Thursday, July 31, 2014

Workplace Sex Relations Part 2: Dissecting sexism

How does sexism drive institutional success? Change is hard, be it moving house or being promoted at work. One view regarding sexism involves the demotion of men’s position in society and the promotion of women’s. Demotion may include increased competition at the workplace, whereas, promotion materializes in the form of more likelihood to acquire more senior positions. Ever changing gender rights, primarily women’s rights, in the workforce has lent its benefits to men, as well. In Singapore, working fathers are entitled to one week of Government-Paid Paternity Leave for all births as long as the family fulfills the requirements. In the UK, a spouse or partner, including same-sex relationships, of the woman who gave birth may request a two week paid paternity leave. Moreover, being a stay-at-home dad has slowly gained acceptance in Europe and the U.S.
Nevertheless, some industries, such as banks, still rely heavily on male clients. In the institution that I intern in, men continue to be viewed as the breadwinner. Hence, more RMs target male clients over female, despite some culture’s tradition for the women to control the men’s income.

Sexism is packaged as a practical approach to acquiring new clients and new money, indicators of success for RMs, as well as maintaining current accounts. From my own experience, RMs tend to spend more time with male clients instead of female clients, be it on the golf course or in the premium meeting rooms.

Sexism is multilayered as the assumptions vary between several dimensions. For instance, prejudices against women regarding math, objectivity, and rationale hinder many RMs from explaining certain features of the bank, such as trading securities. Such prejudices, in addition to other assumptions such as the amount of time that women can contribute to her career, extend to the recruitment process, as well. The HR team is female dominated, whilst the fish bowl or trading room is occupied by men. Same goes for the board of directors.

Sexism is universal, which means that many of us, if not most of us are sexist. At the beginning of the internship program, we had the honor of having lunch with the CEO, a man who dabbled in investment banking before entering private banking. During lunch he jokingly asked to the person in charge of the program, whether or not there was any “Red Chinese Princesses”, which translated to demanding children of clients who often came from China and required “special treatment”. Even the CEO, the face of the company and the ultimate leader, looks out for such individuals.

Sexism is harmful, be it in terms of pursuing a career or receiving all the benefits from having a RM. I doubt that I need to spell out the adverse effects of sexism, but with the amount of sexism that has occurred whilst I interned, I think we could spare time to read a paragraph on the particulars.
          Ultimately, sexism prevents entire groups from developing, much like other forms of discrimination. For instance, a study showed that when a group was told that African Americans will do worse in a standardized test, namely the SATs, the African American participants tested lower than their White and Asian counterparts, and vice versa. This is just one example of stereotype threat, which entails a person to potentially confirm a negative stereotype regarding his/her social group. In comparison to men, women are more likely to stay at home with the children than men and sacrifice their career, because they believe that they are much better at parenting and are less likely to attain high ranking jobs.

          The harm of sexism goes both ways. Less focus is directed towards the impact of sexism on an institution or organization. In the case of the establishment where I intern, the portrayal of sexism in the TV ads may prevent women, a group that will continue to gain financially, to become clients. More alarmingly, bringing the existence of sexism to light may influence current clients’ relationship with the company. After speaking to some clients, they often ask their RMs and confront them regarding the lack of female representation in the bank’s profile. Some have reviewed the benefits of choosing the bank’s services to see how sexism has affected the management of assets.

          During the first week of the internship, I heard a consistent message from all of the speakers: “Our clients are important to us”. This message is consistent with the ad, which assures that the bank treats their customers as the customers would themselves. Both points have caused me to rethink the benefits of such an establishment. If the employees could blatantly say that women should go back to the kitchen and the CEO shows antipathy towards demanding young women, I wonder how they will treat me if I join the bank permanently. Moreover, how will they treat me if I become a client?

*Images are supplied by the author*All the images were supplied by the author

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Workplace Sex Relations Part 1: When stabbing others means stabbing yourself

Jaywalking through Singapore’s Central Business District (CBD), I look back on my first day of work, retracing the steps towards an opportunity to intern at a relatively new establishment. Compared to previous academic and job applications, this one was short, too short, so short that it prompted my brain to generate preconceived ideas about the institution and its people. But, if there’s one thing I have learned all these years, it’s to be open-minded.

