At last, our gut, perseverance, and risk acceptance level that determine our success. 

- Aidy Halimanjaya -

I was 22 years old once. It was a time when I was young and not sure what I want to become. At that time, the only thing I was pretty sure is that I want to go abroad. I tried to open two option doors: working or studying abroad. Seems not too many options so I decided to pursue both and see what come first to me. It appeared that the pathway that was open leading to an extraordinary experience

in Brazil. I was supported by a scholarship to work as a trainee for a start up social business in Sao Paulo during summer 2009. Through the process I learned to find my true self as well as exposed to the opportunity for empowering Gastromotiva, a Brazilian social business start up. The experience allowed me for excelling my strategic management skills, facing start up challenges, and also learning a few recipes, flavour and taste in cooking. This ability of feeling and tasting has improved my self awareness and this transcends to many aspects in life.

After my time as the president of AIESEC (an international youth organisation) in Indonesia completed, I was in a major limbo. Not only post little power syndrome was hitting, but also loosing a community and team were a hard situation to face. I spent 6 months in Jakarta to improve my english and prepare for a TOEFL test, GMAT tests and applying for universities' programme and AIESEC traineeship programme, which can bring me abroad for having a traineeship. It was more work than a full time job I can say, plus it was a tough crossroads where I was not sure with my potentials anymore. I was feeling short because of my academic english is a bit behind. My GMAT trial tests were not showing an indication that I could enter the ivy league Master Public/Business Administration programmes in the USA. I also felt that I was not fully fitted with what professional world needs. It is simply because my competence developed during AIESEC leadership experience is extended too far beyond most of the competencies needed for many traineeship jobs around the world. Many traineeship posts are very administrative and placed in very bottom of the organisational chains. A very frustrating time indeed. Nonetheless I decided to keep looking and continuously learning.

For studying abroad, I decided to apply for two programmes in two different continents: Master of Public Administration (MPA) in New York University (NYU) (America) and Master of Public Administration (International Management and Public Policy) in Rotterdam, the Netherlands (Europe). Firstly I chose MPA because I read in many social science books that policies are instrument for big change. Yet I did not know how different the world of public policy and the people are from what I had in mind. I did not think that I might not like the ecosystem of where public policies lies. When I chose university, it was pretty sporadic and random. I was so attracted to an MPA programme in NYU simply because I was following the tail of my predecessor in AIESEC who applied for the similar programme and awarded a scholarship. Then I think to have a second option and looked around in the internet another public policy course. I found one in Rotterdam. It seemed promising since I thought I could connect with people in AIESEC Rotterdam where the headquarter of AIESEC global is located. I wish I had a better structure in selecting universities. This is also the motivation of writing this lessons sharing. I hope future generation who is facing a similar situation has a better guidance in analysing his/her options.

For working abroad, I decided to apply to as many international traineeships as possible. I sent my applications to traineeship manager when the job description speaks to my interest. I was not prioritising on developed countries although that would be a privilege if I could get the opportunity. After almost a hundred emails I sent, only less than 10% came back to me and a half of it said that they will follow up the application without knowing when would be further notice. Oh! What a painful process. After four months, I finally had two final interviews. One is for a strategic management trainee in Time Warner located in Hong Kong. It is one of the largest media companies in the world that is a home for various media platforms like Time magazine, New Line Cinema, HBO, Cartoon Network, CNN, etc.. The other final interview was coming from Brazil, a social enterprise focusing on gastronomy. Social business is a field which I knew conceptually and I really like personally. Nonetheless I did not know at all about gastronomy and food industry. It also feels a bit uncertain with the requirement to have a good Portuguese, a foreign language which I never heard before. At the last moment, I did not get the internship in Hong Kong. It is very disappointing since Time Warner with its global power would leverage my CV 1 million times while doing a traineeship in a small NGO in Brazil will make my CV cool to a small degree. But I never knew that Brazilian experience is more important for my personal development. 

If I could repeat the same process, I would keep the openness for pursuing both and see which one comes first, but I would have a different approach. First I would not see my english as my weakness and would not applied for lower rank universities. I would be open to apply to minimum five universities by ranking them based on several criteria. First is the curriculum and the content of the programme. The quality of the curriculum can be seen based on their school/dept rank (not the uni rank) and the reviews of its students. Simply find them online and ask the department and I would make a few phone calls via Skype to check. Second is the student communities and opportunities outside of the class, such as student communities, internship, sports, outdoor activities, and debates. These I feel are very important for international students to explore. I would say they bring extraordinary values to my student life. Thirdly is the cost of living. Either with or without scholarship I would choose a city in which things like accommodation and transports are not super expensive like London or Tokyo. I would feel so restricted as a student in a city like that when I live as a student with or without limited budget. This kind of city is also not bringing the right vibe to study properly.

I recommend people who are at the cross roads to create a matrix table and lay down the options and weigh them with heart. There are other considerations which may be different from one to another. Some people have relatives abroad and that eases a lot when you live next to them. But in my case, I do not have any one to rely on. So these criteria above are for those who are totally relying on their own feet. I can say a few tips about choosing traineeships. I will do what I have done. I would go for a unique experience and find a place where I can find my true self than set up a basis for my career. Brazil gave me so much energy and passion which is beyond description. 

Good luck and all the best for your personal and professional endeavour. Once Loren Gary says, it is critical to distinguish between "a well-planned experiment and a roulette wheel" (this phrase taken from a book 'A start up nation' by Dan Senor and Saul Singer).