Cheren Filus, an Indonesian student graduating from International Business School Suzhou’s BA International Business with a Language, reflects on her journey to Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, her time in China, and the unusual past year and a half.

Like many international students, Filus did the last three semesters of her degree remotely, from her hometown. “At first, studying online just seemed like a long holiday. But after a while, you realise that it takes a lot of discipline. When you attend classes in person, even if you’re not concentrating, you still understand what’s going on. Learning online requires you to focus a lot more. But at the end of the day, I completed all my modules, and I’m grateful I could finish my degree online.”

Filus says she’s excited about graduation, “but I have mixed feelings because I can’t be there in person.”

Filus in Pingjiang Lu

And the thing she misses most about on-campus life is all the late nights staying up with her friends at IBSS cramming for final exams. “It was hard work, but we were in it together. I used to find quotes to motivate us, and my favourite was ‘your efforts will never betray you’. And I believe that – the more effort you put in, the better your results will be.”

The journey here

When she first arrived in China, Filus put that hard work into adapting to her new surroundings.

“Going to China was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. I’d been at the same school since kindergarten and lived in Jakarta my whole life. So choosing a university, and deciding to study abroad, was big.”

Initially, Filus had no intention of coming to China for her studies, until an agent recommended XJTLU’s International Business with a Language programme.

“I actually wanted to do hospitality at first. But the thought of improving both my English and Chinese while getting a degree was too appealing. And the generous scholarship really sealed the deal.”

Filus (right) at a meeting for the Indonesian Students Organisation in Shangha in in 2019

Life is for living

Although Filus has always had a passion for adventure thanks to jet-setting family vacations, she admits such a significant change was a little scary at first.

“It was my first time alone in a foreign country, away from my family. But it was also exciting and fun and thrilling. It was an opportunity to learn about a new culture and adapt to a new environment.”

Not one to let apprehension hold her back, Filus wholeheartedly embraced her new home as she travelled all over China in her holidays.

“I travelled with friends for my first Golden Week and in the summer vacation. I visited Beijing, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Nanjing… So many places.”

In her first year, she also threw herself into an internship, which led to delaying a trip back home. “By the beginning of 2020, I was so excited to go home. I hadn’t been back to Jakarta in over a year, and I couldn’t wait to see my family again.

“This pandemic has been difficult, but I’m grateful for all the time I’ve been able to spend with my family before I go abroad again.”

Filus (right) with friends at the Porcelain House in Tianjin

The next step

After graduation, Filus will continue her study-abroad journey, this time in the UK. “In September, I’m going to Newcastle University to do a masters degree in human resource management.”

Human resources, she explains, is the perfect combination of her business-school training and her desire to work with, and help, people.

“My HR modules at XJTLU were some of the most fascinating and engaging lessons I had. To see if the career suited me, I got an online internship with Midea Electronics in their recruitment division.

“It was a really rewarding experience. It’s an amazing feeling to know you helped someone find a good job while also helping the company get the best candidate. The job market is tough in these Covid times, so helping people find work felt extra important.”

Does she think she’d ever come back?

“I think so. Coming to China was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, so I’d like to come back to remember the good times I had here with my friends and eat all the food I miss.

“Plus, I never got a cool picture of myself in front of the Central Building, so I need to do that!”

Making mooncakes

By Patricia Pieterse

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