Sad to say, life is ironic. Halfway through the first day, I stared at a screen as three members of the institution beamed at the TV commercial that was being displayed on the screen. The first was of a seemingly accomplished man who helped his chauffer change the tires of his luxury car. The second involved the same man and his relationship manager, a man who was portrayed as a hard worker, family man, and generous boss.
At the end of the presentation, one of the presenters showed other advertising material before opening the floor to any questions. The other interns stayed silent, I stared at the screen again, revising the question that has hovered over me and my desire to remain open-minded throughout the entire session. Since the presenters reiterated the importance of enquiry, I raised my hand. The primary speaker, a lady in a polka-dot halter dress and a dark cardigan, smiled her red lipstick lacquered lips at me. Still struggling to contain my rage, I asked calmly, “Why are the advertising materials so male oriented?”
I did not know that the room could become more silent, but it did. The lady’s ruby smile dropped into a flat line. Fortunately, her heart rate didn’t follow suit. Her spidery framed eyes narrowed up. Flabbergasted was the only word that came to mind. “Hmm… good question,” she bought time, before explaining that she had neither realized nor had the matter brought to her attention. Then she proceeded to say that the staff is well distributed between genders. I just nodded, both disappointed that they did not realize the impact of such messages and too fatigued to press the matter forward.

Perhaps, the marketing team did not consulted with other members of the institutions. Perhaps, they were on a tight deadline to finish the commercials. Perhaps, the issue just flew over their conscience. Whatever it was, I managed to water down the issue to a short rail of crumbs.
A week later, all the interns sat through a compliance training session, a half-day program where new recruits are briefed on the dos and don’ts of being part of the institution. As dry as the presentations were, one stood out. One of the lecturers chose an interesting, albeit treacherous analogy. To explain the importance to comply, she said that a woman who has plumbing problems at home should call the plumber and that at the end of the day, women should return to the kitchen. Everyone else save for the interns stared blankly at the speaker, while our eyes widened. At the end of the day, I wondered if this institution noticed the underlying trace of sexism in their system. Amidst my struggle to dilute the issue, a disturbing thought popped up: does this institution need sexism to survive and grow, especially when they can and have gotten away with it?

*The images were supplied by the author

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Appreciating Indonesia: Republished by Jakarta Globe

When feedback is hard to come by, positive reinforcement does not even seem possible. However, two weeks ago I wrote a piece inspired by a particular dinner meeting. The message has stayed on the tip of my tongue for the past few years, but it took a whole lot of smoke and a milestone election to push it to the tips of my fingers. A few days after publishing the piece, I received several encouragements to present it to a larger audience.

In Jakarta, there are two English publications that I have worked with: Jakarta Post and Jakarta Globe. Within five days of submitting the piece, it was published on the blog section of the Jakarta Globe. Sorry for the delay but finally I am able to re-feature this piece on Since this article has triggered strong feelings of many readers, I would be interested to hear your thoughts either on the comment section below or at the comment section underneath the Jakarta Globe article. Enjoy!


*The image was taken from Jakarta Globe blog section

Friday, July 18, 2014

Pressured to be Mean

A constant partaker of short sleep-away camps, seminars and internships, I have learned all the ways to remain low and undetected. Blatantly antisocial, building limited friendships was my shield of choice, persistently protecting me from bittersweet good byes and inevitable loss of contact. However, as I left behind my desk as an intern, I can’t help but think about staying, about continuing the relationships that were planted in the past few weeks. While social media assures me that we will stay in touch, in the loop of each other’s lives, the close proximity between Singapore and Jakarta diminishes the heaviness that I carry as I walk out the doors of this bank.

Part of the Between Us series by Sarah Choo Jing

Unfortunately, social media is located in a whole different realm than the day-to-day life. Years after Facebook’s rise to fame, the rush to connect online has tapered. Despite vague social regulations, generally, “real-life” relationships need to be established prior to connecting online. Some people say, small talk will do, others believe that numerous interaction should be a precursor. But, I have had limited interaction with most of the people at work. For one thing, all of us are at work, working, too busy to talk or joke about. On the other hand, some dash in and out of the office, diminishing any time to mingle during lunchtime or after work.

