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4 Years in APU with Anissa Putri Mahendra

Writer: Nadhira Faza Ichsan, Nadira Annisa, Ken Fajriansyah Firdaus Photographer: Reinardus Darren, Annisa Mahendra's personal collection

Have you decided what you are going to do after graduation? 4 years in APU might give you awesome experiences that you’ve never had before, and lots of stories to tell! One of our seniors, Annisa Mahendra, who just graduated this spring 2019, is here to tell you her stories that may inspire you and the choices you need to take in the future.

What was your first and last impression of APU? “My first impressions were that APU was a highly diverse and multicultural university. I was afraid that I couldn’t fit into its community; owing to the fact that I didn’t attend a big school with a large student body. At the end of my university life, however, I managed to overcome this fear of mine. After my 4 years of studying at APU, feeling sad is only normal as I am leaving the place where I got the chance to better myself. It’s hard to constantly be reminded that I am no longer an APU student and everything that I’d been through is now just a part of my memories.”

Do you think that because of APU’s multicultural background, you feel more open minded for cultural differences? “I do think so. Back in Indonesia, I had grown accustomed to the nation’s culture and moral values. In APU, we learned to open ourselves to new and different cultures as well as values that totally differ with mine. One of the reasons as to why we had to open up ourselves is to not only make friends with people coming from various backgrounds but also to become more tolerant of others as it is crucial to our lives in APU. We can’t simply do things the way we usually did in our country and completely disregarding other nations’ customs, that is why tolerance is very important.”

Can you describe APU as 3 things and why? “To me, APU is a “home”, a “life lesson”, and “Shape your world”. Firstly, APU and Beppu were my second home. I had been there for quite a long time and I was comfortable because I was already used to its surroundings. Whenever I return to Indonesia, I want to come back to Beppu again. There’s this feeling of wanting to go back to a place I had stayed for so long and another reason is because of my friends; especially my international friends. Meeting our Indonesian friends in Indonesia is already hard enough and it will be even harder for us to meet our international friends by the time we graduate. Secondly, APU gave me a lot of life lessons, not only academically but we also learned about things in life. Since we’re living abroad, we learned how to be independent and how to deal with people coming from diverse backgrounds. Those life lessons are very important for us to grow into a much more mature person and it’s where we find our true selves. Lastly, it’s a bit cliché but just like the tagline itself, APU really did shape my world. I wasn’t a very ambitious person to start with and I simply went to school just because I was obligated to. APU guided me to a future I know I would love to explore. It helped me figure out my goals, where I want to go with my current education, and because I am now assured that my current major is right for me, I know where to put my passion into and I make sure to have that in my future goals.”

Taking Japanese class is a requirement in APU, what do you think about your Japanese skill and what advice can you give to improve? “I took Japanese class until advanced level, but when I was in foundation class – considering the fact that it was one of our first days in Japan – I didn’t take the lessons seriously, but once I reached the intermediate level, I became more serious. I have come to a realization that foundation classes are very helpful for your life in APU and Japan in general. These classes teach you basic Japanese skills, thus opening your very first out of many sets of doors to the Japanese world. If you don’t take the classes seriously, you will definitely struggle throughout the next levels.

It was stressful at the beginning and I still find myself not being confident enough to speak the language, but I can fully hold a conversation in Japanese now. Back then, I only spoke Japanese when necessary. I wanted to be fluent but I did not have the confidence to practice with the Japanese students in APU. So, my advice is for you all to be confident to speak in Japanese. I do think that Baito helps a lot and try to speak the language as much as possible when you get the chance to. I also improved my Japanese skill through the seminar classes I attended, but this depends on whether your class is filled with English basis students or mixed with Japanese people. Japanese students in APU are very helpful because they understand that we’re foreigners and they are always happy to help. Find opportunities to speak the language, surround yourselves with Japanese friends and most importantly, never underestimate the importance of foundation classes. The basic skills are very important!”

What kind of activities did you do while in APU? And were there any goals that you haven't achieve or did you achieve it all? “I did numerous activities in APU. Previously, I was part of Connext ASEAN, and when I was a second-year student, I became more active in both Indonesian week and taking part in APUINA. I also became Yoshida Kaori sensei’s TA. My best memory was probably the time when I became a stage manager and also the scriptwriter for Indonesian week in 2016. While in APUINA, I was the secretary for the 2016-2017 term. I joined several multicultural weeks, such as African week in 2016 and also I volunteered in helping Thai week.

I don't think I really had any specific goals, but I feel like there were still so many things I could have done, one of them being Baito. I wish I could have learned more Japanese because sometimes I feel like my Japanese skills are still lacking and I believe I could’ve improved more. I think my biggest regret was that during the 4 years I was in APU, I hadn’t taken enough advantage of the Japanese lessons that were given to me and I feel that my Japanese is still not that fluent. Another regret that I have is not applying for the exchange program. It was a huge opportunity given by APU for me to develop myself even further but I didn't take it, so that was a major disappointment for me.”

What is the biggest challenge that you had ever faced in APU? “I think the biggest challenge I had ever encountered was writing a thesis. My major was culture, society, and media, and I had Yoshida Kaori sensei as my advisor. For my thesis I wrote about “How hijab fashion empowers Muslim women”. Thesis may look like an easy thing to do considering the fact that it only requires you to write. But that is not all; you have to think deeper about your topic. You have to stay disciplined and follow the rules of writing a thesis. It even required me to have a strong mental state while writing my thesis. There were a lot of changes that I had to make while writing mine and because of this, I sacrificed a lot of my time to finish it.”

Are you satisfied with your studies in APU? What are your plans after graduation? “Academic-wise, I wasn’t so satisfied because I felt like it’s still lacking, and despite the fact that I had 4 years to learn in APU, I felt like I still have so much more to study. I feel like I simply studied the surface of all the knowledge that I could’ve learned. Aside from all the things mentioned before, I am thankful to have met all the supportive advisors and to have been given the chance to study in APU. APU had given me a lot of life lessons, new experiences,  as well as new friends – leaving me pretty satisfied with my journey so far.

After APU, my parents and I have agreed that I will be continuing my study to graduate school because I feel like there are still a lot of things in store that I have yet to learn. I personally feel that experience and knowledge are the keys to a bright future. Thus, I would like to further expand my connections and dig deeper in knowledge; preferably somewhere abroad. I had gotten my bachelor degree overseas so I am curious about what other countries have in store for me!”

Would you recommend APU to others, and your advice for the incoming student? “Yeah sure, why not? Whenever I tell people that I was studying in APU, they had always reacted positively as APU is a popular university and people have heard of it. One of the main reasons as to why I would recommend people to go to APU is that APU has a highly multicultural environment. APU provides you the chance to learn alongside people from different cultural backgrounds and thus, improving your tolerance level. I also believe that we can learn from the diversity that APU has. I personally think that APU is great in terms of enhancing our soft-skills and giving its students a great number of opportunities, such as joining circles and multicultural weeks.

My advice to the future students is to not be afraid of trying something new in APU as APU is a place of endless possibilities. Get out of your comfort zone; it’s the only way for you to discover all the new and exciting things in life. You may even find your true self along the way.  There were several things I didn't do, and I want others to take the opportunities that APU provides you. Just keep on trying and do not fear failure, because only those who had failed can achieve greatly!"

Wasn’t it very inspiring? She’d shown how she had improved to be her better self during the 4 years of studying in APU! After going through a lot of challenges, conquering her fears, and gaining new experiences, she had grown into the inspiring person she is today. Just like what she had said, don’t be afraid to try something new and get out from your comfort zone. Keep her advice in mind and maybe one day, we’ll hear your story too!

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