Growing A Year Older

When I was a teenager, I imagined by the age of 30 years old I must have become a successful person, having a steady job, and married to someone. Back then, I neither had any idea that someday I will become a scientist nor having idea about someone who will possibly become my future life partner. Well, for the last one, to be honest, I still do not have any idea up until this moment.

Today I am turning 30. I know that I have been so far away from my teenage days. However, I am sure the teenage version of me is proud of this 30 years old version of me. For those people who only know me from the outside, they might think that I have a flawless life journey. They’re wrong, of course. I have gone through some obstacles in my personal life before I am –sort of- reaching my dream.

Probably some of the people out there who talk about me behind my back (well, thank you anyway) never know that it took me 5 years dealing with more than 20 application rejections before I was finally accepted as a PhD student in Germany. I could have given up my dream, but I chose not to give up.

Having been living on earth for this long also teach me about the value of friendship. I learn that friendship is not about quantity, but it is about quality. It is not important if you have known people for years or just for months. If you guys can get along, then you have to keep the friendship. I also think that the label “best friend” is too exaggerating. When your “best friend” betrays you, the feeling is worse compared to anything. So starting from last year, even when I feel comfortable being with some people, I will just call them my “good friends”.

Talking about relationship, I have learned abundant of valuable lessons. I have experienced an unrequited love. It did hurt so bad. Believe me. I also had been close with someone for some times, without any status. And last time, I had been in a relationship with the wrong person. Yes, I have failed so far in this kind of thing. But, what I learn is that we –women-must have a self- worth. We must not lower down our standards just to allow men fit in our lives. Furthermore, I also learn that in order for a relationship to work, it needs mutual effort. When the effort is only one-sided, it will never work. Anyway, big appreciation for those guys who had been brave enough coming to my life and finding it difficult to deal with me. From them, I have learned about different personalities of men and, surprisingly, I also have learned about myself.

My twenties had been the most wonderful decade in my life so far. I completed my Bachelor and Master studies and started my PhD (yes..yes..this is going to be the last degree I pursue!). I got chances to live and study abroad. I got my first job. I earned my first salary. I learned 2 foreign languages and finally can speak those languages. I travelled to many new places. Basically, I have reached like more than half of my dreams. I reached some milestones in my twenties, as well as experienced some of my “first-times”. I failed and also got up many times. I am beyond thankful!

Now that I reach my thirty, of course I hope that I can be a better person. This is my wish every year. I will still be a person who is full of flaws. But I hope I can do more good deeds in the years to come. I hope I can finish my PhD and find a good job that can fund my life in the future. Though most Indonesians think that a woman doesn’t need to be really concern to find a well-paid job as once they get married it is the husbands’ responsibility to take care of them, in my opinion, women should be financially independent no matter what. (sorry, mom. In this case we have different perspective) And I hope I will soon meet my Mr. Right (because Mr. Perfect only exists in Fiction books).

Here is to the amazing years to come!

 

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.

 

 

2018 : A Brand New Year

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It’s been a few years I didn’t made any resolutions to starting -off new years. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have targets to be reached. In fact, I become more productive without being burdened by resolutions and thus I achieve more.

2017 has been awesome. I believe 2018 will be much more awesome and exciting. The major part of my life will indeed be fulfilled with academic-related stuffs. More experiments are coming. Data collection and analysis are waiting. Apart from that, I am still required to attend some courses and write the exams. Life will be busy but I know I will enjoy it, as I learn something new every day.

This year, until at least the next two years, I am still living far away from home. It needs a little bit of sacrifice to reach your goals, right? Life is tough! Again, I am enjoying every second I spend living here, because this foreign country is now my home. Last year I experienced a little bit of culture shock with the Germans. But now I can already accept it. Just like what I have learned during the Intercultural Training organized by DAAD last time, we can ask about other people’s cultures but we can never question their cultures.

