Slowing Down

Today marks the end of the third week since Angela Merkel made the speech, aired on the German national television, asking all citizens to stay at home until at least April 19th, 2020 — end of Easter holiday. Until today, the number of people infected by Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Germany is still increasing. There is no sign of the curve being flatten and declining. I am currently at this point where I do not want to switch on the television anymore, because all I hear are bad news.

For this past 3 weeks, we are only allowed to leave our houses for urgent matters, such as doing grocery shopping, going to the pharmacy, and/or going to work if necessary.

I cannot totally stay at home during this period, as I need to maintain my samples. My apartment also located in the hospital area, so there is a big possibility for me to be exposed by the virus everytime I leave my apartment. I understand that I have to be extra careful.

Going back to a few months ago, I did not expect that this tiny virus which is similar to the virus which cause common flu can cause a global pandemic. I remember, at that time I told everyone I know not to be too worried about the virus and just apply a healthy lifestyle. Then, suddenly every country in the world has the same problem.

For those of you–including me– who used to complain because you need to go out meeting people, now you are forced to spend the whole time by yourself. To be honest, now I really appreciate the time when I can go out, even just for doing grocery or taking a little walk around my neighborhood. Normally, I don’t like to go for a walk.

Social distancing has also made me more productive. As a PhD student, nothing else I can do at home other than analysing my results and start writing my thesis. During these days, surprisingly I manage to write a lot.

On the other note, I develop a new hobby. Nowadays, I enjoy cooking. Only for simple dishes, but for someone who ten years ago was only able to cook water, this is a big milestone.

Hopefully the situation will get better soon, and we can hug our loved ones again. I promise, after all of this come to an end, I will more appreciate the moments that I can spend being outside, interacting with people.

Stay healthy!

Getting Sick in Germany

Picture is taken from here

Hello! I’m back in Germany again, by the way. 🙂

Two years ago, when I was just arrived in Germany, I asked one of my Indonesian friends about the procedures to use our insurance when we get sick. He told me that he doesn’t know since he never get sick (or at least, the sickness never be too bad until he needs to see a medical doctor)

I am so grateful that during these past two years living in Germany, I have never gotten sick that bad. Therefore, I have never visited any medical doctors – eventhough I am working and living in a hospital. I brought along some Indonesian medications when I moved here, and so far those medications could solve all of (mild) medical problems that I experienced.

In August, I spent almost the whole month in Indonesia. After living for 2 years in Germany, Indonesian weather felt so strange to me. Everything was fine when I was in Indonesia. However, on the last day -5 hours before my flight- I started to have a problem with one of my ears. It was a Saturday and not many doctors have practices on weekends. Long story short, I was flying back to Germany with my troubled ear. Of course that was totally uncomfortable.

I arrived in Duesseldorf on Sunday morning, driving to Essen, and still hoping that there was at least a doctor who could solve my problem. The reality is : none of the doctor practices in Essen open on weekends, including the doctors in the ENT ( or HNO in German) department in the university hospital. They have an emergency division, but they only accept patients with severe cases who need surgeries.

The next day, on Monday, I tried again to visit the HNO department and I knew the fact that actually they do not accept patients other than the ones recommended by doctors from smaller clinics. Therefore, they suggested me to visit one of those small clinics.

Surprisingly, the process was really smooth eventhough I went there without appointment. Most of the doctor visitation in Germany requires the patient to make an appointment in advance. First of all, they asked about my health insurance (Krankenversicherung). For your information, every person who is living in Germany (regardless of his/her nationality, without exceptions) must have a health insurance. There are two types of insurance – public and private. Luckily I have a private insurance, so I have more choices of doctors. The doctor was really nice and he speaks English (this is the most important!)

Ear problem solved. Next, suddenly I started to have a problem with the skin of my palms. It started to peel off and gives a kind of itchy feeling. And so I tried to find a skin doctor (Hautarzt). Apparently all of the skin doctors here in Essen require us to make appointment before visitation. Most of them are so popular, I could only get a time slot at the end of September. HAHA..Thank you very much. Finally I found this doctor who would be available today. Again, this doctor was really nice, professional, and speak English.

I used to hear some myths about German doctors, saying that most of them are paranoid (especially when they realized that you come from a non-European country), not informative, and do not speak English.

