Dosen, ya?

“Sori ganggu, lagi ngajar ya?”

“Kok tidak libur, kan mahasiswa libur?”

Dua pertanyaan di atas adalah pertanyaan yang sering saya peroleh kalau sedang ngobrol dengan teman-teman yang tidak seprofesi. Tetangga-tetangga saya tuh, hobi banget bertanya seperti itu. Biasanya saya cuma senyum-senyum saja, malas menjelaskan scope kerjaan saya yang sebenarnya. Bisa pusing. Ibu saya sendiri sempat bengong juga kalau lagi lihat saya beres-beres mau berangkat ke daerah A, visit ke universitas X. Padahal ibu saya sudah “terlatih” hidup dengan bapak saya (yang juga dosen-turned-something-else) selama puluhan tahun.

Mungkin masyarakat kita memang terbiasa membentuk stereotype tentang profesi tertentu. Kalau guru/dosen, pasti cuma ngajar mahasiswa, kalau mahasiswa libur, ikut libur.

Ada sih, guru/dosen seperti itu. Tapi kami di Departemen Biologi yang tercinta, umumnya tidak.

So, jadi dosen, ngapain aja sih?

Wah, macem-macem. Ada yang jadi direktur LSM, jadi dekan :-), buka usaha budidaya anggrek, busana muslim… yes, we are a multi talented group! Saya sendiri? Sekarang sibuk ngurusin orang pinter 🙂

Tapi memang, tugas utama seorang dosen sih, tetap di pengajaran dan penelitian. Kalau mau ngaku dosen, ya harus ada ngajar nya. Penelitian pun, melibatkan mahasiswa. (and yes, I realize I haven’t been in the lab for a long time now). The transfer of knowledge is key.

So being a teacher is who we are, not just what we do.

So, the next time you call me, jangan langsung nanya “Lagi ngajar ya?” karena belum tentu sedang mengajar. Bisa saja saya lagi nongkrong di mall minum kopi, atau lagi…asyik blogging!

I wish I had more time to blog!

Re-taking the TOEFL test, or, is this really the way to spend your long vacation?

I just spent a morning taking the Next Generation TOEFL, aka the Internet-Based TOEFL.

Why take the TOEFL test again? Why on the last weekend of the Idul Fitri vacation?

I’ll answer the 2nd question first. It was an easy choice, because I didn’t want to take the test when I was stressed out from work issues. Plus, since registration is now online, it was very easy to register and arrange a test date. No more navigating the awful parking garage at Menara Imperium, yay! We could choose test centers according to location. Drawbacks of this new registration system? Well, you gotta have a credit card for registration purposes because otherwise you’ll have to wait for banks to open.

As for the first question… well, there is more than one reason. You can say it’s for both professional and personal reasons. It never hurts to have a valid TOEFL score in your pocket (you never who’s gonna offer you an all inclusive scholarship for grad school). Does it have to be the International TOEFL? No it doesn’t have to be the International TOEFL, but I doubt I can find the time to register for an institutional TOEFL on campus.

So what was the test like?

All information about the test can be found here. You can register, buy practice tests, and you have one time access to a sampler test. No need to look at other websites offering information.

The test itself is radically changed. All four skills of the English language Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing are included in test. The last time I took the TOEFL (a decade ago!!!) spoken English was tested separately and written English was not on every test. My guess is that 1) wants a more efficient way of testing and 2) TOEFL wants to challenge the ‘other’ English Proficiency Test, namely the IELTS. If someone from ETS reads this they’ll probably correct my statements. Because of this, the length of test is also longer, about 4 hours.  You also need to be very familiar with computers because otherwise you’ll have difficulty in taking the test.

So, so, how was the test?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. To have a high TOEFL score ( >550, a requirement for post graduate study in the US), you need to expose yourself to as much English as possible. This is the only way. Taking a TOEFL preparation course will not help much if outside the course you do not practice your English skills. Use the prep course as just one way of disciplining yourself for practicing but actually, you can save a lot of money by practicing yourself. Those of you at the Dept of Biology, UI, you can use me as a living practice object  🙂

The TOEFL test is difficult. I can say that much, and I used to teach English :-). However, if you are an undergraduate student and have read some university text books, you have an advantage, because the test material is basically university level texts. There is no structure section anymore so grammar is not specially tested.

The first session of test is Reading and Listening. Again, if you are a university student, you’re in luck, because the reading passages are taken from university textbooks. Also, if you have passed an Academic English course at your university with a good grade, chances are you can get a decent score in the reading section. You really need to concentrate on the Listening part, because they now use simulation of university classes as listening material. Thankfully, you can take notes.

