Yasyfa’s Story, Studying at University of Birmingham through IISMA Scholarship

The Ministry of Education and Culture, through the Merdeka Belajar program provides opportunities for Indonesian Students to go abroad for student exchange through Indonesian International Student Mobility Awards or often abbreviated as IISMA. IISMA is a scholarship  for Indonesian college students that allows them to experience studying at top universities outside the country for one semester. To get this scholarship, applicants need to fulfill administrative documents and have to go through a strict selection process to be selected. It is known that from 19,724 IISMA applicants, only 1,565 applicants were selected this year as IISMA awardees and dispatched to 27 countries.

Yasyfa Yalqa Mazzidah, English Literature Major student in Jakarta State University who succeeded to be selected as one of IISMA awardees this year, shared her story about how it felt to study for one semester at the University of Birmingham, the United Kingdom.

In our interview on 6th October 2022, Yasyfa explained the reason why she chose the University of Birmingham as her choice. When the host university portal at IISMA site was opened, Yasyfa chose a university that opened her favorite studies, such as the humanities, linguistics, and social sciences. As a student majoring in English literature, Yasyfa decided to choose a country that uses English as its national language. Her choice fell between the University of Leicester and the University of Birmingham. After going through a long administrative and selection process, Yasyfa was finally accepted at the University of Birmingham and took a Consumer Behavior course for this student exchange program.

Yasyfa admitted that studying at the University of Birmingham is an interesting experience. The place is strategic and the living cost is not as expensive as London. In addition, she also does not feel excluded as a minority who is Muslim and wears a hijab. Everyone is welcome there and seen as equal.

In terms of studying and attending classes, Yasyfa said that she had no difficulty adapting and studying in class. She attended class as usual, listened to the lecturer and took notes in the book.  In addition, because she also studied subjects she enjoyed, Yasyfa did not feel burdened and enjoyed the learning process.

However, Yasyfa admitted there are major differences between the learning system in Indonesia and the University of Birmingham, UK. In Indonesia, student attendance affects grade points. Students will get bad grades if they absent attend the classes more than as many as can be tolerated even though they have good grades on the final project. In contrast, at the University of Birmingham, attendance does not affect the final grade points. So students are not required to attend every class to pass the course. The only thing that determines whether a student passes or not is the final project. So students can get an A for a course even though they have never attended the class.

Another difference is the courseworks. Lecturers usually ask students to read journal articles for coursework or do group assignments where students are usually only asked for their opinions of the material. Every opinion is appreciated and becomes input for discussions in class. Every student is free to speak their own opinion and the lecturer will be the one who directs the discussion and gives conclusions in class. The system is different from her original university, Jakarta State University, where students usualy given a lot of assignments as papers and projects with a tight deadlines for the final assessment material.

Selection Process

Yasyfa admitted that her mentality was tested during the registration and documents administrative process. She had to visit her campus where the weather is usually hot, especially in the month of Ramadan because her English transcript has not been issued. Other documents for preparation such as Duolingo English test and Police Certificate of Good Conduct also tested her patience and determination in the documents preparation process. However, Yasyfa realized that this was one of the ways to get the scholarship.

Yasyfa also gave tips for writing essays for the selection of the IISMA program. “The secret is, you have to do it with all your heart and be yourself. Don’t sell yourself as someone else. So when you get questions, just be honest and answer all of them according to your own abilities and beliefs.”

Tips for Students who wants to accepted IISMA Scholarship

Based on her personal experience, Yasyfa said that mental preparation is the most important thing because the preparation of files and others requires energy and a lot of patience. In addition, we need to have a good stance and clear goals to pursue this scholarship.

“You have to know what you want to pursue and what you want to learn. Don’t chase scholarships just to look cool on instagram, or twitter. You should pursue something that makes you proud but not visible to others. You decide for yourself whether you’re going to be the one who skips classes every day because you think attendance doesn’t affect grades, or you’re going to study. Everyone knows getting an IISMA scholarship is not easy and all the journeys you get here can turn out sweet at the end when you do it with all your heart.”