Yet, once I befriended one fantastic colleague, I can’t help but wonder if there’s more. And now, I pinch myself for not befriending more people at work. The professional environment in Singapore is rather different than the ones I’ve been exposed to in New York. Perhaps, this is due to the company, industry, and its values. In New York, I interned at a research lab at children’s centre and worked on photo shoots. Both required team members to work closely. Although, we did not branch out beyond our own teams, people were friendly with one another, extending the American culture of small talk to the office.

On the other hand, I was part of a small, tight knit team in Singapore. We were so small that we joined a larger team for team lunches and off-site events. Yet, very early on, I learned that saying, “Hello!” or “How are you?” was not the office culture. Hence, I refrained from asking people to go to lunch or after hour shindigs. Sensing the social pressure to go about my own business stopped me from being a friendly, albeit possibly annoying human being. Now, I regret my decision to stand-down as I have realized, a little too late, that some of my colleagues are great people with great personalities.

Forced to know one another
Peer pressure is a constant factor in life. As social beings, we generate etiquettes and traditions. Novel features, such as social media, may shift the balance, but it will still include some form of pressure. Years after World War II, we wonder how thousands of people watched as Hitler bulldozed Europe and exterminated an entire race. The world strongly stood against the Rwanda genocide. During the 2014 Indonesian Presidential election, many fought against a candidate with a chequered past who lead an entire army. In the past few weeks, millions have debated against or for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a blogger, I have realized the importance to join the conversation, be it the election or the conflict.

Pressure presents itself in various ways. It wears a mask that hides its true nature. Many have talked about social pressures ability to turn entire nations into villains. Much of the conversation talks about the extreme. However, what happens when social pressure stops you from being nice and friendly on a day-to-day basis in a peaceful country?  

Personally, I have learned to deviate from the social norm and ignore the social pressure the hard way. Although the ramifications are microscopic in light of racial genocide and territorial conflict, it maintains some form of influence on myself, at the very least. In this case, even the smallest mistakes could hold significance. Unlike a majority of larger issues, one does not realize the mistake and its results until it is much too late. Luckily, the conclusion is obvious: be aware of the social pressures around you, as well as use your instincts to prioritize and act accordingly. Don’t sweep a potential regret under the rug, instead take that leap of faith, one that might shake your reputation. The funny thing is this could go both ways, especially in a world where good and bad are becoming greyer and greyer. At the end of the tunnel, you might find a surprise waiting for you!

*The second photo was supplied by the author

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mr. and Mrs. Goo: Strangely inspired

A clumsy child at heart, I've always found curious bruises on my body. During the first year of college, I was strangely inspired by two bruises on my knee. Unlike most of the marks I've had, these two were close to each other but separated. What began as a pair of odd bruises manifested into a short reflection, which might be great reads to start the weekend with.

Mr. and Mrs. Goo

Knee. Two bruises stare back. Brand new, at least to me. Blue, no, black surrounded by yellow and sickening green. A ring of neon vomit around a black hole. Pathetically speaking, it isn’t so dark to indicate the illusion of infinite depth. Not gruesome enough, or at all actually. They are still watching. “What do you want from me?”, I want to scream, but can’t, especially in this bathroom. 

Are these Goos?

A thought crosses my mind and suddenly the walls chuckle. Stop right there! I am not as crazy as you may perceive me to be, yet. As they say, or I say, tiled bathroom walls that are too close to each other for comfort is infamous to be the ultimate copycat. Actually, I chuckled first then they followed. Not as sharp but certainly far more grandiose. 
Rewind, my darling brain, back to that zap of thought. If Mr. and Mrs. Goos, new names for a new couple, were actually just One Goo would I have noticed it at all? Black, blue, yellow and brown splattered all over my body. Not to mention gradations of skin color surrounding what used to be open wounds. Old, tattered and aged these markings were once representative of the foolish, yet often epic, accidents. Falling on top of the steps of the Sidney Opera House, tumbling in front of a llama, crushing my aunt’s rose bed in San Fransisco, and breaking my arm in Paris. How did scars become vintage memorabilia?

