I was inspired to go abroad mostly because I wanted to have a taste of freedom. My cousins live in Canada, so their school life is very different from mine. Bina Bangsa School follows the Cambridge curriculum, meaning to say that the school schedule is very packed and hectic. Compared to the Western style of learning, I felt that the school's system was focused mainly on academics. Although I understood the need for concentration in studies, the Western way of being creative and relaxed would also be good for a change, in my opinion.
Aside from that, my class is an advanced class so we skip a year of school. As such, we are less mature compared to the other students. With the time to apply to university drawing near, I felt the compelling need to become more independent and find out what university life was like. I had also decided that I would attend a university overseas, so I needed to learn the ropes of university/college life before I headed out. In this manner, I would be able to easily adapt to campus life.
Why did you choose Reach Cambridge?
Reach Cambridge is a program that BBS has taken part in for several years. There was excellent feedback from the seniors and they recommended we join the program. My parents felt that a summer course in a prestigious college was what I needed to bridge the gap between my secondary school studies and university studies.
Reach Cambridge also offered a course in biotech, which is the course I hope to take in university. Thus, I felt that I would be able to gain knowledge in the field I wanted to study.
Many of my close friends also intended to join the program so it acted as a time we could bond closer together, while making new friends. Also, I had never been to the UK before so I was excited to see what it was like. I wanted to broaden my horizons and my perspective on things, and I felt that Reach Cambridge would benefit me greatly.
What was your favorite part about Cambridge?
My favourite part was definitely the scenery and architecture. In Indonesia, the roads are congested and there are no sidewalks for pedestrians. In Cambridge, we could walk around freely, doubling as exercise for us. The breeze was cool, a great contrast to the heat in Jakarta. As I walked around, I enjoyed the lush greenery. My friends and I were often distracted and took a LOT of photos, making a 15 minute walk to Sainsbury last a whole hour.
I thought the University of Cambridge was a huge campus, but it was actually a collection of many colleges. The buildings loomed over us; the beautiful architecture and intricately designed colleges were absolutely stunning. I felt like I had been transported back in time as I admired the structures around me. It was relatively easy to find delicious food and the convenience stores were within walking distance. It was fun to find souvenirs and other unique items from Cambridge. The atmosphere was very calming and I felt safe walking around town, even at night.
What made your experience abroad unique?
I think the friends I went with made the experience unique. As we were all left to our own devices, we all grew to be more independent and helped each other out rather than relying on adults. I felt that everyone in the group bonded closer together, forming stronger friendships and learning new things about each other. We were forced to step out of our comfort zone and the experience helped us to develop as individuals.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The local staff arranged all the transport. From landing to taking off, everything went smoothly and they helped us with our luggage too. The Reach staff gave us tours, so we could get around, and great food recommendations. All the activities and events were well-planned and organised. Everyone was kept safe, felt comfortable, and had fun. I do think that that the staff took great care of us and were very friendly and approachable. The locals were kind too.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I would have been more sociable and made more friends, but I don't regret anything that I've done.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
7 a.m.: breakfast
8 a.m. - 12 p.m.: Lectures from various professors
12 p.m. - 2 p.m.: Lunch plus shopping/sightseeing
2 p.m. - 4 p.m.: Lectures (mostly labs)
4 p.m. - onwards: Free time (shops close at 5 p.m.), sports, arts
6 p.m.: Dinner
8 p.m.: Night lecture/discussion (optional)
Note: Many field trips included
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoyed walking around with my friends and taking pictures. Sports were great too. We mostly did shopping though as it was our first time there and we wanted to get great souvenirs.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
I stayed in the one-person dorms. The rooms were kept neat and tidy. The bathrooms were clean too (no bad smells here). There were plenty of showers and toilets so the queue was not long. The kitchen was a large area where we could mingle and have snacks while working on projects. This was one of the best parts of the dorms. It was very safe and secure (just don't forget your key and get locked out). Overall, it felt better than most hotel services while still teaching us to be responsible for ourselves.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
Make sure to have all the things you need with you (belongings, clothes, etc.), be prepared to learn, and be open to new concepts. Most importantly, remember to have fun.
Has your time abroad impacted your life at home?
Definitely. I often think back to my time in Cambridge. I miss the scenery, the buildings, the classes...everything! Sometimes, I even trace back how to get to Trinity college from the BBC dorms just so I don't forget the memories I made there.
I believe that attending this course has impacted me greatly and changed my opinion on university life. I thought it would be terrifying to be left alone and handle everything myself. However, the freedom I had and the opportunity to make my own choices has helped me become wiser and think of how my actions impact my future. My time abroad has helped me manage my time better, which has actually helped improve my grades as well as my social skills.
Would you recommend your program to others? Why?
Yes, I would definitely recommend the program to others because there are a lot of things that are worth experiencing. Sometimes memories and experiences are more valuable than money. As Oscar Wilde said, education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. In this case, I absolutely agree that experiencing first hand what university life is like can help you learn many valuable lessons.
Calista is from Indonesia. She loves to travel and learn about new places and cultures. Calista also enjoys reading and watching animé, as well as drawing cartoons. Aside from Reach Cambridge, she also joined HMCA and various other educational trips.