Americans have to make choices on where to attend just like Indonesian students. In some cases, their choices may be harder because they have to consider even more choices, perhaps more pressure and more opportunities for scholarships. In any case, making decisions about anything is a skill in life, in addition to something being associated with fear and stress.
Below are the three brief stories of how three Americans now living in Jakarta chose their undergraduate and graduate programs. Deb, David and Lynne spoke to candidates at @america in February 2015 about their school choices. One unifying characteristics of all three stories is the measure of flexibility which American education grants so that people can decide on a discipline and location, but also are allowed to change their mind, and know that it’s OK to do that. Another thing you may notice is that money is always a consideration but never a factor that stops people from getting the education they want. If you run out of money, somehow an alternative solution will be presented to you. What you will also find in their stories is, just like in the case with all of us, their considerations were partly logical, partly emotional, party functional and partly haphazard. In the end, though, it all works out.
Deb Lynn is the Cultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy responsible for education and cultural affairs. Deb started her undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Deb comes from a very conservative Catholic family and an environment that did not promote women’s education. She knew her best chance was if she went to college out of Kansas. Her parents of course wanted her to go to a Catholic school, so she did. Her best friend’s older brother went to Notre Dame and loved it. So that is what she decided to do. But she didn’t know what she wanted to study so she chose the Program of Liberal Studies (philosophy, theology, literature, history, etc.) It taught her how to formulate ideas, support her arguments, and deepen her writing, research and communication skills. School and class size was small (1:20) so it wasn’t overwhelmed coming from a rural background.
After 5 semesters (about 2.5 years) she transferred to Rockhurst College because she ran out of money. While Notre Dame’s scholarships were insufficient, Rockhurst gave her full scholarship. So Deb transferred and decided on a different model. She worked during the day and took night classes which allowed her to finish my BA. Two months after graduating, she took the Foreign Service Exam and became an American diplomat. Two months after graduation, she had a job.
After 8 years of working at the U.S. State Department (U.S. Foreign Ministry), Deb applied for a graduate program in International Relations at the University of Denver. She was accepted and attended as a mid-career professional which allowed her to get out of taking the GRE. She chose this program/school because her then-husband was being transferred to Denver for 2 years. It was also the top 10 International Relations program. She managed to get a scholarships. The degree gave Deb the academic credentials that matched her career and work experience.
David Moo is an Economics Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. He studied Mathematics and Computer Science at Knox College. Knox is a small private liberal arts school in rural Illinois. He chose Knox because he could not afford the top-ranked schools which provided less financial aid, and he preferred the small size of Knox as compared to the large public schools. Instead of attending classes taught by a graduate student teaching assistant, he was in small classes and holding discussion groups at a professor’s home.
After graduating, Dave started his career as an actuarial consultant, a chance to apply the theoretical math knowledge to practical business issues. But Knox’s liberal arts education enabled him to expand from the technical work to a broader business consulting career focused mostly on mergers and acquisitions.
After working in the corporate sector, Dave decided he wanted to be a diplomat. He was able to make that dramatic change to his current job as a diplomat for the U.S. Foreign Service because Knox prepared him for such possibilities. In his words, Knox did not provide as many basic skills, but taught him the ability to tackle problems or issues from a wide range of disciplines in a logical, but also creative, way and to communicate the results to any audience.
Lynne Moo went to Knox college and yes…that’s where she met Dave, because this is one of the things that can happen in college. She studied Sociology and International Politics. She went there partly because of the location – not too close to home, but not too far either. Her choice was also influenced by the fact that they gave her a very good financial aid package – otherwise she could afford to attend.
Lynne chose Knox also because she liked the community feeling of the school. It was a small school where professors knew the students and where students said hello to each other when they passed on the sidewalk. She liked that her classes were small and were taught by professors rather than by teaching assistants. And she liked her professors – they enjoyed teaching, and were good at at. They wanted her to learn, and graded her to help her learn. They gave strong advice on what she should do after school, knowing her skills and her interests.
For graduate school, Lynne went to Saint Louis University School of Social Service in St. Louis, Missouri, and received a Master of Social Work. She went there partly because of location. She was now married, and her husband had found a job in St. Louis. She only looked at the three universities offering graduate programs in social work and chose the one best suited to her.
Saint Louis University’s program was best suited to her because, like her undergraduate program, it was a smaller school where the faculty pay close attention to the students, and the students get to know each other well. But different from undergraduate, this program was far more practical. It focused less on book and classroom learning, and more on internships and experiential knowledge. Many students were part-time, meaning that most of them were currently working in their field and could directly apply what we discussed in class. And the school had contacts at many different organizations in town, giving her the chance for multiple internships at places well suited to her interests and skills.
Lynne is now a self-employed music instructor. She loves it.