As a dual-degree program student, Karisa has the opportunities to study in two different universities located at two different continents. Karisa shares her journey in joining the program and what separates Indonesia and Australia in terms of student experiences.
When I returned home during the holiday, I received a lot of questions that sound very much like the title of this article. To be honest, before arriving in Brisbane, I did not really know what to expect. I anticipated the education to be different than that of Universitas Indonesia (UI) but did not really have an image in my mind. Upon arrival, I soon realized that there were a lot of distinctions that involve more than just being able to wear sandals to a lecture. This is my attempt to share some of my experiences of undergraduate studies at UI and University of Queensland (UQ) and give you a little glimpse of what makes studying overseas different.
When I commenced my study at UQ, I was surprised at how high the quality of the assignments needed to be. Half-hearted assignments were no longer sufficient or my grade would suffer badly. The assignments required far more effort. The assignments really fostered critical thinking and the level of English required was also high. I used to think that I had a good English writing skill or at least better than average. After joining UQ, I realized that I was completely wrong. My research paper was mercilessly butchered, even after I spent so many days editing it. It was clear that I have to put more effort in my study. However, even though the grading was strict, the teaching staff always made their marking criteria very clear for students to follow.
I could complete 7-8 courses each semester at UI. In contrast, at UQ, I can only do maximum 4 courses per semester. Indeed, it sounds easier and I have more day-offs. Nonetheless, the workload is not as easy as one expects. The content in each lecture at UQ is more packed. Lessons that we learned at UI in a year can be taught in only one semester at UQ. I used to feel okay when I missed a class at UI. At UQ, I always need to catch up by listening to lecture recording every time I missed a class.
However, I also met people who claimed that studying at UQ is easier. It is maybe due to the fact that the lecturers deliver the course clearly. We also have tutorials, the small classes that guide the course content. Tutors can directly help you with the subject materials and assignments. If you’re still unsure about certain topics, you can always listen to the lecture recordings that are available 24/7 on the internet or join the weekly consultation sessions held by the teaching staff.
The next biggest difference will be the facility. At UQ, we have 24-hours library that I also call my second home. At UI, I barely studied in the library. In comparison, gere at Brisbane, I simply can’t focus when I study at home. The library’s facilities (high speed Wi-Fi, comfortable chair, air-con, vending machine, etc.) really supports students. Furthermore, the use of “blackboard” (an online website where lecturers put courses’ materials and assignments instructioms) really helps with our study. We can always find lecture’s PowerPoint, recording or even do practice questions for exams on the website. Indeed, UI has a similar website. Unfortunately, in my opinion, only one course in psychology really maximizes the use of the website.
In addition, UQ provides student services for international students. The services include a one on one with an advisor where you can discuss about anything, including problems with academics, career advice or even mental health. You can also join various activities that UQ has for students where you can make new friends and connections. Also, another cool facility that can be found at UQ is the food trucks that are available during exam periods. These food trucks will be at UQ campus every day, offering cheaper foods for students. Come on, how cool is that?
Racking up non-academic experiences is also one of the reasons to go to a good university. At UI, I usually joined organizations or event committees. Here at UQ, you can also do the same thing or even more. Almost all local students will have a part-time job. We are also encouraged to do volunteering, usually with non-profit organizations. I have done volunteering for various organizations and work with clients with disabilities, little children and even refugees. I think these opportunities will be hard to find if I only study in Indonesia. Furthermore, these experiences also increase my multicultural exposure and friendships. I met people from various background and countries through volunteering and made friends with different types of people. I even had the opportunity to befriend someone from a country that I never know existed!
The opportunity is endless and you can be anything you want to be. You can do volunteering, you can work part-time jobs, you can join club and organizations or you can even be a student ambassador! Anything is possible, as long as you are willing to try.
To me, this final point is one of the most valuable things you can learn overseas. Honestly, I think you can not really learn this if you are still living with your family. As I lived by myself in Brisbane, I was forced to learn how to clean, cook and manage my finance, all by myself. I did none of this when I was in Indonesia. Even if I did, it was only in insignificant quantity. In Brisbane, with the help of my friends; Google and Youtube, I tried to figure out how to manage my own apartment. Now I can confidently say that I love to cook. I have learned how to manage my monthly allowance and have been collecting useful tips on how to get the most discounts out of stores across Brisbane. Just by doing all of these by myself, it drastically improves my independence. I am currently juggling academic life, volunteering, and also time and household management. These skills will be difficult to get if you don’t live far away from your family.
I believe that studying overseas, or in Indonesia, has their own merits. However, the experiences and skills that you gain from studying overseas are very valuable and priceless. I know for sure that my two-year experience in Brisbane has changed me as a person. I believe it will change you too! Therefore, for those who are still doubtful on their decisions on whether to complete tertiary education domestically or overseas, do not be! Even if you decide to do only a short summer semester or exchange course, the experience will be so priceless that it will worth every single second of your time!
Featured image by ANTARA.