After winning the Essay Competition and get the chance to have a month internship at Gerda Henkel Stiftung Germany, I was overwhelmed by the word of Düsseldorf – a city that I never imagined will be part of my future. A week before the departure, I found that Düsseldorf is a small yet fashionable city because the small number of its population but high number in branded store and fashion show held in there. Another facts is that Düsseldorf is the city of business which is I think it would be crowded and full of people, pretty much like Jakarta but with fewer human and so on. I brought all of the facts and work expectation as I never been abroad before.
I took the flight with Turkish Airlines on August 1 at 6 PM from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and after 13 hours in the air, I transited on Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul with prayed that everything will be alright since there was a bombing attack in there few months ago. After that, I took another 3 hours with the same airlines to Düsseldorf International Airport and arrived safely at 10 AM on August 2.
I was picked up by my cool-and-silly supervisor, Mr. Jens Schneider and we go straight at the apartment that was prepared for me. After that, we agreed to have a short visit to the office in the afternoon before I start my “official work” tomorrow. It only took 10 minutes of walking to the office and on the way to the office I noticed that there is not much people (in fact it is only 500,000 people – much less that Jakarta that break a record of 9,9 million people!). The city is quieter that I expected, the weather is slightly change to rainy and windy although it was summer and the people is mixed of German, African and Japanese immigrants. The good thing is that there are huge number of really good cars here like BMW, Audi, Porche, Mercedes, Bentley, and local brand like Skoda, Fiat, Peugeot, Smart, etc – if you like cars, I bet you want to moved here because it is really good city with full of really good cars).
Well, after amazed by the “first impression” of Düsseldorf, I was meeting up with the Gerda Henkel Stiftung colleagues at the office. They are really nice and it is a warm welcome which is make me feel well accepted although I’m just an intern for a month. I also met with the one of the executive member, Dr. Hanssler, and have afternoon chit-chat about who am I, what is my goals, how I feel when I arrived in Düsseldorf, do I feel comfortable with the facilities that given to me and who is Gerda Henkel and etc. After that, I walked back to the apartment to have more rest after long flights.
In the next morning, I was given a small tour over the office and meet more colleagues and it is appeared that everyone should saying “Guten Morgen – Good Morning” and “Bis Morgen. Tschus! – See you tomorrow!” to everyone. The first and only task is Research on Southeast Asia Hub which means that I research on high education institutional in SEA region, especially in Social and Humanities studies in Doctoral or PhD program. Why Social and Humanities? Well, the Gerda Henkel Stiftung is one of the biggest Foundation that give grants or funding on research on History, Archaeology, and any other Social Humanities research for Doctoral or PhD student and also Post-Doctoral degree or for anyone who wish to conduct research on Social Humanities studies.
In summary, I research on every university in SEA region and identified which one has Social and Humanities research, do they has the Doctoral or PhD program, how much is the price, how long it takes to finish the doctoral studies, is there any scholarship given, what is the pros and cons of giving funding for the student from the university, how is the freedom of publication in the state, how is the government handled the higher education institutional, is he university already recognized internationally, which one already the member of ASEAN University member, etc. Lots of works and researches, lots of “stalking” all university in SEA but the truth is I came to know which university in ASEAN region that has good quality of PhD, which one is already recognized internationally, and which one is ready to compete in ASEAN Economic Community.
In the process of research, Mr. Schneider invited me to meet up with Prof. Dr. Wieringa – an Indonesian and Islam subject lecturer at Orientalisches Seminar auf Universität zu Köln (Study on Orientalism at University of Cologne). Prof. Dr. Wieringa said that he had visited Indonesia for many times and judging from his book collection at the Bibliotek (Library), he has the knowledge of Indonesia’s history and culture and speak Bahasa Indonesia well, even showing off with his Javanese and Sundanese as well. He stated that with the risen of Islam as the centre of global issues, many students are now challenged to take the major of Islam or Asian studies to learn more about the world outside Germany and European Union (EU). The existence of EU has been the centre of all European citizens and all they know about Asia is just for business and holiday destination. After long period, the Asia countries has taken the world stage by addressing complicated issues such as South China Sea,Hallyu or K-pop wave, ASEAN Economic Community, and the integration between Eastern state (this is how the German always address all state in Asia continent – no matter the country name).
Many people are now had concerned on what is going in Asia, especially in SEA since it has the most populous Moslem citizen (we are talking about Indonesia). The news media boosted up on how terrorist attacks could shake the whole nation in Middle East but not in Asia. Indonesia, as the most populous Moslem country in the world, could manage happily-ever-after-life by democracy. As a Foundation, Gerda Henkel Stiftung wold love to have research on Asian history but the political wave and economic wheel is taking a big role on almost every human aspect of Asian citizen, including SEA nations and especially in education sector.
