2014 in Retrospect

monicantik - phd acceptance letter2014 is the year I chose a career path beyond my expectation, I declined a PhD scholarship and career opportunity in the United States, and the year I lost my (dare I say) college crush in the MH370 airplane mystery.

When I thought 2013 was a crazy year, well 2014 was nothing short of that.

The New Job

2014 started off with the long awaited announcement stating that I passed the qualification round to work for a certain ministry, and three months later, BAM, I’m sitting in an office, wearing grown up clothes and adapting to a way new environment with a wide spectrum of personalities, and when I say wide, I mean really wide. I’ve come across personalities I’ve never encountered before. Seriously. It struck me of how lucky I was to be surrounded with great people before entering the workforce. In terms of interpersonal relationships, I’ve dealt with tough situations in 2014.

In contrast to the challenging people I mentioned above, surprisingly I also got a new, awesome group of friends. To start with, there are 3 new recruits in our unit and we get along really well. I certainly can’t imagine if I had to enter this new environment on my own. In a place with such a wide age range, it’s relieving that you have a small comfort zone of people around your age. Trust me, this little circle has been a great buffer in particularly tricky situations. Besides the guys in our unit, I also got a great group of friends from the initial new recruit training in Cepu. Seriously, at first, getting Cepu for that training was dreadful to me,  but it turned out to be the most awesome month of the year. One month away from our cubicles, Jakarta traffic to go to classes that are just steps away from our bedroom doors and have the weekends off to travel to nearby recreational spots turned out to be awesome beyond expectation. I never thought that I would actually get a group of friends where we can totally hang out (and even travel together, we spent a weekend snorkeling at Pulau Pari) and tease each other in this kind of environment. I mean seriously, you can’t lightly say ‘Anjir‘ or ‘tai ah‘ in a formal office environment like mine, like we usually do with our college buddies so yeah, to gain a group of friends that are the same frequency as you are was really a treat. We actually went on running competitions several times too.

About the work. The work itself is interesting. I had no idea, before actually sitting in my seat, of what I was assigned to do exactly (this is because the information in the recruitment announcement does not state the scope of tasks and responsibilities of the position). And it turned out to be totally different from my projection and what I learned in school (well obviously I didn’t expect to see chemical processes, P&ID’s either) but still…it was a fresh start. An (outgoing) introverted engineering graduate that spent most of her months after graduating in a lab, was assigned to go on business trips to oil and gas company sites to represent the central government (the ministry) in monitoring the implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility, specifically community development programs, meet the local government, and engage with the community (described with the popularly used term: blusukan). So yeah, this was the ultimate exercise of small talk and communication. Well CSR is not the only responsibility of my position, but I guess I decided to highlight because it was..well beyond my expectation :”)


September 2014 : Our visit to Tangguh, West Papua

I guess it’s safe to say that the new job enabled me to go to a lot of places. So, I kinda got used to flying every once in a while and discover that sometimes business trips can get quite lonely. To think of it, I actually ‘celebrated’ my 23rd birthday during a business trip to Aceh, on a bus from Banda Aceh to Lhokseumawe. Yup. No surprise parties, or cute packages sent, no birthday wishes (I was too shy to announce it was my birthday today to everyone on the bus).

celebrating my 23rd birthday with a long bus trip to Lhokseumawe

celebrating my 23rd birthday with a long bus trip to Lhokseumawe and treated my taste buds with amazing Aceh food 

Besides communication, my first months in the ministry gave me valuable experience on the importance of being critical and meticulous. Bureaucracy needs getting used to and keeping an open yet critical mind in this environment is a challenge itself. ‘Why did you decide to work in the government’ is a frequently asked question. People would give me confused looks and wonder out loud why I didn’t apply for a job at multinational companies or state owned companies. I just simply state I wanted to.

The Letter of Acceptance

As some of you may know, in 2013 after graduating I stayed in Bandung for graduate school admissions preparation. After accepting a few letters of rejection over the first few months of 2014, and after signing the contract with the job at the ministry, and after my first few weeks working in the ministry……BOOM. I open my Gmail account and I see an email from a professor saying that he would like to interview me via Skype. My dad was so fussy about this (because he’s the one who really really wants me to get my PhD right after graduating), he actually wanted to rent me a meeting room in a hotel and I’m like….what for. So I ended up having the interview in his office room and it went well. And a few days later, he tells me I got in (as pictured above). Ironically, I opened the email at the office. I told my close friends, and even my best friend congratulated me on Path (when at that time, I haven’t even decided yet whether or not to take the offer or not). So here I am at a crossroad in my life. It was either to stick to my career here and delay graduate school in hopes of finding a better school with a program that fits to my needs and career aspirations or resign from a job that I just got in for 2 weeks or so and enter a PhD program in Chemical Engineering with zero work experience whatsoever at the age of 22 with an opportunity to work abroad (since the scholarship was from the university, I had not obligation to return to Indonesia, unlike scholarships from governmental organizations). As always in situations like this I turn to my parents. I simply don’t do as they say because I have my own considerations but I highly value their input. One parent strongly urged me to quit my job and take the offer; and the other parent urged me to wait and apply for a better school and a program that is a better match. It was tricky for me as well. To be completely honest, the thought of spending the next of my 5 years (and that is even if I pass the qualification exam before 3 years of research) getting a PhD in Chemical Engineering was scary. During my undergraduate study, I passed through each subject adequately but not exactly with flying colors. Group study was a true life saver for me. I looked to Quora to get insights from real PhD students about what the fuss is about, and from that I concluded that it took grit and passion. Especially in PhD it’s all about depth not breadth.