Even though this is my second time living abroad, but I feel that now I don’t have any options other than to be more independent and stronger. Independent and strong are two qualities that must be owned by everyone who decide to leave their homes to pursue their dreams abroad. Otherwise, you will not survive. When I face troubles, I can only depend on myself to solve them. But I take this as a process for me to become a real adult. And for me, this is the only way for me to grow up. If last year I didn’t make a big decision to pursue a doctoral degree in Germany, I would forever stay in my nest back there in Jakarta. Adulting is indeed a long and challenging process. This year of 2018 is the time for me to act like an adult. No more whining around (yes, that’s my weakness!) because whining will not solve any problems.

At the end of last year I decided to open up my heart and said “yes” to  a relationship. A long distance one. I know this is a little bit non-sense, but just let’s see if this can work. Honestly, as I get older, it doesn’t really matter anymore to me when all of my friends are already getting married and I am being the one who is still single in the gang. It’s better to wait until I find someone whom I can trust the rest of my life rather than rushing myself. Cause I am not looking for a boyfriend anymore. Boyfriends are for teenagers. I am looking for a life partner, instead.

In this year I hope I can travel to places I have never been before. Hopefully I have enough time and enough money.

And last but not least, this year I will try to be happier, I will share more smiles, I will serve God more, and I will pray more.

Goodbye Awesome 2017

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“It’s the possibility of having  a dream comes true that makes life interesting” -Paulo Coelho

If I should describe 2017 with one word, it would be : AWESOME.

Looking back at what have happened this year, I would like to recap some of the most important moment in my life.

It was one day in January 2017, when I just got back from Holyland, I received an email from my -then-prospective supervisor. She attached a letter, mentioning that the doctoral board accept me as a doctoral student. It took quite a long time until I got that acceptance letter. I thought if they did not accept me, then I would start the PhD hunting all over again. My journey to find a PhD position for these past 4 years has finally come to an end and another amazing adventure is waiting!

  • Got a full scholarship

This is the first time in my life, I am awarded a full scholarship to fund my study. I cannot describe how grateful I was. It was not an easy thing for me to win this scholarship. I applied for three scholarships at the same time. At first I really hoped that I could get a scholarship from Indonesian government, so that it would be easier for me if I want to go back home and continue working as a lecturer when I complete my study. However, apparently God has another plan for me. I got a scholarship from German government and I am actually do not have any obligations to go back to Indonesia

  • Resigned from my job

I had been living in my comfort zone for the past 3 years. I had a steady job and quite good income for a single lady, living in Jakarta. It was a little bit hard for me when I decided to resign. But then, I must pursue my dream anyway. And I would sacrifice my comfort zone for the sake of this dream. I resigned and was jobless for around a month. Haha.

My last year being a twenty-something girl. Yes I’m not that young anymore, but I am beyond grateful with all things that I have achieved these far. So many accomplishments I have made during my twenties. Being 29 also remind me to be more concern about my future, e.g : start seriously looking around for someone potential enough to become my future life partner (read : husband). 😀

This is surreal. This is the most surprising thing that happened to me this year. I have been dreaming of living and studying in Germany since 2012. That’s why I always targeted Germany whenever I applied for a PhD position. I remember I sent more than 20 applications and all of them were rejected. It was the moment when I almost give up when I found a Professor who works exactly in the field of my interest and he offered me a PhD position in Germany. And now here I am. Being a student again in this land of the idea. And I am so happy that now I can communicate in German.

  • Conducting a research project in the field of autoimmunity and endocrinology

Few years ago I created this personal goal that I really want to work in those 2 fields. The reason is that some of my family members suffer from diseases influenced by autoimmunity and defected endocrine system. I want to, at least, contribute to find out the cause of the disease, which currently is still unknown. I’ve never expected that I have an opportunity to conduct this research. I even didn’t know that the combination of this 2 fields exists.

  • Love life : mission unaccomplished (yet!)

It seems that my love story is the most miserable aspect in my life. I have been getting close with some guys this year, but nothing serious. Yeah, perhaps it’s a bit difficult for a guy to get settled with me – a kind of independent girl with a free soul who is currently still want to explore the world. But, fingers crossed! It takes time, no need to rush. The right person will come at the right time.

So, to sum up this year : God’s timings are always perfect.

I believe 2018 will be filled with much more amazing experiences.

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

Halo!

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. 🙂

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Laboratorium tempat saya bekerja

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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

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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)