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Di Balik Foto-Foto Keren Mahasiswa Luar Negeri

Sumber Foto: Arief Balla

IF you have any problem, come and see me. You are not alone.” Kata Elaine, Coordinator Community and Educational Program di International Office di kampus pada saat hari pertama orientasi.

Elaine juga membagikan banyak brosur. Salah satunya adalah informasi kontak, tempat, dan siapa saja yang dapat dihubungi ketika hendak bertanya apa saja, terutama ketika mengalami masalah psikis. Mereka juga mengirimnya via email kampus ke setiap mahasiswa, terutama mahasiswa internasional. Mereka selalu menekankan untuk tidak ragu bertanya dan berkonsultasi, baik masalah akademik maupun non-akademik, sekecil apapun masalahnya.

Profesor pun selalu meyakinkan berkali-kali untuk tidak ragu menghubunginya ketika ada masalah. Pihak kampus sepertinya sangat mahfum potensi gangguan mental mahasiswa baru. Mahasiswa internasional terutama mahasiswa semester awal memiliki semua syarat untuk stres dan depresi. Mereka berasal dari negara yang berbeda jauh dalam banyak hal.

Mahasiswa Indonesia yang baru tiba di Amerika Serikat misalnya. Mereka menghadapi kenyataan perbedaan mencolok bahasa, makanan, cuaca, transportasi, budaya, dan sistem perkuliahan.

Hari-hari pertama di kampus tujuan adalah saat-saat yang mendebarkan. Foto-foto akan diupload di sosial media dengan latar bandara, gerbang kampus, makanan barat, dan teman-teman baru. Semua tampak keren dan hebat. Wajah sumringah dengan senyum tersungging, dua jari membentuk huruf V, atau kedua lengan yang direntangkan seperti hendak mengatakan,“Hei aku telah meraih mimpi.”

Sumber Foto: Arief Balla

Anggap saja ini adalah perayaan kesuksesan (sementara) setelah berjuang keras melewati proses demi proses. Jauh sebelumnya, mereka telah melewati hari-hari yang berat dan melelahkan mengurus segala persyaratan kampus tujuan. Mereka belajar TOEFL IBT/IELTS berjam-jam setiap hari disaat teman-temannya sibuk nongkrong di kafe. Mereka memaksa diri mengerjakan soal-soal latihan di malam minggu ketika teman-temannya berjalan-jalan ke mal atau pantai lalu mengupload foto-fotonya di sosial media.

Belajar keras mereka belum tentu terbayar tuntas sekali tes. Tes mereka dapat mengambil tes sampai tiga kali atau lebih. Sekali tes seharga paling tidak Rp.2.700.000. Tak sedikit yang menghabiskan tabungan bahkan meminjam uang demi tes. Tak sedikit pula yang mengorbankan tabungan pernikahan demi tes. Barangkali.

Umumnya mahasiswa internasional adalah penerima beasiswa. Maka mereka tidak hanya bersaing dengan diri sendiri untuk mendapat skor bahasa tetapi juga bersaing mendapat beasiswa.

Pihak penerima beasiswa memberi kuota terbatas sementara pendaftarnya mencapai ribuan. Adapun LPDP tidak ada batasan kuota tetapi seleksinya juga semakin ketat.

Selama perjuangan itu, mereka berkejaran dengan waktu. Urus berkas ke sana dan ke sini. Tak banyak waktu bersantai. Dan ketika mereka tiba di kampus tujuan, dream comes true. Akhirnya. Momen kebahagiaan pun coba diabadikan dengan jepreten demi jepretan.

Namun di saat yang bersamaan, mereka juga berdebar menghadapi hari-hari berat. Lebih berat dari perjuangan mendapat skor IELTS dan beasiswa. Beberapa pemberi beasiswa memang memiliki program persiapan keberangkatan. Materinya berupa gambaran sistem perkuliahan, budaya, tradisi, sampai tips-tips menghadapi culture shock. Hanya saja, hal ini bukan berarti jaminan jika mahasiswa tidak akan mengalami kendala bahasa dan beban kuliah.

Mendapatkan nilai IELTS tinggi tidak lantas menjamin bahasa tak lagi jadi kendala. Tinggal di negeri di mana Bahasa Inggris adalah bahasa utama sering kali justru menjadi tekanan. Satu bulan hingga satu tahun adalah waktu adaptasi bahasa. Bisa jadi kita masih sering kehilangan arah ketika profesor menjelaskan dan hanya melongo. Atau saat sedang berkumpul dan teman-teman sedang bercanda sementara kita tak mengerti sedikitpun. Entah karena intonasi yang cepat, kata-kata yang belum familiar, bahasa slang, atau dialek yang belum pernah didengar sebelumnya. Hal-hal tersebut sering kali membuat down karena merasa tak mampu mengikuti materi perkuliahan.

