Billy Sudiarto, originally from Indonesia, graduated from EF Academy New York in 2015 and earned an IB Diploma. He is currently studying Human Resources Management at Indiana University, but his original plan was to go into Finance. Read his Q&A to find out how an internship experience changed his mind:
Full name: Billy Sudiarto
Home country: Indonesia
Languages: Bahasa and English
EF Academy campus: New York
Program: IB Diploma
Grad year: 2015
Favorite club: Varsity Basketball (favorite sport, team captain in the second year), Varsity Golf and Varsity Soccer
Favorite subject: Economics
University: Indiana University, studying Human Resources Management
Why did you decide to attend EF Academy?
Studying abroad had been a dream of mine since I was young. But throughout junior high school, I considered what would happen if I didn’t survive the adaptation of living away from my parents and the first year of college, and then I thought, “Well, why don’t I leave early and finish high school there?” Brian Mahoney [Head of School in New York] came to my city and hosted a presentation about EF Academy. I got to hear him talk about the school and learn more about the opportunities available one or two years before I actually attended. It wasn’t a split-second decision but I did eventually decide to leave home. It wasn’t easy to leave all of my friends and the great times I had in my previous school, but it eventually became the best decision that I have made. I saw the opportunity as something I needed to do to better prepare myself for a university life. That was my goal: to be prepared. I left home when I was 16 – I was homesick and having a tough time adapting to the new environment. It’s going to be a challenging transition for many students, but everything heals with time. Everyone had a similar experience – being away from parents and friends back home – it took two or three months before I knew that I was going to have the best high school experience possible.
What did you find exciting and challenging about the IB program?
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what IB was before I enrolled at EF Academy, but I thought it was a pretty interesting program where it expects you to be a well-rounded student in order to prepare you for a higher level education. I thought that being able to pick your own subjects was an advantage and it’s something that I enjoyed because I could choose what I wanted to study. That’s not something that high schoolers can do in Indonesia. Two years of IB were challenging: dealing with higher-level subjects while earning CAS points by being involved in things outside of the classroom. But ultimately, I felt that what IB does is ensure you will be able to transition smoothly to a college-level workload.
What helped you feel at home at EF Academy?
Time. Additionally, friends that I met and the people I got to know were a big part of why those two years were the best years of my life. I tried not to stay in my comfort zone and to get to know people from different countries. It gave me a lot of perspective on how to interact with others. It was hard, but we went through it all together. I got the sense that I was part of a family made up of all the friends I had at EF Academy. It can be challenging because you might get tired of meeting new people and always introducing yourself, but everyone has to go through that experience at the beginning. Dealing with that as early as high school will give you an advantage when you eventually have to start the first year of college. The experience I had at EF Academy really set me up for success at college.
What advice do you have for current students?
– Get involved: The most important thing at the beginning is to keep yourself busy – you have to be involved in different activities in and outside of the classroom. Joining clubs was really helpful; other students would lock themselves in their room and they were too shy to meet new people. Instead, leave your comfort zone and talk to new people and work hard in your subjects. That’s a must-do if you go to EF Academy. EF Academy helps make you a well-rounded person. It was really nice to think that I got a little bit of everything that I need for life by getting involved in high school.
– Be international: Get out of your comfort zone and meet people from different countries. That’s really important.
It’s always interesting and nice to catch up with my friends from EF Academy. Anytime we catch up, we talk about how much fun we had and we joke about how great it would be to go back and relive a week or two as high school students all over again. Even after two to three years after graduating high school, you can always look back on the memories and great stories you’ve had, it’s the best feeling.
How did you choose your university and program?
Applying to colleges was a tough experience and it was a really stressful time with the SAT, essays and applications. It wasn’t just wondering if I was going to get into my preferred college that made it hectic, it was so overwhelming to make a big decision about where I was going to spend the next four years of my life. I thought picking a college was a unique experience where I had to ask myself what I really wanted. Visiting the schools was a huge part of it; going to websites and watching videos is one thing, but physically being there and imagining yourself spending the next four years of your life there is so important. The university guidance counselors were really helpful. I worked with my counselors very closely and I’m not sure what I would have done without them during that time. I opened up to them and explained what I wanted. Make use of your teachers and counselors, share your experience and what you really want. Settling down and getting used to the first couple of months of college was hard – so don’t blame yourself if you question your own decision. That’s all part of the process. I thought I picked the wrong school and program at first too. But give yourself a little more time and enjoy the process.
What internships or work-experience opportunities have you taken on?
I got an internship in Singapore last summer as a finance intern for Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a Chicago-based real estate investment management firm. The internship was a valuable learning experience because being a professional in Singapore’s working environment was something that I had always wanted to explore. I had the chance to see what the finance industry is like. From this opportunity, I realized that finance wasn’t something I would do in my future career. It was a turning point for me.
The summer after the internship, I went back to my hometown and looked for more opportunities in a local Tupperware Brands distributorship. I worked in the human resources department and I helped set up slides and did paperwork for our sales teams. It was interesting to collaborate with more than 300 salesforce members by giving product demos and training. It was a completely different experience from what I had in Singapore where I only dealt with a computer and numbers. I had a chance to interact with different people every day and I absolutely enjoyed it more in terms of day-to-day work and overall experience. I thought I would consider making HR my major and my university offers that so it worked out perfectly.
What is one thing you learned at EF Academy that prepared you for university? For your personal life?
I had a lot of life lessons at EF Academy. Throughout my two years’ time, I talked and interacted with people from different backgrounds and who spoke different languages. It’s so incredible to look back on what I had – it was a rich experience that you can’t get just anywhere. Being able to become friends with people from different backgrounds enriches your life. I was able to become a better person socially and it’s nice to see that wherever I go, not just university, I know how to be social. But that only happens if you make the most out of your time there!
What is the accomplishment you are proudest of?
I feel that being able to survive the time after I left home and then actually get into college are parts of a big picture that I see as a major accomplishment. I decided to leave home when I was 16 and to actually be happy! I never regretted going to EF Academy and now I am where I am because of that, because of my experiences and the advice I took from peers, counselors and parents. Attending a college in the U.S. was all part of my dream of studying abroad. But now I’m not just studying abroad, I’m living abroad! The accomplishment I am proudest of isn’t something measurable because I didn’t win any awards or make a particular sum of money. It’s just the whole process.
What is your dream for your future?
I plan to pursue a career in Human Resources, not only because I love working with people, more than that I want to help individuals achieve their desired results and make a positive impact in their careers. I can really imagine myself starting my first career in a big multinational company.