Graduate School: Pathetic, Regretful, and Thankful

10 months have passed since I first started graduate school in S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU, Singapore. I could not believe that I finished my last exam as a graduate school student yesterday.

I still remember the time when I always said to my parents that I did not want to continue studying for master degree in Singapore. I also remember the time when I was so pessimistic about getting a scholarship programmes overseas.

At last I enrolled to this school, majoring in Strategic Studies. I also received a scholarship programmes from the Indonesia Programme, IDSS, RSIS.

When people asked me what my major is, I always had a hard time to explain it. They asked me whether I studied marketing strategy. Nope guys, you were wrong. Therefore, I used simple keywords to explain it, such as “terrorism, military, and war” to describe things I learnt in graduate school. It might be insufficient but I think it is easy to understand for them.

When I realize, I completed the whole courses in 10 months. Oh wait, it was only 9 months because we had about 4 weeks of breaks in between the trimesters. I could not believe that I survived.

How did I spend my life in grad school?

I spent most of my grad school life in the office and library. Sounds pathetic, but it is. Frankly speaking, I enjoyed it.

Because I am a scholarship recipient from the university, it required me to work for 12 hours in a week. Yes, on the paper, it is only 12 hours but in fact I spent almost the entire day in the office because I decided to do so. I became more productive when I went to the office because whenever I stayed back in my room, I always spent the entire day watching youtube, Netflix, or AKB48 stuffs. Lol.

Well, in fact, of course I also watched them when I was in the office. But at least, it was not for the entire day. I needed to watch them to keep me sane.

Besides the office, library is also my favorite place during grad school. At some point, I realized that whenever I stayed at the office I must do something related to work. Hence, I decided to go to the library from about 10 am to 1 pm, right before lunch time. At the library, I mostly read materials for the classes, worked on papers or weekly assignments. Yes, I had two classes at the first trimester and the last trimester that required me to submit a one page summary about the readings.

But of course I did not spend my entire grad school life merely for working and studying. I travelled around Singapore and also went to KL two times. I love café hopping in Singapore.

There are too many things I regret.

I regret that my English is not good that sometimes makes it hard for me to express my thought.

I regret that I did not do my best during grad school to which I am not satisfied with my grades.

I regret that I did not spend enough times with my friends from RSIS.

But, this journey was worth it.

I initially did not want to go to Singapore for my master degree because I wanted to pursue master degree in UK, majoring in terrorism studies. However, I changed my mind when I listened to a conversation between my lecturers in undergraduate school. One of them is an alumnae of RSIS. After listening to their conversation, I spotted opportunities for my future career. I realized Singapore is one of the nearest neighboring countries of Indonesia, thus the study of Indonesia must be relevant for this country.

I was right. I was able to meet the experts on Indonesia’s military and also terrorism. I learnt a lot from them.

I am interested in terrorism studies and I wrote my undergraduate thesis about asymmetric warfare in Syria between the terrorist group and regime. It was mostly about the strategic calculation of particular terrorist group. Although I have been studying about terrorism for quite some time, I learnt many new things after enrolling to this school. I never knew about the underlying reason behind the radicalization process. It was a very great insight for me that I hope I could contribute to the counterterrorism policy in Indonesia.

This school also helped me to explore my interest. I thought that I would merely focus on terrorism studies for my research, but now I realized that I am also interested in the study about civil-military relations. Although I did my undergraduate study focusing on strategic studies, CMR was a new thing for me. I found it interesting and I enjoyed writing the paper for this module because I wrote about CMR on counterterrorism.

I also met numerous lecturers who are experts in defence and terrorism studies in general.

At the very first trimester, I took a module, which is called study of war. I did not know that it was mostly about the psychological study of the decision makers in time of war. It was a great class because I can apply the concept and theories to any cases. In fact, I wrote my first commentary about the National Police of Indonesia’s response on terrorism attacks based on the concept and theories that I learnt from that class.

I am also glad that I could meet many friends coming from different backgrounds.

They are very smart, I am nothing compared to them.

I enjoyed the very first trimester when the strategic studies students were still taking core modules together. There was no one could stop the debate, not even the time limit. I still remember that one time we finished the class after 10 pm although it was supposed to end at 9.30 pm.

There is a positive peer pressure of having smart friends. In the earlier trimesters, my friends wrote several commentaries and published them. It triggered me to do so. So far, I have published four commentaries. I challenged myself to write about an issue soon after it occurred.

I am grateful to meet amazing friends in grad school.

See you again mates, I wish all the best for your future endeavours!

I hope someday our paths will cross again.


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