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Study in Germany (Studi di Jerman)

This post will be bilingually-written in English and Bahasa Indonesia, to convince those seeking the opportunity studying abroad to choose Germany as their study destination. The information are mostly derived from personal experience, and various informative websites and blogs for some reality-check (the list is presented at the last part of the post).

I hope you find it useful!

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WHY GERMANY?

Free education for all! 

Starting from early October 2014, with the decision to overturn tuition and fees in Lower Saxony, Germany, all universities is now tuition-free (Forbes, 2014).  And not exclusively for Germans only, but also for immigrants coming from various countries. However, you should aware of these conditions:

  • For German-language programs, either bachelor, master or doctorate, minimum C1 proficiency in German language is a must to ensure that students can actively participate in the class (this is the part where students have to pay for their own). Students can register to a German-language institution either in home country or in Germany. Prior to enrolling in the university, international students applying for bachelor program in German language also have to enroll in Studienkolleg and pass the entrance test (Feststellungspruefung).
  • For International program taught in English, the TOEFL score is a more important requirement. Generally, you need 550 to be able to apply for international program in Germany. Proficiency in German language is not necessarily mandatory, but some programs required a certain minimum proficiency, probably more for the reason to help the students in their daily life. And this is IMPORTANT: some international programs are free while some are not. So, it’s necessary to check first whether your preferred programs is tuition-free or not. But, don’t worry, there are a lot of scholarships offered, for example from DAAD, or other education-supportive organizations like the Ministry of Education in your respective country.

Though it’s tuition-free, each semester the students still have to pay the contribution fee which costs vary in different states of Germany. I remember I paid around 230 Euro every semester. This contribution fee will benefit the students back since most of the money is used to pay the 6-months public transport pass (semester ticket). The remaining fee is used for administration and student organization activities.

Similar high quality in all universities

All universities in Germany possess equal high quality. Some universities may be more known to people because of the historical background or certain achievement in the past and recent years but all in all, they are similar in quality. The lecturers are also highly qualified. Most are professors or doctors with additional comprehensive experience in research, project work and even cooperation with institutions in developing countries (AGEP).

Naturally, the lecturers have their respective teaching style, but generally they are so open to input and feedback from students. Different from Asian culture where teachers are regarded more superior than the students, and students are expected to follow all the instructions without many protests, in Germany (and probably in other European countries as well) teachers are as equal as students. Students can easily talk to the lecturers and complain to them without hesitance if they encounter a poor quality of teaching (which are rarely the case, but I experienced some), because the lecturers are bound to maintain their high quality and improve even more.

Best European country for student

During my 1-year study in Germany, I happened to travel to some neighboring countries and be able to compare living expenses in every country. Without much thought, I was thinking to myself, Germany is really the best country for student. The price of stuffs and the quality it bears is undeniably the best. You can get many stuffs (for example food, student dorm, etc) with cheaper price but still with the best quality.

Returning Experts Programme

If you have completed a study or training, or employed at least two years in Germany and would like to return to your country of origin to take up career there, you can apply for financial support for travel and transport, salary topping up payments, internship allowance or workplace equipment from Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM). For further details about the requirement please refer to this site.

Reliable Transportation System

Despite the transportation workers’ strikes that often happened, Germany’s transportation system is still among the best I have ever experienced so far. Its excellency lies on the punctuality, safety, networks and cleanliness, whether it is in the train, bus or tram. And there are always interesting offers from Deutsche Bahn (DB), the main railway operator in Germany, to travel inside or outside Germany, during weekdays or weekends. For frequent travelers, you can apply for DB Bahn Card and get 25%, 50% or even unlimited travel chances by paying certain amount of Euro for membership.

WHY NORTH RHEIN-WESTPHALIA (NRW)?

NRW

Because North Rhine-Westphalia is the current emerging federal state and the most populous state out of the 16 federal states in Germany (around 17,5 million in 2013). It is located in the heart of Europe, in the plains of the Lower Rhine and share borders with the Netherlands and Belgium. Four among Germany’s ten biggest cities (Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen) are located here. You may also known some other cities like Aachen, Bonn, Bochum, Duisburg, Münster, etc, and yes, they are all in NRW, too. 