So you’re probably wondering: so why bother to apply in the first place?

Well after the 2013 trip to the US and my visit to schools, my dad really wanted me to apply to PhD programs after graduating from ITB.

This is where I get a lot of questions: wait, how is it possible to get a PhD if you haven’t even have a Masters degree yet?

Well it’s possible. But you have to have sufficient research experience to get in. So that’s why I decided to spend about half a year on campus to gain such experience by being a research assistant in one of my professors’ lab.

Okay back to my dad’s fantastic support. So he was really eager about me applying for graduate school, not to mention he paid for everything: two times taking the GRE, one time taking the TOEFL iBT, and the admission fee for almost a dozen of schools which can total to a hefty sum of money. And for me, as a fresh graduate still uncertain of what I wanted to do, I just thought, well why not. So yeah I applied, with the help of amazing mentors from Indonesia Mengglobal’s Mentorship program. For the few months of 2014, my Gmail would occasionally pop up with a notification of my application status and until April, all notifications stated that I failed to be admitted. In April I got that interview email, and shortly later I got in. Well, it was the program of my safe school. And in a research field I never intended to specialize in the first place. So, after doing a lot of thinking, reading, and just meditating to really get a clear sound of my intuition within (I rely a lot on my gut on important matters like this), I declined the offer. Of course, graduate school is definitely a milestone I would like to achieve, but hopefully in a different program, different school, and obviously different year. This decision often shocks people (only a few know my story). They think it was such a waste to throw away such a fantastic opportunity, but hey I did it for the better. I was scared my father would be disappointed, but thank God, to my surprise my decision did not disappoint him. I have a friend who shares a house with an SBM-ITB PhD student from Singapore. My friend told him about how I declined the PhD admission and he was pretty much dumbfounded. When I met him, I just told him I wanted to get married first (which is still a huge mystery about who I am getting married to haha).

The Tragedy

2014 is the year of the MH370 tragedy that took away a guy I knew and liked in college. Well. Yeah. We all have that college senior (or some college seniors) we look up to and admire, not necessarily in a sentimental way, but admire in general. And the AirAsia tragedy that happened in the end of 2014 was a sad reminder of the lack of closure the MH370 tragedy left us. I got pretty emotional on Christmas Eve, in mass during the candle lighting while singing Silent Night (my favorite part of Christmas) because all I could think was, oh dear it’s his family’s first Christmas without him. I just hope that there’s a clear (and happy) ending to this, with solid proof and the long desired closure.

On My Personal Life

Well. I won’t disclose much about this here. But I’d say, on this area, 2014 was quite interesting. I guess 2014 was a year of adjustment in the dating aspect of my life since I’ve moved back home, the rules have shifted a bit. Back in Bandung, it was much more flexible and I never minded if a guy couldn’t pick me up or drive me home. Going out in the middle of the night to get a warm meal or just drive around was also OK for me. No big deal. But, here being back at home and sharing a roof with my parents have made things quite different. First of all it’s the curfew. If I’m not home by 9 PM my phone would ring with ‘where are you’ texts and frantic ‘where are you, do you know what time this is’ calls. Second it’s the weird rule my mom applies. My mom is really fussy when it comes to dates and guys. She obliges guys, even if they’re just friends, to pick me up at home and return me back home. She doesn’t care if they don’t drive their own cars, but she emphasizes on the responsibility. I was quite tough on her for that particular thing, being the practical person I am, it is kinda easier to meet up somewhere and, besides, I don’t mind taking a cab back home on my own, but she insists so for my own safety and my parents’ own relief (especially after the taxi related incidents that frequently occurred in 2014). So yeah. This actually became an issue in one of 2014’s dating experiences and yeah, oh well. Well my best friend, Tyas, boldly said to me: well if a guy can’t respect your parents’ rules, he’s not worth it. I guess everyone needs a best friend like her in their life, that can boldly and rationally say stuff in your face, even if it’s not what you want to hear.