The visit has opened my eyes on how education could had such impact whih maybe for most people is not really a matter but in the future will be a huge gap that could be major problem for all people. On the research that given to me, I was able to analyze the reason why some of the grants is not available or even not accepted in the country or university destination. The research grants will be a good source to gain knowledge and even more, to collect data that will be store for the future generation. Think about it, if there are no grants, then the research cannot be conducted and if there is no research, there will be no information and knowledge. How could a nation let their people dwell in lack of education because they are focused on transforming only the economic and political sector but not in social and cultural sector? Education is needed to upgrade and increase the human resources quantity and quality. Theoretically, the famous Confusius said “If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years educate children.” – well, no one wants a short plan and a state would like to have prosperous years for everyone. The truth is education has major role in shaping a nation’s future and good understanding that walked side by side with good analytical skill that needs qualified and quantified lecturer, school, environment, resources, etc. It is not a one-man-job that can be done in a year; it is one of the longest missions that will continue to reshaping in order to follow the world’s changes and needs.
The Southeast Asian countries that included in my research were the ASEAN member countries. From all ten member countries, countries such Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam are the hardest one to get collaboration as these countries has to focus on transforming their governance and state that might failed the research and of course the other reason is that there is limited English speaker in the country and almost all university studies is conducted in local languages. As the research’s result will be published internationally in Germany, it has to be in English or German. In fact, there is also limited PhD/Doctoral program in these countries, especially in Social and Humanities studies. The funding might a suitable researcher that wants to do research in Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam but it will hard to get permission and other legal things and it will do the same in all country that has inter or intra state conflict. There is possibility to do research in conflict state which is including in another type of grants which is more likely to have different level of requirement as the risk to do the research is higher than regular research. Another country that is hard to get research funding is Singapore because it is simply the expensive price of PhD/Doctoral program. It cannot be denied that Singapore is the most expensive in matter of educational institutions across Southeast Asia. It seemed like Singapore didn’t need any grants from external agencies since they already has the source for research from its students. It is too bad that Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam has limited number on PhD/Doctoral program in Social and Humanities studies. It seemed like the major of Social and Humanities is not popular major. The different case is Thailand and Philippines which due to recent international news, a lot of consideration is taken and need more time to get inside its higher education institutions. The recent bombing attacks in Thailand has driven everyone focus on rising the internal security and its risk to conduct research in Thailand has increase which made student to swift their research to another country. The same thing also happened to Philippines; after the UN has supported Philippines government to decide which country has the authority over Spratly Island and South China Sea, the PR China is not happy with the decision and eager to take them back. But the US is not sat in silence as they had their military inside the Spratly Island and Philippines have US backed up against PR China. Although it is pretty much a political scene, many research foundations unwilling to give grants as they afraid that there is too much “hands” that might involved in the research. Any foundations will do anything to avoid contact with political issues happened in the country of conflict.
The last option is Indonesia. Hooray! Hehehehe... why am I so happy about it? Because there is no other option available and after narrowing down all the possibilities, Indonesia is the only option of possibility that open widely for research. Indonesia do have universities that offered PhD/Doctoral Program in Social and Humanities, the number of universities that internationally recognized and also member of ASEAN universities is only two which is University of Indonesia and University of Gajah Mada. After contacting 13 universities across Southeast Asia to be Gerda Henkel Stiftung SEA Hub to conduct and expand research in Social and Humanities studies, only University of Gajah Mada that keep the email on and I recognized that University of Gajah Mada has lots of research in Social and Humanities studies, has qualified library and laboratory, as well as consistency in cooperation with international agencies and universities. Indonesia also has the freedom to publish journal and research or academic publication which is very important points in pursuing PhD/Doctoral Program. The final result is that University of Gajah Mada is now has been the SEA Hub of Gerda Henkel Stiftung. Congratulations to University of Gajah Mada!
Some people might state that because I’m Indonesian that is why I presented Indonesia way better that other countries. Well, I am Indonesian and I’m also a young diplomat of Indonesia. As long as the decision taken is not involving crucial matter such as nuclear code or war strategy, I think I have the rights to defend and support Indonesia and still can be “neutral” towards sensitive issues while pursuing my dream as diplomat. Besides, I grow up in very supportive environment and education where people have the opportunities for critics and analysis on every issue brought to the conversation.
After a month of internship in Düsseldorf, I cannot deny that I got lots of new experience such as how tasty is the chicken-meal of Turkish Airlines – very recommended! And It is not easy to live abroad, especially if the city doesn’t has much Indonesian people. Why? It is related to the survival of my life – I have to adapt with local food. I was on “honeymoon mode” in my first 2 weeks, getting excited about the town and tolerate the weather and the local food but then honestly, I got bored and miss Indonesian food so bad. Don’t ask me about the taste of the local food. Just don’t, please. In conclusion, Düsseldorf is quite city and suitable for everyone who love silence and of course, the advance technology of transportation will make you think twice to move here before getting home sick with Indonesian food and traffic.After all, I would love to thank Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) who gave me the opportunity of a month internship at Gerda Henkel Stiftung in Düsseldorf, Germany and gain precious experience as a young lady and young diplomat of Indonesia. Pursuing a diplomat career is not easy and FPCI make it possible and even more fun. I even had the chance to visit another city in another country in Europe which is quite accomplishment for an intern. Success to all of us, for FPCI and long live Indonesia. Merdeka!