My name is Frilly Andrelia Utami and I am a student from Tadulako University in Palu, Indonesia. I am in my last year of studying Economics and Development. On September 28th 2018, an earthquake and tsunami struck the city where I live in and areas surrounding it. The disasters devastated the city and the lives of thousands even until this day. Many were left homeless and dependent on aids. Around 2000 people died, 5000 missing, and even more injured. I was one of the injured victims of the earthquake. I hit my head on a column of a building when I was trying to escape during the earthquake. I was taken to the hospital as soon as possible, and only then I realized how severe the scale of the disasters were. The hospital building was pretty much destroyed and all injured patients were treated on the parking lot with limited equipment. It was very chaotic and as time passed by, more and more injured people came and often dead bodies as well.
The night of 28th September 2018 was probably the longest night I’ve ever had in my life. I couldn’t sleep. I was scared and confused. There were many earthquakes of varying strength following the main one, and this scared people even more. Without electricity and telephone network, it was impossible to find out what was happening, how big the damage was, where to find help or missing family members, and it was hard to know for sure whether aid was coming or not. I slept in makeshift camp on the street with limited food and water for almost a week until the military flew me to the nearest city, Makassar, to get further treatment for my head injury. My family and those who stayed in the city had to sleep in tents for more than two weeks, since it was dangerous to be indoors, and many more had to stay in temporary shelters even to this day, because they lost their homes. Palu changed ever since. The growing and bustling city that I knew before was transformed, physically and socially. Some of the landscapes of the city have changed into unrecognizable terrain and were seen as “scars” from the disasters. Social interaction with people also changed. There was an unspoken grief and sadness in everyone’s tone. Everyone lost someone they know. A friend, a family member, a neighbor, a teacher, a student, or an acquaintance. Everyone was and still is grieving. I came back to Palu in October, after having to undergo surgery and recover from it. The city was recovering then, slowly yes, but it was improving nonetheless. Shortly after I came back, I worked for an NGO that was responding to the emergency. Through my involvement in the NGO, I witnessed how severe the effect of the disasters was to the most vulnerable. They are mostly fishermen and farmers who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the earthquake, tsunami, or liquefaction. When people were on their way of recovery, these farmers and fishermen didn’t even know where to start, there were so many things lost that it was impossible to see what resources were available to them to help them get back on their feet. This sparked my interest in development studies even more. I feel that by studying development, I could understand patterns in different scenarios of development issues and would be able to try to find the most suitable resolutions for different cases, that might be also helpful for those like the farmers and fishermen I encountered then.
That’s why I couldn’t be even more grateful when my home university announced that the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague (ČZU) is offering an scholarship opportunity for a student for one semester. I was even more excited to know that ČZU has an International Development and Agricultural Economics department, with courses such as Rural Development and Project Evaluation. I applied to the program and was very lucky to get selected. Although making the decision to leave my family 5 months after the disasters was hard, I don’t regret taking the chance. I have learned so much during my time here in ČZU. The opportunity to study here has helped me grow both as a student and as an individual. The academic system and curriculum gave me a chance to analyze further economical and development concepts with agriculture and rural scope in mind, which were lacking from my previous study in my home university. Furthermore, the diversity of students made classroom discussions to be very insightful, with a lot of different perspectives that would not be otherwise discussed with the lack of diversity. It is truly an enriching experience, especially many of the students and teachers are equipped with diverse experience in different development projects in different countries, making discussions not only academical but also practical. Moreover, I found the support shown by both students and staff is exceptional. Their efforts to make sure that I have a healthy student life, balancing between studying and making new friends, were something I am very grateful for. Finishing off the semester I realized that not only did I learned a lot from the courses, but I also had a great time meeting a lot of different people.
My time in ČZU, though short, was enough to motivate me to pursue development study even further. It helped me to navigate paths I want to take after a very traumatic event that left me feeling quite helpless for some time. Now, I have more confident in pursuing what I consider as my purpose. Coming back to Indonesia, I am planning to finish my current bachelor study and hope to pursue master’s degree in development in ČZU, in hope that I can also make a difference in lives of, if not many, some people, like I know my colleagues in ČZU have done.