite difficult, though. considering my work loads, but I’ll try my best)

Happy new year once again!


Essen, January 12th 2019

Getting Rid of Implicit Bias

I stumbled upon this video, which triggered me to read and write about implicit bias. I have never heard about this term before, but I know a little bit about “sub-conscious prejudice”. Actually these two terms are quite similar. I like the content of that video, except the part on international conferences. In my opinion, people who call themselves as scholars (including Indonesian scholars) are not that shallow by only prefer to discuss with international delegates in a conference just because they are whites. Therefore, I disagree with her opinion in this case.

According to an article in Scientific American, implicit bias is a sign that your brain is still working properly. You’re not being racist by showing an implicit bias. Let me give you some examples and perhaps you can relate with your situations.

Most of Asians adore Caucasian people too much

I am not only talking about Indonesians. Let’s get real, most of Asian people feel proud if they know at least one Caucasian people, personally, in their lives. This is not only a situation that tends to happen in low-mid income Indonesian society who love taking selfies with the whites. What is the reason behind this? Post-colonialism mentality, I would say. Most Asians think that Caucasian people have higher hierarchy than them and therefore they must serve them, as a form of being respective. This is an inherited mentality from their predecessors.

Not all Caucasian people are better than Asian people. Living in a European country for a while, I notice that actually they pay more respect towards us because of our strong mentality and good attitudes. For me, I never feel inferior and I don’t adore them that much now.

English and other European languages are cool

Being able to communicate in English is cool. When you intend to explain about something and you do it in English, somehow people will give you more respect rather than when you do it in Indonesian language, for example. I agree that in order to  become citizens of the world, we must be able to communicate in English. However, it does not mean that it is okay if we cannot speak Indonesian properly.

I consider people in my generation (Y generation a.k.a Millenials) are still lucky. When we grew up there were not so many international schools available in Indonesia. We only had choices to go to public or private schools, which of course offer Indonesian language as a compulsory subject. We started to learn English at fourth grade. So, we can speak both languages properly.

I am afraid that Indonesian Z generation will lose their identity as Indonesians by not being able to speak Indonesian properly. Being able to communicate in foreign languages (not only English) is important and certainly will bring benefits and open more opportunities for us. However, we must remember that being able to communicate, orally and verbally,  in proper Indonesian is no less important.

We need to look on German and French people in terms of nation-pride. Young people in these two countries speak their languages properly and they really don’t care if they still have their accents while trying to communicate in English.

Indonesian people who earn degrees from abroad are smarter than those who earn degrees from local universities

Funny thing, most of the times this assumption does not come from people in Indonesia, but from the graduates themselves. They expect to get higher starting salaries compared to local graduates, just for the sake of having international degree.

That’s totally wrong, guys! In terms of intellectuality, there are not much differences between local and international graduates. Perhaps if we talk about mentality and adaptibility, I can say there are differences.

Chinese-Indonesian people are rich, greedy, and arrogant

This is a stereotype that have been existing among native Indonesian people for a long time. I also experienced this kind of situation when I was a kid. I went to one of the Catholic schools in Jakarta and most of the students there have Chinese-Indonesian ethnicity background. Yes, some of them are rich and arrogant. Some of them not. But most of them are smart. So, my motivation at that time was to beat those Chinese guys, in terms of getting the highest rank in the class in each semester. That was so silly and funny at the same time.

Growing up, some of my friends have Chinese-Indonesian background and they are some of those nicest people I have ever known in my life.

Be aware of black people

Many of us associate black people with drug dealers and criminals. Therefore, whenever we interact with them in our lives, we stay alert automatically.

When I studied in UK, I got to know some friends from Nigeria. And they are good people.

People, other than Germans, are dangerous

I see elderly people here in Germany are somehow become suspicious when they interact with non-German people (including me). This is the reason why I never offer any assistance to elderly German people if they do not ask me to do that. Just to avoid misunderstandings. 🙂

Of course there are many others implicit bias that we usually experience in our daily lives.

Implicit bias is normal. It is people’s way to “protect” themselves. However, this implicit bias can be reduced by exposing yourself to more varied situations. Traveling to new places and getting to know new cultures can be one of the ways to reduce implicit bias, I think.

In the end, we cannot judge people only by their education, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Human beings have their strength and weakness, in spite of their backgrounds.

