Published on 27 Jun 2024

One historian’s reflection of her PhD journey in Singapore

“For me, pursuing a doctoral degree is not only about furthering my credentials. It is driven by a desire to enhance my teaching, deepen my research capabilities, and make a greater impact on society,” shared Dr Indah Wahyu Puji Utami, a graduate of the Doctor of Philosophy programme offered by the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NIE NTU, Singapore).

Growing up in a humble environment, Dr Indah’s parents emphasised education as a means of a better life. “My parents worked tirelessly to ensure that my brothers and I had access to higher education. Their sacrifices instilled in me a deep appreciation for learning and a drive to excel academically,” Dr Indah reflected thoughtfully.

As a history lecturer at the Universitas Negeri Malang (UM), Dr Indah was deeply immersed in teaching and research when she began to recognise the limitations of her master’s degree in fulfilling her aspirations as an educator and researcher. Recalibrating her personal and professional goals, Dr Indah saw the value of a doctoral degree in achieving academic excellence.

Thankfully, UM, like Dr Indah’s parents, also recognises the importance of continuous learning. It supports its lecturers like Dr Indah in pursuing doctoral studies overseas. Leveraging on the trainings and mentorship programmes in the English language and research proposal writing offered by UM to fulfill her academic dreams, Dr Indah also secured the prestigious Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan (LPDP) Scholarship provided by the Indonesian government that generously funded her postgraduate education in Singapore.

But why Singapore, one may ask. While preparing for her research proposal, Dr Indah came across a book titled “Controversial History Education in Asian Contexts” which, according to Dr Indah, provided her with valuable insights, new findings, and ideas in her field. Two of the editors also happened to be faculty members from the Humanities and Social Studies Education department at NIE. “It was then that I knew I wanted to learn from these people at NIE,” quipped Dr Indah with a laugh. Dr Indah Wahyu Puji Utami.

In all seriousness, Dr Indah stated that it was for two main reasons that she chose NIE in Singapore to pursue her PhD: proximity and quality of education. “Singapore’s close proximity to Indonesia made it convenient for me to travel for research purposes and to visit my family back home,” shared Dr Indah. “Additionally, Singapore is renowned for offering world-class education, and NIE’s reputation for academic excellence aligned perfectly with my educational goals.”

Embarking on a journey of academic pursuit can be akin to venturing in uncharted waters, each step filled with the promise of discovery and challenges. For Dr Indah, the transition into a new learning environment was exciting yet uncertain, an experience not unfamiliar to those who left their families to pursue their studies in a foreign country. Dr Indah said, “Initially, there were challenges. Especially during my first month of student as I navigated a new academic setting that was significantly different from Indonesia’s.”

“Nevertheless, NIE provided me with the necessary support to facilitate a smooth adjustment process,” Dr Indah added. She recalled how the activities conducted by the NIE Graduate Student Club (NIE GSC) helped her familiarised herself with the campus. The various academic and welfare events organised by NIE GSC also fostered a sense of community among graduate students and helped ease the sense of isolation she often felt.

Apart from the NIE GSC, Dr Indah also recalled fondly the support she received from the NIE Graduate and Academic Development Centre (NIE GRAD Centre), NIE Wellness Centre and her supervisors. “My supervisors were always there to support me in my PhD journey,” Dr Indah reminisced. “Associate Professor Simon Creak profoundly influenced my academic growth as my main supervisor. His unwavering encouragement and belief in my abilities consistently motivated me to strive for better results. He provided me with valuable guidance, including tips for thesis writing – to approach it like a sports journalist reporting a match real-time, with revisions and compilations to follow later.” Following this advice, Dr Indah successfully submitted her final thesis for examination within 43 months, something not easily attainable.

Beyond the life of a student, Dr Indah also found time to soak up the diverse community and culture in Singapore. “Singapore offers a vast array of culinary options for me to explore and enjoy. I particularly love bubble tea and often get one to reward myself after I finish an assignment, or submit a chapter draft,” chuckled Dr Indah. “Additionally, I found Singapore’s transportation system to be exceptionally efficient, making it easy and convenient to travel around using public transport!”

Dr Indah’s experience at NIE brought forth positive changes in her career where she made significant contributions to her professional work. Because of the training she received through her PhD research, Dr Indah had been able to write and develop better history textbooks funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology (MECRT), Indonesia. “I am honoured to be appointed as one of the 12 members of the Indonesian Textbook Evaluation Committee. This independent committee collaborates closely with MECRT to ensure the quality of textbooks in Indonesia,” revealed Dr Indah humbly.

National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (Photo courtesy of NIE NTU, Singapore). In Dr Indah’s words, NIE offers a conducive learning environment that fosters academic, personal, and professional growth. The vibrant NIE community, coupled with cutting-edge resources, offer an ideal setting for postgraduate studies. “I would highly recommend NIE to anyone seeking a rigourous and enriching academic experience.”

If you aspire to expand your knowledge through research and hone your skills as an educator like Dr Indah in an inspiring and nurturing environment like NIE, applications for the January 2025 intake are open until 25th July 2024 for research programmes. To learn more about the application process and programme details, visit the official website at The National Institute of Education (NIE) is an autonomous institute under the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. It is ranked among the world’s top 15 universities and Asia’s top three education institutions by the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranking by subjects.

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