Following her Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering in 2014, Fatimah left Indonesia to study at Ecole Centrale Nantes. After completing her first year of a Master’s in Engineering in Applied Mechanics, this 22-year-old student, passionate about cultures and intercultural differences, is about to start her second year, hoping that when she gets her degree, she’ll find a job back home in an oil and gas company.


Fatimah, you are currently studying for a Master’s of Engineering in Applied Mechanics at Ecole Centrale Nantes. Why did you choose to study in France?


When I was in high school, I spent a year in a Germany as an exchange student.  After four years of studying in Indonesia, I really wanted to go back to Europe. I decided to apply to French engineering schools even though that meant overcoming the language barrier, and of course having to adapt to a new culture. The Total Scholarship helped me achieve this goal and I am really proud I was accepted to a top school like Ecole Centrale Nantes.


So tell us, how did you adapt to your new life?


Before coming here, I had only studied French for three months, which was definitely not long enough. In the beginning, I used gestures a lot to communicate with people. But it was easier to integrate as I had already experienced European culture before. In Nantes, my classes are only in English but I get to practice French during my free time as I live in a dormitory with French students. A complete immersion!


Understanding the French education system was also challenging. In Indonesia, we use the Anglo-Saxon education system. For example, the notation system is different in Maths and Physics. In Indonesia, you just need to solve the problem; in France you need reasoning and explanations, the teacher wants to understand how you think and how you came to that particular solution. I really like that aspect because I think it helps people to think on their feet and be more independent.


How do you like living in Nantes? Any stories to share?


Nantes is so much cleaner than where I used to live in Indonesia! It’s a small and quiet city but there’s also a strong intercultural environment. I love the fact that I experience cultural differences every day. For example, one time in class, I put my book on the floor. I realized that by doing so, I had just offended an Indian girl, as in India books are sacred. I learned that if you want to adapt, you should learn about people. If you don’t know, just ask.