Indonesia may have been the first overseas country for Nick Biblis to resettle in, but he admits the country has been a great introduction to expat life.
Indonesia Expat chatted with him, the Advancement and Communications Advisor at JIS, regarding his sports activities and insights on education and family life here.
Hi Nick! We’d like to know more about you.
Hi! I’m originally from the USA. I grew up outside of New York City and have lived in a few different places in the USA, like Baltimore and Boston. Indonesia is the first place that I’ve lived internationally and it’s been a great introduction to expat life. I’ve been able to keep up with hobbies here, like jiu-jitsu, and pick up some new hobbies like scuba diving. Before the pandemic, I was even able to volunteer as a jiu-jitsu instructor for students at the Roshan Learning Center. I’ve been happy to find great opportunities like that here.
As someone who likes to work in a culturally rich environment, did you find that essence from your move to Jakarta? How has the capital served you?
Definitely. Jakarta has been a great place to be. I moved here with my wife almost four years ago and it feels like every day we learn something new about the city. There are new bits of culture to see at every turn and there’s so much in the city to explore. From learning about batik and gamelan to sampling different sambals and coffees, the options of what kind of culture you can engage with feel endless.
I think you could spend a lifetime here and still be pleasantly surprised by what you find. It truly feels like there’s something for everyone here as long as you know where to look and aren’t afraid to put yourself out there and have an adventure.
As I said before, I was able to keep up with some of the things that I loved doing back in the USA and that really helped my transition. As did finding impactful organisations to be a part of, like Roshan Learning Center. It’s an awesome organisation that supports refugee education right here in Jakarta, everyone should check them out and volunteer, join their coffee club, or donate if you can!
That’s one thing that’s great about Jakarta; there are plenty of organisations doing important work that you can support and be a part of. I think it’s important to give back and support causes if you have the means. You could help organisations feed and sterilise street cats or join larger efforts like coral reef restoration projects. If you can, I’d also consider adopting a cat or a dog – there are so many that need homes and I can speak from experience when I say they’re a great addition to the family!
As a former travel blogger backpacking Southeast Asia, describe your favourite memory you’ve experienced.
That was such a long time ago! It feels like a lifetime since I did that. As a travel blogger, I travelled through Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia. It was great, it was just me, my backpack, and whoever I met along the way.
When it comes to talking about my favourite memory, I have to say it comes from my time in Indonesia and the people I’ve gotten to share it with. Every adventure here seems to be the best adventure I’ve ever been on. But I think what stands out the most are the small moments like renting motorbikes with friends and riding to an empty beach on Lombok or finding the perfect bowl of bubur ayam on a Sunday morning. I’ve had the chance to do a lot of exploring with my wife and the friends we’ve made, and I think those will always be my favourite memories.
You’ve engaged in different industries prior to working at Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS). Say someone wants to embark on a different career path, what would you tell them?
It’s going to sound cliché, but my advice would be to put in the work and do all you can to put yourself in situations to say yes to a new opportunity. This might mean meeting for coffee with a friend of a friend who is in the industry you want to get into or emailing people with questions about potential opportunities. No conversation is too small to have. I think I emailed and met with over a dozen people when I first moved to Indonesia and was looking for my next job. Almost all of those meetings ended without going any further than the initial conversation. I think that’s normal, but all you need is one to turn into something.
I’ve also found it helpful to learn as much as I can about what I want to do next. I spend time thinking about my current skills and experiences and see how they’re transferrable. You need to be prepared to say yes when something that you’re interested in comes up. If you wait for the timing to be perfect and for serendipity to kick in, you’ll probably never make that career switch. There’s a writer I like, Shea Serrano, who has a line about working to create the opportunity that I think sums all of this up perfectly, “someone is going to do it, so it may as well be you.” In other words, decide what you want to be and go be it.
Any updates you can share with us about JIS?
Things at JIS are going really well! As with many institutions, since the start of COVID, there have been plenty of challenges but we’ve been fortunate to be able to continue moving forward. We recently held a series of Virtual Open House events for parents looking for a new school for their children and saw over 400 people attend. It was an incredible turnout.
We also received a record number of applications for our BTI Scholarship – 478! This is a fully-funded scholarship available to Indonesian students that attend a state school. It’s one of the ways that JIS can directly support education for individual students in Indonesia. We currently have six scholars at JIS and we had our first two BTI scholars graduate last year. It’s been great to watch the interest in the scholarship grow and even better to see the BTI scholars succeeding at JIS.
In line with this month’s theme, Education and Family, why do you think it’s fundamental to have a strong foundation within the school walls as well as at home, regarding a child’s future?
The two places that children spend the most time growing up are at home and school. Each needs a strong foundation to provide a safe and successful environment for children. Kids need to be able to experiment and take healthy risks as they learn about themselves.
In my opinion, the best way for kids to learn is for them to have space and opportunities to fail, then pick themselves back up and try again! One of the best parts of childhood is trying different things and seeing what you’re interested in. This could be trying out a new hairstyle, joining a science club, listening to a new genre of music, or trying their hand at poetry. Many of our students might not even yet realise how lucky they are to be attending a school that supports and believes in them. Hopefully, as they continue to grow, they look back on their years at JIS fondly and think – “How lucky was I!” Having a similar environment at home helps in all of the same ways, if not more.
Has it been hard for you to be away from your family in the US? Do you have any tips for fellow expats working away from their families?
It’s been really hard at times. I’m lucky that I moved here with my wife, she’s a rock star and the reason that I’m in Jakarta. She was hired as a teacher at JIS and why we moved here, so without her I wouldn’t even be talking with you now.
Doing this together has made being away from the rest of our family a little bit easier but we miss them all the time. I do my best to be the one that texts or calls regularly. Technology makes it easy to see each other and to keep in touch. I would say, be the one that makes the effort and picks up the phone or hits the send button. Any time that you’re really feeling homesick and a call or a chat won’t solve it, plan a trip – that always seems to take my mind off of things!
Complete this sentence: “Education and family amidst a massive change are…”
“in a position to work together, try new things, and create an environment that sets their children up for success.”
What’s next for you, Nick?
Who knows! I never know where the road will take me, but I’m open to any adventure. During my first year in Jakarta, I studied for and took the law school entrance exam, so there’s a good chance that’ll be the next challenge for me.
How can our readers get in touch with you and JIS?
Thank you, Nick! Stay safe and healthy!