Aulia Tirtamarina from Surabaya, Indonesia studies International Civil Engineering Management. She is currently undertaking an internship with a consultancy firm. ‘No need to feel homesick in Groningen.’
Ever since her childhood Aulia Tirtamarina (22) wanted to study abroad to see how people in other countries live and work. ‘After finishing the Transport study programme at the Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS) in my hometown Surabaya, I received a joint scholarship from the governments of Indonesia and The Netherlands. The scholarship provided the perfect opportunity to fulfil my international ambitions. The Netherlands pay for the scholarship because there is a lack of technicians. I will probably stay here for a while, but the world is wide and eventually I will go back to Indonesia to help build up the country.’
Aulia’s parents are both lecturers at the Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember Surabaya. ‘My dad teaches marine engineering and my mom civil engineering. When I was little, my mother often took me to ITS and while waiting for her I often played with the models of civil engineering project like railway stations and bridges. Civil Engineering has fascinated me ever since. This is probably why I opted to study International Civil Engineering Management in Groningen and get a double degree. I’m in my fifth year now, four years in ITS and one year in Hanze
Aulia is happy that she came to Groningen now, but the first days in the Netherlands were quite a culture shock. ‘The Dutch are very straightforward. During one of the first days I was here, my classmates were not quite satisfied with my work and became a bit annoyed. I was really surprised. Indonesian tend not to show their irritation and anger, they will keep still.’
On the same occasion Aulia discovered that the Dutch also separate business and their private feelings. ‘Only five minutes after this incident, one of the classmates came up to me and offered me a cup of coffee in a very friendly tone. To me that’s weird! Another thing I found out is that ‘yes’ means ‘yes’, and ‘no’ means ‘no’. If you ask someone to help you, they either say ‘yes’, or ‘no, I’m busy’. In Indonesia the answer will always be ‘yes’, but at the end of the day it often doesn’t mean a thing.’
Who’s the boss?
Currently Aulia is the middle of a six-months’ internship with DHV, a consultancy firm in Groningen. ‘I make calculations about the water system for the Municipality of Haren, a town a few kilometres south of Groningen. The main objective is to make sure that the urban areas stay dry.’ She opens her laptop computer. The screen shows a complicated pastern of blue and pink dots. ‘The blue dots are the sewer system. The pink ones are open water like ditches, lakes and brooks. The open water system has to absorb the sewer water. I take measurements and work on as model that predicts how periods of rainfall will affect the water system. This is particularly important in summer when you have heavy periods of rainfalls over very short periods.’
‘I do not only gain technical knowledge and skills, I also learn a lot about how people work. What immediately struck me was that it is very difficult here to see who’s in charge. In Indonesia, the manager has a separate room with luxurious furniture and the best equipment. My boss does not have a separate office and his computer monitor is much smaller than mine. I expressed my surprise at this and he explained that – with the work I do - I simply need a better computer system than he does.’
‘I do miss Indonesia, obviously, but not as badly as I feared. I very much enjoy studying here. Teachers are always willing to help and it’s easy to contact them when you need them. I also made a lot of friends, for instance at the Blue Toes, the student dance club that I joined. I’m also a member of Persatuan Pelajar Indonesia Groningen, the student union for Indonesian students in Groningen. They help Indonesian students find their way in Groningen and they organise social events, like cooking Indonesian dinners. Every year they hold a sports tournament in Groningen in which Indonesian students from all over the Netherlands compete. No need to feel homesick in Groningen!