In the 1950s and 1960s, Westphalia was known as ‘Land von Kohle und Stahl’ or the land of coal and steel. After WWII, the Ruhr Region was one of the most important industrial regions in Europe (Wikipedia). The mining sector may have declining at the moment, but NRW is still home to large industrial corporations of world as well as dozens of smaller companies which are leaders in their respective business fields. It is the current economic center of Germany. In 2013 NRW earns EUR 599.8 billion, 21.9 % of the German GDP, putting it at the top of all German federal states, and also generates 4.6 % of the European GDP (EU-28). 16 of the 50 largest companies in Germany are based here, e.g. Bayer, Deutsche Post DHL, Deutsche Telekom, E.ON, Metro, Rewe, RWE, ThyssenKrupp. (NRW Invest, http://www.nrwinvest.com/NRW_at_a_glance/)

North Rhine-Westphalia is home to 14 universities and over 50 partly postgraduate colleges with a total of over 500,000 students in 2012 (Wikipedia). Let me tell you the biggest advantage for studying in NRW. All students will get a semester ticket, or student transportation pass which can be used to travel to all cities in NRW by public transportation modes!! That means you can go explore more of the Germany culture in NRW by visiting Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Essen, Aachen, Bonn, Bochum, Duisburg, Münster, etc for free! I feel like a Hogwarts students with the magic wand. One simple swish (to show the driver or controller my ticket) and I am able to go everywhere around the state without having to spend even one cent for transport. As far as I know, not all states in Germany has this similar policy, in many cases the semester ticket is only valid within the city area only. And you know what? I can even go to Netherlands for free using a direct train from Dortmund to the bordering cities, Enschede. Really exciting, huh?

Characteristics of NRW Cities (Source: http://www.humanempire.com/Nordrhein-Westfalen)

WHY DORTMUND?

The most prominent characteristic of Dortmund is of course, Borussia Dortmund (BVB)! The football team is part of a large membership-based sports club with 100,000 members,making BVB the third largest sports club by membership in Germany. Dortmund plays in the Bundesliga, the top tier of the German football league system, and it is one of the most successful clubs in German football history (Wikipedia).

During a year studying in Dortmund, there were considerable number of matches held in Signal Iduna Park Stadium located so close from my student dorm. I happened to witness the thrilling fanaticism that Borussia Dortmund fans are having for their beloved club. From children, to teenager, adults, grandparents, and the city itself are always so enthusiastic to support BVB with all their best efforts. The Borussia Museum and the fan shop of Borussia Dortmund is always crowded. Jersey, t-shirt, jacket and many other souvenirs are sold out easily. I need to struggle a lot to find a perfect shirts for my family and boyfriend.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t ever get the chances to watch a match of Borussia Dortmund during my stay in Germany, so I had not yet able to watch the interesting play of BVB and the enormous support from its supporters with my own eye in the stadium. But anyway, I can’t even stand being in a crowded place for too long, so I doubt that I can manage until the end.

The devotion of German people to football are unquestionably tremendous. I was there when Germany won the World Cup 2014 and heard people screaming during the matches and watched the celebratory fireworks. Again, I chose not to participate in mass-watching or mass-celebration, since it was Ramadhan and the matches time were always coincidentally collide as the ifthar or breaking the fast time.

A good news for football fans from all around the world! Deutsches Fussball Museum (DFB) or Germany’s Football Museum is currently being built in Dortmund since 2013. The construction will finish in 2015 and the museum itself is planned to open during summer next year. So, this is a must visit place for all people coming to Germany and Dortmund particularly. Don’t miss this out! (Too bad, I already move from there. Jeez, why do good things always happen after you leave the place?)

There are so many interesting places in Dortmund, like Phoenix See, Dortmunder U (an art museum which formerly a brewery), Dortmund Zoo, Florianturm, Operahaus, etc. You have to visit them as well.

Dortmunder U

Dortmunder U (Source: Private Documentation)

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Phoenix See, an artificial lake on the former steel works, Phoenix East in Dortmund district Horde. Named after the legendary bird, Phoenix, it symbolizes this area’s rebirth into a better livable one. (Source: Private Documentation)

WHY TU DORTMUND? 