I don’t know whether I was just lucky or it is the reality, but in my opinion doctors here are really nice and open for discussions.

I hope this sharing of my experience will be useful for those of you who are just starting your journey here in Germany.

Essen, 09.09.2019

My PhD Journey : The First Six Months

A beautiful corner in Essen, the city where I am currently living

April 2018 marked the first 6 months of me being a PhD student and researcher. Apart of conducting my research project, I am also still required to attend some classes, including sitting in exams. So, yes, I have a busy life here.

Before I came to Germany last year, I thought I could travel to many places in Europe during my stay here. I thought I could manage my research schedule  so that I still have time to explore this continent. In reality, I barely have time to do my activities outside the campus and the lab during the weekdays. I can only make short trips during the weekends or long weekends or when I am not too tired. Sometimes I envy my friend-slash-my travel buddy. She is my fellow PhD candidate, but she works in a different field. She seems  to have very flexible schedule, that makes her easily travel during the weekdays. But, at the end, I know this is my own choice.

Talking about the classes, I am now literally a master student again. I never regret all of my decisions that I have made throughout my life. But I cannot deny that, sometimes I am thinking what if I did not complete my Master in UK and did mine in other country (or even in Indonesia). Just for your information, it took me only one year to get my Masters degree because it is what they do in the UK. At that time, I had never really thought that I would continue my study in Germany and I did not know that actually Germany has a totally different regulation in terms of education. Long story short, when I sent my transcript to my German Professor earlier in 2017, she told me that I was lacking of credits from my previous degress. Thus, I was accepted as a PhD student in condition that I should attend some courses in Master level to fulfill my credits.  So now here I am, a PhD student who must also pass those master courses. Tired? Of course. But, anyway I did not regret my decision to study in UK back then in 2011. That was one of the best moments in my early adult life.

On the other hand, my research works have been going smooth so far. Thank God. I am so grateful that I am surrounded by those brilliant yet humble people. I think I am lucky enough to have such a very cool research supervisor, who let me conduct my experiments independently. One more thing that make me even more grateful is a colleague from Endocrinology lab. He is a post-doctoral fellow in that lab, he is so smart, and he is always more than willing to answer all of my questions, coming to my tiny cubicle discussing about my research results. He is like my angel, to be honest. 🙂

As I have told you, since my schedule is currently quite tight, I do not have much time to socialize after lab hours. But yes I do have a life outside the lab. Almost every weekend I have some activities with some friends from Indonesian Catholic Community. They are my support system here. Sometimes I feel that my life is just too stressful, and luckily they are always there to listen to my problems. I am trying to do the same to them.

I also meet good people in my apartment with whom I can share laughters during our cooking time almost every night.

I still do not know what my life will be after this PhD journey. I will be most likely return back to Indonesia. But, I will never know what the future hold. At this moment I am just enjoying my life here.

I survive the first six months. I still need to conquer many other months here.

Life is good! God is great! 🙂


 Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria Germany


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.


Survival of The Fittest

Remember Darwin’s Theory on natural selections? Yeah, that theory more or less describes my current situation here in Germany. Yesterday a German colleague of mine asked : “Are you enjoy being in Germany?” I answered : “Yes I’m trying to get adapted with the Germans now”. An honest one, isn’t it? I’m not facing any difficulties, at least until this moment, in terms of my research project. The ones who are, a little bit freak me out is the people outside my research laboratory.

Even though it was my own decision to go to Germany and continue my study, sometimes I still find it hard to survive here. The situation that I am currently facing here is different compared to around 7 years ago when I started my Master study in UK. Although Germany and UK are European countries (at least before Brexit), both have totally different cultures. When I started my life in UK, everything went so smoothly. I spent one year there and I can say it was one of the best periods in my life. I thought the same thing occurred when I came to Germany. Well I was wrong. Throughout these almost 6 months I spent here in Germany, to be honest there were times when I really miss home.

