Be a Student of Good Cook!
By Said Muniruddin

I have been pursuing my M.Sc  in Accounting and Finance in the University of Birmingham since September 2005 under the sponsorship of Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program (FF-IFP). It is expected to be completed in August 2006. As a student, I would like to share an experience on how to survive in a foreign country related to the ability of cooking. The following is my recommendation for those who want to study abroad.

It is important to note that once fellows arrive in their destination countries, to some extents, life will incredibly change. One of the greatest changes is in eating experiences. For those who are in home country used to be served by their mom, wife or sisters will soon turn into “daily self-service”. Hence, I would like to recommend new fellows to be aware of this new lifestyle. It seems simple but potentially risky.

I believe that most fellows are professional in cooking. However, I am also confidence to say that there still a number of fellows that remains amateurish in this area. Cooking should be seen as a universal skill, not merely attributed to women alone. Boys should be capable of doing this regular job as well. This is regarded important since fellows, both men and women, will spend from 1 up to 2 years of their grant period away from home. I do not mean that fellows should establish Indonesian restaurants rather than studying in foreign countries. What I want to say is that being a good cook gives you more confidence and even help you to survive. Why?

We realise that human beings do eat. Some eat more, while others eat less. No one does fasting everlastingly. In this case, we from Indonesia probably eat a lot, at least three times a day. If we do not eat properly, we will return to Indonesia not only with a certificate of master’s degree but together with “sakit maag”.

Unfortunately, not all people like cooking. Some argue that indomie will do the trick! But the question is, will you eat instant noodle all the time, for the whole year? I can hear your answer is “no!” Therefore, the ability to prepare various menus will keep your life in balance. It is possibly true that fellows’ life in foreign universities is a combination of studying hard and enjoying good food.

“Being a good cook is a necessity”. You may argue that the statement is not entirely true. For example, those who do not prefer to cook will have the opportunity to go to restaurants. However, it is very costly. At the same time, fellows could also say that they can buy any junk food. But again, this is not healthy. I would prefer to eat as much as possible, but healthier stuff and relatively cheap. This can only be done by shopping a variety of ingredients, vegetables, meat, and such to be cooked at home. Saving money from an excessive consumption allows you to spend in a more beneficial investment (e.g. books or preferred holidays).

The experience of being a bad cook was once evidenced by a fellow in my dormitory. He lived with students from India and China who were very professional in cooking. In contrast, this Indonesian fellow knew nothing about cooking except plain rice, indomie and “telor rebus.” He was frequently asked by his Indian and Chinese mates in the dorm why he ate the same ordinary menus all the time. He also prepared menu at home to bring it to campus. And again his friends in campus questioned him why he ate similar meal every day. To avoid the same questions he then was afraid to cook in front of his mate. To stay away from this annoying question, he ate alone in campus. You may find it later, if you eat together with your multicultural friends in campus, they will check kinds of menu you prepared everyday. They are curious of other nations’ type of meals. they will be surprised if you eat the same thing everyday.

More importantly, we sometime are invited to have a party of traditional meal from different countries. It is worth to note that western communities as well as many Asians are fond of party. Believe me, party is almost every week! To be success in such a hedonism social life, I urge fellows learn to prepare some traditional menus. At least, this is one way of promoting your lovely Indonesian food!*****

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