This article was written by Tika, Admin Officer, Indonesia, as part of 24Slides’ Storyteller’s Program.
In 2015, I decided to study Islam thoroughly at the pesantren, a type of school in Java that trains the student (santri), in Islamic subjects. In pesantren, the student usually not only studies but also lives there in Pondok (a dormitory with a room filled by at least 5 santris or more). To study in a pesantren, it’s better to live there as well, as the learning experience happens not only in the class but everywhere and anytime. One of my teachers once explained that this was a custom from the time of Muhammad. Back then, many companions lived in the mosque area to be close to the Prophet to study with him, and learn how the prophet spent the day. It was part of their learning experience that becomes a reference for the way of life of a Muslim, and pesantren imitates this concept. The santri stays in pesantren to be able to witness everything that is done by the kyai, a scholar, such as the way the kyai eats, walks, talks with family, neighbors, guests, or other students, and so on.
We believe that the kyai (scholar), is the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. The Messenger of Allah is chosen to be given direct teachings by Allah. These teachings are matters relating to the way of life. However, because the hadith and the Koran need to be studied and interpreted, we cannot learn them directly from the Prophet. Hadiths and the Koran, are written relics, but their symbolism needs background and context.
The presence of the kyai is a bridge to study this written heritage. In this case, we depend on sanad, the connection of a teacher with his teacher. We must look for teachers who have a connection with people who have learned from the Prophet. This way, we know that what we have learned is valid.
In my last year at college, I had planned to live there only for the rest of my college life. I wanted to go back to my hometown and work in Bandung after graduation. However, living at pesantren changed me completely, so I decided to extend it to stay longer and I finished studying up to grade 6. In the first year after graduation, I got a job teaching at a school near my pesantren. I was there for 3 semesters.
As a fresh graduate, I had a desire to explore many career options like many others. But although I struggled to adapt to pesantren culture as well as Javanese culture which then made me fail a grade two times, I was still eager to finish it up to grade 6. So I still wanted to stay at pesantren, in Malang. At my pesantren, the main compulsory activities are divided into two, morning activities and the evening. Morning activities begin with praying Fajr together. I chose the Kitab program. In this class, all santris from all levels are gathered to listen to kyai reading, translating, explaining, or even reviewing subjects from a classic text in Arabic. For example, Tafsīr al-Jalālayn, Shafwatut Tafasir, Sahih al-Bukhari, etc. This usually ends at around 6.30 or 7 on weekdays whereas on weekends it will be longer up to 7.30. As for the afternoon activities, it begins at around 6. When I was still teaching at my previous job, I couldn’t attend the morning activity fully because school starts at 7 and I should be there at 6.30.
Regarding such struggle learning at pesantren, lucky me, I found 24Slides, where I could start to explore a new career aside from teaching. I applied for the Customer Support role and I was invited for an interview. Yet, I couldn’t fulfill the requirement to work in the designated shifts as they clashed with my activities in pesantren.
However, before leaving the interview, I was informed that 24Slides was opening recruitment for a freelance Typist role. ‘Well, it is not really bad,’ I thought. My goal of finishing my study at pesantren was a bottleneck that was keeping me from getting a chance to explore a new career. I knew that I would have to deal with such boundaries when I decided to stay at pesantren, so 24Slides was a good option for me.
I finally applied for the freelance Typist role and I was accepted. I was still able to go to school in the mornings to teach, so it was a great suit. I could be in three roles at once: student, teacher, and employee. It was ideal for me and it allowed me to explore more about my career options.
Unfortunately, I could not be fully satisfied there, so I began looking for other alternatives. Coincidentally, at the same time, I got an offer to be a full employee in the Administration Department at 24Slides Malang. The Operation Division was developing an extra service to guarantee zero mistakes in the content provided by the customer. The goal of the project is that the design teams don’t have to invest time reviewing the customers’ content, instead, they can focus on creating the best slides.
I was very excited and grateful. In this case, the work hours started at 9 and there were no different shifts to work around. Thanks to that, I have been able to enjoy morning activities and classes before 9 am at my pesantren. I am even able to participate as an organizer on the big day of Islamic commemoration and I am allowed to leave work on that day.
For me, this is a miracle. 24Slides’ offer of a “diagonal” career path instead of a traditional one has allowed me to fulfill my desire to explore my career while still studying at pesantren – the perfect balance!