Count the Goos

Glancing back at The Goos, I can’t help but wonder if I would have even noticed my battered knee if it was only a spot, not two, just one. Being accustomed to darker, bloodier, and certainly larger scars I often look over the little ones. Little bruises, usually caused by sheer clumsiness, somehow didn’t make much difference. Multitudes of black and blue do not change me ever so slightly, even now when I have noticed them. A scar, on the other hand, becomes this new definition of my existence. With every sting felt comes a promise to be more cautious, comes a prayer for the pain to leave and never come back, comes a plea which resolves in tears. But two, even ten nickel-sized bruises won’t amount to even a single paper cut. 

Life. My life. Is it really only molded by epic, gory quests? Or does every jump to the next pixelated box that little pixelated me makes matter? Does a boy have to break my heart in order for me to fall in love with him? Does a friend have to stab me in the back for the friendship to mean anything to me? What kind of life would I lead? A battered one at the most. 

*All images are provided by the author

Monday, July 7, 2014

Your Vote Counts: Will you count on your own vote? And will it count for you?

            “Hopefully, Obama will win. Hopefully, Obama will win.” I said to myself, despite not being American. The past few hours have been festive. A tent equipped with giant projections of CNN, Fox News and Huffington Post, as well as free pizza fuelled our growing anticipation. A colour coded map of the United States stood before us, nervous liberal arts college students with worries ranging from college loans to reproductive health. The end of the night was nearing, the votes were being counted, I was worried, worried for the election outcome’s possible impact on Indonesian-U.S. relationships, and beyond worried for my friends and my dear school.
Will Indonesia fly or fall?

            Today, I am equally worried. Two days away from the Indonesian presidential election, my stomach is twisted. I feel constipated, I am constipated, not to mention bloated. Perhaps, it is the stress of being away from home or the stress of not being able to come back to the same home, ever. As an Indonesian, who is mostly identified by others as Chinese Indonesians, I have never been so worried about Indonesian politics ever before. Born in the early 1990s, I lived through the end of Soeharto’s regime. The May 1998 riots were barely etched in my memory, as I had the privilege of being a bemused child with family members living in a Muslim dominated neighbourhood. My limited understanding about the tragedy stemmed from the disappointment of realizing that Walmart at Lippo Karawaci had closed down. Little did I know, it was torched down by rioters.
            In the next decade, Indonesia saw a slew of leaders, beginning with B. J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. All brought their own strengths and weaknesses, which in turn, influenced the tides of fortune that enterred the country and left. Indonesia grew steadily, despite various political, natural and terrorist threats. In 2004, Indonesians flocked to voting stands for the first ever direct election, which marked a momentous step towards democracy.
            I am a born and raised Indonesian. More often than not, I have to emphasize that I was born and I was raised in this country, an archipelago that is rich in natural and human resources. A country that is diverse, yet united. A country that believes in gotong-royong or working together to maintain our independence. Having privilege has allowed me to live in other countries, perceived to be much grander than my own. I have been given the opportunity to study about my culture miles and miles away from foreigners who have only lived in Indonesia for two to four years at a time. I have had the pleasure of seeing how others see Indonesia and how Indonesians see Indonesia. The sight may not be appetizing, but it still speaks volumes.

