It was half past six in the evening and I was sitting in the arrival lounge of London Heathrow Airport, waiting for my fiancee’s plane to land, when suddenly my mind took a trip down the memory lane, far reaching back to September 1995.  That was the time when I arrived for the first time in this Queen Elizabeth country, right at this very Airport, after more than 10-hour flight, the longest I had ever done in my life.  It all became so surreal, knowing that I must had been coming out from that Arrival Gate over there, the one I could see from the bench where I was sitting.

Heathrow Tube Sign

Heathrow Tube Sign

Throughout the years, during my stay here in the UK, many people had asked me, many times;
Why England ?
Fair question I’d say; England is so far away from home; the culture is so much different in so many ways; and every time I mention the weather , people think I was mad to leave the all-year-long sunny Indonesia.

Sunset at Bali

Sunset at Bali

I think the the real question though, is not ‘Why England’, but probably more fundamentally …
Why at all ? Why abroad ? or even Why *study* abroad ?

I Have A Dream …

It all started as far back as when I was a Junior High School, in Jakarta, at one school which apparently used to be attended by Barack Obama, as I had learned earlier this week to much of my surprise.  I was 12 years old at that time, and the school was running  some Extra-Curricular activities for the pupils.  One of these activities were … yup … Computer Class :)

Asisi Junior High

Asisi Junior High

The moment I laid my eyes on the monitor and my fingers on the keyboard, it was like love at first sight for me, it was as if someone had switched on the light on a long dark tunnel, it was my Eureka moment, it was my inauguration to become a GEEK !  And from that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, no more dream on becoming a Doctor (my Dad was a Doctor), or a Bus Conductor (my childhood favorite), or a Pilot (my second childhood favorite, though I wouldn’t mind to be a Fighter Jet Pilot).  It was going to have to be something related to Computer, and I was going to do all my best to realize this.
By the way, for the geeks out there, in that class, my computer was an IBM PC Compatible, running MS-DOS and Windows 1.0.  I was one of the lucky ones to get a PC, or maybe not depends on how you look at it, because my other classmates had to content to play with Apple IIe.  The programming language that we use was BASIC, and of course we learned to do DOS Batch Script (not sure what my other classmates were doing with the Apple’s CPM).

Apple IIe

Apple IIe

IBM PC

IBM PC

The Big Plan

Fast Forward to the end of my last year of Senior High School.  My goal was to become a Computer Programmer, and to do that I needed to be where the best education was provided, and for Computing subject, there were only two places in mind, the first one was the Institute of Technology Bandung (ITB), which boasted the best IT Faculty in the country.  The second one was the historically famous University of Indonesia with its Computer Science Faculty.

ITB - Faculty of Information Technology

ITB - Faculty of Information Technology

These two Universities are Ivy League University, where many many famous (and clever) Indonesian received their education.  They were also what they called as State University, in contrast with Private University, which means that tuition fee were *dirt* cheap.  So, as you can imagine, there were many students who wanted to go to the same place, abundantly many (‘umbyukan’).

UI Emblem

UI Emblem

The problem was, that to be able to get admission to one of these State Universities, High School Graduate students (assuming you passed the graduation exams) must endure a National Examinations, where they were pit against each other to determine who were the best of the best, and ultimately the winner to have the right to sit on one of these limited *chairs* (think about 50-100 per class year).  And with the average number of candidates ranging from 2000 to 3000 per year, I had a chance of 20 to 1, at best.  You had to be either *very* clever or *very* lucky to get in :)
Speaking about choices, each candidate were allowed to choose 2 (that’s two) place from Science/Engineering Majors/Schools and 1 (that’s one) from Social Sciences.  I chose the two Schools I mentioned above, and as for the Social Science, wait for it …. I chose Japanese Language at University of Padjadjaran, which were also located in Bandung and just like ITB and UI, it was a State University.

UNPAD - Rectorat Building

UNPAD - Rectorat Building

Now, having had studied at arguably the best State High School in the country (SMA 8 Jakarta), I thought I would have it easy, after all my friends would also also be my biggest competitors.  So, if I could at least keep up with them I thought that I’d be all right.
Well, in reality, I was *ok*, maybe above average, but nothing compare to these *brain on legs*.  The only subjects where I could beat them fair and square were Biology and English :)

My Yearbook Photo

My Yearbook Photo

The Big Disappointment and A Conviction

In retrospect though, these two subjects were the ones that saved me from a total failure, because when the result of the National Examination was announced (six o’clock in the morning you had to buy this special newspaper on which the list of *winners* were written), as you probably could guess already, I didn’t get accepted to the two Computing Schools I was applying to.
But instead … yes … hold your breath …. I DID get accepted to the Japanese Language one.  Now, I didn’t tell my parents that I chose Japanese Studies as my third choice, so you can almost hear my parents shouting “WTF !”, as I told them that I was going to spend the next 4 years (at least) studying Kanji and reading Manga :).
After all feelings of disappointment, rejection and anxiety had died down a little bit (actually many students had killed themselves after for who-knows how many times they went over that newspaper and didn’t found their name there), my parents and I sit down and discussed the situation.  Finally we reached some conclusions, we thought that it would be a good idea that I went for the Japanese Studies; we argued that this was just a *bridge*, a mere *stop-over*, a temporary *set-back*, to the ultimate goal.  Besides, I had three tries with the exam, i.e. I could sit on the exam for a maximum 3 times in a row.  So, I planned to take them too (as a matter of fact, many other students did the same).  This was a moral boost for me and my family.

So, what’s next ? Well, for the continuation of this *epic* journey, you need to be patient and wait for the next post 😉

While waiting though, there is one small useless trivia about this Junior High School I was studying at.  All Indonesian must know an Artist called Amara, who is a singer in a band called Lingua (not sure if they are still around).  Amara used to go to school at Asisi Primary School :)  As a matter of fact she was my sister’s classmate, and her mom and my mom were friends.  Amara went out with and got married to Frans Mohede, whom also sing in the same band.  Frans is my BestFriend’s cousin :) Enough for the useless trivia :)

Have a good day !

Related Posts:

It All Began Like This …

Why England ? (Sometimes Dream Comes True)