Month: April 2018

Pack Your Bag and Go!

Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone. You are more master of yourself than at any other time.

-Hannah Arendt

I have recently talked to a friend on when exactly the best time for people to leave their homeland and go abroad. I told her, the age of 22 years old should be the best time for a person to go and live abroad. In my home country, Indonesia, most of the people graduate from college at 22 years old. But then, I felt so selfish because probably that age can only be applied to me.

My best friend in junior high school packed her bag and go to UK at the age of 15 years old, right after her junior high school graduation. She did not know anyone in UK back then. Now, 15 years later, she survives. She has a good job in London. I met her last time in 2016 and she seems really happy with her life. My cousin left Indonesia and moved to Germany at the age of 18 years old. She struggled a lot during her first years in Germany, but yet she also survives. Once she told me that surprisingly she is happier here.

I was 23 years old and had a perfectly happy life with my family and friends in Indonesia, when I decided to go to UK to pursue my Master’s degree. That was the first time I lived far away from my family. It was indeed hard at the beginning.

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My first day in Newcastle, UK back then in 2011. In front of my faculty.

Living abroad is always about starting another new phase of your life.

Here are  five traits of people who are ready to start a new life phase in a foreign country :

  • Independent

Any other places where your mom is not there, is not home. That was my thought long years ago. Being in a new place, where you cannot find familiar faces, you do not have any other choices except to be an independent person. It takes time to really become an independent person. Living abroad is one of the trainings to become it. You must only depend on yourself because, believe me, your friends there are also struggling to be independent.

  • Good financial management

No matter where the sources of your money come from, you must manage it carefully and wisely. Otherwise, you will end up broke in the middle of the month. Sometimes it is hard for me to answer when people ask how much money students spent averagely in one month. It really depends on your lifestyle. There are so many ways to spend your money on unimportant stuffs here. You can go to the bar every day, drinking glasses of beer. But, of course, that is not the wise option.

I made a rule for myself to only spend more than 20 Euros on weekends. During weekdays, I eat in Mensa (students’ canteen) which cost maximum 3 Euros for a proper lunch or cook at home. Usually I still have some money left in my account at the end of the month. Therefore, I can plan a trip for the following month. When I travel to a new place, I spend most of my money on foods. I have a special budget when traveling and so I never think twice on spending money when I travel as long as it is still within my travel budget.

  • Good time-management

This is the most important trait. I meet some people who are younger than me here. In my opinion, they have similar problems. They cannot manage their time properly.  First of all, you must always remember your initial purpose. Nothing should not distract you on doing your purpose. Remember, you are investing your time. You must end up being something after spending certain years abroad.

It is not easy to have a good time management. You cannot start it once you arrive in a foreign country. This is a trait that you should have grown inside yourself.

  • Open minded

Ask yourself. Can you accept a culture that is totally different compared to your own culture? Most European countries are liberal countries. All of the people, no matter his/her sexual preferences, have equal opportunities here. People have freedom to express their feeling publicly. You can see people kissing in public. And that is normal. A man and a woman can live together without any marriage status.

Can you accept that?

I am sure you will survive living abroad when you are open minded yet have a strong life principle. If you still cannot accept other people who have different opinions, then it is better for you just to stay in your homeland.

  • Hard working

Living abroad is actually not as interesting as those pictures that you see on my social media. Every single day is about an endless hardworking. There is no chance for lazy people to survive.

In the end, it is not about the age. It is about having those traits that I mentioned above inside of you. You can be 15, 18, 25 years old. When you think you are ready, just pack your bag and go!

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There is always a first time for everything. My first time presenting my research result, in front of non-Indonesian audiences.

 Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria Germany

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I went to Neuschwanstein Castle on early March 2018 together with a friend of mine. My decision to visit that place was pure based on my curiosity. Neuschwanstein Castle has been on the top list of my “places to visit before I die” since forever. And you know what? My first (and perhaps) last visit to the castle was far below my expectation.

Here, I would like to share my experience visiting Neuschwanstein Castle and also a little bit history of the place.

