Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Roads to Castle


Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle – George R Martin. Game OfThrone

Recently, I really enjoyed watching the TV Show Game of Throne (GOT). This show is another way to learn about my favorite subject, geopolitics.

Chris O'Regan, a user of Quora, a knowledge website,  said that GOT has drawn inspiration from actual historical  events. The biggest similarity is that the story resembles events that occurred during medieval times in England particularly the Wars of the Roses. There are two houses in GOT, Stark and Lannister. Stark sounds like York and Lannister sounds like Lancaster.

Watching GOT also reminds me of my undergraduate thesis in 2012. I wrote about political contestation between student groups in my university, from a geopolitical point of view. Some people said it was an unusual topic. But in 2014, it was published as a book titled ‘Geopolitik Islam Kampus’ (Islam Geopolitics in University) and until now I still get orders for it . I had also essays published in other anthologies.

My previous area of study  was geography at the University of Indonesia (UI) which is located outside of  Jakarta, which is far away from my home in Padang. This  gave me many  opportunities to explore the world. I have been on many journeys in the last five years. My travels were similar to Arya Stark’s adventures in GOT. I visited nine countries: Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Australia, Japan, Iran, India, Qatar, and Canada ; joining exchange programs and participating in conferences, forums and workshops. I found many differences, but always tried to be culturally sensitive , in order to achieve  mutual understanding as a global citizen. This is how I discovered my passion for human geography.

My journey really helped my English skills a lot. I got a job later as a research assistant for PhD candidates from the University of Toronto. We conducted research in politics and discriminations toward minority groups in Indonesia . I continued in the same position with the National University of Singapore researching urban spaces in Jakarta. This is my current job and I also work as a freelance writer for mass media outlets in Indonesia. These jobs make me feel like a“highborn” noble man in GOT   who has a good levels of literacy.

GOT has inspired me  to learn more about Britain.  Hence I tried to find a human geography program with a geopolitical cluster in  the United Kingdom. Eventually, I found the taught program in Human Geography Research at Newcastle University,. This course provides advanced-level training in research skills, methods and theories which I believe will enhance my career.

Newcastle University is one of the leading institutes for geographical research in the UK. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, 90% of Newcastle Geography research was rated of international significance or better. I want to be part of that group of researchers. Indonesian students at Newcastle University are still unusual. By becoming one of the students, I hope to encourage the exchange of ideas and contribute to broadening the vistas of both students and staff as well as my own.

How will I do this?, I will apply my previous knowledge and experiences to the course, like the Lannisters applied theirs to win the wars in GOT. I include examples  of relevant work, voluntary or study and organizational experiences that illustrate my skills.

In 2012, I was chairperson of Kelompok Studi Mahasiswa Eka Prasetya UI, a Student Research Club, as well as final year student finishing my thesis. This required strict time management. I successfully finished my study on time and brought recognition to the club with completed two major sustainable projects which are still  in existence today: Research Camp and Desa Penelitian (Country of Research).

Although I was in a leadership position in the club, I am a strong believer in team work and shared decision making. I also had experience working as part of a team when I joined the Asian Students Exchange in Japan where I had the opportunity to work with brilliant students from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and also Japan. I learned to become a good team player and feel I made an effective contribution. I took part in creating presentation slides based on our difficult and challenging discussions.

Another time, when I met people who talked too much in the meeting though less action in the field, here I had to work in order to accomplish the projects. I faced this situation and gained many lessons in project management. In 2013 I took part in Youth Leaders in Action  in partnership with Canada World Youth (CWY) and the Indonesian Government. We worked on several community development projects both in Canada and Indonesia. One of them was a literacy class which published a poetry anthology

All these experiences gradually improved my communication skills.  More recently, I carried out research  for the Slum Alleviation Policy and Action Plan (Sappola) Institute. I visited a number of slum areas in Jakarta and conducted interviews with residents. I also learned a great deal from this experience.

Every article I write brings with it new challenges but I face these head on and enjoy the opportunity to problem solve.  In December 2014, I received a complaint from the Chief of the Indonesian Youth Forum (Forum Indonesia Muda-FIM) of which I was also a member.  He was disappointed when a Liberal Arts group (also part of FIM) I was leading, submitted an article that took a position he did not agree with.  The issue being discussed was a sensitive one and he suggested we either separate from the Indonesian Youth Forum or change our position.  In the name of freedom of speech, the Liberal Arts group was not prepared to change its position but we did make some changes to the article by offering both points of view.

Those are my experiences and skills.If in GOT, The Lanninsters then conquer King’s landing  and have power in seven kingdoms, I also had some successes and achievements from mine, that are relevant to the course and show my aptitude for postgraduate study.

In 2012, I received an award for Outstanding Student in my faculty. Throughout 2012, my opinion pieces were published each month in the student section of a national  publication. In 2013,  I started submitting main stream editorials. I succeededin being published in three big national publications. I now write regularly for national publications. My most recent article was published in February 2015 and was about flooding and behavioral geography.

I also have received a number of government, private sector and NGO scholarships including the prestigious Dompet Dhuafa for Indonesian Activism.

It will never be called as achievement if I couldn’t join this program which fits also into my career plans. Research in human geography, particularly geopolitics, will hopefully lead to work with related International or European Institutions to get world class experiences as well as improve my skills. Afterwards, I shall continue on to complete a PhD and then return to Indonesia or South East Asia to be lecturer and researcher.I would like to develop the study of human geography and research in those countries. Furthermore, I want to find a mid point between Possibilism Geography and Determinism Geography.

Finally, I wish, either my different roads or various experiences, will lead me to the ‘new castle’ and in the end perhaps lead me to the same castle, my country. 

Tulisan ini adalah Esai Personal Statement yang diterima untuk Postgraduate Program di University of Glasgow, King's College London, dan Newcastle University

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