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Writer: Kalyana Sidra Wardhana | Illustrator: Carina Audrey Budiarto | Editor: Athaya Thahirah Hardono | Photographer: Sita Rizky & Reinardus Darren

A figure we all know and love, Mr. Dahlan Nariman (or more commonly known as Pak Dahlan), is here on APUINA Stories’s latest edition to share some much-needed insight for the coming years of adulthood. Born in Lamongan, East Java, he is a well-respected and esteemed figure among APU students, especially as a guiding presence to the APUINA community.

At the age of 19, Pak Dahlan earned a scholarship that enabled him to pursue a university degree and eventually, start a life here in Japan – all on his own. Undoubtedly, there is much we can learn from him about life.

So, how did he do it? To find out, read our conversation on the ever-changing dynamics of the world, the importance of honing our senses and adaptability in the ‘real world’, and the necessity of challenging ourselves.

Thank you, Pak Dahlan for giving us this honor. If I may ask, what sparked your interest in Japan back then?

Well, back when I was growing up in Indonesia, especially during the late 80s, Japan was at its peak as a pioneer in the technology industry with no competition on the horizon. I was inspired. From automobiles to everyday electronic appliances, everything was labeled ‘Made in Japan’ and this phenomenon was happening all over the world, not only in Indonesia.

I observed that Japan was unique in the sense that they were able to truly appreciate Japanese culture while still actively growing their industry. When I got the chance to study there, I went for it – even though I was already in my first year at Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS). The scholarship was too precious for me to disregard, so I gathered my courage and left my hometown.

How was the transition from Indonesia to Japan for you?

It was certainly not easy. After leaving Lamongan, I stayed in Jakarta for 6 months to learn Japanese as I had no prior knowledge of the language. Then, I was enrolled in a Japanese language course program in Tokyo for 1 year. Despite that, university lectures in all Japanese weren’t easy, even with a 1-and-a-half years’ worth of studying the language. But I got through it because I love a good challenge.

That’s what drove me in the first place – challenging myself. I feel like it’s necessary for us to keep challenging ourselves in order to hone our ‘senses’. Subjecting oneself to as many colorful experiences and people as possible is imperative. I stayed in Japan all throughout my bachelor’s and master’s degree, and then made a life of my own here.

So, does that mean you have been staying in Japan for good ever since then?

Yes, that’s right. After getting my master’s degree, I had actually intended to go back to Indonesia with my wife and daughter. Then the infamous 1997-98 financial crisis hit Asia, which caused not only economic instability, but also political and social unrest in Indonesia. It was an unexpected change in the dynamics of the world, something I hadn’t been planning for.

It taught me something, though. I learned that this world was dynamic, ever-changing and that we should be prepared for anything. A lesson that perhaps everybody is currently learning in this pandemic.

Speaking of pandemics, many plans have fallen through, leaving a lot of APU students a little unsure about the future. Do you perhaps have any advice on how to handle that?

Touching upon the subject of uncertainty, there are two things you need to remember. Firstly, you can’t let fear of uncertainty stop you from trying new things. As I said, you must challenge yourself. In those moments when you step out of your comfort zone, when you interact with new people, when you go somewhere you’ve never been to, you become richer.

That’s the second thing: enrich your senses. Whether it be your ability in sensing external cues or even sensing your own internal being, they’re both equally important. Gaining new perspectives will give you an edge over others, making you more adaptable to various kinds of situations. By that logic, I think that we can even have a more positive take on this pandemic. People who have gone through this pandemic, including APU students, now know the value of not only hoping for the best but also preparing for the worst. The capability to plan proactively is a highly sought-after characteristic in the workplace, you know.

And how about your take on failure?

I think failure is good. It’s better to fail a hundred times than to not try at all, because when you fail then that means you actually tried. In this dynamic world where unexpected things like the current pandemic can change everything you know, it’s natural to fail somehow. What’s important is to never give up, ever. That’s when you know you’ve succeeded.

Pak Dahlan has shown us the virtue of continuously challenging ourselves against the ever-changing dynamics of this world, and how we can deal with failure. He has reminded us to make use of the time we have now and that it is okay to fail as long as we keep trying. It’s better to try and fail, rather than fail to try, right?

Once again, APUINA gives our most sincere gratitude to Mr. Dahlan Nariman for his insightful and uplifting words.

Stay safe and healthy.

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