When I applied for studying in Germany, I initially thought like this, that I don’t care wherever it is as long as it’s in Germany. But then, after I got accepted in Technische Universität (TU) Dortmund, I realized that I was so grateful to be able to study here. Aside from the mobility advantage for living in NRW, I also enjoyed many facilities from the university which makes my study easier here, such as:

  • H-Bahn (“Hängebahn”, or “hanging railway”), a suspended, driverless passenger suspension railway system. The system has been developed by Siemens. This H-Bahn connect north and south campus in only 3 minutes ride (by walking it takes 20-30 minutes). Really makes our mobility easier. I remember when I still lived around South campus and have to go to North Campus on the weekend, it was a torture since it’s not working at that time.
TU Dortmund H-Bahn (Source: Private Documentation)

TU Dortmund H-Bahn (Source: Private Documentation)

  • Uni-card. Well, it’s most probably like this in the whole Germany but i still find it very fascinating that you can put money on your Uni-card and pay for meals in the cafeteria or copy and print many things with a very cheap price. We can transfer some money from our ATM card to Uni-card using a specific machine. To borrow and return books in the library is also very easy since you just have to scan the barcode and then the system will automatically put the data in your Uni-card.
  • Free language course. Really, this is so exciting! I took 2 semesters German language course and also enrolled in Spanish class (but sadly, my schedule didn’t allow me to continue until the end). A girl in my Spanish class even enrolled in 4 different language classes, took advantage of this chance to learn languages for free to the fullest. However, of course it is taught in German, so it’s a challenge for me to learn Spanish in German since my ability in those 2 languages are still not enough.

Well, that’s basically it. There are a lot more reasons to study in Germany, NRW, Dortmund and TU Dortmund. Just browse for it and feel free to ask if you have any question, I’ll do my best to help you find the answer. And since I only lived in Germany for a year, please correct me if you find any inaccurate information.

Now, let me treat you to an interesting video from BBC about living in Germany, ‘Make Me a German’.

Enjoy! 🙂

Further information about studying in Germany can be checked in these websites:

The post version in Bahasa Indonesia will be updated soon.

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Playlist: Indonesian Music

Though I listen K-Pop so much, I still love Indonesian music more 🙂

Here I share some of my favorites Indonesian songs. Each artists have more great songs to listen to, so please browsing for more if you find the music interesting (just like what I strongly feel).

I will keep it updated so you can listen to more great music from Indonesia.

Enjoy!

Tulus – Jangan Cintai Aku Apa Adanya (Don’t Love Me Like Who I Am)

Indra Lesmana feat. Eva Celia & Monita – Cerita Kita (Our Story)

RAN – Dekat di Hati (Close at Heart) 

Tulus – Sepatu (Shoes)

Java Jive – Cantik Tapi Menyakitkan (Pretty But Irritating)

Adera – Terlambat (Too Late)

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Susi Series

In the middle of the big hustle for the appointment of Susi Pudjiastuti as the new Indonesian Minister of Marine and Fisheries 2014-2019, a college senior introduced me to an interesting television series “Worst Place to be A Pilot”.

This series cover the stories of young foreign pilots (mostly British) working in an Indonesian airline ‘Susi Air’, owned by Susi Pudjiastuti, a local entrepreneur-turned-minister from Pangandaran, serving many pioneer routes to remote area in several Indonesian islands. These young pilots apply for this job to fulfill their minimum flight hours before they can land another job in a commercial airline. However, the challenges they face during the work could be really intimidating and daunting. Starting from challenging terrains in mountainous area, the always-changing weather condition, terrible runway’s quality, dealing with indigenous people with their traditional custom and belief, to the big possibility of encountering people or animal during take-off or landing. This job is definitely not for the pilot with small guts.

I watch this series in shock and awe. I am well-aware of my country’s landscape and the fact that pioneer airlines are mostly serving difficult routes. However, honestly, I have never experienced flying in this kind of aircraft to some remote areas of Indonesia. During my whole life, I enjoy the luxury of living in the urban areas in the most developed island of Indonesia, Java Island, and only travel to other islands for work trip, to another big cities.