On Having Fun…and Having a Dog

2014 was a fun year. Java Jazz Festival 2014 was cool, my friends and I got to see Jammie Cullum from a really close distance, but I wasn’t lucky enough to hold his hand. Since new recruits couldn’t ask for days off, so getaways were only done on weekends, and on weekends you can’t really go far…so yeah, travelling far is definitely on the bucket list once we can get days off.

Padma Hotel Bandung, December 2014

Padma Hotel Bandung, December 2014

Novotel Bogor, 2014

Novotel Bogor, 2014

Snorkeling at Pulau Pari, 2014

Snorkeling at Pulau Pari, 2014

2014 is the first time ever my family owned a dog. It took getting used to. I remember being too freaked out to actually touch it. But now I just can’t help petting him. Even on trips, I miss my dog so much.

our dog, Cappucinno

our dog, Cappucinno

On Fitness and Beauty

Well the Monicantik blog wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of my beauty/skin care routine.

On fitness..well I gained a lot of weight this year. I managed to work out on weekends, but sadly inconsistently. It was really hard to resist food, especially on business trips and at the office when there’s always something to munch.

The infamous black pepper crabs from Restoran Dandito, Balikpapan

The infamous black pepper crabs from Restoran Dandito, Balikpapan. This is an example of the stuff I gotta learn to resist (what a challenge!)

Just after Christmas I started the infamous dr. Tan diet (replacing rice/pasta/noodles/potatoes/bread carbs with fruits and vegetables) and so far in a week I’ve lost 2 kilograms. Sticking to it is very challenging, I must say. I’m still a loyal member of Celebrity Fitness (just one club in Lotte Mart Bintaro). Well there’s a Yogalates studio opening soon in Setiabudi, just a 5 minute stroll from my office but I haven’t decided to enroll yet. I got my own Yoga mat to do some moves at home though. Oh and it’s pink. Yeah, that’s important.

Well 2014 is the year I started wearing lipstick. Yup, I used to hate hate hate wearing lipstick. But somehow, out of the blue I decided I want to try playing with lip color. So I experimented with a number of lip products including MAC, NYX, and The Body Shop. Besides that I also revamped my face makeup kit with a new MAC brush, Make Up For Ever foundation, concealer, and primer, and Benefit’s Porefessional. I’m still using MAC Studio Fix Compact Foundation and NYX Pore Filler.

monicantik - cosmetics porefessional MUFE Bobbi Brown

le beauty kit



For my eyes, I use ELF’s brow kit in Dark, Physician’s Formula’s eyeliner, and NYX’s Propel My Eyes mascara. Another highlight in 2014 is this is the year I started using contact lenses. I ordered them online from Eyelovin.com. So far my staple lenses are Eyescream Rayray Grey and Belle Honey.

In terms of treatment, I am still faithfully using dr. Rani Novian’s skin care products, mainly the Whitening SPF 25 Sunblock, and night creams: the Obaji Retin A:Glycore 3:1; Equinon; and Prebase for dry and peeled patches of skin that occasionally appear. For other facial skin treatment, I regularly mask my skin using facial masks from Neogence I got during my visit to Singapore. Now I’m actually waiting for my Glamglow sample set to arrive (I ordered one online) and I’m eager to try that too. In 2014 I did not go through any major facial treatments such as lasers or facials and I’m planning to get the Ematrix laser treatment this year.

This year I kept my hair long with layers as usual. I have this amazing hairstylist, Thio that works in the Irwan Team salon in Bintaro. He consistently gives me a hair style that makes my hair appear to have volume (when it’s actually quite limp) and that looks even better weeks after the hair cut. This year I used Hair Growth shampoo for most of the year, perhaps this is the only locally made hair loss shampoo that does not give me dry, broom-like hair. At the end of the year, I ordered Mane n Tail from Luxola (the original kind not Herbal Gro) and so far so good. I haven’t noticed a dramatic change in hair loss and hair growth (I’ve only used it for about a week) but it hasn’t shown any negative effects either so I’m keen on continuing usage and probably combining it with the Herbal Gro spray.

For body treatment, I’m still using Kojie San as my body soap to whiten my skin (my love for fun in the sun must be compensated with intensive whitening efforts haha) and after that I also use Cottage’s Vanilla shower cream (it smells so nice). Oh on 2014 I signed up for an underarm laser treatment for hair removal and underarm skin improvement at Tokyo Beauty Laboratory.

~To Sum Up~

2014 was an amazing, crazy, mind blowing year of adjustment and endless learning. Moving back to Jakarta, and starting the life of a young adult living and working in Jakarta was great overall.

I truly wonder what 2015 has in store.


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