Tentang Bersyukur

Salah satu pelajaran hidup terpenting yang diajarkan oleh orang tua saya adalah bahwa bersyukur itu penting. Kita boleh “melihat ke atas” supaya termotivasi untuk maju. Namun, ada kalanya kita harus “melihat ke bawah” supaya sadar bahwa banyak orang yang bernasib tidak sebaik kita. Selalu melihat ke atas akan membuat kita lelah karena ambisi. Melihat ke bawah akan membuat kita bersyukur akan apa yang kita miliki.

Ketika masih tinggal di Indonesia, hidup saya sangat nyaman. Tetapi entah mengapa saya selalu merasa ada yang kurang. Namun, semenjak tinggal di sini saya selalu bersyukur untuk segala hal-hal kecil yang terjadi di hidup saya. Saya bersyukur bisa baik-baik saja bertahan selama 1.5 tahun tinggal di Jerman, terlepas dari keterbatasan bahasa, perbenturan kultur, serta ruwetnya birokrasi di sini.

Bicara tentang studi dan penelitian saya di sini, tidak selamanya tanpa masalah. Kalau teman-teman melihat beberapa foto dan konten yang saya bagi di media sosial, mungkin kalian akan berpendapat bahwa hidup saya enak sekali di sini. Pada kenyataannya, ada kalanya saya merasa kecewa karena hasil eksperimen tidak sesuai ekspektasi. Namun, kemudian saya bersyukur bahwa saya memiliki pembimbing yang selalu antusias, apapun hasil yang saya peroleh. Mereka yang selalu mengajak saya berdiskusi dan menganalisis hasil eksperimen saya dari berbagi sudut pandang. Kadangkala, mendengarkan cerita orang lain pun dapat membuat saya lebih mensyukuri keadaan saya.

Hal ini yang membuat saya ingin menulis sesuatu tentang betapa pentingnya bersyukur karena tanpa kita sadari, ketika satu pintu kesempatan tertutup untuk kita, Tuhan ternyata membawa kita masuk melalui pintu lain untuk menemukan kesempatan lain yang ternyata lebih baik untuk kita. Bahkan dalam kasus saya, Tuhan menyelamatkan saya dari sesuatu yang “buruk”

Mungkin saya belum pernah membagi cerita ini di blog. Bertahun-tahun lalu, mungkin sekitar tahun 2013 atau 2014 ketika saya sedang gencar-gencarnya mengirimkan aplikasi untuk S3, saya pernah menghubungi seorang profesor di Essen. Pada saat itu, beliau tidak memiliki posisi untuk mahasiswa S3 baru dan beliau berkata akan menghubungi saya apabila ada posisi yang tersedia. Namun, saya tidak pernah mendengar lagi kabar dari beliau. Hingga dua tahun kemudian, saya mendapat tawaran untuk S3 di Essen, di grup penelitian yang berbeda. Haha..mungkin memang saya berjodoh dengan kota ini sebenarnya. Kemarin saya berkenalan dengan seseorang yang baru memulai penelitian S3-nya di bawah bimbingan profesor yang dulu pernah saya hubungi itu. Dia bercerita bahwa dia harus bekerja tanpa henti di lab setiap hari, bahkan dI akhir pekan. Ternyata profesor itu sangat ambisius. Saya benar-benar tidak bisa berkata-kata ketika dia menceritakan hal itu.

Saya bisa saja berada di posisi teman saya itu. Saya bersyukur karena dulu profesor itu tidak menghubungi saya lagi. Sekarang saya memiliki pembimbing yang sangat baik, memastikan bahwa saya tidak berada di lab ketika weekend atau hari libur (kecuali ketika situasinya tidak memungkinkan, itu pun saya harus secepatnya menyelesaikan eksperimen saya). Profesor saya bahkan pernah berkata bahwa saya tidak memiliki jam kerja, karena saya student bukan karyawan. Saya bisa datang dan pergi jam berapapun. Yang terpenting bukan berapa lama saya stay di lab, tapi berapa banyak progress yang saya buat. Sebenarnya tidak ada alasan untuk saya tidak bersyukur.

