By Cesilia Faustina
Photography by Cesilia Faustina
Many people struggle with career changes or simply just finding a career. Plenty of youths out there understand the feeling all too well. On top of that, globalization has given greater opportunities for people to migrate and experience work abroad, broadening career opportunities and paths for the future. A master’s graduate and a local of Jakarta, Indonesia is going through both.
After Dita Vania graduated her master’s program in the Netherlands, she hoped to start a new career path, perhaps in the Netherlands, however, life as a fresh graduate is never an easy one.
“…stress levels are affected by thinking about these things in your daily life and I think because I’m thinking a lot about these things nowadays, I must say my stress levels are pretty moderately high,” she stated.
Internationally mobile student
After graduating from her masters in behavioural economics, Dita decided to stay in Rotterdam, Netherlands to find work opportunities. She said she wanted to challenge herself more and experience different opportunities by changing up her environment. An act that many international students do to find better opportunities and future – something that may not be as accessible in their home countries.
There were around 1.7 million students from abroad who were taking tertiary level studies in the EU in 2017. Globally, the number of international students has grown every year since 2011, somewhat of a continuous cycle, were it not for COVID-19 most probably.
These students have become so common that UNESCO, OECD and EUROSTAT have agreed on a term of internationally mobile students, which can be defined as international students who are enrolled for a tertiary degree (or higher), who usually stay more than one year, and up to seven years.
Dita, as an internationally mobile student, hoped to make the most of her stay in a different country, trying to create a new career and home within a foreign land.
“Entering the work field, for me, is still stressful because you’re always under that pressure of finding a job. It’s still a lot better than when I first came to the Netherlands because everything was super confusing and at the same time, I had to study because classes started already, but now, the challenge is completely different. I’m not going to say it’s easier, but at least now I know how things work,” she said.
“Life [in the Netherlands] is a little bit settled in terms of living, the basic things are sort of covered, but the challenge now is finding a job now, and keeping myself sane; mentally keeping myself stable while still socializing with people.”
Masters: a safety net for hard decisions?
If finding a job as a fresh graduate is so hard, why would one risk their comforts of familiarity for education in a foreign land then? And so many students seem to be getting on board too.
Some use the old going back to school excuse as a transition phase, where one can simply avoid thinking about careers and futures in the meanwhile. When asking Dita though, she had a very specific idea that led her to pursue her graduate studies.
“First of all, my purpose of going abroad was to study, so I was looking for a high-quality school, which is not only recognized internationally but also has a good reputation globally, and not that I think that education in Indonesia is totally bad, I’m sure there are many good master’s programs here, but I think though it’s still not as high quality, the standards are still lower, you have to admit it, there are still things we need to improve on,” she said.
“I also wanted to work abroad and I thought that a master’s that is internationally recognized can help me do that, as for other people I think they have similar reasons, I think everybody wants to improve their quality of life and maybe they weren’t getting it in Jakarta and either they want to go up in social class or maintain their social class.”
Indonesia is home to around 200+ million people with most located on the island of Java, and Jakarta as its capital city is the most populous city in the country. The education system in Indonesia has seen improvements over the years but still struggle in some aspects, with one of the lowest literacy rates among South East Asian Nations.
In terms of outbound degree-seeking students though, Indonesia claimed the title of third largest sender of international students among the ASEAN region in 2017. As with Dita, many middle to higher income household families send their children abroad for studies, aside from better education opportunities, many youths that live in Jakarta tend to have less traditional views, which is why many choose to move abroad or have experiences that fit their cultural views.
“I think the main reason [of moving abroad], for me, is to improve my quality of life and also to surround myself with an environment that’s more open-minded and more secure and freer, I guess, cause in Indonesia as much as we’re growing, I’d like to think we’re improving as a society, but there is still so little freedom to express yourself and be yourself and to be a minority,” Dita added.
“When you’re a minority here maybe you have these thoughts or maybe when you have different thoughts of living than what’s considered normal in Indonesian society, then I think you’d want to live abroad or see how it is to live abroad because it’s more comfortable and freer.”
Indonesia or the Netherlands?
“For sure it’s different, I mean the state of the country itself is different, one is a developed country and one is a developing country. Even in terms of basic living everyday and quality of life, everything in the Netherlands is a lot more organized…”
As a youth from Jakarta, Dita felt the joys of living in the Netherlands as she saw that many things were more to her liking in terms of structure and organization.
