Leaving New Zealand: Lessons Learnt

“Home is not a place. It’s a feeling.”

On 16 April 2017, I officially leaving New Zealand (Christchurch, specifically). I have mixed feelings about this. I’m happy that I finished my masters and excited to go home, meeting my mum and sisters, got a new job, and so on. However, I feel sad as well because I’m making a life here, I’ve met people that become close friends. Heck, my social life here is better than when I was in the high school (which most people told me it’s one of the best time in the life but I found it’s a total bullshit). One of the best lessons I’ve learnt: New Zealand has helped me getting through the grieving process.

I arrived in Christchurch on 29 January 2015. I explored the city and nature and I fell in love. If I write all the reasons, it’s going to be a long post. However, one of the main reason is you live in the city but access to green space and nature are well-done. I studied at the University of Canterbury (UC), in a suburb called Ilam. However, I feel nature is my backyard. It’s not hard to find a place where you can enjoy the nature. Well, nature in Indonesia is still unbeatable in my opinion, but I need extra effort to get there.

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Taken on 17 February 2015, from the top of Christchurch Gondola Station.

Early February 2015, the orientation program started. The UC Student Success team held a series of orientation program from New Zealand Scholarship students and they were coming from different part of the world! I was a bit awkward due to my social anxiety. For me, meeting a new people in a big group can very awkward as I have to remember everyone’s name, country of origins, their interest, and not to mention the diversity of English accent. Everyone looks very excited with the upcoming coursework, which was started on 23 February 2015.

23 February 2015, about 2.00pm, I just arrived in Kaikoura Field Station. I couldn’t wait to introduce myself to my classmates. I connected my phone to the wireless connection and I got tons of message, a shocking message from my sister: “Emir, I’m so sorry but our dad is passed away”.

That terrible feeling. I feel I got struck by a lightening hundred times. I’m trying to be calm as possible, take a deep breath, then just continue what I’m doing and pretend nothing happens back home. Then one of the lecturer handed over a jar which contains random question that you have to answer while people introducing themselves. My question was: “If you want to talk with someone at this moment, who you want to talk with?” Suddenly, a glimpse of my dad’s face jumped into my mind. The lightning struck right into my heart, my body start shaking, I’m losing control. I just want to talk with my dad at that moment, but I was 7,588 km away. Then I walkaway outside and borrowed a phone to call my mom and it is confirmed. My dad is passed away.

That excitement, that euphoria, and that happiness turned into the darkest nightmare of my life ever. I am turned weak. Trying to keep my sanity, figuring out what should I do? I want to go home but at the same time I don’t want to bail out for my first day in uni. Even I’m allowed to get home, how I could buy the ticket? I don’t have that much money. What about my scholarship? What about everything else? Even if I got home, it’s too late already. My dad is gone! I can’t see his face anymore!

From “Teared apart in a new home”  (posted on 3 April 2015)

After receiving the news about my dad, I remember that my teachers (Femke, Mairead, and also Andy) were with me most of time during my down time slash suicidal-thoughts time slash anything-worst-could-happen-time. Also kudos for my super student advisor (Shelley Chappel) who manage to book me a one-way flight to home for the next day. Then also thanks to Ioannis (who also became my supervisor during my thesis year) for driving me all the way back to Christchurch. Finally, I would like to thank you personally, Serena, for keeping me company to get through the night – I was totally scared, feel like shit, I had no one else back in Sonoda but you were there for me. I should hang out with you more but we are busy people, unfortunately. 


Due to Islamic burial process where the body needs to be buried as soon as possible, it was impossible for me to follow the burial process. However, my sister shared this to Facebook and told me that the process went alright.

I was back in Christchurch on 27 February 2015. My teacher has offered me to apply aegrotat for three major assignments which were given during the field-trip. However, I just went through it anyway (aegrotat is not bringing me any advantages) and I passed the course with a satisfying grade. Heaps thanks for my MGIS 2015 classmates for helping me with my questions (Hayley, Anthea, Andrew DC, Andrew, Shelley, Ravi, Janish, Simon, Neal, and so on!)

Day by day, course by course has passed. I started not to think too much about it. Then I started a new hobby: tramping (also known as hiking). I started to do half-day, full-day, and overnight tramp across the country. I’m also glad that during my study, I’ve met wonderful people through my study and grieving process.