Di luar lingkup akademik, saya pun memiliki kehidupan personal. Kadang saya berpikir, kenapa ya saya masih single di kala teman-teman seusia saya, terutama sesama orang Indonesia, bahkan sudah membangun keluarga? Sempat terpikir mungkin ada yang aneh dengan kepribadian saya hingga membuat saya sulit untuk menemukan seseorang yang cocok. Memang saya sempat agak menutup diri selama beberapa bulan, karena tidak mau kecewa lagi. Saya sempat bertekad tidak mau dekat dengan pria Jerman, karena asumsi-asumsi yang saya buat sendiri. Ketika saya memutuskan untuk mulai membuka diri, ketemunya malah sama orang Jerman. Beberapa waktu berinteraksi, menurut dia saya memilki kepribadian yang cukup menarik. Oke, berarti tidak ada masalah dengan saya. Ini hanya perkara belum bertemu dengan yang pas saja. 🙂

Oh iya dengan orang Jerman itu, juga saya putuskan untuk dilanjutkan dengan pertemanan saja. Peristiwa ini juga yang membuat saya bersyukur, karena terhindar dari patah hati yang mungkin akan terjadi apabila saya memutuskan untuk, misalkan, berpacaran sama dia. Tentu ada kalanya saya berpikir tentang segala hal yang bisa terjadi apabila saya tidak memutuskan untuk berteman saja dengan dia. Ya..andaikan kami dipertemukan beberapa tahun lalu, bukan sekarang, mungkin saya bisa ikut andil untuk mengubah masa lalu dia. Mungkin inilah definisi nyata dari “meeting the right person at the wrong time“.  Bisa jadi semuanya akan baik-baik saja. Mungkin saya yang overthinking. Tapi saya rasa saya juga berhak melindungi diri sendiri. Ketika logika dan perasaan dibenturkan, memang berat, Namun, saya harus ingat tujuan awal saya ke sini adalah untuk belajar. Kalau bonus dapat jodoh, ya bagus tapi itu bukan hal yang harus diprioritaskan setidaknya hingga 3 tahun ke depan. Saya bersyukur, saya belum terjerumus lebih dalam di relationship ini. Bersyukur juga karena sekarang dapat satu lagi teman orang Jerman, sehingga bisa sekalian melancarkan bahasa Jerman saya. Haha.

Intinya, kita harus belajar bersyukur untuk hal-hal kecil. Hidup ini akan selalu penuh masalah. Jadikan masalah itu sebagai tantangan, bukan penghalang. Dengan selalu bersyukur, kita akan merasa bahwa hidup ini akan selalu baik-baik saja. Kalau kalian percaya bahwa Tuhan itu ada, untuk banyak hal Dia akan bekerja dan Dia yang paling tahu seberapa kuat dirimu. Jadi tenang saja. 🙂

Selamat berakhir pekan, teman-teman!

Salam dari Essen yang mendung

10 November 2018

Scientists : Between Career and Life

I have just came back from a scientific meeting. Interestingly, for me personally, the most important take home message is not really about the scientific stuffs itself, but somehow totally different thing.

During the meeting, one of the aspects (outside science) that was widely being discussed was : “Is it possible for successful scientists/academics to also have successful personal (marriage) lives?”. The answer is yes and no. It depends on you and the people surround you.

That was a scientific meeting targeted for young scientists. Therefore, the age range of the audience was mid 20s to mid 30s. The age where we start to think about managing between career and personal life. If you think that Europeans do not really think about marriage until they reach the age of late 30s or early 40s, perhaps you are wrong. Nowadays European’s young generation have a tendency to settle down and get married at a “relatively” younger age compared to the generation before us.

There was a female professor who was invited to give  a talk about this matter during the meeting. She is a successful academicians, medical doctor, a wife, and a mother of 3. Can you imagine that? The key, according to her, is choosing the right partner.

It is not easy to get along with people who are working in science and/or academics, because we really do not have fix working hours. As our career progresses, we are expected to work even during holidays and weekends. At the moment, as a PhD student, my schedule is not as crazy tight as my professor for example. But, I have a plan to stay in this field. Therefore sooner or later I will have a life similar to other people who work in this field. Of course I want to build a family and having kids one day, but I also have another big passion in science. Accroding to what the professor said, it is impossible to balance those two separate aspects. The only option is to integrate them.

I talked to some female scientist fellows I knew during the meeting. Most of them are already married and one of them is about to get married. One of them clearly declared not to stay in this field after she completed her PhD. Two of them are quite successful medical doctors/clinical researchers whose husbands are working in industry (and have fix working hours, obviously).

The similar situation also happens to my Indonesian colleagues. Most of them who successfully manage between their career in science/academics and their families are the ones whose husbands are working in fields outside science.

