Finding Rome in Singapore

Anwar Masduki Azzam | CRCS | Article

Finding Rome in SingaporeRome was not built in a day…

While seeing our photos and sketching them thoroughly, those words suddenly came into my mind. Since I lived in Singapore for 2.5 months, mingling and having friend each others around the Asians, our beloved guides, Dr. Kay and Dr. Tan patiently taught and escorted us academically until the day of conference approached. It was not a short time, when in the end you knew that everything you prepared had been paid off. You would be very satisfied with your own effort and proudly admitted it as the best one of what you could do in the past. It is like the history of Roman Empire which needs long time process to be one of the greatest kingdom and civilization in the world. In short, to live as a scholar we also need to prolong our process, make it step by step patiently to reach the satisfying goal to come.

It was the 8th Asia Graduate Student Fellowship (AGSF) academically becoming my first international step in overseas. The program is “offered to graduate students from Asian countries working in the Humanities and Social Sciences on Asian topics, and it allows the recipients to be based at NUS for a period of two and a half months”.

Hosted by Asia Research Institute (ARI), National University of Singapore (NUS), there were totally 35 graduate students from Asia to gather and enroll an academic course on writing and presentation. Starting from 15 may, all participants would present their own paper in a week of international conference called Asia Graduate Student Forum (also AGSF) held in the end of July.

What I prepared to apply was writing my two-page applications composing of the background of my proposal thesis and the anticipated scheduled time for doing literature research and writing it into a paper there. We had better also write down some rare books only provided in NUS’ library and the professors of ARI whom we think can help much on writing our thesis / paper. Our last fellow of ARI before us, Mas Darwin (CRCS batch 2010) told me that those books and professors can be a meaningful attempt to persuade the approval decision by ARI’s committee. It means that you completely need this program to assist your thesis writing process. Then we should email those two-page applications and the two enclosed recommendations from your professor or thesis advisors.

We arrived in Singapore on May 15, living together with 34 other graduate fellows in PGPR (Prince George Park Residence) within NUS campus. At least every three days a week we should attend the meeting in ARI at Bukit Timah campus. It takes around 20 minutes using the campus shuttle bus called BTC (Bukit Timah Campus). Also you can use MRT (Mass Rapid Transportation) from Kent Ridge to Botanic Garden around 15 minutes.

After completing the administration of Manpower ministry, our ARI officer, Chelvi guided our tour into ISEAS (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies) library near to PGPR and the Central library in the heart of NUS campus. Those two libraries are important for us, since it becomes the aim of the program, to enable us to make full use of the wide range of resources held in the libraries of NUS and ISEAS library. In fact, there are two other libraries access such as Law library and Medical library, but perhaps, those two libraries are not mostly needed to your social research. However, you can visit them and borrow many books freely on every library at NUS.

Feeling satisfied with our efforts and things we did in the past regarding to our final day presentation becomes the precious things for me. How we prepared ourselves, practiced and gave comment each others are those that would mark our soul with the deepest admission about how we should be well prepared before doing presentation. Some who are well-trained person in presenting maybe not quite interested as many of us. However, I would say that it was very important since this program was the first experience for me to join an international academic atmosphere.

Indeed, the first experience sometimes makes someone feel uncomfortable, unconfident and threatened by surroundings. Those true feelings dragged me into the conditions that I have never felt before. For instance, only imagining that I will present my paper in front of many scholars attending the conference has made me shaken and wanted to come back to Indonesia as soon as possible. Fortunately, two and a half months under the guidance of Dr. Kay and Dr. Tan brought me into consideration that we can do anything better if we have enough time and most obviously well preparation. Other people helping me a lot were Prof. Michael Feener and Prof. Martin van Bruinessen who kindly became my mentors. Their guidance offered me a lot experience to learn from the famous scholars directly and freely. They gave me their best assistance to ensure that my paper was well-written by giving much critics and feedback as well as some useful references.

As result, when the conference day came, I felt that my confidence had grown higher than the first time I came in Singapore. Presenting my paper entitled “Gus Dur as The tenth saint; The social construction of Understanding Wali in Java”, I did not want to say that my presentation had grabbed big success. However, I have to confess that if you want to be more confidence in an academic atmosphere for the first time, you basically need enough time, well prepared and do not forget to seek guidance from other professors.

The 8th Asia Graduate Student Fellowship gave me much precious thing which is never forgotten in the whole of my life. It becomes my international step in overseas literally and non-literally. It also offered me a lot of experience with many great fellows and people out there. This experience signified my precious process to find my Rome firstly. You, all, should join this program for building your own Rome in your life.

This post is also available in: Indonesian

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