“For sure it’s different, I mean the state of the country itself is different, one is a developed country and one is a developing country. Even in terms of basic living everyday and quality of life, everything in the Netherlands is a lot more organized, for example, the government tries to control everything, cause you know how in developed countries everything is pretty much set,” she clarified.
“The rules are already tried and tested, so they know what they’re doing but [in Indonesia], I feel like we’re still trying it out and setting new regulations, new developments are growing every day, and sometimes, something so simple such as contacting customer services or making a bank transfer, you can do everything in less than a minute, while [in Indonesia] there are more steps and several processes.”
Despite the complaints she had about Indonesia though, the former student still seemed to love her home country and still saw it as her go-to home. When asked whether she would like to leave Indonesia for good, she clearly said no, and only saw herself living temporarily in the Netherlands, hoping to come back to Indonesia at some point.
“Maybe why people come back [to Indonesia] is because we still have ties in Indonesia, families, friends, network, and also some people their patriotism and love for the country, but for me it’s…well, yeah, the love for the country, but also family and friends are here,” she said.
The career path
So, the graduate had finished school and is living in the Netherlands, now, she has to go through what most international students go through after graduating – finding a job.
Dita expressed the stress and challenges of starting a new career after university, though it was a normal thing, it was still a stressful one, especially having been used to working before the graduate experience.
“So I started the master’s journey when I was in the middle of doing a corporate job in Jakarta, I worked in an HR company in a food and beverage company back then and I felt that after a year or so my learning curve started to go down and I wasn’t really learning much anymore and wasn’t really challenged by the work I was doing and the environment around and I looked for other opportunities,” she said.
“I think it’s a normal phase for us to feel like we always want to grow and learn something more, and in that particular situation I was around, I just wasn’t being challenged anymore and I wanted to look for new experiences. So I think that was the main thing, it became too much of a comfort zone and I wanted to expand and challenge myself more, not that comfort zones are all bad…but there’s also the point when you reach boredom, where I think a lot of times is because you are disconnected from your surroundings and the environment you’re around or because you’re not doing anything challenging in your daily activities anymore.”
Her work experience and her bachelor’s in financial economics was what led her to the path she chose for her master’s; hoping to find the in-between of her experiences.
“I wanted to do behavioural economics because that is the area I wanted to venture in more because I studied finance and economics in my bachelors, but my work experiences have been more on dealing with people whether in sales or HR, so I wanted to combine the two of them and I thought that the appropriate major for that was behavioural economics, so that’s why I chose that,” she added.
Though she has not found that career path in behavioural economics yet, she is still trying, and Dita mentioned that that was the most important part of life. No matter how much life got you down, it was important to keep pushing.
“I’d say you got to keep working for what you want every day because I know that’s something I have to do but I struggle with, so it’s something I have to keep reminding myself of, if I want something then I need to work towards it every day,” she said.
“And I also need to break things down into small steps, you know? Because finding a job is such a big fluffy thing but you got to break that down into small steps, simple things, like applying for three jobs a day or like having a regular catch up with friends to share your progress, just to make things more tangible and not distant.”
She mentioned the hardest challenge about life, in general, was the desire to keep improving herself. She still saw herself within the development stage and hoped to become a more put-together person, something she felt we all needed to strive for.
So yes, finding work, a purpose, a career path, self-development or whatever you want to call it, is no easy task, but we all go through it and I guess this just comes with being a youth of today, and maybe just being a person in general. And as stressed as she was, Dita was able to give some solid advice for the future.
“Take care of your mental health because it can get you down, when you know, you’re unemployed and you don’t have a steady income and trying to make it work; I mean, it’s going to get you down, but try to keep yourself happy because nobody can make you happy other than yourself,” she said.
“And to do that, maybe proactively surround yourself in a situation you want to be in, like maybe surround yourself with friends or look for some sort of activities…whatever the person likes, these are some of the things I want to try to do.”
Dita is a graduate from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in behavioural economics. She hopes to find a job in the field and is currently taking part in an internship. She encouraged people to follow their goals, despite the hardships and reminded us that setbacks in finding a job and starting a career were normal. She hoped people would take care of their mental health in the process and would not give up.