Perhaps I should consider looking for guys who are not working in science/medical field. 🙂 This might be a bit of trouble at the beginning, as probably we will have different point of views towards many things. But, I think, sometimes we need to sacrifice our egos in order to reach a happy life. Right?

The classical case that commonly occur to me : whenever I manage to get to know guys who are working outside science field, their first common reaction right after I told them about my usual activities is “you really don’t have a life outside work”, “you work too much”, and “can you still manage to have fun?”.

I am telling you, this is the life of a scientist. It takes a man with a big heart, patient, and full of compromises, who can deal for a long-term period with my life. They are rare, but I believe there are still those kind of men out there. I am not being selfish here. As I get older, I think one of the means of creating a family is having kids. When there comes a time for us to be parents, of course we must allocate enough times to spend with the kids. If both us and our partners have no fix working hours, then who will take care of the kids?

Recalling the experience of that professor who gave the talk at the meeting yesterday, she  made an agreement with her husband. During weekdays, the kids are under her responsibility. One more important aspect : family comes first. No matter what.

Well I still do not know what will happen to my life, personally,  later on when I am really in that situation, but at least now I have a little bit of insight.

disclaimer : this opinion is from a female scientist’s perspective. the situation might be easier (or not?) for male scientists.

That “Sierra Burgess” In Me

Have you watched the new teenflick movie on Netflix, called “Sierra Burgess is a loser?” If you haven’t, then watch it. I don’t want to write a review about the movie here, but I just want to share how that movie relates to my life. Well, my teenage life to be exact.

I used to be like Sierra Burgess. I believe some of you experienced the same thing. I grew up during those days  when nobody thought that body-shaming is not ok. Well, even until now in my home country, people still judge you based on your physical appearance. Beauty is always associated with white skin, long straight hair, and slim body. It’s the dream of every girl to grow up into a beautiful woman under those definitions.

I still remember I had a crush on my classmate when I was in the 6th grade. I shared my feeling  to my close friend and apparently she told him that I like him (recalling those moments now makes me think how dramatic my life back then. haha). You know what he said? “I don’t like Ella, cause she is fat and ugly” How dare he could say such cruel words like that? I tried not to care about that and just went on with my life. I never see that boy again after we graduated. However, deep down inside subconsciously I believed that I was a fat and ugly girl. I believed no guys would be attracted by me. That happened for quite some times, actually.

When I entered my teenage-hood, I had a crush with someone. This time was quite deep, but I was only adoring him from afar. For years. I thought he was too good for me. I bet you can guess that I was never got a chance to be close to him. Yes, you’re right!

That situation kept going on during my college days. I had crushes on some guys during that 4 years I spent in college, but I didn’t have guts to show my feeling because I just didn’t have enough self confidence.

It was only when I reached the age of 23, I started to live my life just like what I want. I started to gain my self-confidence because I realized soon I would get my master’s degree. I was going to exceed most of Indonesian boys of my age, in terms of education. The motto “smart is the new beauty” was so catchy for me at that time.

Finally, in 2015, I met an old friend and we were sort of in a platonic relationship for some times. In an occasion, he honestly told me that he had been adoring me since years ago. He never had any courage to approach me because, in his opinion, I had always been too occupied with myself. That was the moment when I realized that I don’t need to change myself to make guys attracted to me. We didn’t meant for each other at the end, though. But thanks to him. Now I know that I’m unique for who I am.

During my last relationship, I also got a chance to ask my ex-boyfriend why he attracted to me. He said : “because you have a clear vision about what you are going to do in the future.” Again, I failed this relationship. But I started gaining even more self-confident.

The past two guys in my life were not attracted to me because of my physical appearance, but they were attracted to my inner personality.

So, why should I be worried?

Sometimes when people “humiliated” you, even when the event happened in the past and you think it didn’t affect your life, it actually affects you subconsciously. Therefore, try not to say things that make other people feel down.

And..life is not merely about getting attention from guys. Life is about improving yourself to become a better person day by day.

I’m so glad that I’m now very confident for who I am. Physically, I’m not slim but I don’t think I’m too fat either. I don’t have white skin, because I’m an Indonesian with a Javanese cultural background and not a Caucasian. So I’m proud of my brown-ish skin. I have a short and rather wavy hair because I’m comfortable this way. I’m wearing glasses and still not considering to switch them with contact lenses. I’m grateful that I’m healthy.

Everyone has that “Sierra Burgess” inside. Everyone, at certain moments, thinks to switch his/her life with other person who is prettier, smarter, and richer.