Di sisi lain juga memantik perasaan inferior karena merasa kualitas Bahasa Inggris yang payah ketika berbicara dengan penutur asli. Merasa sebagai mahasiswa paling bego yang terancam mengecewakan nama baik bangsa dan keluarga. Padahal sering kali Bahasa Inggris kita sudah sesuai tetapi lawan bicara tidak terbiasa berbicara dengan orang dari luar. Staf toko atau warga lokal misalnya. Apalagi jika mereka tidak berpendidikan tinggi sehingga seringkali mereka meminta untuk mengulang-ulang.

Meski sudah tahu sistem perkuliahan, tuntutan tumpukan tugas esai, proyek, dan daftar bacaan dapat menyebabkan kewalahan. Tidak saja karena jumlahnya yang bejibun tetapi karena masih dalam tahap transisi. Terlebih jika beban tugasnya terasa berat dapat memancing stres dan depresi karena merasa putus asa dan gagal.

Sementara ketika hendak komunikasi bebas, kendala bahasa masih sering jadi penghalang. Apalagi kita belum terbiasa mengungkapkan gangguan psikis seperti stres dan depresi. Kesehatan mental masih sering dianggap tabu di masyarakat kita.

Pengakuan seperti stres apalagi hendak bunuh diri dianggap aib. Apalagi jika curhat di sosial media. Alih-alih mendapat dukungan, teman-temannya justru meledek cengeng dan payah. Sebuah situasi yang dapat lebih memperburuk suasana.

Situasi demikian cenderung tidak akan dipublikasi. Ia lebih baik disimpan di dalam hati. Cukup menjadi tanggungan sendiri dan akan dicari solusinya sendiri.

Mereka tidak akan memposting foto-foto tugas yang bikin puyeng, dafar bacaan yang belum selesai, kebingungan memahami materi, atau makanan yang masih bertengkar hebat dengan penghuni seisi perut. Tak jarang ada yang berteriak sendiri, melemparkan buku, merobek-robek kertas, atau menangis.

Hal-hal ini tak akan diposting tentu saja. Mereka sedang mempertaruhkan harga dirinya. Apalagi jika mereka dianggap penerima beasiswa prestisius dan orang-orang mengira kesuksesan studi
hanya ditakar kecerdasan. Padahal tekanan bukan saja pada beratnya tugas tetapi juga dipengaruhi faktor-faktor di luar akademik.

Perasaan sendiri, kerinduan pada kampung danorang-orang terkasih, makanan yang belum berdamai dengan lidah, atau ditinggal nikah bagi yang belum berkeluarga (turut berduka).

Tentu tekanan demi tekanan tersebut tak bisa terus didiamkan. Bersosialisasi adalah sebuah cara efektif meringankan beban dan sosial media sering kali dianggap cara paling mudah dan paling dekat. Gawai yang melengket di tangan dan wifi yang lancar jaya menjadikan sosial media tempat bersosial diri untuk mengurangi dan menghindari stres.

Foto-foto saat jalan-jalan, makan, atau berada di tempat-tempat menarik lalu dibagikan ke sosial media adalah sebuah cara bercerita tanpa harus menceritakan tekanan berat yang dialaminya.

Sering kali ada kelegaan tertentu selepas berbagi meski sekedar berbagi foto atau cerita merasakan sensasi salju pertama. Tetap berkomunikasi dan terhubung dengan orang lain meski diperantarai gawai memberi arti tertentu pada diri mereka. Bahwa ada tempat melabuhkan cerita.

Ada mata dan telinga lain yang bersedia membaca dan mendengarkanbceritanya. Foto-foto keren tak selalu harus diartikan pamer apalagi hanya plesiran.

Bagaimanapun pikiran yang mumet perlu disegarkan dengan jalan-jalan. Betapapun stres dan depresi tak boleh dibiarkan berkuasa. Bagaimanapu depressi adalah the killer without face. Pembunuh tanpa wajah.

Percayalah foto-foto yang keren hanya menceritakan sebagian kecil perjuangan menghadapi beban. Selebihnya tak tampak. Sebab barangkali kau paham, tak semua hal harus diceritakan.

Arief Balla

Sedang menempuh studi master TESOL and Applied Linguistics di Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Amerika Serikat dengan beasiswa Fulbright.

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Tentang Penulis

Arief Balla

Sedang menempuh studi master TESOL and Applied Linguistics di Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Amerika Serikat dengan beasiswa Fulbright.

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