Each year we invite IB alumni to share their experiences, interests and advice with our global community in the graduate voices series. Diploma Programme (DP) graduate from Sekolah Pelita Harapan Sentul City in Indonesia, Maharani Hariga shares why she chose to attend university in Japan as well as the lessons she learned from changing careers after graduation.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”—Neale Donald Walsch
I have spent most of my academic life abroad. After graduating from high school, I completed my undergraduate education at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (Ritsumeikan APU), Japan. From university, I then transitioned to life in a career. Four-years later, I once again am continuing my education in a Master’s programme at Lancaster University, UK. In each case I chose to continue my studies abroad.
In Indonesia, the Diploma Programme (DP) is followed by private international schools and studying abroad from Indonesia with an IB diploma comes with some benefits. In fact, without putting much thought into it, it’s an obvious choice. An IBDP graduate could continue her studies at a national university, but only after following national examinations (more exams!) and diploma legalization (more paperwork!). When I made that first decisions to go abroad, there were both personal and technical reasons behind it, but I could never have predicted the lasting impact on my life—from being immersed in a new culture, finding a job, and learning to embrace change along the way.
Change #1: From “Hello” to “Konnichiwa”
In 2008, the trend of study-abroad destinations among my cohort was Australia, the US and Canada. From the beginning, I knew that I didn’t want to follow the herd (for a reason!), so I only applied to universities in Asia. The idea was to go to a place where I can learn a third language after Bahasa Indonesia and English. Even so, I was interested in a university with English as the medium of instruction but allow us to learn the country’s language. My first choice was Mandarin Chinese, with Japanese to follow. I was interested in Mandarin Chinese because it is the language of my heritage; Japanese because I was a fan of its culture of anime, video games and J-Pop.
After being rejected from two universities in Singapore and wait-listed in one Hong Kong university, I was accepted into Ritsumeikan APU in Japan. At that time, this university was less than 10 years old; it was a young university. I’d heard of Ritsumeikan APU from my friend, whose sister had been going there. Different from most Japanese universities, Ritsumeikan APU offers flexibility to choose between English and Japanese as the language of instruction. For those who choose English as the language of instruction, there are mandatory Japanese language lessons, which needed to be passed as one of the graduation requirements. This sounded like a great deal as I could study for my degree and learn a new language simultaneously without having to complete language courses prior to doing the programme, which was most common in universities when I was applying.
It was not until later that I understood the strategic advantage of immersing myself in Japanese culture and language. Japan, a country who used to be an economic giant with companies like Honda, Rakuten, Hitachi, to name a few, now has headquarters scattered throughout the globe. Speaking Japanese is an asset as Japanese speakers are in high demand for employees. It helped me in acing interviews in Japanese and helped me land my first job in a senior management position of a newly-established Japanese trading company in 2013, back in Indonesia.
Change #2: From a Social Scientist to a Digital Technologist
“Leaving a comfort zone of stability was not easy, but necessary for my growth.”
My degree from Ritsumeikan APU was Bachelor of Social Sciences with concentration in Comparative Studies of Society and Culture. It took me 4 years to realize it can only take me so much in life. As the senior manager of a newly-established Japanese company in Indonesia, my work covered all areas of business. This included accounting, taxation, hiring new recruits and troubleshooting IT.
I understood a thing or two about troubleshooting faulty WIFI drivers on Windows 10 and setting up the company’s email addresses. But when it comes to designing the company’s IT network architecture, I realized my deficiencies in this department. This work became more challenging, especially in doing something I have not been officially trained for. At that time, I decided not to hire an IT specialist, because apart from doing an occasional troubleshoot, the hire would not have anything to do except to double for other roles. I strongly feel that without understanding technology and its implications in business, I would not have competitive advantage in life.
In the end, I decided to quit my job and pursue a Master in E-Business & Innovation in Lancaster University in the UK. Leaving a comfort zone of stability was not easy, but necessary for my growth. I understood that going back to academia after 4-year hiatus would take some time to adjust. Meeting new people, learning from them and reflecting on what I have learnt all these times. The whole process has been a humbling one. I never imagined that I would design a mobile app wireframe as a part of solution for virtual tourism, but that was what I did by the end of the programme. This would have never happened if I chose to stay at my work.
“When we accept change, only then we can enjoy and live in the moment.”
I was asked a lot of questions on my decisions to continue my studies in Japan and pursue my degree at Lancaster University. Why did I forgo the convenience of transferring IB credits over new language and cultural experience? (Note: at that time, transferring credits from IBDP course was not common at Ritsumeikan APU). Why choose Lancaster University and not London?
I usually answer, “Because my programme of choice is only available there”. But apart from this obvious, technical answer, it ultimately pins down to embracing the unknown. Like Sinbad the Sailor, who knew that each voyage means adventure, sailing down toward the uncharted sea. Just to see what lies beyond the path is where the fun is.
Life does not always have to be straight-forward. It is great if one knows their life plan to the minute detail (which makes it easier to decide which college major to choose!). For those who are not fortunate in knowing their plans, don’t be afraid. We have the capability to embrace change, which is necessary for growth. Interests and aspirations change, in addition to external factors we may not have considered before. When we accept change, only then we can enjoy and live in the moment.
Maharani Hariga graduated from Sekolah Pelita Harapan Sentul City in Indonesia, before globe-trotting to Japan’s Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (undergraduate) and then to UK’s Lancaster University (postgraduate). Her interests include languages comparison, intercultural communication, international education and Pusheen the cat. She is currently looking to start her own business in the UK. You can connect with her via LinkedIn.
To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!