In the end, being yourself is always the best option. 🙂

This cute soundtrack from the movie has been shuffling on my playlist these past few days, because I just like it so much.

Giethoorn : Venice of Holland (?)

Look at those tourists on the  background! Imagine if thousands of visitors visit your neighborhood everyday.

I visited Giethoorn in April 2018 and I had been dreaming to visit this so-called beautiful village since forever. Talking about overrated tourist destinations, Giethoorn is one of those. With all of the people uploading Giethoorn pictures all over social media, nowadays this little village is always packed with (Asian) tourists, especially during weekends.

A tranquil little village in Holland

I decided to visit Giethoorn after looking at the pictures posted by Trinity (my favorite Indonesian travel blogger) on her Instagram page. Oh yes, the power of social media. She also wrote an article about it in her blog, along with other non-mainstream destinations in Holland. However, I first “know” about Giethoorn years ago through an article written in an in-flight magazine. Back then, I believe that place had not been as “famous” as today. I could feel the tranquility only by looking at the pictures and I even planned to spend a weekend staying in one of the cottages.

I went there with my friend and since we are students, of course we opted for the cheapest (obviously not the fastest) way to go to Giethoorn. If you are not traveling on a budget, Giethoorn is just an hour away from Amsterdam. In my case, we went with a German regional train from Essen to Venlo via Dusseldorf. This journey costed us nothing. (Thanks to my Semesterticket!) From Venlo, we took a Holland regional train to Utrecht. We spent one night in Utrecht. The next day we took a train to Mepel. We stayed in a small but comfortable hotel right across Mepel train station. By the way, there is a nice Indonesian restaurant not far from the station. I forgot the name of the restaurant. Sorry!

The weather was not that nice during our entire trip, but we must be strict on the plan. On weekdays there are mini buses going from Mepel to Giethoorn, but not on the weekends. Therefore, we must take another train from Mepel to Steenwijk and from there take a bus to Giethoorn. You can buy the ticket from a counter in Steenwijk train station. Some Chinese people sell the ticket. Yes, Chinese people. I don’t know….perhaps since there are loads of Asian (read : Chinese) tourists coming to Giethoorn in these past few years.

We started our tour in Giethoorn by riding a boat. Next time you visit Giethoorn, don’t ride the boat. It is more exciting when you just walk along the tiny road by the canal. Walk until you reach the less-touristy area.

The less touristy area of Giethoorn


For me, I cannot associate Giethoorn with Venice. Except the canals, those two places have totally different vibe. If I have to choose between Venice and Giethoorn, I will of course choose Giethoorn.

A typical “tourist” boat. Not worthy. It is much better just to walk through the road by the canal.

If, by any chances, you are planning to visit Giethoorn in the future, these are my suggestions for you :

  • Giethoorn is a beautiful little village of Holland. Take as many pictures as you want, while still respecting the neighborhood.
  • Giethoorn is NOT an open-air museum. Real people live in Giethoorn. Respect their privacy. Don’t peek on the windows.

Practical infos for visiting Giethoorn :

  • NS Regional train costs around 20 Euro for transport between 2 cities. There is a discounted price when you buy day ticket
  • The return bus ticket from Steenwijk to Giethoorn costs around 8 Euro. The last bus leaves Giethoorn at 18.00 on weekends.
  • The boat ride costs 7 Euro. You can either make an online reservation or buy the ticket on the spot. However, according to my experience, apparently it is more convenient to buy the ticket on the spot.
  • Although staying right in the middle of neighborhood seems like the best idea, I suggest you to stay in the nearby towns, such as Mepel or Steenwijk. It’s cheaper.


Mental Pemburu Beasiswa : Fenomena di Indonesia

Semenjak saya membagikan pengalaman tentang proses mendapatkan beasiswa di blog  ini tahun lalu, banyak rekan-rekan pejuang beasiswa yang menghubungi saya lewat surat elektronik maupun lewat sosial media. Terima kasih saya ucapkan untuk kalian. Saya bersyukur karena bisa menularkan semangat kepada rekan-rekan di luar sana. Saya juga bersyukur bahwa yang menghubungi saya adalah orang-orang yang memiliki semangat juang tinggi, tidak hanya sekedar bertopang dagu dan mengharapkan informasi datang kepada mereka.

