“People Stare at My Hijab”: An Indonesian Medical Student on Living Abroad, Instagram and Identity

Though hailing from an Indonesian village where girls weren't expected to study, Andi Yudha's mother pushed her to travel abroad and study medicine. Independence isn't easy, though, says the 20-year-old.

By Andi Nurdini Yuridna Yudha, 20, Hunan

My mother was very keen that I study medicine. She was brought up in a village in central Indonesia, and girls there weren’t encouraged to study. Even so, her parents educated her well, and she became a journalist, and now works in the government’s child and women’s welfare department.

I was born in Makassar, Indonesia’s fifth largest city with a population of about 2 million. My father consults with NGOs there.

I always wanted to study abroad, so after school, with my mother’s initiative, I travelled to Hunan province in China to do my MBBS from Changsha Medical University. The education here is better and inexpensive compared with my country. I have been here three years now and have picked up English and Mandarin.

At present, I am visiting India for six weeks as part of an AIESEC volunteer-abroad programme. I started chronicling all my travels on Instagram, where I now have quite a few followers.

andi yudha.jpgPeople stare at me a lot in China because of my hijab. But it’s how I represent myself, not so much a sign of my religion. I see it as my identity, a part of me.

I feel that my two younger sisters have it easy in Makassar because they have all the facilities and the privilege of my parents’ support. I’ve had it relatively hard the past few years. I was forced to be independent and take care of myself in a place far away from home.

But I am pretty sure something good will come out of it. I haven’t arrived yet. I am trying to enjoy the process.

First published in the February issue of eShe magazine. Read it for free here.

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