            In the past, I was taught that my political voice was unimportant. It would be counted as zero, not one. Being at the ends of a bell curve somehow made the negation of my civil rights logical and worst, acceptable. Whilst I feel entitled to an education abroad, I did not feel entitled to vote in my own country. I did not worry about representation because I didn’t expect for any in the first place.
            As my anxiety regarding the 2014 Indonesian presidential election intensifies, it slowly catches up to the feelings I had during that fateful night in the fall of 2012. The tent was white, but all I could see was red or blue. I bit my nails, helplessly. The word was and perhaps, still is helpless. During the 2012 American presidential election, I did not have the civic right to vote. I was and am not a U.S. citizen. On the contrary, I can vote in this equally terrifying election. According to a letter that sits on my pantry, the identity card that is nestled in my purse, and a myriad other documents, I have the right to vote in the Indonesian election.
            Unlike many others, I missed the opportunity to vote abroad, where I am currently stationed. Hence, I have booked a ticket home to vote. Nonetheless, I have not boarded a plane back. The decision is still tucked in my palm, enclosed and temporary. In yester days, I believed that the candidates, their words during the debate, and the surveys would determine my decision. However, after a good long day at work, busily attending meetings and toilling around with the idea to write an election piece, I realized that I needed a starting point. By writing the beginnings of this essay, I traced the root of the problem: insecurity. 
            Writing this piece has been hard, because I continue to struggle with the same insecurities. I do not feel that I have a political say. I doubt that my voice will be heard or considered, let alone counted as one vote amongst many. I fear that casting my ballot will only support this argument. In the dark, I could rarely see another person with similar battles. But, I can see many who have the same doubts or who have resolved their doubts by focusing on the tight race between Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo. I see this and I tell myself that my fears may be true, despite all the technicalities involved. However, I have the choice to see it through. Much like an experiment, I can put my hypothesis on trial to achieve an outcome, an unknown outcome that will determine the next step. Thus, I shall undergo this test, I shall attempt to use my political voice, I shall vote.

P.S. Politicians, ranging from Obama to SBY to Jokowi and Prabowo, consistently say that YOUR vote counts. Oftentimes, the emphasis is placed on the nation or the candidate who says it. Now, let me ask you this: will your vote count for you? And will you count on your vote?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Two Minutes: Respecting time and others

“Two minutes!” the voice pleads through the small crack that was now suddenly closed. Half timid, half annoyed, I refrained from knocking again. Having run up a flight of stairs, anxious that I would miss my 3 PM conference, I leaned against the wall. Predictably, I fetched my phone from the pockets of my trousers and embark on a quest through Instagram. Before long my butt met the floor, my hand still attached to my phone and my ear yearned for the sound of the door to open. Two minutes passed to ten. Out of Candy Crush lives, I knocked again. Another plea for “Two minutes!” is heard.
            Since when did two minutes translate to twelve? Unfortunately, this was not an acute problem; instead it permeates geographical, cultural and socioeconomic borders. When did we start negating standard time?
Is everyone late?
            “Time is money!” must be one of the most prominent slogans in business. Unlike money, time can’t be rewind or recovered. In primary school, I participated in endless time management courses. Dazed and confused, I could not understand the importance of such sessions. The time is available everywhere, count all the clocks that are around you. Technological advances have allowed us to tell time instantaneously. We no longer need to decode the sundial or analyse the moon to find the time. Thus, why are people becoming more and more tardy? Or have we always been tardy? Or as I’d like to call it, time insensitive.
            In the past week alone, I have had to push back meetings, leave meeting halfway through, and basically reschedule a majority of my schedule due to other people being tardy. Yes, ladies and gentleman, this article is dedicated towards life’s lost time, as well as all the adjustments that each of us, both tardy and punctual, have to make accordingly. As a college student, I had certain stereotypes regarding people of various disciplines. However, all of these expectations have shattered.
To be honest, more often than not, I can only count on theatre people to come early, if not on time. Despite late rehearsal hours, each member comes early, sparing enough time to warm up, discuss certain issues, and prepare. During rehearsal, everyone’s preparation and at-home work are tested. For instance, actors learn their lines beforehand, trying hard to start remembering prior to the scheduled day when they need to be off book. Directors, on the other hand, come prepared with notes and strategies to move the show forward. Afterwards, we file out of the theatre after rehearsal ends, trying hard to keep it as tidy and clean as possible. Individuals who do not perform will often be notified during or after rehearsal. Nevertheless, despite the discipline that many theatre artists share, some still struggle. Yet, due to a strict system where notification and criticism are constantly provided in order to ensure that the preparation, i.e. rehearsal and tech, as well as the performance itself will go smoothly. Prioritizing on a common goal helped the cast and crew to check their ego at the door, as well as truly dedicate the designated time to the process.
Constrictions, be it in terms of budget or time, often act as drivers toward punctuality. For some reason, being poor in time and less pertinently, in funds lead towards a higher respect for your own time and other people’s as well. This brings me to the core of the discussion: respect, or lack thereof.

