Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Packing My Suitcase: An extension of my 10th Indonesia Mengglobal Post

As my tenth post for Indonesia Mengglobal I decided to write an introduction to the concept of 'senioritis'. A condition that rampantly affects many seniors in the United States, senioritis appeared to be one way to explain the roller coaster of emotions that one would feel at the end of high school or university. However, it appears that senioritis was far more debilitating among college students, who had a larger array of options, including finding a job, taking a gap year, or continuing their education. Personally, I had my first encounter with the predicament during freshman year, as I sat in my don's office listening to then seniors anxiously talk about their future.

Throughout the conversation, they would fluctuate from extreme excitement to utter disgust at the inevitable end to their journey at Sarah Lawrence. Seemingly, the symptoms and the severity varied based on one's future plans or lack thereof. Students who had a clear path to follow seemed less agitated at the prospect of entering the "real world". A portion of this group, of course, would not actually dive into the workforce immediately after, such as individuals who were bound for grad school. The rest, who were obviously terrified, often had no clear post-graduation plans. Many lacked a job or the experience to smoothly transition into the workplace. Others were more interested in traveling and taking a gap year, but the majority were unprepared financially to support their current lifestyles.

In comparison to students in the U.S., which include domestic and international students, the study body in Indonesia showed less apprehension towards graduation. Many focused on the ceremony itself by choosing the perfect kebaya, the traditional costume for women in Java, for the occasion. Others already have a job or a school to go to afterwards. Even the ones who had no path to follow were less concerned with the future. I suspect that this is due to the constant social support that many Indonesians have.

Despite differing cultures and tribes, Indonesia is largely a collectivist society. A prominent motto of ours is gotong-royong, which loosely translates to working together. The tendency to collectively tackle an issue has its pros and cons. Yet, in terms of leaving university, the existence of a community and endless social support dissolves most of the tension that fresh graduates often have. At the very least, it decreases and even cradles these anxieties, allowing for a more optimistic view of what is to come. For instance, while Western twentysomethings increasingly left home after the age of eighteen, both to pursue an education and a career, Indonesian twentysomethings stayed. Currently, America is seeing a trend of fresh graduates moving back into their childhood bedrooms. On the contrary, most Indonesians, especially those in large cities and college towns, such as Jakarta, Bandung, and Yogyakarta, refrained from departing.

The same goes in terms of finances. Growing up in Indonesia, I heard rumors that many Western young adults were financially cut off by their parents after receiving their bachelor's degree. Therefore, many begin working in high school or college. Financial independence was further emphasized by pushing kids to begin working at a young age, be it delivering the paper in the morning or attending to the local convenient shop. My cousin in the Netherlands began working in his teens, which shocked many relatives in Indonesia, even though it is a norm in his home country. In contrast, a small proportion of Indonesian college students work. Those who do are usually studying in foreign countries, where it is much more socially acceptable. Perhaps, a stigma surrounds students who work. Some of my friends are discouraged by their parents to take on a job, because it may imply that the latter is unable to support their family sufficiently.

Do they have one that says "Goodbye New York"?
A lack of financial independence in Indonesia extends beyond college graduation. A majority of my friends who are in their late twenties continue to live at home or gain some sort of financial compensation from their relatives. When financial independence is earned, most Indonesian young adults continue to receive social support from their family members, whether it is in raising their children or maintaining a household. Clearly, these tendencies are not isolated in Indonesia, yet it is far more socially acceptable and frequent in such a collectivist society.

Currently, graduation is seven weeks away. Although, I don't have to fret about my future due to a solid plan to enter graduate school, I do experience some symptoms of senioritis, including nostalgia. Rather than being nervous about the next season, I have not been able to digest the prospect of not returning to Sarah Lawrence next semester. On the other hand, I feel a sense of relieve for not having to relive the registration process or bearing another winter in New York. Senioritis, it seems, is less of a debilitating condition than it is a symptom of transition. Turned off by change, I am disenchanted by the prospect of moving to a new city, building a new network and living a new routine. Even so, at the very least, it will give me something to talk about.

The link to the article, which is written in Bahasa Indonesia: http://indonesiamengglobal.com/2014/03/senioritis-penyakit-menular-antara-mahasiswa-tahun-akhir/

The article will be translated into English, seeing that most of KisahJika.com's readers are located outside of Indonesia. Here is the long awaited link: http://www.kisahjika.com/2014/04/an-indonesian-girls-battle-with.html 

*All photos were supplied by the author

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