Culture differences. The root of all problems that I have been dealing with so far. Do not start to compare between Indonesian and German culture because they are way too different. I consider myself as an open-minded person, unlike the average Indonesian. Yet, sometimes I still get a little bit offended by how the Germans act.  Yes, I know I cannot question why the Germans behave like they are. It is their culture and I must accept it if I want to stay and survive in their country. Perhaps, the main problem is language barrier. Now I know why everyone who enter this country must have at least basic understanding of the language. Most people here do not want to speak English, though actually they can speak the language. At this moment, I have already reached this point where I can speak and understand German language at the basic until early-intermediate level. But of course there are times when I experience misunderstandings.

Strong, independent, and never give up. Those are the values needed by anyone who would like to spend some time living abroad. Your intelligence and previous academic achievements can get you to win the scholarship. But it is your strength and persistency that can make you survive. Living abroad (especially in Europe) is not merely about having chances to visit those beautiful European countries. It is also a learning journey to become a responsible adult. I learn to manage all aspects of my life because here I can only depend on myself.

I always tell myself that not everyone brave enough to leave their home country to step their feet in a foreign land. So whenever I almost give up dealing with those people, with whom I don’t have any options other than dealing with, I remind myself that I am some of those brave people who have left their hometown to pursue their dreams. This too shall pass. Just face them, anyway.

One who quickly adapt with changes is one who survive.

Last but not least, I want to share one of my life’s philosophies :

Finish what you have started, despite all of the challenges you may face.

And probably I should re-think my plan to stay in this country after completing my PhD. Going back home will be a much smarter decision, I guess. Though that means I will definitely earn way lower salary compared with if I remain staying here. Oh, well I still have 2.5 years to think and re-think.



Membudayakan Budaya Tepat Waktu

Bagi teman-teman yang kenal cukup dekat dengan saya, pasti paham benar bahwa saya itu orangnya sangat disiplin, dalam hal apapun. Saya sangat keras pada diri sendiri. Contohnya, setiap hari Senin sampai Jumat saya tidak boleh bangun lebih dari jam 6. Mostly alarm yang membangunkan saya. Tapi, karena sepertinya tubuh saya sudah terbiasa dengan pola seperti itu, suatu hari alarm hp saya mati, tetapi saya bisa terbangun di waktu tersebut.

Saya juga selalu mencatat jadwal saya di beberapa tempat -seperti di hp, laptop, dan agenda-karena saya termasuk orang yang pelupa. Ketika masih tinggal di Indonesia, teman-teman saya sering merasa kesal karena saya tidak pernah bisa untuk diajak sudden meet-up. Entah kenapa jadwal saya selalu padat, sehingga untuk sekedar ngopi bareng teman saja, saya harus mengatur jadwal setidaknya dari dua minggu sebelumnya. Akhirnya saya dicap sok sibuk.

Tetapi, saya selalu menepati setiap janji yang saya buat. Kalian bisa tanya ke orang-orang terdekat saya, berapa kali saya pernah membatalkan janji tiba-tiba. Tidak pernah. Kalaupun saya harus cancel suatu appointment, saya akan lakukan itu paling telat 24 jam sebelumnya. Waktu adalah sesuatu yang sangat berharga. Ketika seseorang sudah menyediakan waktunya untuk kita, walau hanya semenit, kita harus menghargainya dengan cara tidak datang terlambat. Oleh karena itu, saya tidak habis pikir ada beberapa jenis manusia yang menganggap bahwa datang terlambat di suatu acara adalah wajar, membatalkan janji tiba-tiba (dengan alasan sibuk) adalah hal yang lumrah. Jenis yang terakhir inilah yang paling menyebalkan dan sebaiknya dimusnahkan dari seluruh muka bumi. Hey, kamu bukan satu-satunya orang yang sibuk di dunia ini. It’s all about priority.

Parahnya, kebiasaan “jam karet” itu masih terbawa ketika orang Indonesia pindah ke luar negeri. Suatu hari saya berencana datang ke acara yang melibatkan orang-orang Indonesia di sini. Di hari yang sama, tapi di waktu yang berselang sekitar 2 jam, saya ada acara juga. Saya mengutarakan rencana saya ke teman saya dan dia memberi saran “kamu datang ke acara yang satu dulu aja, karena acara ini mulainya pasti ngaret. Paling jam 2 atau jam 3 baru mulai” What? Padahal di undangannya tertera acara dimulai jam 11. Budaya jam karet? Kalau saya sih malu ya, ketika orang mengasosiasikan Indonesia dengan hal tersebut.