After a ten minute break, you continue with Speaking and Writing section. Don’t worry,  if you take the International TOEFL, all the test centers have a good quality language lab with good quality audio visual equipment.  (I certainly hope it’s a requirement!). You can hear the people speaking quite clearly. The key word here is concentrate. Listen to all the directions, and think carefully before you answer.

A special note about writing. One of the main weaknesses of Indonesian education is that we don’t get enough writing practice, even in Bahasa Indonesia. I hope this is being corrected in the new curriculum but anyway, writing, in any language is about organizing thoughts and synthesizing sentences. You need a lot of practice for this. The best approach in my opinion is to make an outline of what you want to write before you start. Some people have the gift and talent of being able to create paragraphs that interconnect beautifully while others need more practice. If you fall in the latter category, start practicing.

The TOEFL is an indicator of your English competence. One would say it’s ‘just an indicator’. My brother told me, “well if you can laugh at the jokes on ‘Friends’, you can get a high score”. That’s true, because that means you can process the jokes in your mind and respond accordingly. One of my American friends told me that “TOEFL is indicator of how well you can function in English.”

Yes, you need to be prepared when you take the TOEFL. But practice doesn’t mean spending money on expensive courses.  Before shelling out millions of rupiahs for a TOEFL prep course, consider just practicing regularly to all kinds of English skills. Listening to music, watching TV, movies (without subtitles), reading books (no translations!). Try to practice with a partner (for this you can hire a teacher if you wish, I think it’s cheaper :-)). Make it fun.

So, hope you all had a good vacation and ready for the workweek on Monday :::aaargh:::

No inspiration…

atau "Lagi nggak mood…"

Kita semua pasti pernah mengalami hari-hari seperti itu, siapapun dia, mahasiswa, dosen, artis, pak presiden (barangkali lho…tapi kalau pak presiden lagi gak mood, kasihan negara ini…)

Misalnya, saya. Sebetulnya saya harus menyelesaikan membaca 5 set buku proposal, masing-masing set isinya 2 dokumen yang tebel-tebel. Saya juga harus bikin laporan kunjungan ke sebuah universitas di daerah. Semua harus selesai dalam waktu lebih kurang satu minggu. Juga ada setumpuk skripsi. Belum lagi urusan jadwal kuliah semester depan yang tidak beres-beres karena ada kuliah-kuliah yang belum punya ruangan! (siap-siap kuliah di lapangan futsal ya… :-))

Tapi kok, malas ya? Rasanya lebih enak nonton videoklip di atau nongkrong di starbucks sambil menyeruput minuman jagoan saya, Tall Non-Fat Hazelnut Latte. Atau membaca buku pesanan saya dari toko buku online ini yang baru saja datang kemarin, "Living with our Genes, Why They Matter More than You Think", atau…

Okay, there are always a 100 more interesting things to do than work
. Masalahnya adalah, bagaimana memulai menyelesaikan seabrek pekerjaan tersebut?

Beberapa waktu yang lalu saya sms-an dengan seorang teman yang sedang panik menghadapi seabrek kerjaan. Saya ingat, saran yang saya berikan "Urai satu persatu permasalahannya, baru kemudian dikerjakan, satu persatu."

Well, it’s time to take my own advice.

Note: This post is dedicated to all of you who are feeling the pressures of research. You’re not alone. 

“You want me to work with WHO?”, part 2

New Year! New Semester!

After neglecting this blog for quite some time, I have a little down time today to write.

So after a semester on the job as academic coordinator, I have yet to “find my groove”. The growing pains of a new, web based, online academic administration system, called theSIAK NG , have made me a reluctant workaholic during the semester.

“Reluctant workaholic”? Yeah, well, I often work till late evening, going way beyond the 8 hour workday, no thanks to a workaholic boss who often insist that ‘we have to finish this today. No matter how long it takes.” The day he said that I went at 8.00pm. Boo,hiss. And the annoying thing is, we couldn’t finish entering data that evening.

SO the month of January became a long painful month that had me battle a nasty flu without the chance of proper recovery period that I awfully needed.

January became February, and that started with the worst flood in history of Jakarta. About 70% of the city was under water for at least 3 days. Water level reached 3 m, drowning houses and schools. There was increased demand for rubber rafts, blankets and household stuff.

All in Depok was safe, although we were without clean water for a few days. In the middle of that the new semester began. All things considered, the beginning of semester was relatively smooth, save for room changes that had teachers bewildered.

It was during this period I became baffled at the behavior of some colleagues. University teachers are only human after all, but Seriously! (to quote a favorite phrase from Grey’s Anatomy) .

SO now it’s March, and midterms are just around the corner. More work!

Speaking of which… I should go and try to do some work.