Watching this series is like a wake-up call for me, especially during the scene where local people celebrated the safe-landing of a Susi Air plane, delivering food and medicine supplies for them. I was reminded that most of my Indonesian brothers and sisters are still living quite isolated from the modern civilization where the supplies and facilities are mostly located.

Despite some accidents which makes Susi Air got listed in category 2 by Indonesian Civil Aviation Authority for airline safety quality (Wikipedia), I sincerely still feel so grateful for Miss Pudjiastuti on her effort initiating this pioneer airline and help reach out to our Indonesian brothers and sisters living in the most secluded part of Indonesia. I hope they can improve more in safety and quality, help connecting more hubs as well as employ more local people.

And despite many doubts addressed to Miss Pudjiastuti regarding her new position as a minister due to the fact that she is not even graduated from high-school, her eccentric-being, outspoken trait, tattoo and smoking habit, she has an adequate and professional experience in fisheries industries due to her other effort developing an export-oriented fisheries company from zero. I really wish her the best for the next 5 years as Minister of Marine and Fisheries. Don’t lose to criticism, Bu Susi, take the useful feedback and prove their doubts wrong.

Seriously, after watching many highly-educated public officials disappointing the nation with the corruption case, what more can Indonesians ask than sincere leaders working their best for the country regardless of their background? Of course, our leaders are not perfect, they are merely human, just like us, and possess numerous weaknesses. However, it is our duty to support their works, remind them, give feedback and bring them back to the right path in case they turn aside so they can correct their attitude and deliver significant decision for society.

Do not just criticizing and acting like we live the most rightful life in the world while in fact we have done nothing for the country.

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Yeah, Indonesians need mental revolution.

Back to the TV series topic, you can watch it here, in ‘Worst Place to be a Pilot’ YouTube channel. Here is the first episode to give you sneak peek of what the series is all about.

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Changes in Me

After more than a year studying abroad and seeing the world, I can feel some changes in my personality and how I see various things.

I have the opportunity to know more varieties of people with different nationalities, cultures, languages, even sexual preferences. I learned how to care more and in the same time care less about people. Not being ignorant but knowing the limit, until which point do I let other people keep their privacy from me.

There were 6 Muslims in my class and we practice Islam in different ways. I found some similarities with some of them, but I also discovered some extreme differences. It felt uncomfortable at first. How can they pray differently, how can they drink wine, etc. But then I remembered that religion is a matter between individual and God. No room for others to interfere. After that, I never questions others again in my mind. I let them practice the religion in their own way.

I think for all this time my friends might have seen me as a very conservative girl. That’s why they seems really surprised when I shared my view about LGBT:

“If I see it from religious point of view, I will say it as something’s wrong. It is not right. Period. But from my personal opinion, who am I to judge other people’s choice? What right do I have? Every individual is entitled to their own decision. And most of my gay friends are even the smartest, happiest, most religious and most fun people I’ve ever met in life. Whatever consequences arise, they are prepared to hold responsible for their decision.”

***

Another change is I would say that now I see myself as always being curious and cautious.

Curious since my closest friends here are the most brilliant and knowledgeable people I’ve ever know. They are familiar with many issues, from world peace, governance, drugs, to abortion and personal life. They argue a lot and each always has strong opinion. Sometimes they really fight and ignore each other for a week.

While I am their only loyal audience.

Many times, they even have to ask for my opinion since I remain silence most of the time. And I can only give short response since I am not as knowledgeable as them. I don’t have strong opinion about many things. I can’t argue as well as them.

I feel so uneducated and stupid. Clearly, we spent our time differently even though we are only 1-3 years age apart. This encourages me to read more and stay update to the news, in hope that I will be able to catch up to them and be as brilliant as well as possess more knowledge.

However, my friend comforts me by saying,

“You probably don’t talk much, but you know the perfect things to say and say it in the right time.”

I think this is because I always select my reaction carefully. Not every statement needs direct reaction. That’s why I wait, while at the same time practicing how to say it smoothly in the most smartest and diplomatic way. But this doesn’t always go well, sometimes I spent too much time hesitating whether to speak up or not and in the end lose the moment.