Bagaimana dengan orang Jerman? Harus diakui bahwa mereka sangat menghargai waktu. Dari yang sepele saja, misalkan jadwal transportasi. Ketika ada keterlambatan, walau hanya 5 menit, pasti ada pemberitahuan. Bandingkan dengan di Indonesia. Jangan bilang : “ya, Jerman kan negara maju. Sistemnya sudah bagus. Beda”. Ini perkara kecil lho, bukan masalah sistem whatever. Dalam hal jam kerja, orang Jerman juga sangat efisien. Mereka berpegang pada kontrak kerja yang sudah disepakati. Kalau jam kerja dimulai pukul 7 pagi, mau ada hujan badai, mereka akan berusaha sudah ada di kantor pada waktu tersebut. Di sini tidak dikenal yang namanya overtime atau lembur. Di Indonesia, kita berlomba-lomba untuk kerja overtime karena semakin malam kita pulang dari kantor, pundi-pundi kita akan semakin tebal di akhir bulan. Di sini, orang berlomba-lomba untuk pulang tepat waktu supaya bisa cepat sampai rumah berkumpul dengan keluarga, atau melakukan hal-hal lain. Di Indonesia, membalas email kantor di kala weekend adalah hal yang keren karena menunjukkan dedikasi yang besar terhadap pekerjaan. Di sini, orang akan bilang kamu gila dan “tidak punya kehidupan”, ketika kamu masih menyentuh those work-related stuffs di akhir minggu.

Menjadi orang yang tepat waktu dan menghargai waktu orang lain itu adalah investasi yang baik buat kehidupan. Jadi tidak ada salahnya untuk berubah menjadi lebih baik. Jangan terus berkedok di balik kata-kata “ah biasa lah orang Indonesia suka terlambat”

Salam dari Essen yang selalu hujan akhir-akhir ini 🙂

24 November 2017

Minggu Pertama Menjadi Mahasiswa Kembali


Tak terasa minggu pertama di Essen sudah terlewati. Dimulailah rangkaian hidup saya sebagai seorang mahasiswa doktoral. Masih sulit untuk percaya rasanya ketika saya diperkenalkan ke seluruh penghuni lab sebagai “eine neue Doktorand in unsere Labor”. 🙂

Hari ini baru sempat mengupdate blog karena baru menyadari bahwa jadwal saya ternyata cukup padat juga.

Dua hari pertama saya di Essen cukup parah. Kalau kata orang Jerman, eine Katastrophe. Saat itu saya sangat kaget dengan suasana kota ini yang benar-benar berbeda dengan Cologne. Kondisi itu diperparah dengan tidak adanya koneksi internet di apartemen tempat saya tinggal, sehingga saya tidak ada hiburan. Akhirnya saya hubungi beberapa teman yang ada di kontak saya. Intinya, curhat betapa “sengsara”nya hidup saya. Terus beberapa hari kemudian baru sadar, saya gak bersyukur banget ya.

Tanggal 9 Oktober 2017, hari pertama saya masuk lab. Supervisor saya tidak masuk pada hari itu. Jadi, saya hanya ditemani oleh Lab Technicians untuk mengurus hal-hal administratif  terkait dengan keberadaan saya di lab selama 3 tahun ke depan.

Sebagai informasi, selain mengerjakan proyek penelitian di lab, saya juga masih harus mengambil beberapa mata kuliah level Master di tahun pertama studi saya di sini. Alasannya? 1) S1 saya di bidang Mikrobiologi dirasa tidak terlalu “nyambung” dengan proyek penelitian yang saya kerjakan. 2) S2 saya yang Masters of Research itu dianggap terlalu menitikberatkan pada lab skills (which is good), tapi kurang memberikan konsep fundamental untuk beberapa aspek yang terkait dengan penelitian saya. Jadilah saya harus mengambil mata kuliah Advanced Molecular Cell Biology, Bioinformatics, dan Biophysical Chemistry di semester ini. Untung tidak diminta ambil kuliah Immunology. Haha. Bisa malu sama Janeway (if you know what I mean).  Semester depan ada kuliah Mathematical Modeling, yang, well, saya tidak mau memikirkannya sekarang karena bisa buat saya gila. Puji Tuhan, semua mata kuliah semester ini diberikan dalam bahasa Inggris.