Tulisan kali ini saya buat karena terinspirasi dari diskusi dunia maya tadi malam antara kami sesama penerima beasiswa DAAD dari Indonesia angkatan 2017. Salah satu dari kami memulai dengan pertanyaan “Kok sedikit sekali ya penerima beasiswa DAAD dari Indonesia beberapa tahun terakhir ini?”. Hingga saat ini,  hanya ada dua kemungkinan beasiswa yang dapat di-apply oleh warga negara Indonesia yang ingin studi di Jerman yaitu DAAD dan LPDP. Keduanya merupakan dana pemerintah yang bersumber dari pajak rakyat – DAAD dari pajak rakyat Jerman, LPDP dari pajak rakyat Indonesia. Jadi, kami penerima beasiswa ini mengemban amanat dari rakyat sehingga harus belajar dengan baik. Bedanya, penerima beasiswa LPDP memiliki kewajiban untuk kembali mengabdi untuk Indonesia setelah menyelesaikan studi. Kami, penerima beasiswa DAAD, walau disarankan untuk kembali membangun tanah air, tidak pernah menandatangani perjanjian hitam di atas putih untuk kembali.

Kembali kepada pertanyaan kenapa sedikit sekali penerima beasiswa DAAD dari Indonesia? Alasan utama adalah : persyaratannya rumit. Alasan kedua : beasiswa LPDP dianggap lebih prestigius bagi pemburu beasiswa di Indonesia. Kedua alasan tersebut benar adanya. Persyaratan beasiswa DAAD memang “rumit” dan besar kemungkinan kita akan “menyerah” sebelum “berperang”. Saya berbicara dalam konteks beasiswa DAAD untuk S3 di Jerman. Sebelum memutuskan mendaftar, kita sudah harus memperoleh konfirmasi dari Profesor di Jerman bahwa beliau bersedia membimbing penelitian kita. Selanjutnya, kita juga sudah harus mempunyai proposal penelitian. Dengan kata lain, sudah harus ada bayangan nanti di Jerman akan melakukan penelitian tentang apa. Kedua persyaratan tersebut yang dianggap “berat” dan menyebabkan sedikitnya pelamar beasiswa DAAD dari Indonesia. Persyaratan lain menurut saya standar, seperti sertifikat penguasaan bahasa Inggris dan (jika ada) bahasa Jerman.

Fenomena kedua adalah mengenai biaya untuk tes kemampuan bahasa Inggris dan Jerman. Saya sudah sering membaca komentar di forum-forum beasiswa yang mengeluhkan mengapa lembaga pemberi beasiswa tidak membiayai tes bahasa tersebut? Sejujurnya, saya selalu geleng-geleng kepala membaca komentar-komentar semacam itu.

Rekan-rekan, mendapatkan beasiswa itu perlu modal. Pada masa saya dulu, saya harus membayar sekitar 2 juta Rupiah untuk satu kali tes IELTS. Iya memang mahal. Apalagi kalau kalian harus tes berulang kali untuk mencapai nilai standar yang diminta oleh lembaga pemberi beasiswa. Tidak sedikit pejuang beasiswa yang menyerah. Padahal, itu baru tahap awal proses menggapai mimpi kalian. Ketika sudah mendapatkan beasiswa, jangan dikira tidak ada tantangan yang dihadapi. Saya menyadari bahwa uang 2 juta Rupiah itu sangat besar bagi kalian yang belum memiliki penghasilan tetap dan hiduonya masih bergantung pada orang tua. Well, tapi kalian bisa menabung kan?

Semua beasiswa yang ditawarkan untuk warga negara Indonesia memiliki persyaratan standar, yaitu menyertakan sertifikat kemampuan bahasa. Kalau memang kalian niat untuk memperoleh beasiswa, seharusnya persiapan sudah dilakukan sejak beberapa tahun sebelumnya. Kalau kalian niat, kalian seharusnya belajar giat untuk mempersiapkan tes kemampuan bahasa sehingga uang 2 juta Rupiah itu tidak sia-sia karena kalian akan berhasil mencapai skor maksimal hanya dengan satu kali tes.

Sekali lagi, syarat utama mendapatkan beasiswa adalah NIAT. Dan saya rasa, kita harus membuang jauh karakteristik “meminta belas kasihan” dari lembaga pemberi beasiswa. Beasiswa untuk studi di luar negeri itu terbuka untuk siapa saja, baik anak orang kaya maupun anak orang miskin. Karena dalam formulir aplikasi beasiswa (DAAD), tidak ada pertanyaan mengenai penghasilan orang tua dan penghasilan kita (bagi yang sudah bekerja). Jadi, kalian akan berkompetisi secara fair. Lembaga pemberi beasiswa akan dengan senang memberi pembiayaan bagi orang-orang yang potensial menjadi scholars (insan berilmu) di masa yang akan datang. Hal tersebut akan terlihat dari cara kita menjawab pertanyaan-pertanyaan dari panelis pada saat sesi wawancara.