On the other hand, I am always cautious since many people are also cautious about Islam. That is why I have to act more carefully so I don’t send a false image of my religion.

Another thing I learn is how to be punctual.

As you know, German people is so punctual, they even come more early. And the public transportation always come and go at the promised time. If I need to go somewhere, I know perfectly at which time I should leave my dorm, how long does it take to walk to the bus shelter, the remaining time I have to reach my destination in case something happened on the way, etc. I can calculate my time very well but still, I always ended up being too relaxed and spending most of the time running to catch the bus or the train. After a year, I have successfully become a German. I even complain a lot and get furious if the bus or train are late. But now, in the Philippines, this great habit is in risk of vanishing. People here are really relaxed in everything, just like in my country. Even our lecturers usually come 15-25 minutes late.

I hope I can maintain my punctuality.

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Muslim Abroad

For the past 24 years living in Indonesia (before leaving for study), I have enjoyed the luxury of being the part of Muslim majority. Everything about Islam is well-known; Islamic days or events are celebrated festively; Masjids (mosque) are everywhere, halal foods are available easily.

It never crossed my mind to think how does it feel to be minority until I experienced it myself in Germany and The Philippines.

Something that I always regard as so obvious (with no further explanation) suddenly change into some unknown and foreign things. I was taken aback by the statements, questions and comments people gave me. Many times I felt insulted and forgot that I’m currently somewhere else. Then I realized that I should be more understanding of people who has no idea about Islam or Muslims. I could be the first Muslim they see or have as a friend, so giving the right image is important. But sometimes it’s just unavoidable, really.

***

Just like about a month ago, when my friends and I had just finished a class in the university. We took a taxi home and I got in in the front seat. The driver welcomed us warmly, started a conversation and a few minutes later he asked me,

“You are Muslim, right?”

“Yes.”

“Are you a good Muslim or bad Muslim?”

“???”

“Yeah, because you know, Muslims here killed many people.” He referred to the conflict between Muslim armed opposition groups and the Philippine military forces in Southern Philippines which resulting in numerous deaths.

“Is it like that in your country too?”

This is what I hate from what so-called conflict among religious groups. The root of this kind of conflict were usually personal issues between individuals or groups but then it got blew out in a wrong way. Just because it’s the easiest way to differentiate the conflicting groups, suddenly some conflict is between all Muslims and Christians. It’s the false propaganda. Islam, Christian, as well as any other religion teaches kindness, tolerance and morals. If Muslims or Christians make mistakes, please blame it on the individual, not the religion.

“And man can marry as much women he wants, right?” He grinned. “All Muslims are like that?”

I felt really insulted.

“Men can marry more than one woman, yes. But that’s not the case everywhere or even in my country. Don’t generalize thing just because it’s how it is happened here.”

My anger had been triggered. Good thing that the ride quickly ended.

I always caught off guard every time something like this happened. I really want to be as patient as possible when facing curious people like that but the media has already planted a deep false image to their mind. I feel sad that my religion has been misunderstood by numerous people in the world because of some irresponsible acts from many irresponsible people.

But anyway, now it become clearer to me that not all people has ever seen Muslim (probably only from TV), befriending them (my friend from El Salvador even says that it was her first time in her 26 years of life),

or even knowing how we pray.

One day, my class had this excursion to East Germany and every two students has to stay in one room. The following day, my Colombian friend came to me and confessed that he experienced an embarrassing thing.

He was staying in the same room with a Muslim friend from Egypt. They had a nice talk even from the different part of the room. However, the Egyptian friend suddenly turned quiet. My Colombian friend was confused. He checked on him and found the guy bending over beside a bed.

“Hey, man! What are you looking for?” and he followed him bending over and searched under the bed.

The Egyptian friend remained quiet and continued his movement. Then my Colombian friend realized the truth.

“How am I supposed to know that he was praying????!!! I’ve never seen a Muslim prays before!!” He explained in panic to me while I was laughing uncontrollably.

“Oh My God, I’m so embarrassed!!”

***

Finding halal food is another different thing. It is really difficult.