Oiya mungkin kalian bertanya-tanya, saya mengerjakan penelitian apa sih di sini? Saya melakukan penelitian di Medical Research Centre (Medizinischesforschung Zentrum) Universitätsklinikum Essen di departemen Molecular Opthalmology dan Endocrinology. Fokus penelitian saya dalam bidang autoimmune endocrinology. Detail penelitiannya seperti apa? Nanti saja saya share kalau saya sudah ada publikasi, ya! *karena saya trauma ide penelitian saya dicuri orang. haha*

Di hari berikutnya saya bertemu dengan main supervisor saya, membicarakan proyek penelitian dan hal-hal apa saja yang perlu saya persiapkan. Di akhir pertemuan, saya recap kembali apa saja yang harus saya kerjakan dan practically hari-hari saya di sini dari Senin hingga Jumat pagi hingga sore akan sangat padat dengan penelitian, kuliah, seminar, dan training. Bulan November nanti akan ada research day (Forschungstag), yang mana jika saya sudah memperoleh preliminary result, saya diminta untuk mempresentasikannya dalam bentuk scientific poster. Hari rabu tanggal 11 Oktober saya juga akhirnya bertemu dengan supervisor saya yang lain, seorang dokter bedah mata. Beliau adalah kepala grup riset saya. Beliau memberitahu saya bahwa tahun depan ada scientific conference dan akan sangat bagus kalau saya bisa mempresentasikan penelitian saya di sana. Well, doakan saja semoga semua berjalan baik.

Bagaimana kehidupan di luar lab? Saya belum punya teman. Well, sejauh ini saya mengenal 3 orang Indonesia di Essen. Yang satu  mahasiswa doktoral tingkat akhir (sibuk ngelab juga setiap hari), dan yang dua orang adalah mahasiswa S1 tingkat akhir yang juga sibuk kerja part-time. So, ya komunikasi dengan mereka hanya bisa dilakukan lewat dunia maya. Jadi teman-teman saya sekarang mostly adalah teman-teman di lab, yang bisa saya katakan SANGAT baik sama saya. Setiap hari biasanya saya memulai hari di lab hingga jam makan siang, kemudian saya kuliah. Berhubung belum ada internet di rumah, selepas kuliah saya ke perpustakaan medical school (Fachbibliothek Medizin) yang hanya berjarak 100 m dari apartemen,  untuk belajar, nonton N*tflix, dan video call dengan orang tua saya. 🙂

Laboratorium tempat saya bekerja
Autumn is here!

Untuk yang menanyakan kondisi saya sekarang, puji Tuhan saya baik-baik saja di Essen. Sedang beradaptasi dengan lingkungan dan ritme kehidupan yang baru.

Mohon doanya saja supaya saya bisa fokus mengerjakan apa yang harus saya kerjakan di sini sehingga bisa selesai tepat waktu dan kembali ke tanah air.

Aufwiedersehen, Köln

Cologne Flora & Botanical Garden – because Cologne is not always about Kölner Dom

Four months flies in a blink! Here comes my last week in Cologne.

Honestly speaking, this town is my comfort zone. But my main reason going to Germany is not staying in Cologne to learn German language. The main reason is to conduct a research in Essen, get my PhD in the next 3 years, then go back to Indonesia and applying my skills.

Being placed in Cologne for 4 months to learn German language is a privilege for me, since this town is one of the tourist destinations in Germany. There are 5 of us, the DAAD scholarship holders, who learned together in Goethe Institut Jakarta back then in March – April 2017. Once arriving in Germany, we were separated. Two of us went to Berlin. The other two went to Goettingen. And me, the only one here in Cologne. 🙂

What was my first impression about Cologne? Crowded. Well, I have grown up in Jakarta, which is for sure much more crowded than Cologne. So, this fact did not really shocked me actually. After spending some times, I feel that this town is very comfortable. There are various means of transportation to make us easily explore the town. However, I must admit that in busy days I cannot rely much on the transportation schedule since I often found delays here and there.

How about the people? Having expected Germans to be “cold”, people in Cologne can be categorized as (very) friendly. If you think that Germans are unfriendly, probably you should meet my landlady, Birgitt. She always make sure that everything’s okay with me and my friend. Once a week she comes to our flat and tells us story about anything, She loves traveling and during our 4 months stay here she has brought us to some short trips. I will definitely miss her so much.

