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“I knew that I made the right choice in coming here”

Epitomising creativity, innovation and leadership, former Head Boy and ACG School Jakarta alumnus, Edwin Firmansyah is thriving in his new life at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) campus in Canada.

A student at ACG School Jakarta for 12 years, Edwin was delighted to be accepted into UBCO’s Engineering programme after graduating in 2019. And as Edwin approaches the end of his first year, we’ve asked him to discuss the challenges, successes, and experiences of his undergraduate adventure.

What were you most looking forward to at UBCO?
Being able to live independently with a change of scenery. The freedom you get in a new environment is refreshing, and I felt I needed to experience something different after living in Indonesia all my life.

What were your first impressions?
I knew that I made the right choice in coming here just from the people. Everyone was very warm and vibrant, and professors are all incredibly supportive. As UBCO is one of the most international universities in the world, I’ve met people from diverse social and academic backgrounds whom I hope to keep in touch even when I’m back in Indonesia.

How have you found your new life at UBCO now that you’ve had a chance to settle in?
I never expected that the transition could be so smooth! Even though I miss my friends and family back home, the Indonesian community here has helped me keep my homesickness to a minimum. And it helps that we’re such a tight-knit community at UBCO.

How are you finding the Engineering programme?
A battle. But that’s exactly what I signed up for. I have the opportunity to study with some of the smartest people in the world and it’s thanks to their help that I’ve been able to manage an extremely intensive workload.

Are you involved in any other activities on campus?
I was one of the Operations Safety and Maintenance specialists for UBCO’s Aerospace Club’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) division. I helped reconstruct drones with upgraded parts and familiarised myself with their take-off and landing procedures in preparation for the 2020 Unmanned Systems Canada’s Student UAS Competition, however, the competition was cancelled due to the current pandemic.

I have been elected Vice President of Finance for the Engineering Society at UBCO, and I played for an intramural football team with some friends – we placed second in our league!

What have been the highlights of your time at UBCO so far?
For our Engineering Drawing and CAD/CAM course project, my group modelled a nuclear submarine. Being tasked to model the frame of the engine and nuclear reactor was challenging, but with the combined efforts of my phenomenal teammates, we were able to place among the top 10 groups.

How do you feel ACG School Jakarta helped to prepare you for this next step?
Having strong relationships with my teachers taught me how to ask the right questions to help me develop a better conceptual understanding of the content being taught at lectures. Also, a lot of the material covered in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) from ACG was taught throughout the first year, so I was able to transfer credits for some of my courses. For those courses where I couldn’t receive credits, my IBDP background often gave me an advantage over other students as the programme teaches you to acquire knowledge quickly.

What were the most important lessons you took away from the school?
ACG encourages students to grow in an environment where they can find a balance between leadership, sports, music, and academics. That was important because it forces you to swiftly develop new skills, and in university, those who are able to learn and adapt quickly will be at a more comfortable position.

What plans do you have for next year?
With the pandemic still being prevalent, the Engineering Society and I are working around the transition to online schooling so we can continue meeting the students’ academic, professional, and social needs.

What advice do you have for other students who are heading to university?
As a good friend on campus once said, “Seek discomfort”. Universities care about your projects, your achievements, and your talents because they want to encourage hard-working, multifaceted individuals to represent their institution. So, never forget to do what you love because it just might become the ticket to your dream university.