A Rich University Experience: Knowledge, Development, Skill, Social life
Early on, Dr. Edi Sampurno Ridwan was on the path to international experience and academic excellence. As an undergraduate, he was offered a scholarship opportunity to pursue an Indonesia-Australia double degree, earning dual Bachelor’s degrees in nursing in 2008. Continuing to build on his practical hospital experience, he then worked for four years as a nurse in Sydney. Still interested in continuing his education, Dr. Ridwan won another scholarship to take a Master’s in nursing and graduated from the University of Wollongong in Sydney in 2011. That degree led to the start of a career in education, with work as a lecturer back in Indonesia at Alma Ata University.
Dr. Ridwan was soon offered a position heading the nursing program, but he felt that his qualifications could be improved. Searching for a suitable PhD nursing program led to acceptance letters from Sydney, London, and Taiwan, but when Dr. Ridwan was selected from a pool of 2,600 candidates for Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education and the committee saw his study proposal that listed TMU’s Professor Pei-Shan Tsai as a possible advisor, they gave a clear, though somewhat unexpected suggestion: “You need to go to Taipei Medical University.” As it turned out, they were right.
Welcoming acceptance of Taipei Medical University, TMU
After years studying in Australia, Dr. Ridwan’s move to Taiwan was at first a bit jarring. Culture shock would soon pass, however, as he settled in and began to feel the welcoming acceptance of Taiwanese people towards those from other cultural backgrounds. Respect that extended to religion, when Dr. Ridwan, who was the president of the Taipei Medical University-Muslim Students Association (TMU-MSA) back then, found out that TMU supported the TMU-MSA suggestion to open a prayer area for Muslim students. Seeing this kind openness, the benefits of proximity to Indonesia, and the caliber of lecturers and researchers, the advantages of developing a more regionalized perspective quickly became apparent.
But as is often the case with PhD programs, the experience wasn’t always smooth sailing. PhD level study turned out to be more challenging than expected, and being away again was hard on family back home. This made it difficult to fully engage in the process of learning. “I was trying to stay focused on my objective and reach some milestones,” said Dr. Ridwan, “Then one day my supervisor said, ‘Edi, did you make progress?’ I bowed my head. I wasn’t really focused. I couldn’t sleep for thinking what to do.” That moment was a turning point. Dr. Ridwan opened up more to his advisor Professor Tsai, and with her support was able to successfully focus on his studies while simultaneously taking on positions as President of TMU-MSA and Head of the PPI Taiwan (aka Indonesian Student Association in Taiwan) Community Learning Center. The turnaround was marked, and Dr. Ridwan graduated as valedictorian.
Dr. Ridwan (right) and his advisor Professor Pei-Shan Tsai
Vision for education, forming the linkage between Taiwan and Indonesia
Dr. Ridwan now serves as Vice Rector of Academics and Student Affairs at Alma Ata University and Project Manager at the Alma Ata Center for Global Health, working to bring his international study experience to bear on policy and decision making for education in Indonesia. With four directors under his supervision, his goal is to develop Alma Ata University’s academic environment and build student services, in part by integrating domestic education with the academic independence of Australia and the discipline, respect, and wisdom he experienced in Taiwan.
Dr. Ridwan works on maintaining quality of and accessibility to education for students from all over Indonesia, which can be challenging especially considering the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Among his other responsibilities, Dr. Ridwan also heads the University’s program to prevent the spread of the disease among the University community (Task force for COVID-19 Prevention at The University of Alma Ata), which includes creating safety policy and adapting education curriculum for online use. He is also working on initiatives to build graduates’ ability to pursue entrepreneurship, and help grow Indonesia’s economy.
Dr. Ridwan still keeps in contact with Professor Tsai, most recently in her capacity as Dean of TMU’s Office of Global Engagement. A healthy enthusiasm for building education connections between Indonesia and Taiwan comes from Dr. Ridwan’s own positive experiences in Taiwan, and the relationships and friendships he’s forged. For Dr. Ridwan, coming to Taiwan was a beneficial life experience and an excellent education journey. And it’s the one he’d like others to share.