Descending from Mt. Herbert summit
Descending from Mt. Herbert. Taken on 23 March 2015. (Hey Paul and Savannah! If you read this I just want to say thank you for coming along! I still feel so bad leaving you behind, Savannah, but glad you made it to the summit!)
Roys Peak Trail
Roys Peak in Wanaka! I did it three times!
My first road trip across South Island. Thank you, Estefania, Nguyen, Claire, and Jeremy. It was a blast!
My 25th birthday celebration. Can’t say enough thanks to Canterbury Indonesian Students Association and Selera Nusantara to satisfy my Indonesian delicacy!
These guys! One of my favourite companion in New Zealand. People start calling us “boy band”.
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31 December 2015, a simple new year’s eve in Hector (West Coast). Thanks to Mitchell and friends. I had a great time to reflect 2015 here. (Photo: Mitchell Rogers)
Lake Christabel Track #NewZealand #Landscape
Lake Christabel Hut, my first overnight tramp. Thanks, Eduardo and friends for letting me joining in the very last minute! I did this exactly a year after my dad passed away.

I posted this on 11 May 2016 (right in the middle of my thesis year). The reason wasn’t to ask sympathy from people, but actually to asked myself: how am I doing? During that time, I feel scared that I would fail on my thesis. Working on a big project while your mind was stuck with the reality that your dad won’t be there to celebrate your success is very hard. Pretty much sounds like Lukas Graham’s song.

I only got you in my stories
And you know I tell them right
Remember you and I, when I’m awake at night
So give it up for fallen glory
I never got to say goodbye
I wish I could ask for just a bit more time
Every step I take, you used to lead the way
Now I’m terrified to face it on my own
You’re not there
To celebrate the man that you made
You’re not there
To share in my success and mistakes
Is it fair?
You’ll never know the person I’ll be
You’re not there
With me
From You’re Not There (Lukas Graham)
My working space at UC.
Late night thesis writing party – I left around 3 AM.

Days have passed quickly. I didn’t count how many late night study, how many drinks, how much caffeine consumption, how much time I procrastinated, and so on. However, I’m just glad that I’ve submitted my thesis on time and got several job offers. I remember people told that how they would become like me not because I’m an A+ student or smart like Einstein (trust me I’m not!), but simply because of my strength and persistence. They also have asked what is the secret in my grieving process? I wish I could have a definite answer. I’ve been look up on Google that people would handle grief differently. Some of them would like to be alone, others would like to have either internal (family) or external support. It is up to you really. However, you need to be honest about how you feel. Do not try to hide it, just let it out.

Writing a post like this can be helpful. Whenever I write, I reflect back from the moment when I received the bad news until this moment. So many great things have happened during my two years living in New Zealand. Still, I feel very small and there are so many things I would like to see in the country. That’s why I dare to say that two years in New Zealand is meant A LOT to me. Of course, that’s also become a reason why I feel sad about leaving this country.

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Another overnight tramp in Mount Aspiring National Park. Thanks, Rory! I feel so lucky and grateful to experience this amazing tramp!
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Jandal Camping Tours! Wohoo… I’m glad become part of the trial. Thank you Cara for held this trial at the perfect timing! Great company as well!
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8 April 2017 – Finally I did Cave Stream walk. It was cold, dark, and wet. It was hilarious as I forgot to bring a spare underwear. The journey back home was a bit unpleasant. Thanks Ruaridh for asking me to come (also for Packhorse tramp on the next day). Should’ve tramp with you more!

I’m definitely want to visit New Zealand again after fulfilling my scholarship conditions (two years minimum stay in my home country). I’m definitely will miss my friends and all the people I have met in this country (apologise that I can’t mention all of you!). Without them, things would be different (and could go worse). I wish the best for them and hope that we will meet again in another time or place. Another wish, especially for people who are currently live (study/work) or travel overseas, I hope that you won’t experience my kind of grief (being far when someone close to you is passed away). It’s horrible and it sucks. Remember at least to call those people (especially your parents, they’re getting old). However, if it’s too late one day, remember that you’re not alone! I’m here if you need to have a chat.

Goodbye New Zealand, hope to see you again next time. Hello Indonesia, good to see you again!