My IISMA experience & preparing to depart for Queen Mary in retrospect

I arrived in London on September 18th, yet IISMA’s final announcement of successful scholarship awardees was on May 12th. Four months is not a short amount of time, so how have I been perceiving this long wait from receiving the good news to landing in London?

To better understand how we got here, please allow me to introduce myself. I am Astrid, a born-and-raised-in-Jakarta Indonesian student and I am pursuing International Relations at the University of Indonesia. I am currently studying abroad in Queen Mary through the “Indonesian International Students Mobility Award” (IISMA). It is a highly competitive program where only 1.100 out of all registrants from all universities in Indonesia will be selected to receive a scholarship from the government and attend a semester in a range of universities all over the world.

There were many, in fact too many mishaps that I had to overcome first. I understand the issues that I encountered, such as a number of administrative and technical errors, sound simple now, but my nights were endless. I reckoned it was certain that I would have failed even before registering myself to the program. Fortunately though, through inexplicable cosmic force, I was chosen as one of the 1,100 students to receive the award. And thus, here I am, sitting in my ever-so-comfortable room in Pooley House.

Why Queen Mary, out of all the universities that IISMA offered? To be truthfully honest, it was never my intention to go to the UK. It is not because I simply have no interest in the country itself – the UK simply felt really far away and foreign. I doubt I was even familiar with the UK’s culture. Choosing Queen Mary was me taking a leap of faith, to seek chances in places that I never thought of before. It had also always been my dream to live abroad, but due to circumstances, it was not until IISMA awarded me with the scholarship that I got to live one of my dreams.

Nearing my departure date, I was so overwhelmed with feelings. My friends were departing to their host universities before me and I wondered if I would make it to London at all. Then, I had to be reminded that I would be a final year student and would be most likely older than my peers here in Queen Mary. But I would be at a disadvantage as I know nothing about the UK’s university system, social life, etc. I would not know how to transit from one place to another, or how to do basic chores while living in residence halls. These feelings certainly made me feel small. In addition, leaving for the UK would be my first time living by myself, thousands of miles away from home without my parents and family. I had so many worries.

I cannot say for sure that I have resolved all of my worries. In fact, living in London for the past few weeks has probably created more issues for me to solve. But again, nothing feels quite as good as realizing that I am living my dream, one step at a time.


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