Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Tanoto Scholar Embarks on Maiden Flight

“Which room do I go to? What must I do with this ticket? How do I put this seatbelt on? Ouch, what’s that hurting my ears?”

These were just a few questions that plagued 20-year-old Ojan when he embarked on his first ever flight recently.

“I was confused about where to go when I first got to the airport. I wasn’t traveling alone but both my friend and I didn’t know what we had to do.

“And my first time flying on an airplane really hurt my ears – I didn’t know how to deal with it,” Ojan shares.

And yet, Ojan is beaming the whole way as he’s recounting this experience of his maiden sky voyage.


Ojan (whose full name is M. Fajar Sulthan N.K) was traveling last month from home in Jakarta to Pekanbaru, Riau on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra, to attend this year’s Tanoto Scholars Gathering.

The final year university student is currently undertaking a food science and technology degree at Bogor Agricultural University (Institut Pertanian Bogor).

“I’ve only travelled to places with a car or a motorcycle before, which takes so long. Now within an hour, I was able to be at a different island (after getting on a plane). Technology is amazing, wow,” he exclaims.

“The feeling of being at home yesterday then being somewhere new the next day is really exciting, not to mention the feeling of viewing a place from above.

“I had a window seat on the flight and it was just so cool to see things get tinier and tinier (when we took off from Jakarta),” Ojan adds.

Ojan is one out of many young Indonesians who have experienced their first flights, all thanks to Tanoto Foundation.


Besides disbursing some 460 scholarships to local university students across Indonesia each year, Tanoto Foundation also invites over 200 of its scholars for an annual week-long event aimed at improving the participants’ soft skills and networking opportunities.

“At first, I didn’t know about the Tanoto Foundation scholarships at all. I only heard about it in my third year from a friend, who encouraged me to go for it,” Ojan says.

“After looking it up, I realized I really wanted to get the scholarship because the Foundation provides its scholars with plenty of useful soft skill training.

“Of course, the financial aid is also a huge part of it – Tanoto Foundation is paying most of my tuition costs, so it’s really helping my family and me a lot,” he adds.

Ojan says that receiving the scholarship would allow his parents, who work as teachers, to move on from him and to start saving instead for his younger siblings’ tertiary education costs.

Tanoto Scholars undergo a rigorous selection process, comprising a minimum GPA requirement, a psychometric test and a face-to-face interview.

Ojan considers the psychometric test the toughest part of the scholarship application process, saying that he found the interview to be a breeze.

“At first I was nervous about answering the interview questions but at some point, my phone alarm unexpectedly went off and luckily, the interviewers found the situation to be funny.


“After laughing with relief, I was able to loosen up and speak honestly from my heart, and showcase my personality and enthusiasm which I believe really contributed to them awarding me the scholarship,” he says.

To prospective Tanoto Scholars, Ojan offers the advice of “study hard first, and always believe in yourself”.

“Then maybe you too will be able to enjoy your first flight, by becoming a Tanoto Scholar,” Ojan says, smiling.

“As for me, I’m already looking forward to flying more in the future.

“One day, maybe I’ll be able to get breakfast in my hometown, get lunch in Singapore and then end by getting dinner in the US – who knows?”

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