Peer Mentor Nicole Widjaja

Peer mentor Nicole Widjaja has just finished her first year in the Bachelor of Science and “fortunately the transition to University, is not like jumping from a hot spring into an ice pool!”

Where are you from and why did you decide to come to Melbourne to study?Nicole Widjaja

Hi! My name is Nicole and I’m from Indonesia. I’ve always wanted to travel around the world and be a part of a new educational culture, learn new skill sets, and ways of thinking from people around the globe. After high school, I did my homework and realized that Melbourne had the potential to be my future destination. I discovered that there are opportunities to learn in a more hands-on way, take on internships, volunteering experiences and apply what is taught to solve real life problems. This was also accompanied with free accommodation from my aunt, which also helped with the decision, big time!

What year are you in the BSc and what are you studying?

As of 2019, I have just finished first year. After experiencing first year, I have decided that I would still like to pursue a major in Chemical Systems.

How did you find the transition from high school studies to tertiary level study at Melbourne? Do you have any advice for students about adjusting to the requirements?

I am very grateful that I completed the HSC New South Wales curriculum.  This helped me learn English and build a foundation in STEM. It also played a huge role in exposing me to interesting concepts, learning styles and friendships.

Fortunately, the transition to University is not like jumping from a hot spring into an ice pool. Setting aside the learning materials, I do find it difficult to balance my part-time job, studies and that 3-hour back and forth journey every day. However, in Semester 2, I changed my mindset and found it less bothersome. Now I just try to do my best and not think about the lack of time and the long commute.

In my experience, trying to be the most effective that you can be, can sometimes omit the fun in studying and lead to actually being less effective. A tip I’d like to share is to love what you’re doing by surrounding yourself with a supportive group of friends, talking to professors and travelling around Melbourne while you’re at it!

What interests you about your study area and why did you choose it?

I am very interested in the idea of processes and tweaking those processes to maximize an output and also, renewable energy. I just wanted to be apart of a team that can improve the progress of implementing renewable energy in society. Despite my parents constantly telling me to take IT or Computer Science because “it is the next big thing”, I just wanted to learn more about the problems involved in renewables, and hopefully be able to solve some one day. I think studying concepts and partaking internships while doing Chemical Systems can enable me to do that.

I chose to learn Chemical Systems because of its versatility in opening doors to so many fields ranging from food to polymers to medicine to oil and gas and many more!

What is your favourite part about being at University?

I just love those 3 hour ESD (Engineering Systems Design) lab sessions and on top of that, meeting new friends and swimming at uni!

Are you a member of any clubs? If so, what clubs and what do you do in them?

I’m a part of the Campus Christian Movement in Clayton, because that is very close to where I live in Glen Waverley. We undergo meetings every Friday to conduct bible studies, praise and worship and twice a year, we explore Victoria and go camping, rowing or hiking in places like The Grampians, Briagolong, etc. Next semester, I plan on joining Women in Science & Engineering and help out a friend of mine who recently founded the Internet of Things Club.

What do you think is particular about the international student experience? Do you have any advice for students who are new to Melbourne?  

A big one for me is the friendships I have made here. In the first semester, I found it extremely tempting to stick with my Indonesian high school friends, as I felt so comfortable being with them. But to my surprise, in the second semester, I found myself getting out there and spending a lot more time with people I met in tutorials, events and trains. Yes, trains. I guess it’s because a good friend of mine reminded me about what it means to grow in one’s way of thinking; and this certainly involves mixing with more than one circle of friends!

Another huge challenge and aspect of the international student experience, would have to be living alone in a new mysterious place, new faces, new teaching styles, new responsibilities and new choices to make (e.g. hmm should I go to uni or.. lecture capture? Haha kidding, you know which one’s the obvious choice, lectures are important!). Most international students I know find this aspect the most challenging, as it’s either make it or break it, and it's all on you!

What do you plan to do when you finish your studies here?

I would love to go to Germany to explore opportunities in renewable energy. It would be great to be a part of the bridge between fossil fuels and renewables, as that has been a topic of interest for me since high school. But you know what they say, life can take you to places you never expect! I might end up in the food industry, rubber industry, or even consumer goods such as detergents, softeners, etc. I’ve always kept in mind what a good friend of mine had once told me, which is to “keep an open mind because it’s not wise to ignore other opportunities, who knows you might love it even more than what you currently think you love”!

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