Although at first glance, she appears much like any other local students of Bogor Agricultural University (IPB), she isn’t.
"I look quite like Indonesian, when I meet students here they just talk to me in Bahasa. One day I was sick, I had sore throat and none of my Indonesian friends could go along with me to the drugstore. So I went alone, and yeah, I just typed words in Google Translate. That’s one funny experience."
Do Duyen became international student that took a few courses in this notably state-run agricultural institute in Indonesia through SHARE Scholarship. SHARE offers pathway for undergraduate students in ASEAN countries by implementing this scholarship program through short-term (one semester) exchange of students.
Duyen came from Vietnam, she is a student at Ho Chi Minh University of Technology and Education—studies Food Technology. On the side, her family has small business of making traditional cake, a kind of Vietnamese steamed roll called bánh cuốn.
"I want to scale up the production by using machine to make that product," she said.
The subject she has been studying is about how to process food’s raw materials into new products. "Here I found some food products that I never seen before in Vietnam. In classroom, even, some students came up with new ideas. We can really learn from one another."
"If you can make the food good enough once and for all, you will add value. That way we can contribute to solve bigger issues such as hunger in developing countries," she said.
Duyen declared herself as food lover, too. "For me it's always food. Talking about place is also thinking about its food."
She likes to travel. She's been using her unoccupied time to visit some destinations in Jakarta, Bogor and Bandung. "I believe that traveling allows you to see more, it widens up your view. You get to experience different things. It takes you further. There are some lessons you can only learn by experiencing yourself."
She told she never predicted various experiences she could get by attending SHARE. "I hadn’t expected anything in particular. But if did, for sure this exceeded our expectations, it’s better than any of my imaginations."
For Phouthavong Xaisouliane, 21-year-old student from Laos, being able to study in some foreign country is an unexpected journey. "I can say I never thought to go abroad, let alone to go study. SHARE has made the way for me nevertheless," said Terng -- his nickname.
Since February 2017, he has been studying Advertising at the most prestige national university in Indonesia. He said it was such an enormous experience, and also such a preparation to find better opportunities in future. Terng chose University of Indonesia for his scholarship because he thinks Indonesia is one of the most interesting among ASEAN countries.
At first, he was facing language barrier. Terng was born in Savannakhet Province, and Lao language is mother tongue, which made learning English challenging, he said. He has learned English as grown-up, but he couldn’t pronounce very well since he learned from Lao teacher.
He must speak in English at all times, and also attend class in English as the introductory language. "I really struggle. While in Laos, I’m top student of class, but here I’m at bottom. Like, how come?"
He went through hardships but decided not to give up. With his parents’ support, he motivated himself. "I have to get over that barrier and continue. When start thinking in positive way and start feeling that I am equal, it makes me stronger."
From that onwards, his mind finally made up. And struggle ends where commitment begins. He spent many times improving English by talking and listening. He gradually feels confident to communicate in English. "Sometimes it’s hard but, hey, I know I can do it."
He said that he is an easy-going person, that he makes a lot of friends. "Back then, I was a competitive one. I realized it’s actually not good. Thus, I focus to myself. Now I would rather compare with myself in the past than compare with some competitors of mine."
He will work harder, learn more, and keep the remarkable experience as high bargain to help him fulfill a dream: start his own advertising company.
And he dedicates to inspire others, especially friends in Laos. "The problem in most of students, I think, they worry and they give up before they even start, I was no exception. Now I can show them that you can achieve something if you try to leave the comfort zone," told him.
Tan Hui Xian, or usually called Belle by her friends, is Malaysian student in Mass Communication Department at Taylor’s University. She is young and vivacious girl, outgoing and also outspoken.
Currently she has become an awardee of SHARE Scholarship Program, which fully provides scholarships for ASEAN students to undertake short-term studies in other ASEAN and European higher education institutions.
She had been enrolled as one of the international student at University of Indonesia (UI). She had been taking few classes related to her major ever since and staying in suburb area of Depok City, where UI campus is located, for five months.
“It was trial and error, but I made it until five months,” she said.
“I think the hardest thing for me is how people here do their jobs, because sometimes they must have been procrastinating until last minute. My work ethics is to get the job done as soon as possible. So I’m very stressed out,” Belle said. “But other than that, everything is okay.”
She said that several months after, she managed to be self-reliant. “It is just process for you to get used to in a new environment. In Malaysia, I grow up quite independently. My hometown is Penang, and then I moved to KL (Kuala Lumpur) for university. So it’s not really my first time to live separately or far from family. But after moving out to new country without any family members, I realized that I should be more independent.”
