How Coaches Can Help Ease the Journey: Inditian Latifa’s View on PhD Bootcamp

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A woman with glasses in front of a tree in UCSC
Inditian sat in front of the gate to her campus, the University of California Santa Cruz. Source: Personal Documentation.

Inditian Latifa was one of the coaches for Indonesia Mengglobal PhD Bootcamp 2021. She recently talked with Inef, Content Director for North and Latin America, about her experience being a coach, her impression of the program, and what she believes the most challenging parts of PhD application process were. Read the interview below to find out more.

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Hi, Inditian! Thank you for your willingness to talk with me. Could you please introduce yourself and your background?

Hello! My name is Indi, a PhD student at University of California Santa Cruz. I’m in my third year right now and will take my qualifying exam next year, around September 2023. My research interest is in the field of cultural anthropology. Unlike sociology in which we study human life on a larger or macro scale, in anthropology we are able to study everyday activities and practices in a smaller or micro scale. I’m researching different values that certain societies have, what affects their livelihood, how they make decisions, and so forth. To be more specific, I’m researching property ownership—things like what compels a property owner to build a fence around their house, for example, or why they decide to plant flowers.

As for my reason to do my PhD at UC Santa Cruz, it’s because the university has a strong emphasis on the environment. Since I am studying the relationship between property ownership and environmentally sustainable practices, the university’s focus on the environment is important to me.

That sounds exciting! I’ll now ask you about your involvement with Indonesia Mengglobal. How did you decide to become a coach for the PhD Bootcamp last year?

I was concerned about the relatively low number of Indonesian PhD students compared to that of other countries. PhD student population in Indonesia is still a very small pool and I think part of what makes the pool so small is that everyone is easily intimidated by the PhD application process itself. For example, when we go to the websites of our dream universities we can see a long list of administrative requirements and that can intimidate us.

People tend to think that they are not smart enough to get in. However, I believe that it is not a matter of being smart. Applying for PhD goes beyond how smart you are—it also takes a lot of hard work and discipline. I wanted to show that, while it is true the process is not easy, it doesn’t have to be intimidating. I wanted to open up honest conversations about what the process actually is like.

That makes sense. We do need to be disciplined and committed to get through the entire process. In your opinion, what else is crucial to take into consideration before we make the commitment to apply to a PhD program?

You need to have a compelling motivation, of course. You need to know why you are doing it. It takes a minimum of 5-6 years to get a PhD degree, so you have to know for sure what you want to do with the degree once you graduate. You have to ask yourself about your future plans, whether you want to work as a researcher or work for a corporation, whether you want to work for the government or in a start-up venture, and also whether you really need a PhD degree to advance your career.

In some jobs, a Master’s degree is already enough. My point is that you need to have a valid reason for wanting to do the PhD. Personally, I’m in my program because I already knew from early on that I want to work in a university setting. I hope to finally get a post-doc position because I love the academia.

Amazing. Best of luck with that. I’m curious about your journey to get here. Back then when you were still preparing your PhD application, what kind of difficulty did you face?

For me, the written documents were the toughest parts to deal with. I had to write two types of documents, one was the statement of purpose and the other was my project proposal. My biggest problem was that I was unsure of how to write my personal story. I knew I wanted to explain what moments led me to applying to the PhD program of my dreams, I knew my proposed research project well, but I was uncertain about the structure of the essay and how to begin with a great sentence to hook the readers.

At that time, I didn’t have many people I could go to for help other than fellow PhD applicants and former professors. My peers and I read each other’s writings and exchanged ideas on how to write our introduction, how to improve our sentences, and so on. As you could imagine, working individually on essays would be even more confusing than having someone to guide you. This is also why I said yes when I was invited to become a coach for Indonesia Mengglobal PhD Bootcamp. I believe it is easier to do PhD application when you have plenty of guidance.

I’m glad you were a part of the Bootcamp! Do you have anything else you want to share?

I want to see more Indonesians being optimistic about the direction our country is going. I think we’re going the right way, starting with ensuring that more people are able to get educated. It is exciting for me to see more people being hopeful about getting their education and I’m happy that there are organizations like Indonesia Mengglobal helping to make it possible.

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Registration to Indonesia Mengglobal PhD Bootcamp 2022 is open now through October 2nd

Open Recruitment PhD Bootcamp 2022. Source: Indonesia Mengglobal
Criteria for prospective Participants. Source: Indonesia Mengglobal.

Workshop Content for PhD Bootcamp 2022. Source: Indonesia Mengglobal

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