My fellow Indonesian, as you already know, there are a lot of challenges that our country faces. I think, what we need is a group of capable young people, committed to their country and internalize their religion’s values. I just wanted to encourage three things: Maximize time and opportunity, aim for the top, and always think and strive for the disadvantaged.
- Maximize the time and opportunity
Not many people are as lucky as us. We can enjoy higher education, technologically savvy, and have time to browse the internet =). All of these lead to the conclusion that we have to maximize the opportunity that we have. We have the responsibility towards people who are not as lucky as us.
All episodes in our life are training from Allah. Then let’s us maximize this training. Be remember that our current condition right now was shaped by what we did before. Our condition in the future depends on what we are doing right now. We have to keep doing things better and always be better. The training from Allah would be different in every episodes of our life. I just wanted to share a bit story of my journey, why I can be where I am today.
After finishing my elementary school, my parent registered me in an Islamic junior high school, known as the best in my province. The school located around 5 to 6 hours by public bus from my home at that time. Thus I have to live in the school dorm. Thank to Allah, I was accepted. That was my first time to be in a diverse environment. The students are coming from different provinces and they are definitely bright. One thing which a bit shocked me was the text book. The text book the school use was so good, the publisher is called Erlangga. That was the first time for the see that (good) type of text book. I used to use a local text book in my elementary school, it is a text book which was written by teachers union in the province, not a national text book like Erlangga. When I asked my friends, they said they already use Erlangga since their elementary school. I was like, “O ow”. Time goes; I got rank 17.5 in my first caturwulan (first 4 months). Why do we have 0.5? Because there was another student who got the same grade, so we share the rank. Frankly, getting rank 17.5 was a bit shock for me, I always got rank #1 for 6 years in a row during my elementary school. Second caturwulan, I moved to rank #5, and finally, in caturwulan III, I got the 3rd place. Move to 2nd grade, I was in the same class with the batch champion (as we have 6 classes per batch). I can only got the 2nd place during that year. Finally in the 3rd grade, I’m not in the same class with her anymore, Alhamdulillah I got the 1st place until graduated.
With a quite good track record during junior high school, I was accepted in the best senior high school in the province. Again, I met bright student from neighbouring province. Those three years were among the best time in my development stage as a person. I learnt how to life, I learnt more about Islam and start to practice it better in my life. I was introduced to the Muslim Kaffah (a total Muslim) concept at that time. Those three years were completely perfect, I learnt to memorize qur’an, involve in organization, etc. One story about persistence: In my first year, my school supposed to send 5 delegations for physic Olympiad in regency level. The teacher appointed four 2nd grade students and one 1st grade student, which was me. The announcement of regency level selection came. We were gathered and five delegations to provincial level were called to the front. You know what the result was? Number 1 until 4 are from my school, and number 5 is…., from another school. So I was the only delegation from my school that can’t make it to provincial level. I was very ashamed, can’t show my face to my friends and teacher. Feels like wanna kill myself. Then I decided not to give up. I understood that if I give up, I won’t have a chance to be better, if I keep trying, at least there is possibility that I can be better. Time passed, in my 3rd year, I and my team won competitions in physic, chemistry, and math for senior high school students in the whole Sumatera Island. I was grateful that I didn’t give up two years before. The 3rd year was also my first time to ride a plane, to join math competition in Jakarta.
I graduated. Now come the time to make a decision. What I wanna be later. I join a university exam preparation course. From the try outs, I understood that I can pass the exam to be accepted in the best university, whether in medical school of university of Indonesia (the best medical school) or to school of electric and information engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology, also the best school for its field in the country. I just prayed to Allah to guide me. At that time I was thinking: If I want to give big contribution for Indonesia, then maybe being a medical doctor or engineer is not the right choice. In my mind I just think that if chose those two fields, I’ll just be someone who is comfortable with my life, with my income later with a small chance to make a big change. Then I chose accounting, why? Because I think one of Indonesia’ biggest problem is corruption, then I think by being a state auditor, I can help to eradicate that problem. In my mind, I swear that when I become the state auditor later, I’ll make sure that the corrupt government officials will be arrested and held responsible for what they did.
There we go, I ended up in accounting school, university of Indonesia, the best for its field in the country. I never took accounting course in my high school before. Time goes and by, I also think those four years period was really great for my personal development. I involved more actively in da’wah activity and in practicing Islam as a whole. I planned my life in the next four years. I listed targets that I want to achieve during the study period. I made a lifetime friends also during this period. One story again about perseverance: I never joined national level paper competition before, even, never made a scientific paper before. Once upon a time in my 1st semester, I saw an announcement of a paper competition; I was so interested to join. The topic was general insurance and its benefit, a competition from an insurance company. I started to write, as a beginner, my paper was completely basic, I just wrote what insurance is, what its type is, and why it is beneficial. It was a very very basic one. That’s the only thing that I know. I still remembered that I submitted the paper in the last day of submission. As a countryside person, that was my first time to go to the city center of Jakarta, I definitely got lost. It was a rainy day that time. I was wet, of course. I gave the paper to the security, I went back home and pray a lot. It was definitely an emotional moment. Then the time for announcement came, guess what the result. Yes, I didn’t get it. Of course. Was a bit disappointed, but then again, I just chose to not give up. I committed that I’ll do it again until I make it. And oh yes, one more thing, I was an internet- blind person when I entered the university. I have no idea how to use an email, even how to use google search properly (in 2007). In the summer break of year one, I joined a paper competition again, this time I was selected as finalist. I went to city of Solo (first time taking a train in Java) for the finalist presentation. I didn’t get the top three, but I’m happy that I made a progress. In my 3rd semester I joined paper competition again, now I got the 2nd place. Was so happy. Since then, whenever I join a paper competition, I almost always get the 1st place.
