By Prasiddha Gustanto. Originally published in The Jakarta Post on August 1, 2018.
Ever since it was officially formed in November 2010, the Swiss Alumni Association (IAS) has been an organization dedicated to giving Indonesians who have lived in
Switzerland a means to network with each other. “We are trying to become a ‘home’ for any Indonesians who have ever stayed in Switzerland and are already back in Indonesia, and also to become a reliable partner for other Swiss communities [cultural, business and social] that want to come and expand their activities in Indonesia,”
said IAS chairman Tommy Pratomo.
Indonesia’s Swiss alumni have excelled in many fields as they received very high quality education and training in Switzerland. The IAS began its journey in the mid-2000s as an informal means for relaxed gatherings among Indonesian alumni of Swiss schools and has since evolved into an organization officially recognized by the Swiss Embassy as a place for anyone, not just former students, who has worked, been stationed at or lived in Switzerland to socialize, exchange information, network and meet up.
The organization, headquartered in Jakarta with chapters in Bandung, West Java, and Bali, currently has around 200 registered members. There’s plenty of potential for it to grow much larger, according to Marina, IAS’s public relations representative. “There is currently no precise data on how many Indonesians in total have lived for extended periods in Switzerland. We estimate that the total number may be in the thousands. We are currently in the process of gathering data to make an alumni database system
and reach out to more Swiss alumni in Indonesia,” said Marina, who studied hospitality at the International Hotel Management Institute in Luzern, Switzerland. Marina’s chosen field of study in Switzerland mirrors that of many other Indonesian Swiss alumni, including IAS’s former chairman, Tommy Saroso, who Indonesia’s Swiss alumni
excel in many fields studied at the Glion Institute of Higher Education’s hospitality management school; IAS secretary- general Safitri Rossawati, who studied at the Hotel Institute Montreux and IAS co-founder Maya Moeljadi, who studied at the Ecole Pratique du Tourisme.
Hospitality, and by extension the hotel and tourism industries, has historically been (and continues to be) a common draw for Indonesians to study in Switzerland. After all, Switzerland has always commanded global respect for having some of the world’s best hospitality schools, with Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in particular having been named among the world’s top three institutions for employer reputation in hospitality and leisure management by higher education company Quacquarelli Symonds in 2018.
In general, the country’s various higher education institutes have consistently been named among the world’s best. For instance, the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings for 2018 placed the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in 10th spot and four other Swiss universities in its top 130. Beyond its technical expertise in a wide range of fields, Swiss education carries a special appeal for facilitating networking among students in a highly multicultural environment. “During my time in Switzerland, I found friends [students] from countries like Russia, South Korea, Japan, China, as well as local Swiss students. Being there allowed me to meet international
students and learn about other cultures,” Marina said.
IAS is a place for people who have fond memories such as these and allows them to share them with other people who have also experienced living in Switzerland. It has historically held events such as bersilaturahmi (get-togethers), nonton bareng (group movie screenings), buka bersama (breaking-of-the-fast together) and small group activities for its members. It also organizes more ambitious gatherings. “We are actually preparing to host a seminar/forum group discussion which will invite representatives
from the private sector, government, Swiss entrepreneurs, the Swiss Embassy and Swiss investors to discuss the possibility of partnerships and future investment,” Pratomo,
who studied financial management at the Institute fur Finanzplanung, said.
The requirements for joining IAS itself are simple, Pratomo said. “If you are someone who has ever stayed in Switzerland for more than six months, and would like to contribute in whatever way you are good at, join us, and together we can make a small change. Because small changes can make a big difference.”