- English levels: Nearly all students that were at the fair had at least high intermediate English skills. This made a great recruitment ground for universities and for university-affiliated ESL programs that could offer Conditional Admissions and Academic English preparation (such as mine). Many students were still open to the idea of developing their Academic English skills and of preparing themselves for linguistic, academic, social, and personal success at the university level–though this was a less prevalent here than in Jakarta.
- Friendly students: One thing that I tremendously enjoyed in Surabaya and Jakarta is the fact that the students are such a pleasure to speak with. They were not shy about approaching our tables, and they all came with big smiles and a sense of excitement for the idea of going abroad. Just thinking about it now makes me smile!
- Program diversity: Similarly to Jakarta, the students were looking for a wide variety of programs. Most were looking for graduate opportunities, with most interest being in Science, Engineering, and Business; however, there were a lot of students looking for undergraduate programs, or programs that are outside of the norm for me, such as Art, Music, International Relations, and Foreign Languages.
- Large numbers: This was a very busy fair, once again. Fair statistics indicate that over 1,400 students attended, compared to nearly 1,800 in Jakarta. We did not get a break for the entire time–the students certainly kept us busy.
- Presentation attention and interest: I gave a seminar about our Conditional Admissions Program while I was at the fair. I was pleased with the turnout. The room was full of potential students, and they were very fun to talk with. I was able to do the presentation in English if I spoke slowly, and the students interacted with me (within limits–culturally, it was a little weird for them to have so much potential interaction with a speaker). Overall, we had a good time together!
- Time/material wasters: As friendly as many of the students were, there were a lot who seemed to be drifting through the fair with no idea of what they wanted to study. Some people sat at my booth with the obvious intention of practicing their English for a few minutes until I gave them the subtle cues that they needed to move on so that I could deal with more serious students. There were a lot of others who came by simply to pick up some brochures and move on, with absolutely no idea of the type of brochures they were picking up.
- Late interpreters: For some reason, our interpreters were released to us only 15 minutes before the fair, which gave us only a small amount of time to train them before the doors opened and the crowd rushed in. That ended up being a source of stress, as my interpreter had to try to figure out my expectations while the event was going on, and we were just so busy. She certainly put in the effort to compensate, though. I really appreciated her enthusiasm.
- Scholarships: Similarly to the fair in Jakarta, students asked incessantly about scholarship opportunities.
- Lack of parents: Also similarly to the fair in Jakarta, there were not enough parents attending this fair. Granted, a lot of students were looking for graduate-level programs here, so it may not be as necessary for a parent to be present, depending on the student’s situation.
Would I attend this fair again?
I would definitely come back in the future. Though there are some challenges with recruiting in this market, I think it definitely bears some of our time, attention, and resources. I think there is some real opportunity in Indonesia. With its population, growing middle class, and the students’ interest in going abroad, I believe that, the more that we recruit here, the more “mature” this market will become, and it will eventually correct the issues related to finances (the scholarship question) and the lack of parental participation. I’ll definitely be back!