Belle also said initially she didn’t really expect anything. “While I was applying, one thing in my mind: ‘Oh, there’s a free scholarship. Just take it.’ I maybe type of person who would rather go for it without any expectation, see what happens.”
“In Faculty of Humanity I take class about popular culture, whereas in Faculty of Economics I take organizational behavior class that helps me to look into how the Indonesian business works,” told her.
She underlined that pop culture class was very compelling as well—that she could pick up Indonesian culture and history, and to what degree it has affected their today’s lives.
She is ready to spread her wings as she has a future plan to study in UK next year. “Before I move forward to another continent, I think it’s important to know Southeast Asia region as part of your community. They always say that Asians are the most hardworking people; I think today ASEAN countries are expanding indeed and one day we will be very powerful.”
“Many unexpected experiences happened in my life: went abroad for the first time, lived alone in a foreign country for months,” said Temy Ramadan, a fourth-year Nutrition student in University of Indonesia.
Last year, Temy applied for SHARE scholarship and got accepted to University of Philippines Diliman (UPD). “This program is something precious that ASEAN has, especially for students. In era of global competition, the students are facilitated to develop their character and skill. This is a chance that too bad to be missed.”
The elder son of two has unfolded excitement of study odyssey in new place. He has learned to make new friends, scratch new self-image, and start everything from beginning.
He said he went to one of the most prestige national universities in Philippines. He studied Food, Nutrition, and Society and Program Management on Nutrition.
“From those classes, I learned Philippine has their own challenges in nutrition problem, especially related to their cultures and foods. However they also have their own way to solve the problem. The government established National Nutrition Council, an institution that gathers state institutions, NGO, and other actors to solve nutrition problems in the country. It gave me new perspectives,” told him.
This profound change in perspective is a critical component for his aim now is to raise more awareness about food and nutrition security, and to become nutrition economist.
Temy hopes to continue his education on with food policy and economy studies so that he can reach the lowest and highest layer of society to solve nutrition problems, bring benefits holistically.
“Nutrition is both science and art, which learn how to bridge between human and food. It also determines broader aspects, such as social, economy, culture, and psychology. Good nutrition will raise human capital that will push growth and development. Good economy will facilitate people solve problem,” he said.
Back there lived as regular student he took a whole lot of insight. ASEAN does feel like a home now. “South East Asia is a unique region. There are races, strong and vibrant cultures, rich of natural resources, strongly upheld the values in society, and harmonious religious life. There are also problems that have red lines among them. But the warmth and smiles of the people remind us that we are siblings and here together to answer challenges from regional to international.”
Thida Sann is a female student at University of Cambodia who has been awarded SHARE scholarship in Bina Nusantara University (Binus) - Indonesia.
“This is my very first time ever to go and study abroad. I was so excited and at the same nervous,” she said.
She has taken five courses related to her major of International Relations in Binus: International Relations Research Method, Introduction to International Trade and Business, Introduction to Security Studies, English for Business Communication and Academic Writing 101. She became a speaker of Binus Festival, sharing experiences on the topic how to prepare yourself to be a global citizen by exchanging abroad.
“Students play important part to ASEAN connectivity,” she said. She also mentioned that ASEAN nations were moving forward in harmony. “We are working together and striving to reach one common goal. We are different but we embrace the diversities.”
She said she could reflect that through her experience of being in another country (Indonesia) for four months. “In spite of different backgrounds and countries but we care about one another and help each other in order to grow and reach our common goal. People here are very friendly and welcome and they will help me out if I have any problems. In our class, local and exchange students humbly share their knowledge and thoughts in discussions and make sure that everyone gains benefit from the discussions. This is just a small example of Unity in Diversity of ASEAN people and I am certain we do more than just this.”
And for herself, during one semester period spent in another ASEAN country, she has gained self-development and academic performance; abundant experiences of new cultures and new languages, and chance to interact with locals as much as she could.
“I think SHARE is becoming more and more popular from one batch to another. Students are interested in applying and see the benefits of student mobility within ASEAN nation states. The program will bridge more and more ASEAN students together.”
“After graduating, I plan to pursue my Master’s Degree abroad. Then I will come back and work on Youth Development and Girls’ Higher Education with an NGO or institution in Cambodia. Moreover, I would love to represent Cambodia on international stages. I want to be a role model for the next generation of young girls in my village to stand up for their dreams, education and what they believe they should do.”