It has been 3 months since we here at Werkudara were introduced to the students at the Darul Ulum foundation. Many of them come from all over parts of Indonesia to live and study in Yogyakarta. We were introduced to this group of 26 girls in the form of English lessons. Their energy and passion for learning struck as nothing short of amazing. The Werkudara teacher had divided the class into 5 small groups to work together on a story of their choice in English to be presented to the class. The learning experience was tackled with enthusiasm and the kind of dedication reserved for the most diligent students.

Today, the girls met again in the foyer at Werkudara. The room was filled and we were greeted with many smiling faces and a unison of “Helloooo”. As this is being written, they are currently sitting their mathematics examination for a scholarship at Cambridge University, with a feeling of nervousness for them as we flick through the mathematics paper. “Surely this exam requires a calculator?” whispered to the examiner. He smiles and shakes his head in an apologetic manner. Obviously, we want them all to succeed however the complicated algebra, trigonometry and various graphs seem more at home in a university exam.

We are reminded that this would be the opportunity of a lifetime for each of them, and relax into a calm state and remember the professional way that they approached all of the English lessons previously. The hard work and dedication to their study would ensure that they have the best chance to succeed in this difficult test. Surely, they will be fine. Even if only one of them gets the opportunity for a scholarship would be remarkable.

Their stoic and brave faces hid a private nervousness as the friendly meet and greet from all of the Werkudara staff turned into the examination formalities. A silent prayer is held as heads fall into hands and the remnants of this morning’s study session is recalled through the weary minds of the sleep deprived and studious. The typical dark blue or black pens were distributed amongst the appreciative students as many only had pencils.

“Write your name on the front and begin” was greeted with the ruffling of exam papers and the silence that is only reserved for examination rooms. It is all up to each of the students to slowly work through the hour and forty-five minutes exam, and quietly leaving the room through the squeaky door that echoes within the silence, and a thought that whatever comes of this, it will be a great experience for all involved.

Their excitement at the prospect of international study made us proud to play such a pivotal role in setting up this exam.