Two main suggestions that I wanna give to my friends, maximize your time carefully. Do a good and beneficial thing. What we read nowadays will reflect who we are later. What we do today is also what we will be later. My junior high school teacher once said, when we plant a paddy, a grass will also grow. When we plan a grass, definitely we won’t get paddy. What does it mean? It means, whenever we do a good thing, the bad thing will also follow or grow, if we just do a bad thing. Definitely it all will just be a bad thing. So do a good thing!
The second advice is: read more book! Read, read, and Read! To fulfil my appetite for books, I live near book store in my 3rd and 4th year. I was so happy, I can almost spend 2 to 4 hours in book store every night.
One more thing: about traveling abroad. Traveling abroad was one of my dreams. For me, when I look back to what has happened in my life, I just conclude it’s all because of Allah’s mercy to me. Things are just not possible without His help. During my ten minutes’ walk from my house to the book store every day, I will pass a travel agent office. Whenever I see the international airline logo in its office building I will always smile, suddenly feel happy and pray to Allah so that someday I will use those flights often. Allah gave what I want. After failing in applying for student exchange program since my first semester, in my 6th semester, I got announcement that I passed the selection to go to US for one semester. There we go, I use international flight through Japan and San Francisco, live in US for one semester in 7th semester. Allah was again the reason for every possibility.
When I back, I applied for a graduate school and while trying to finish my undergrad thesis. One special thing also happened that semester. I was selected as most outstanding student at the faculty of economics level as well as at the university level.
Apart from above mentioned, I think I should mention very clear here: my involvement in da’wah kampus, was among the best thing happen in my life. I understand what a struggle means and I think my personal characteristic was so shaped and influenced by this experience.
Last thing about my undergrad: English skill. I definitely can’t speak in English when I enter the university. When I took a course in English (a compulsory one in 2nd semester), I felt like I want to cry. Don’t even think about to speak/participate in class discussion, I don’t even understand anything what the prof said. Then I committed myself to learn English. I pray to Allah and Allah gave it. To join an English course preparation was definitely not possible, because my monthly budget for housing, meal, phone credit, etc. was only 800,000 thousands rupiah at that time. My meal was like Rp15,000 x 30 days = Rp 450,000. Came to my mind to do prophet Daud fasting, i.e. one day fast, one day not. That way I can save Rp10,000 x 15 days = Rp150,000. However, still, one level English course (3 months) was priced at Rp800,000. So even If I do prophet Daud fasting for three months, my money was definitely not enough for the course. Then I just learnt it by myself and I pray to Allah. Alhamdulillah, I can do it.
At last, I want to stress again, regardless our position now, we should not stop improving ourselves. If we are already in good condition now, then we have to do better and keep improving.
- Aim for the top
Even though my current school is not the best public policy school in the world, it is certainly among the best in Asia. I met quite a lot of bright people here.
This story related with my story in the first point. Even though I was quite good at the national level before, I understand that there are many things that I have to improve when I met bright students in the region, I have to do more. I have to work more. I have to strive more. My friends are just so bright. In this stage I learn a lot. I got a lot of opportunity too.
For me, life is like a training from Allah. We have to complete it nicely. I just wanted to share about commitment for the best.
Before coming to my current school, I was used to be so good, a super star, I think. Whenever I made a paper, it will usually win the 1st place. Then I met the bright people in my class. Somewhat I feel like my shine was faded away. But then I realize that I can’t be an ordinary person; this is the challenge. This is the next higher level training from Allah. I believe that we have to aim for the top. We have to try to do the best. Whenever we make something, give our best on it, as if it is our master piece. If we aim low, the result that we get will be low or lower. If we aim the highest, the result that we get will be the highest or high. Then aim for the highest.
In the past one year, Allah gave what I asked several years before; I landed my foot in several cities for conferences: Kuala Lumpur, Doha, London, Hsinchu, Manila, Beijing, US cities, and Singapore. All thanks to Allah. Allah is the best planner.
One more message, please always pray or make du’a to Allah. When we make du’a there are three possibilities will happen: Allah will give it right away, Allah will give it later or third, Allah will give rewards or pahala for us because we prayed to Him. So there is no bad outcome isn’t it? Let’s always pray for anything to Allah.
- Think and strive for our poor people
My last point in this post: Where ever we are, whatever our role is, please internalize that we have to strive for the disadvantaged, poor people in our country. If it’s not us, then who else? We have to be good. We have to be very very capable so that we can help them better. Let’s always try hard and strive to improve our capacity. There are millions of Indonesians that are waiting for our contribution. Let’s be a great-capable Indonesian!
My fellow Indonesian, I hope you can get benefit for this story. Let’s keep working, let’s keep striving, until Allah call us again to be in His side. May Allah always guide and strengthen us.