Four months ago when I started living here, I was a little bit worried that I would have difficulties on making new friends. Thankfully I have an Indonesian housemate, who have became my new bestfriend for these past 4 months. Thankfully my German language course class consists of people from various cultural backgrounds. At first I also was so worried how can I move from Cologne to Essen since I got two luggages and it would be hard if I must take a regional train. Thankfully, by chance, I know an Indonesian Catholic Community here, become involved there, and got to know an Indonesian priest who routinely serve for the mass. He offered to help me with the moving.

Yes, lots of things and miracles to be thankful for.

I am so grateful to be surrounded by kind people like them. And finally I have no reason at all to be worried.

Cologne, you always have a special place in my heart. See you again some time. 🙂

Another adventure is waiting.

Da simmer dabei! Dat es prima! VIVA COLONIA!
Wir lieben das Leben, die Liebe und die Lust
wir glauben an den lieben Gott und han auch immer Durst

(An exerpt from “Viva Colonia” – a Cologne folk song)

Memandang Indonesia dari Jauh

Selamat Ulang Tahun, Indonesia!

Tahun ini saya kembali “merayakan” kemerdekaan tanah air dari benua Eropa. Tapi tak apa. Walaupun raga saya sering berpindah-pindah, tetapi jiwa saya tetap ada untuk Indonesia.

Apa arti “merdeka” bagi saya? Memiliki kebebasan untuk menentukan mau jadi apa saya di masa yang akan datang. Memiliki kesempatan untuk mendalami ilmu yang saya tekuni hingga jenjang yang setinggi mungkin.

Indonesia sendiri, secara resmi sudah merdeka pada tanggal 17 Agustus 1945. Tapi, apakah bangsa kita yang telah berusia 72 tahun ini benar-benar merdeka? Kita memang telah merdeka dari penjajah. Namun, rakyat kita sayangnya sepertinya belum mau merdeka. Lihat saja berbagai konflik yang terjadi di Indonesia, yang sebagian besar mengatasnamakan agama demi kepentingan politik. Lihat saja rakyat kita yang masih sangat mudah untuk diadu-domba dan diprovokasi oleh berbagai pihak yang tidak bertanggung jawab.

Saat saya masih tinggal di Indonesia, setiap hari saya selalu dicekoki oleh berita-berita negatif tentang tanah air. Rasanya hampir tidak pernah saya dengar berita yang bagus tentang Indonesia. Sebagai orang Indonesia, saya pernah apatis terhadap masa depan negara ini. Walau sekarang sedikit demi sedikit saya mulai optimis dengan Indonesia.

Kita harus pergi menjauh, supaya bisa memandang tanah air dari sudut pandang yang lebih netral.

Saya pernah membaca kalimat itu. Memang benar, ketika saya berada jauh dari tanah air, sense of belonging terhadap Indonesia semakin kuat. Rasanya saat teman yang berasal dari negara lain bercerita tentang betapa hebat negaranya, saya juga tidak mau kalah berkata “di negara saya juga begitu”. Di sini juga saya seringkali merasa bangga dengan negara Indonesia yang terdiri dari berbagai pulau. Teman-teman dari negara lain iri lho dengan keindahan dan kekayaan negara kita.

Saya juga bangga ketika orang bule melabeli orang Indonesia sebagai pekerja keras. Orang-orang Indonesia selalu berprestasi di luar negeri. Oleh karena itu, banyak yang ditawari untuk bekerja di negeri orang. Dulu waktu saya sekolah di Inggris, ada seorang opa yang sampai membawa selembar peta dunia. Dia hanya ingin menunjukkan betapa jauhnya kami, pelajar-pelajar dari Indonesia, menempuh perjalanan berbelas-belas jam untuk belajar di negerinya Ratu Elizabeth itu. Kenapa mereka begitu kagum? Karena orang Inggris (dan sebagian besar orang Eropa) itu malas untuk jauh-jauh merantau.