Or be punctual for the sake of being professional?

Being tardy, providing faulty pleas for more time, failing to notify people of delays ahead of time are just examples of disrespect. A few days ago, I ran from one building to another after messaging the person in charge of the meeting that I would be five minutes late, only to have to wait for twenty minutes because the speaker came late. A few months back, a friend laughed at me after I answered her question as to why I was early after telling her that I would be late. Granted I had just made a fool of myself by setting myself up to wait for half an hour for my friend and her boyfriend. Nevertheless, I told her that I would be late because I had predicted the risk based on the way traffic was moving. I would rather wait than cause her any inconvenience.
Respecting other people’s time entails respecting their schedule, personal and professional life, as well as their relationship with you. It shows that you acknowledge the other person’s life beyond this bubble you share with them. Moreover, it helps us manoeuvre various social borders, be it between managers and officers; parents and children; teachers and students; directors and actors; and so on. Although the politics of time tends to be convoluted, I believe that time remains one of the few fair elements in life, in the sense that time is granted to each one of us. Perhaps, our lifespans may not match, however seconds are always the same for everyone, so are minutes, hours, and days.
Ultimately, this directs me to my final point, which is to appreciate time and all the possibilities that come with it. The most frustrating aspect of facing tardiness is lost opportunities. For instance, if everyone were to be on time, we could realistically schedule back to back meetings. Hence, we might be able to fulfil our obligations on time, leave work early and spend more time with our family. On a larger scale, following a predetermined schedule can speed things along when it comes to projects with a lengthy supply chain.
As I resumed my position on the floor, I heard my stomach growl. Much like the matchstick girl who fantasized about the feast and the warmth of the indoors, I fantasized about all the things I could do with the time I had just lost. I could have gone up the stairs calmly, grab a cup of coffee or talk to my friends just a bit longer. Perhaps, I could have even scheduled a meeting with that other professor. The thoughts went on until the door clicked and I was finally in. Before my thirty minutes was up, I was pushed out the door because he needed to meet with another student. I thanked my lucky stars that I did not procrastinate and was only there to submit the work due in two weeks.

*Images are provided by the author

Friday, July 4, 2014

How Important Is It to Have Interned? (Translated from

Internships have become a common element of the conventional college experience. A pessimistic job market, following the 2008 financial crash, have lead towards mounting pressure to intern. However, how important is is to join an internship program? How do you find an internship? What is the use of an internship? In May, I provided some answers to these questions at Yet, due to a shift in readership, I wrote the post in Bahasa Indonesia and English.

Ultimately, the issue of interning is universal, especially in a globalized world. Hence, I proceeded to translate it to English. Enjoy!

Internship for the Future

"Do we really need internship experience?" the question comes to my mind as I stood a few steps away from the tent where the annual Job and Internship Fair was held. Like many other students, my days were packed with classes, club activities and school work. Finding the time to meet friends or explore New York City has been a constant challenge, let alone participating in an internship program. Slowly I browse various booths assigned to various companies and organizations, including NBC, a well-established television company in the United States; Penguin Group, a major international book publisher, in addition to several non-profit foundations. Although I have a background in writing, global health, psychology, and theatre, I did not have clear professional goals. The word 'internship' already felt so awkward that I could not even utter the word 'job'. In less than an hour, I left the tent with some brochures and pack of business cards.

A few weeks later I decided to apply to Michael Kors, a fashion design house in Manhattan. Communication issues resulted in a fruitless pursuit. More importantly, I lacked the passion to “lean in”. The next year I applied at (RED), a nonprofit organization supported by musician, Bono, and large technology companies, such as Apple. Again the proposal was rejected due to scheduling difficulties. Without a clear direction and a back-up plan, I struggled to keep the paranoia at bay and avoid concerns related to the consequences of my limited experience on my professional future.  

