Moving to Scotland, a country where little to no Indonesians live, was a wholly conscious decision. I knew what I was doing.
But ending up at Strathclyde, where I’m one of a kind – literally – was just pure dumb, wonderful luck.
When starting university, most people would find meeting a fellow citizen a source of comfort. I remember my friends and family advising me to join an Indonesian society and seek new friendships that would last me for the following four years.
Well, I didn’t listen to them.
Instead, I joined every other society that interested me, and befriended every person I could. I was told that being an international student meant making international friends, and every overseas student I knew from back home somehow always ended up forming a close knit circle of people from our country. Even my high school teachers warned me that people in Scotland – or abroad in general – would not be welcoming and may even be unkind to an unfamiliar face like mine. This turned out to be both true and untrue.
Being Asian, I did befriend many Asians. However, I felt as if there was almost a lack of balance. Even though I looked like them, I couldn’t speak what they were speaking, or understand where they were coming from. They didn’t understand my culture either, and most didn’t even try to. Knowing I was of mixed race and shared a drop of blood with their ancestry was enough for them to erase my culture and label me as one of their own.
I didn’t like that.
Very quickly into my first year I started bonding with my flatmates. They then introduced me to their friends who would then introduce me to even more friends. Most of them were European exchange students, and even though some would think that I would feel like the token Asian, I never did. Quite the opposite – I always felt like my attempts to teach them about my culture were listened to and reciprocated. They introduced me to a whole new world of culture, language and food; things I never even knew existed had now become part of my routine, and I definitely felt like I was able to share a part of my home with them as well.
There was no prejudice or stereotype to hindering other people’s perception of me. I had been told before that foreigners often see us Indonesians as lazy and cliquey, but at Strathclyde I was the only one many of them got to meet. I was determined to represent my country well and I pushed myself to get the best grades, to be as friendly as I could, to be the best possible version of me. I wanted any Indonesian person moving to Strathclyde after me to have an experience as positive as mine.
The closest friends I have now come from all over the world: Estonia, Hong Kong, Japan, Finland, Singapore, Italy, Greece and many more countries, Indonesia included. Being one of a kind was the best thing that could ever happen to me at university.
Also, I did come to find that there actually are more Indonesians in Glasgow. Too bad they all go to GU.
By Joceline Edwina Teja