There are a lot of halal meat shops in Germany but they were located quite far from my dorm. Sometimes it’s such a hassle to go there in the middle of busy weeks. Most of the times, I just buy Doner Kebab from Turkish shops (I miss it!). That’s the easiest way to get halal food in Germany.

In the Philippines, so far I haven’t yet found halal foods so I just buy any chicken meat or sausage. My father asked me what do I usually eat everyday and I answered “any chicken” and he got concerned,

“… but it’s not halal.”

“Then what should I eat????”

“Seafood.”

If only the seafood available in the Philippines’ supermarket is like in Germany (and our allowance is as much as what we received in Germany, too), I will be buying it for my everyday-meals. However, there are not much options here and the seafood I saw in supermarket will most probably give me an allergic reaction. I discussed this with my fellow Muslims friend and he said,

“…in this condition, let’s just buy whatever we feel safe enough to eat and say Basmalah before eating, otherwise we can’t eat anything. May Allah forgives our mistakes.”

However, even though I have been really careful about my food, sometimes things just happened.

It was on last August when my friend threw a barbecue party in his place for our graduation. As usual, everybody brought some things: chips, drinks, salad and all kinds of meat. We used 2 different grills for pork and chicken meat.

“Here, chicken sausages.”

A friend in charge of grilling offered us some newly-grilled meat. Each of us took a piece without hesitation, another Muslim friend even took the second piece. Then, a friend came and asked,

“Is there any chicken sausages left?”

“These are chicken. Take it.”

“No, it’s pork.”

“Noooo, he said these are chicken.”

“That’s pork.” said another friend of mine with an amused expression in his face. None of us believe him.

“Nooo, really, these are chicken. Let’s just ask the grilling-man to be sure. Hey! these are chicken, right?”

“Yeah, of course!”, the grilling-friend answered in certain, and he gave us a i-can’t-believe-you-guys-doubt-me-look.

“Really?”

“Of cooooooouursee!!” He was getting impatient.

The other friend who said that it was pork meat approached him and said,

“I was the one who bought these meats and these are pork.”

“What?!”

He went to the trash bag and rummaging the garbage.

“Look, this is the packaging. See, ‘Schwein‘ (pork).” He laughed.

“Oh my! … Sorry guys! It was not chicken. Sorry!”

And to think that we’ve let him handle our food.

hoahmm

Aaanyway, it’s a mistake so we let it slide. May Allah forgives us.

***

Wearing hijab is another really really challenging thing. Not just physically but also mentally.

Last summer in Germany, when it got really really hot and all other students were wearing less and less, many eyes looked at me strangely as if they were saying,

“What is wrong with this girl?? Is she not feeling hot at all?”

I ignored those looks and headed to the library for the group meeting. Turned out, they didn’t turn on the AC inside so it was as hot as outside.

My friend put the strange look I received (since summer started) in words,

“Hey Mia! Why are you still wearing that?”, pointing to my long sleeves shirt, thick jeans and hijab,

“This is summer! You should wear something like this!” while indicating to his short sleeves shirt and shorts, giving me an I-can’t-believe-it-look.

and I was like, “What?!!”

Again, I felt insulted. And out of patience, I answered,

“It’s not like I wear this depending on the season!!”

And he got quiet.

After that, another friend approached me and asked,

“You have to wear this anytime?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t you feel hot?”

“Of course, but it’s not like I have other option.”

The options are to wear it or not (see my post from 4 years ago here and a touching article from the mother of a Muslim girl here) and I had decided to wear it, so no backing off. I may be lacking in many other things, but this is the least I can do, to keep this hijab on. It may be difficult and unbearable sometimes, especially at the hottest time of the day, but it’s not like if I take it off I won’t feel hot. It’s the same anyway, so I’d prefer my way.

However, with great decision comes great responsibility.

Some friends are always inviting me to go somewhere, to have a talk or dinner in a nice place, but then it turns out that they want to go to a bar or restaurant-bar. Though I just ordered an ice tea or cola and had a really nice time discussing with them, deep inside I felt uncomfortable and worried about how people will view Muslims in hijab after seeing me in this place and that makes me want to leave the place asap.