Essentially, an internship experience may add some weight to one’s job application or graduate school application. Elevated global competition has resulted in increasingly strict job and graduate school entry requirements. Most companies and schools look for students who already have some work experiences. Apprenticeships are often held during the midyear vacation. Many Indonesian students abroad who return to Indonesia will try to gain some experience in urban cities such as Jakarta.

In the summertime, I spent a few weeks in the classroom, taking summer classes. More than a year ago, I studied at New York University, where I met my first internship boss. Although she was not looking for an internship at the time, I took the initiative to ask a couple of weeks before the program ended. Fortunately, based on the performance I showed, the professor accepted my application. Soon, I joined her research team at the NYU Child Study Center. In September 2013, I began my unpaid internship, since my visa did not allow me to work. However, I successfully negotiated to become the last author of any papers or presentations I was to be involved in.

Although I had to budget daily round trips from Bronxville to New York City and missed my lunches on campus, I have garnered some experience and distinctions that have proven useful when applying for graduate school and participating in research. A few strategies to consider during an internship are to demonstrate negotiating skills and enthusiasm for learning. Being a team member who is consistently on deck and performing well helped me acquire more responsibility to process data, write articles and putting together presentations for academic conferences.

Internships usually require a lot of time and commitment. Look for an exciting and challenging job is salient as its purpose is to learn obtain new skills and explore a certain field or profession. An internship could be a stepping stone to your bigger goal, remain open to new tasks and do not hesitate to speak with a supervisor or mentor about your professional goals.

Here are some pointers:
1. Always have your resume/CV up to date, neat and attractive.
2. Often, universities will prepare students with workshops or job/internship fair. There are some schools that have a network of alumna and organizations to connect students with internship and job opportunities.
3. Research the job and company that you are applying to. Find out the qualities sought by the company by looking at the staff’s profile.
4. After sending the application, often the organization will contact the applicant within a few weeks.
5. You may receive rejection letters, so do not be discourage. You may also receive a job offer directly or invited for interview. Practice with a friend, teacher or career advisor at your school to prepare. Try to think of questions to ask and answer. Do your best during the interview and after that, it's good to send a thank you and follow-up email.

Internship is not a mandatory activity, but with increasingly intense competition, it's good to prepare for the future by undergoing internship. Based on my experience, interning has provided an opportunity to learn and achieve several aspirations that have helped me to continue to graduate school. Hopefully the tips are useful for you! Good luck!

*All of the images were supplied by the author

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Indonesia: Under appreciated, under appreciative, and regretful

            Smoke divided the table, as we managed the meat that simmers above the sizzling pan. The conversation was as equally grey as the colour of the beef staring back at us, helplessly being turned upside down and vice versa. Not only did the tone remain, but with every subject change, we refused to depart a certain thread. Earlier in the evening, we began the meeting by discussing an Indonesian generated educational software that is now used and being acquired by Singapore. Then, we moved on to the struggle faced by foreign educated, Indonesian physicians in gaining medical licenses in Indonesia. Before long we touched Indonesia’s zero tolerance for dual citizenship. 

            The 2014 Indonesian presidential election daunts on me as I write this article, a piece that primarily discusses fellow Indonesians’ tendency to have regrets. Living outside of my home country has provided me with a fresh perspective, one that I could not fully form as a high school student in Tangerang. The issue was and still is on our people’s ability to appreciate ourselves, our resources, and our country. As a high school junior, I could not understand why everyone cheered me on as I applied to various colleges thousands of miles away from home. When I graduated, I could not wrap my mind around the idea of leading a better life in the U.S. As a college freshman, I still did not understand why Indonesians tend to vilify their country, instead of firmly standing beside it like other nationalities do to their own countries. During my second year, I longed to clear my mind amidst Jakarta traffic, instead of the chaos of a New York subway. Once I received my BA, an idea slowly dawned on me.