So, as you probably know, I don’t have much time to travel. As a PhD student, I don’t have any exact holidays, except weekends. Therefore I planned my Neuschwanstein trip to be as efficient as possible. If you are on the same situation, then hopefully the tips I share here will be applied to you as well.

I started my journey on Friday afternoon. I took an ICE train (around 100 Euro for a return journey) from Essen to Munich with one transit in Heidelberg. The total journey itself took 5.5 hours. On the day I traveled, the situation was a bit chaotic because there were changes in some train schedules which also gave impact on my train journey. I initially booked a train to Munich with a 30 minutes transit in Stuttgart, but then few days prior the journey I received an email from Deutsche Bahn (German Railway Company) that my booked train would not operate and instead I must take another train which have a 4 minute transit in Heidelberg. What a thrilling journey it was. Can you imagine, I had only 4 minute to transfer myself into another train. And I almost missed the connecting train. HA!

I met my friend in Munich Central Station. We spent the first night in a hotel located just 200 meters from Munich Central Station. On the next day, Saturday morning, we took a train from Munich to Fussen. We bought a Bayern ticket which cost 23 Euro for one person and 31 Euro for two people. The more people you are traveling with, the cheaper it is. So, that is a good deal. The journey from Munich to Fussen took 2 hours. Fussen is a very beautiful little town just on the foot of Hohenschwangau, where Neuschswanstein Castle located. If you have abundant of time, you can consider to stay in Fussen. It is now a touristic town, so there are many good hotels around.

From Fussen, we took a bus which brought us directly to Hohenschwangau where we got our ticket to the castle. Bear in mind, expect a crazy long queue if you decide to buy the entrance ticket on the spot. And it does not guarantee you to get the ticket. Like on the day of my visit, the ticket to Neuschwanstein Castle was sold out. The most logical option is to book the ticket few days before your visit and collect the ticket on the day of your visit. By the way the ticket price is 13 Euro for one adult. It’s quite expensive, I know. However, you only need to buy ticket if you want to go inside the castle. If you just want to take some selfies with the castle as your background, you definitely do not need to buy a ticket. In my case, since I wanted to have a full experience visiting Neuschwasntein Castle, of course I bought the ticket (and ended up being disappointed).

Normally there are shuttle buses that will take you from Hohenschwangau up to the castle. It is an uphill route to reach the castle. When I was there, it was raining and no shuttle buses operated. Maybe we were just so unlucky that day. So, we walked 30 minutes to the castle. Crazy!! If you are too lazy to walk (especially when you are traveling with kids or elderly people), there are some horse carriages that you can rent. I don’t know how much it cost. The downside is, unlike in Indonesia, when people put sort of containers for the feces, here they do not do it. So, always be careful with horses’ poo along the journey. It IS disgusting.

Finally, let’s talk about the castle. Well, let me tell you honestly. You can see basically nothing inside the castle. So, when people say Neuschwanstein Castle is only beautiful from the outside, it is totally true. However, it is worth to hear the history behind Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle was built by King Ludwig II, who once was the King of Bavaria. He intended to build this castle to be his holiday residence. Sadly, the building had never been completed until he died. He was diagnosed to be mentally ill and therefore was secluded in a place near Munich. The cause of his death was mysterious, but the official stated that King Ludwig II died of suicide. Looking at the picture of King Ludwig II, I think he was just a normal person and not mentally ill. He looks feminine. Perhaps he had uncommon sexual preference and in that time those kind of things were taboo, so the government decided to kill him. Well, so many speculation of the life and death of King Ludwig II. One of the stunning facts about King Ludwig II is that he adored Richard Wagner so much until he designed a ballroom just for himself to enjoy the opera. Sadly he just had a chance to live in the castle for 120 days and he could not enjoy what he had created. The castle since then remains empty and opened for public just 3 weeks after his death.

By the way, people (including myself, in the beginning) find it hard to spell Neuschwanstein. But actually it is easy if you understand German. Neuschwanstein means new swan on the rock. King Ludwig II really loved swans, and all of the door handles in the castle have swan carved on them.