Last month, my friend invited me to celebrate his birthday in a fancy place. I checked the place online beforehand because it’s always a ‘drinking’ party with him. And I got worried. What I found were mostly pictures of people having fun clubbing, which was not my thing. There was the restaurant part, but for sure our celebration would continue to the club part.

Actually he was the one who wanted to celebrate his birthday in a fancy way, but since our birthdays were close to each other and the dinner will be on my birth day, automatically it became my celebration also and I had to go.

I didn’t RSVP his invitation because I had been thinking carefully about how should I decide. The place was located quite far from our apartment, in Makati, while I live in Quezon City. It will be late at night and I should travel back by taxi alone since I won’t join them further. But I was not brave enough to ride a taxi alone in a new city so I came to a decision that I will not join them, I will just buy a gift for my birthday friend.

But then my local Muslim friend join us and gladly, we decided to go back together right away after the dinner because he won’t join them clubbing anyway. His family was waiting at home.

The dinner was nice, and we had a fun time. But then, they shifted to the club part and my Muslim friend and I had no option rather than joining them before leaving since the birthday friend asked him to check some things. I remained there for a short time which felt like forever, in the middle of energetic club music (which I enjoy alone but not in public) and numerous bottles of alcohol. For sure, I received many surprised looks from the people there, especially from several Western men and sexy local ladies.

When I arrived at home, I cried a lot. Turns out that place was full of escorts. I was ashamed to my hijab. I regret that I brought it to such a place. I was disappointed of myself for acting irresponsibly.

Such a huge responsibility.

Hffftt…

But sometimes, it’s such an advantage too.

An old man from Turkish shop once gave me a free doner kebab since he was so happy to see a Muslim girl in hijab from Indonesia. And I had been receiving many compliments from a German lady and that Turkish old man when they saw me wearing an easy-to-wear hijab.

Sehr schön! (so pretty)”, they said.

That just made my day.

***

Being a Muslim abroad also makes you realize the true sincere meaning of Salam or Islamic greeting (In Indonesia, the sincerity gets spoiled since some nosy men use it to tease Muslim girls). I feel happy and amazed every time a random people greets me,

“Assalamualaikum.”

It take me a second to remind myself that this is not in Indonesia and it’s not a teasing, then quickly I answered joyfully,

“Waalaikumsalam.”

So, in conclusion, being a Muslim abroad is a challenge. It’s a test to choose good friends, to inform people about Islam, to show our true self and prove whether we will act the same way in any condition, supportive environment (majority) or un-supportive one (minority). Many Muslims stay true to the right way, many lost to the new environment and became unguarded.

Whichever you are, let’s not stop finding the true path.

smile

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Ebola Outbreak

I heard about Ebola for the first time in the early year of 2014 from a friend who’s monitoring international news daily. Since most of my classmates are African and some of them come from the most affected countries such as Sierra Leone and Nigeria, the news and update about Ebola are so relevant. But, at that time, I haven’t realized how severe the virus is. I got scared knowing that the possibility of death from Ebola is so high and no vaccine is available yet (even after 40 years since the first outbreak in 1976), but then I forgot.

Until earlier this month, when the death toll from Ebola rises to more than 4.000 and various media start to allocate a special big section for the news about Ebola. I read an interview of John Moore, a photojournalist with Getty Images, who’s currently reporting the outbreak from the very scene in Monrovia, Liberia, and realized how terrifying it is. He is witnessing how this invisible terror takes out so many lives, and there’s a big possibility that his life is next in line. Then, the next week I read this article: Ebola – as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old from Sierra Leone and it’s even more devastating.

Now the world realized how frightening this virus is and numerous efforts have been started to find the cure for Ebola. Before, because of some ironic reason such as economic and political issue, no incentives available to develop the cure (read this). But the way to stop Ebola spreading more massively in a much greater scope is by stopping it in its roots, which is happened to be in Africa. Good news is that if the resources continue to be available, the initial answer for curing Ebola will be available before Christmas 2014 and hopefully 20.000 doses will be ready in the early 2015 (watch the video here) but by then, there 550.000 cases of Ebola are predicted to happen.

Hopefully, this invisible terror can stop soon.

You can find out more about Ebola here: WHO, Wikipedia, BBC News Africa