Pre-Departure Thought Dump

Nikolas Panggabean
4 min readAug 15, 2022


I spent the last two weeks in Surabaya and Bali and it has been pleasant, enjoyable, and most importantly relaxing. I really thought I needed to step away from the hustle and bustle of Jakarta, and preparation to France. It also gave me the opportunity to write and reflect on recent events, because these past two months have been hectic to say the least.

Now that I think about it, it took me well over two years to finally obtain a Masters scholarship. Wow. For those wondering, I obtained a French Excellence S2 scholarship from Institut Francais Indonesie-French Embassy in Indonesia to continue my studies in Acoustics at Ecole Centrale de Lyon. My journey certainly pales in comparison to the stories you find on social media, but it was not without its hardships. I was rejected by 3 universities, 3 scholarships, and missed 4 admission deadlines. Those failed university applications closed around 4–5 potential scholarships. Nevertheless, I made it.

There is a lot of wisdom to be gained from this experience. Here are some reflections and insights that I’ve pondered over; hopefully they make some sense to you.

  1. Life is a puzzle — we just don’t know where everything fits yet

Leading up to the moment of my acceptance, there were a lot of things in my life that seemed useless and out of place. In due time though, everything started to fall into place — just like pieces of a puzzle.

When I started learning French in primary school, I didn’t know if I would get the chance to use it in the future. I learned it because it was mandatory and it was the most interesting language offered at the time (if I’m not mistaken, the only other language was Mandarin). Little did I know that it would prove to be extremely useful for my future endeavors.

During the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I had been accepted to Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, albeit without a scholarship. It was like a dream come true. I liked everything starting from the programme itself, the study culture, and daily life in Sweden. Unfortunately, the timing just wasn’t right for a variety of reasons, so it pained me to have to decline the offer. Later on though, those application documents would form the basis of my scholarship application and provide valuable insight on areas of improvement to create a stronger application.

2. You don’t always need motivation

Okay, the title may seem controversial but hear me out. I am not the most motivated person, and I don’t feel inspired easily. I can’t fathom how people can draw inspiration from role models and external inputs. However, I think one of the biggest reasons why I was able to strive towards this goal was because it was always on my mind 24/7. That thought turned into willpower (or fear for that matter). Fear that I wasn’t using my time wisely, time that could be used to prepare and practice. That gave me the willpower to get off my ass and start doing something, anything, that would get me closer to the goal.

3. Ora et Labora

The power of prayer is a fascinating and mysterious phenomenon. I’ve never been a very religious person, but I do believe in God. I’ve experienced many pivotal moments that can only be explained as gifts from above. During the course of my preparation, I was always reminded to put this goal in prayer and ask for wisdom, willpower, work ethic, and the power to accept the outcome whatever that may be. The last point is especially important, because by not being able to accept failure, you fail to realise that life has other (and better) plans in store.

4. How badly do you want it?

This is a great question to ask yourself everyday. A constant reminder of your goal and introspection of where you are on that road. Read books, browse Google, do research on social media, and leverage your connections to gain every sliver of information and insight to give you that edge against others, especially with regards to something as competitive as a scholarship. Envision yourself at the end goal. I wanted it badly so I made the effort to use any means possible. Plus, doing all of these things yourself is pretty hard, which is why I’m truly grateful to my family and friends for their help, not only by providing valuable resources but also through moral support.

This is just the beginning of my journey. The next part is comparatively more challenging : maintaining my scholarship for next year and finishing my Masters degree. I’ll have much more fun doing it though!



Nikolas Panggabean

Someone trying to get back into writing.