Sekarang di Jerman, teman-teman saya juga banyak yang penasaran dengan Indonesia. Mereka ingin mengunjungi Bali, Labuan Bajo, Pulau Komodo, Wakatobi, Raja Ampat, dan berbagai tempat indah lainnya di Indonesia. Saya merasa malu sekali ketika saya hanya bisa menunjukkan gambar-gambar dari Google Images, karena dari semua tempat itu saya baru pernah ke Bali saja. Malu karena saya sudah menjelajahi berbagai negara di dunia, tapi saya belum banyak menjelajahi negara saya sendiri.

Beberapa waktu lalu tersebar tulisan di media sosial yang mengkritik pelajar-pelajar Indonesia di luar negeri yang kebanyakan plesiran. Tapi, apakah mereka tahu bahwa kami di sini tak henti-hentinya mempromosikan budaya Indonesia? Orang-orang Indonesia (yang kurang piknik) memang bisanya hanya mengkritik.

Adakah hal buruk yang saya alami di sini terkait kewarganegaraan saya? Untuk hal-hal yang berhubungan dengan birokrasi, iya saya memang agak sedikit “dicurigai” karena memegang paspor Indonesia. Tapi sejauh ini sih semua urusan sudah berakhir lancar. Oleh karena itu, saya di sini selalu berharap agar situasi di Indonesia selalu aman terkendali. Supaya saya dan teman-teman lain dari Indonesia bisa belajar dengan tenang.

Seenak-enaknya tinggal di negara orang, lebih enak tinggal di negara sendiri. Di sini banyak aturan. Peraturan di Indonesia lebih fleksibel. Di Indonesia, ketika keluar rumah, kita selalu disapa ramah oleh tetangga. Kadangkala kita merasa mereka lebay. Cobalah tinggal di Jerman. Kita mencoba menyapa tetangga, mereka malah pasang muka bingung. Indonesia adalah surganya makanan enak. Di sini? Jangan harap. Sebagian besar makanan di sini hambar tidak ada rasanya. Haha.

Pergilah merantau, maka kamu akan menyadari betapa berharganya tanah airmu

Untuk Indonesia tanah airku, Dirgahayu! Suatu saat saya akan kembali dan membangun tanah air dengan ilmu yang saya miliki. Doakan kami yang sedang berjuang ini.

Walaupun banyak negeri kujalani

Yang mashyur permai dikata orang

Tetapi kampung dan rumahku

Disanalah kurasa senang

Tanahku tak kulupakan

Engkau kubanggakan 

Selamat upacara. Selamat lomba makan kerupuk, balap karung, bakiak, panjat pinang, balap kelereng, dan sebagainya. Di sini 17 Agustus tetap kami lalui layaknya hari biasa. Untuk teman-teman Indonesia di Jerman, ada acara di KBRI Berlin, KJRI Frankfurt, dan KJRI Hamburg. Tapi geng Köln tidak bisa join. 😀

[Sharing] First Things First

Halo! Tidak terasa sudah 1 bulan lebih saya tinggal di Jerman. Sudah mulai bisa beradaptasi dengan segala keteraturan di sini. Walaupun beberapa kali hampir ketabrak sepeda karena (tidak sengaja) berjalan di jalur merah, diklakson mobil gara-gara jalan di sebelah kiri (harusnya jalan di kanan), nyeberang tengoknya kiri di jalur yang harusnya tengok kanan. Sempat terkaget-kaget juga ternyata orang Jerman ada yang bisa senyum juga. Ya begitulah. Sedikit culture shock di minggu-minggu pertama.

Sudah lama tidak sharing, kali ini saya akan sharing sedikit pengalaman saya pada 1 bulan pertama di sini. Semoga berguna untuk teman-teman yang ada rencana untuk studi lanjut di Jerman pada umumnya, dan di UDE pada khususnya (karena peraturan di masing-masing Universitas sedikit berbeda). Oiya, saya sharing di sini dalam kapasitas saya sebagai penerima beasiswa DAAD. Untuk yang studi di sini dengan beasiswa lain, bisa jadi prosesnya tidak semulus yang saya alami.

