The Diploma is Here, One Chapter Had Been Passed

Hooray … Today, I finally received my diploma for my master’s degree. There was a huge relief, satisfaction, happiness that I could not describe by words. For some people, it could be a merely normal achievement but not for me. Particularly, when I remember clearly how I struggled in the past two years to finish the program. Three years ago, couple of months before finishing my contract at my previous work place, I decided to return to university. I had dream to continue my master since I had graduated from my undergraduate program. Nonetheless, due to some personal reasons, I had to postpone my dream and finally thought that I was too old to return to academic world.

One day, one of my good friends, S, decided to get his master in International Relations. And this friend, he is eight years older than me. I will not reveal his personal identity since he could be so sensitive about his age. Peace, Bro….

After his return to academic world, S was always busy with abundant academic articles related to international politic. He also admitted that he needs other people out of his academic colleagues and professors to discuss the articles he read and to share opinions about the issues. I offered him some helps to voluntarily read some articles he had. Later on, we discussed the topic after I finished the readings, which were normally done after getting couple of reminding texts from him. Those moments, I realized that I have an interest on international politic and relations among nations. Knowing this, S encouraged me to return to school to get my master’s degree, to pursue the dream that I had forgotten for a while.

Working as contractor, usually couple of months before the project / work finished, I already sent job applications to some places. But that time, I convinced myself that I would give myself a very long vacation. I had not decided yet in which country I would spend for the next following years. Until, only two months before my contract over, I visited Istanbul again for my last RnR. S sent me text when I was crossing Bosphorus strait, asked where I was. When he knew that I was in Istanbul, he told me, “You keep traveling to Istanbul several times. If you’re really in love with the city, next time, instead of coming for traveling, why don’t you consider for living”. I found it as an awesome idea. Study and live in the city I always dream to live. That day, I decided to get my master’s degree in Istanbul.

I came to Istanbul only few months after military coup happened in the country. The night when the coup took place, I was in Jakarta to get my student visa from Turkish embassy. I was shock and questioned myself, should I go or change the destination. But I didn’t have the other options at the moment. The new semester will begin in the next two months, and many universities had closed the application process. Moreover, I had politely refused the offer from Bradford University, since I was sure that I wanted to live in Istanbul, not in Bradford. Considering that I had walked that far, I did not accept any excuse to cancel my plan to Istanbul. The next month, I left Indonesia to Istanbul.

Well, semester began. As predicted, my classmates were full with young, fresh and energetic students. The first semester was really hard. Even though S gave me some briefs about the course he had taken, in the real world, it was not as easy as I thought. The debates I had in the class were really far from discussion I had with S. I was confused for almost everything. I had no idea what people talked about in the class. No matter how much I read, it was not enough to give better understanding for this new degree. Moreover, not just the older age made learning looked more difficult compared to the younger years, but coming from different discipline also made it twice more difficult. My architecture degree was like earth and sky compared to the new one.

I used to draw construction drawings, now I had to write thousands words of article. I used to calculate numbers, now I had to read abundant academic journals. I used to work in silence, now I had to force myself to speak in the class. I was frustrated. I could not describe how desperate I was every time the classes ended. I almost gave up, particularly when one friend offered me a job back home. I considered packing my stuff until I heard the song lyrics of Brian McKnight, “And when I fall, I’ll never fail. I’ll just get up end try again,”. That day, I decided that I would not stop. I started to collect the pieces of spirits here and there. I convinced myself again and again that this was what I always wanted, and I must responsible for any decision I made. I reopened my books, tried to understand the theories, kept reading it even though I still could not understand the words.

One day, during debate at one of the classes, I sat at the back seat. We had debate for realism and neorealism theories. My classmates had serious arguments, while I just mentioned some sentences that sounded silly in my ears. Then I heard a girl sat next to me said, “Oh my God, I don’t understand. What does it mean,” . After class, I approached that girl and found that she’s the other ‘lost student’ as me. Her name is IE. Coming from applied science degree, she had some difficulties as mine. I offered her to study together, read the articles together to get the same perception, and discuss the issues before the class began. Since that day, IE and I spent more times together in the library. Couple of hours before group discussion, IE and I made separate private meeting to discuss what we are going to say during the group discussion, so we would not sounds so silly during the discussion.

Well, few weeks after the first semester began. Beside IE, I started knowing more people from the class, including the brightest students that later become my good friends. After the class, we discussed and shared the worries about the assignments. Even though I was not really sure that their worries as big as mine, knowing these people also comfort me for some reasons. Having discussion with them made me realize that we are in the same boat. We did not come with perfect knowledge. We did not know many things. Therefore, we are here, to learn, to study. I was also encouraged by these friends to be more active to ask our professor when I did not understand the topic. At one of the classes, I remembered how I asked my professor several times, with the same question. I could not thank him enough for being so patience to answer all those questions.

In the middle of first semester, we had to submit our first assignment. A week later, I found that I got the perfect score. I was tremendously happy. And I got my confidence back little by little. I felt more excited for the next assignments and reading was not unbearable burden anymore. First semester examination was on the way. And thanks again to this group. To prepare ourselves for the exam, we often spent late afternoon at coffee shop at our university to have informal discussion. Besides issues we had from the classes, we also discussed many political issues, from Turkey to Somalia, from Estonia to Indonesia, from conflicts in Africa to the ongoing Syrian war, and many more. One friend called us as the small United Nations, which was actually perfect, since we represent countries and continents. I can’t grateful more to have these people, who were willing to spare their times to answer the questions through the WA groups and direct discussion. One that I remember clearly, we had to walk in the middle of snowstorm for the sake of study. My friends had to support me to walk since it was my first snow experience. First semester passed well. Of course, I did not get the highest GPA, but it was much higher than I expected. IE also got good grades for that semester.

The next semesters also passed very well. I did not say it was easy. I still faced some difficulties for particular subject. But it was not as difficult as before. Perhaps, it was caused by many factors. I understood the topics better than before. I got my confidence back. I had more friends. I found that our school has swimming pool that later become my second sanctuary after home and library. Oh, I miss that pool so badly. I know Istanbul more, so I had list things to do in the weekend to explore the beauty of the city. I met more people out of university circle. I did voluntary works with refugees’ children. I had more dinner appointments, more coffee houses to visits, more afternoons spent in Besiktas with friends, more concerts to watch. Life was getting better, and I enjoyed every second of my life in Istanbul.

Well, thinking about those days, I could not stop smiling. Remembering those doubts, worries for being failed, confusions, and many more. But at the end, it passed well. I graduated on time. Well, my GPA is not the highest one in the class, of course. That honor went to my friends who genuinely helped me throughout those years, and of them is sitting in Geneva right now for his PHD program. However, my GPA is far higher from the standard the university sets in order to graduate, and from the target I had set to myself. I am happy with my decision to return to university, to learn new things, to meet great people along the way, to have another marvelous experience in life. I cannot grateful more. By writing these whole stories, I hope I can inspire everybody out there for not being afraid to return to school, as S inspired me. No matter how old you are, if I can do it, you can do it too. Don’t listen to people who have doubts of your strength and ability, just keep going. Be friends with anyone, regardless their race, nationalities, gender, beliefs, and ages. Accept the facts that people are different. Diversity makes life more colorful. Avoid negative energy. Be positive. Leave your comfort zone for a while. It could be scary but also wonderful in the same time.