Four Years, Four Countries: Optimizing Opportunities, Maximizing Potential


In school and/or college, even though academics are the main thing to improve yourself in terms of knowledge and expertise, there are also various other ways to improve yourself as an individual, such as taking advantage of opportunities that are available within and outside your educational institution. In this article, Carrisa Tehputri, a senior year student in NYU Abu Dhabi, shares some of her tips and experience on how to make use of opportunities in your youth.

I am not a dreamer. Raised singlehandedly by my mother in an extended family of high school graduates, a realistic approach in life has always been more of a fit to me. Admittedly, studying abroad has always been my dream, knowing that it will provide me with outstanding learning experience, global perspective, and international friendships. But as a realist, I silently buried my wildest dream after high school and continued to pursue law at Universitas Indonesia, my other dream school. I realized that financial capability was not my sole barrier; I thought I wasn’t equipped with the skill to study abroad. As the aftermath of Bali Bombing, I had to settle for public school; learning English twice a week, for 2 hours each time at best. I thought to myself: there was no way I could compete with international school students or those who have been prepared for years to get into universities abroad.

I am not a dreamer, but I refuse to settle. I pride myself for actively looking for opportunities and relentlessly seizing them. After a few months of studying law, I realized that I wanted more. I went against all odds to apply to New York University Abu Dhabi (‘NYUAD’), only two weeks before the application deadline. Entirely uninformed about the Common Application system, I spent hours researching about it. I applied on time, after spending New Year’s Eve editing my essays and reviewing my application. On March 29th, I received the admission offer from NYUAD and I received full scholarship award the following day. I accepted the offer, knowing that this will change my life forever.

When I started as a freshman at NYUAD, I promised myself five things: first, is I will graduate cum laude. Second, I will study abroad in two different countries. Third, I will complete two prestigious internships in two different countries without having to break the bank. Fourth, I will learn an entirely new language. Fifth, is I will learn a new musical instrument. I was committed to optimize my growth and development, I wanted to make the best out of my four years.

Fast forward four years later, I almost accomplished all of the promises I made, save for the first one, as we’ll only find out in May. Regardless, I did study in New York and Madrid, and I did January terms in Buenos Aires and Washington DC. I interned at the Indonesian Mission to the United Nations in New York last summer and I was a research intern at Hedayah, a counter-violent-extremism center in Abu Dhabi in 2016- both fully funded by NYUAD. I now speak Spanish, on top of dancing tango and salsa. I learned how to play cello and I was part of a concert in Abu Dhabi that attracted over 400 guests. In the past four years, I also traveled to 22 countries, I received funding to fly to London this January to gather data for my Capstone project (dissertation), I partied in Ibiza, and I experienced countless other amazing things.

I profoundly believe that everything is as good as you make it. If you are not proactive, then even the best school in the world will bring you nowhere. Likewise, even if opportunities vary in universities, I believe that opportunities are always there, in one form or another. I am incredibly grateful of my past four years at NYUAD, and to express my gratitude, I’d like to share a few tips as to how you could maximize opportunities and allow yourself to benefit from the world while you’re young:

1. Know yourself
I believe that knowing yourself is the first step to achieving your goals. Get to know what makes you tick, how do you envision your life to be, who do you want to be. You can do this silently in contemplation or with your friends by discussing about your aspiration and the future.

2. Be realistic
Being realistic is not synonymous to being pessimistic. You have to know your ability and the circumstances. I doubt that you can perform a piano recital at Carnegie Hall if you’ve never played before, or I doubt that NASA would accept your application to be their aerospace engineer if you majored in English literature. Realistic goals will be worth the investment and they will not waste your effort if pursued correctly.

3. Be on the lookout
Research, research, research. Ask around, browse, network. The world is on your fingertips. Opportunities will not walk itself to your doorstep. You have to actively search for it in order to find it.

4. Ask questions
When in the process of pursuing your goals, ask around for people who have experienced the same thing about their story and perhaps you will find yourself a mentor or a friend on the way. Constructive criticism and insiders’ tips are tremendous help.

5. Be persistent in pursuing your goals
Do not give up on your first attempt, nothing worth having comes easy! We all know it is painful to start an application, to practice, to study, to write- but if it’s easy, then anyone else would have pursued it before you do. Ask for help, take a break if needed, but don’t surrender.

6. Be consistent in pursuing your goals
Remind yourself of why you’re here and what your aims are. Don’t be jumpy, hold on to your aspiration. Consistency is key.

7. Just do it
There were countless times when I doubted myself, but I got over it and just did what I had to do. Looking back, I never thought I’d achieve even a quarter of what I have accomplished this far, and I am extremely thankful.

Again, everything is as good as you make it. It’s all about your willingness, your diligence, your persistence, and your consistency. I profoundly believe that we all deserve to live with no regrets because we know we are doing our best. So here’s to a life worth living, filled with aspirations that we are uncompromisingly pursuing and potential that we are optimally maximizing.

Photo provided by author.

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Carrisa is a senior majoring in Social Research and Public Policy and minoring in Peace Studies at New York University Abu Dhabi. She is passionate about counterterrorism, law, and international security, having previously interned as a research analyst at Hedayah, a research center on counter-violent extremism in Abu Dhabi, and at the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations in New York. Aside from her academic interest, she was the President of ASEAN Community at NYU Abu Dhabi and she was involved in various leadership positions and volunteering activities at New York University. Carrisa has always been an avid public speaker, having represented Indonesia in Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition in Washington DC, United States in 2014, Outstanding Students for the World program in London, United Kingdom in 2013, and at the World Schools Debating Championship in Antalya, Turkey, in 2013. She is currently residing in the United Arab Emirates while trying to finish her dissertation (Capstone Project) regarding the homegrown radicalization of British Muslims. Carrisa is set to graduate in May 2018. Follow her journey on instagram: @carrisatea


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