            After a depressing discussion on what Indonesia inherently lacks, I realized that these regrets stemmed from a need to be validated by others, especially members of more developed nations. When talking about the educational software, one of us said, “The software must be great, Singapore’s even using it!” The same goes for the foreign educated doctors, “If they can receive degrees from other countries and teach there, as well, they must be experts in their fields.” Although we didn’t go as far with regards to dual citizenship, I suspect that some of us believe that individuals with dual citizenship are upstanding citizens because they receive said status elsewhere. Other countries here often include the U.S., U.K., and Australia, developed countries where many Indonesians seek education, training and work.
            Ironically, the answer was right under our noses, perhaps right in the centre of our discussion: sizzling helplessly on the pan. The smoke was far too thick for us to see what was left on the hot metal. We could not see how many piece of meat was there. We could not analyse the meat to ascertain whether it is cooked or not. Luckily, underappreciating ourselves and our country are possible sources of the three issues we spoke about. However, a tendency to underappreciate does not manifest into short term solutions. Instead, Indonesia is faced with complicated, intrinsic trait to abhor all things Indonesian until a larger, more powerful country finds value in it. As a result, we are always a few steps behind and always clouded with regret. Why didn’t we claim the Tortor dance or the song Rasa Sayange before Malaysia did? Why didn’t we implement strong maritime regulations to stop illegal fishing before it occurred? Why didn’t we do this or that before it was too late?
            Prior to dinner, I listened to a cab driver rant on and on about East Timor’s separation from Indonesia. Half Surabayan and half Singaporean, the man asked why Indonesia failed to maintain Tim-Tim. He wallowed in the fact that we lost an island that is now, allegedly, being mined by Americans. Again, we lost to time and eventually, to other countries. Many Indonesians did not see the value of East Timor until years after it was released.
            Living in Indonesia is akin to living in a tropical island. Although, we import rice from Thailand and acquire other materials from various other countries, we can essentially live off the land. Diverse resources, both natural and artificial pushed us to be complacent, to stop appreciating what is available to us. As a child, I used to coo at the silhouette of mountains that grazed before me on the way to Bintaro. Today, busy with emails and calls, I often forget to even acknowledge its presence. An abundance of culture, natural wonders, and hence opportunities have prevented us from being an appreciative nation. We seize to protect our land and claim the uniqueness of our country. We seize to manage what we currently have in order to prompt it to grow healthily and sustainably.

            Yet, as I have stated above, learning to appreciate takes time and effort. The course will not be as tangible as learning how to knit or cook. Instead, it requires us to observe, pay attention, compare and contrast, analyse, as well as determine what our country means to us. Each Indonesian has his/her own set of privileges. These privileges will make us appreciate different things. An Indonesian who grew up in Sengkang, South Sulawesi, might appreciate the Bugis culture’s recognition of five genders. An Indonesian who grew up in Bandung may appreciate how the university town survived Bandung Lautan Api incident of 1946. Our appreciation could contrast, as well. Take the foreign educated doctor, in Jakarta such doctors are a normal sight, however in places where health practitioners are scarce, any physician are more likely to receive a warm welcome.
On a larger scale, learning how to appreciate will be impacted by external factors, such as our government, media, education, health system, and other country’s response. The coming election will influence the characteristic of the Indonesian people, including our ability to appreciate ourselves and our country.
            Now, other country’s response to Indonesia is included in the list of external factors, despite previous comments on other people’s reliance on such sources of validation. Foreign beliefs regarding Indonesia, its people, its resources, and its inventions should act as one pillar of affirmation amongst many. We should give more weight to our evaluation. For instance, the software may not be as successful in Indonesia due to lack of infrastructure and/or a knack for computer learning. Gauge how certain items can benefit our own backyard, instead of our neighbour’s.

            “Bagaimana Indonesia bisa maju jika kita kecolongan terus?"; “How can Indonesia develop if we constantly lose our resourcse?” was asked repeatedly throughout the night. Relying on ourselves and our evaluation will encourage local and nation-wide growth. Appreciating what we have will push us through this rough patch. And ultimately, believing in ourselves will help us succeed, on our own terms.

*All of the images were supplied by the author