Mengutip kata seorang rekan saya, beasiswa itu ibaratnya peluang. Tinggal bagaimana kita memanfaatkan peluang yang ada. Ingat, di saat kita mengeluhkan persyaratan beasiswa yang berat, di luar sana ada rekan-rekan kita yang berusaha keras mengerahkan segala yang mereka punya untuk menggapai peluang itu.

Bukan IPK S1 dan IPK S2 cum laude yang akan membawa kalian memperoleh beasiswa apapun. Tapi niat yang kuat.

Salam semangat, rekan-rekan semua!

Essen, 27 Juli 2018

sejenak merenung

learning to not envy someone else’s blessings is what grace looks like

-Rupi Kaur

Pernah gak kamu merasa iri? Perasaan iri itu sangat manusiawi. Tapi menjadi tidak manusiawi, ketika rasa iri itu berkembang jadi apa yang kita sebut nyinyir.

Saya beberapa kali menjadi korban kenyinyiran orang-orang yang tak bertanggung jawab. Sedihnya hampir semua yang berbuat demikian adalah teman-teman sebangsa setanah air. Semenjak saya tinggal di Jerman, walau sempat mengalami culture shock, tapi saya akui hidup saya lebih tenang. Lebih tenang dari hantaman orang-orang yang iri dengan kehidupan saya. Haha. Orang Jerman tidak suka mencampuri kehidupan orang lain. Kalau orang Indonesia kan terkenal ramah dan memiliki budaya saling membantu, ya. Walau seringkali berlebihan.

Sejak saya kecil, orang tua saya sering mengajak saya dan adik-adik berlibur. Seringnya memang ke luar negeri. Bukan karena orang tua saya berlimpah harta, tapi saya tahu mereka menabung demi bisa mengajak kami berlibur ke luar negeri. Tujuannya supaya wawasan kami terbuka dan kami tidak menjadi manusia yang berpemikiran sempit. Suatu hal yang memang benar kini saya rasakan. Tapi apa komentar orang-orang di luar sana kala itu? “Ella mah anaknya orang kaya. Liburan harus ke luar negeri. Gak level liburan di Indonesia”

Kedua, ketika saya kuliah di Inggris dengan beasiswa yang hanya parsial. Lagi-lagi mereka bilang kalau saya anak orang kaya. Jadi, gampang saja kalau mau kuliah di luar negeri. Yang mereka tidak tahu adalah bagaimana perjuangan saya untuk bisa lulus dengan nilai yang baik.

Ketiga, ketika saya akhirnya mendapat pekerjaan yang cukup baik. Beberapa orang bilang bahwa saya bisa diterima di tempat itu karena ada koneksi dengan orang dalam. Yang sebenarnya terjadi adalah saya melewati semua tahapan sebelum saya diterima di tempat tersebut, dan sama sekali tidak ada orang dalam.

Iri dengan keberhasilan orang lain, tanpa berusaha memperbaiki kehidupanmu, tidak akan membuat kamu menjadi lebih baik. Di saat yang sama, orang yang menjadi objek “kebencianmu” itu sudah jauh melesat melewatimu.

Kadangkala kamu hanya mengenal sebagian dari pribadi seseorang, tetapi kamu sudah merasa berhak untuk menghakimi kehidupannya. Kamu tidak pernah tahu sekeras apa dia berusaha untuk bisa sampai pada kondisinya yang seperti sekarang.

Dan untuk kalian yang sering dijadikan objek “kebencian” (alias suka dinyinyirin), berbanggalah. Hidup kalian ternyata begitu menariknya bagi orang-orang itu.

Intinya, kalau kamu ingin seperti seseorang, kamu harus berusaha supaya bisa menjadi seperti orang itu. Bukan hanya berpangku tangan dan mengarang asumsimu sendiri.

Pernah gak saya iri? Sering. Tapi, rasa “iri” yang kadang timbul itu selalu saya jadikan sumber motivasi untuk menjadi pribadi yang jauh lebih baik daripada sebelumnya.