Secara kronologis prosesnya seperti ini :

Immatrikulasi (Re-registrasi) di Universitas tempat kita akan belajar

Setiap mahasiswa harus melakukan immatrikulasi supaya secara resmi diterima di Universitas. Jadi, walaupun kita sudah menerima Acceptance Letter dari universitas, bukan berarti kita sudah resmi jadi mahasiswa di sana. Ini salah satu perbedaan sistem pendidikan di Jerman dan UK. Di sebagian besar universitas, mahasiswa harus melakukan immatrikulasi pada periode yang sudah ditentukan. Tapi, untungnya di UDE immatrikulasi untuk mahasiswa Doktoral bisa dilakukan kapan saja. Jadilah, saya langsung immatrikulasi di Universitas sebelum ke Köln, akhir Mei lalu. Paling lama (kalau di UDE), sekitar 1 minggu kemudian kita akan terima surat dari Universitas yang berisi bukti immatrikulasi, username & password untuk aktivasi email mahasiswa, dan contoh form untuk transfer semester social contribution.

Registrasi diri dan tempat tinggal (Meldebestätigung) di Rathaus (City Hall/ Balai Kota)

Kita harus isi form (tentunya dalam bahasa Jerman) yang kemudian kita kirimkan beserta fotokopi halaman depan passport, halaman yang berisi visa kita, dan dokumen kontrak rumah. Untuk penerima beasiswa DAAD, yang kita harus lakukan hanya isi form dan bebas biaya. Proses selanjutnya akan dikoordinir oleh tempat kursus kita yang sudah diberi kepercayaan oleh DAAD untuk menangani ini. Untuk selain penerima beasiswa DAAD, sepertinya proses ini akan dikenakan biaya (sekitar 20-50 Euro, kayanya) dan yang bersangkutan harus datang sendiri ke Balai Kota dengan membawa segala dokumen yang diperlukan, Tapi, berdasarkan cerita teman saya, prosesnya gak lama dan gak ribet kok, karena memang orang Jerman sangat efisien dalam bekerja. Saya baru sadar 2 hari lalu bahwa ternyata ada kesalahan informasi pada Meldebestätigung saya. Kode pos yang tertulis salah, karena ternyata ada dua jalan dengan nama yang sama dengan tempat tinggal saya. Haha. Sepertinya dokumen saya akan direvisi. Setiap pindah kota, kita harus mendaftarkan alamat baru kita. Jadi nanti ketika saya pindah dari Köln ke Essen, saya harus melakukan proses yang sama.

Membuka bank account 

Hal lain yang membedakan Jerman dengan negara lain adalah di sini hampir tidak ada cabang bank internasional. Jadi, kalau kita sekolah atau kerja di Jerman, kita harus punya akun di bank Jerman. Hal ini agak menyusahkan proses transfer dari Indonesia ke Jerman (dan sebaliknya). Untuk membuka bank account ini sebenarnya prosesnya gak ribet. Kita hanya diwajibkan membawa beberapa dokumen, seperti passport dan Meldebestätigung. Tapi, ada beberapa bank yang tidak bisa membukakan account untuk mereka yang memegang passport dari negara-negara tertentu (sebagian besar adalah negara-negara di Timur Tengah). Celakanya, sekarang beberapa bank mulai berpikir untuk memasukkan Indonesia ke dalam “high risk countries” list mereka. Hmm…makanya semoga di tanah air tidak ada kebijakan dan/atau kejadian yang aneh-aneh ya. Menyusahkan kami yang sedang belajar di tanah rantau.

Membayar social contribution ke account universitas 

Ketika kita sudah punya bank account dan sudah melakukan immatrikulasi, kita bisa membayar social contribution ke universitas. Salah satu keuntungan dari membayar social contribution itu, kita bisa menggunakan transportasi (bus, U-Bahn, Straßen Bahn, S-Bahn, Kereta Regional) di satu provinsi secara gratis selama satu semester. Makanya dinamakan Semesterticket.

Itu saja sih yang paling krusial. Selain poin-poin di atas, kita juga harus banyak bergaul dengan orang lokal (untuk mengasah kemampuan berbahasa Jerman), dan juga dengan teman-teman dari negara lain. Namun, jangan lupa juga untuk mencari komunitas pelajar/orang Indonesia di kota tempat kalian tinggal. Selain bisa berbagi cerita dengan teman-teman senasib, juga bisa jadi ajang kumpul-kumpul sambil makan-makan. 🙂

Salam dari Köln yang hari ini hujan

01 Juli 2017