Beyond the Books: Unforgettable Moments in My Master's Degree Journey

Becoming a master’s student at Gadjah Mada University was a surprise, especially considering that I obtained this status with a scholarship. You can read this post to know about how I secured the scholarship from the DIY province.

On July 30, 2023 BKD DIY released “Surat Keputusan Tugas Belajar” for all scholarship awardees. “Tugas Belajar” means that, as civil servants, we will be excused from all duties to focus on our studies. However, the consequence is that we only receive the basic salary. On the positive side, we will receive allowances from BKD DIY, including study allowances and book allowances. BKD DIY will regularly disburse these allowances each semester.

The first lecturer was conducted on August, 16 2021, which is at that time Yogyakarta still struggle with second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. All classes were held online. In the first semester, i enrolled five subjects with 15 credits. The subjects included Computer and Society, Intelligent System, Software Development, Wireless and Mobile Network, Research Methodology. Most lectures were conducted on Microsoft Teams, although some professors had their own preferred video communication platforms. To enhance my comfort during online classes, I set up a dedicated workspace in my home. I utilized a laptop paired with a 24-inch additional monitor, which significantly facilitated the process of watching the lecturer on one screen while taking notes on the other. I also used my lovely mechanical keyboard with blue switch for a satisfying typing experience :)

My class consist of 40 students, with two overseas students from Afghanistan and Lao PDR. Consequently, all lectures are conducted in English, providing me an opportunity to enhance my English proficiency, particularly in speaking. In summary, my first semester went well, and most importantly, I successfully adapted to the challenges of being a master’s student.

During the first semester, i am fortunate to have a permit to enter the campus in pandemic situation. This permit was came when i become a research respondence for Eye Tracking research group. The mechanism to enter the campus was quite strict. I had to submit an application to the faculty along with several documents and select the day for entry. Permitted sessions were limited to one hour. Finally, on September 22, 2021, I was able to visit the campus for the first time ever.

Visiting Campus

Le’ts move to the second semester. I enrolled in five subjects with 13 credits. According to curriculum, students must choose a study concentration for this semester. Electrical Engineering and Information Technology Department (DTETI) offers three concentrations: Human Computer and Software Engineering, Pervasive Intelligence, and E-Government. I dediced to pursue Pervasive Intelligence concentration which includes mandatory subjects such as Business Intelligence, Data Warehouse and Mining, Distributed Computing, and Interoperability. Additionally, I enrolled in the mandatory Seminar 1 subject. Although the second semester continued online, it transitioned to offline classes after the mid-semester break. Fortunately, two subjects, Data Warehousing and Mining, and Interoperability, were conducted offline. The second semester went smoothly, allowing me to simultaneously focus on my thesis (publication).

Interoperability Class

The third semester was conducted entirely in offline mode. I enrolled in Blockchain, Advanced Computer Network, and Seminar 2 subjects, totaling 7 credits. Blockchain was an optional subject, and during the lecturer i worked on a final project about smart contract implementation in crowdfunding using Solidity. Although I only selected 2 subjects in the third semester, it still be a busy semester due to a publication in an international conference, as detailed in the following paragraph.

Thesis, Research Grant and Publication

Two friends and I joined in Automatic Item Generation (AIG) research group supervised by Dr. Indriana Hidayah, S.T., M.T.. Our research focused on automatically generating questions for English vocabulary tests. I was the first student to join the AIG research group, as my research proposal was accepted in January 2022. Then, Hary Fadly Yusuf and Shofiyyah Zahrah joined in the following months.

In early 2022, I focussed to reading numerous AIG research publications to acquire the knowledge necessary for conducting research and making a meaningful contribution to the field of AIG. Throughout the year, Bu Indriana and I set a goal to publish a literature review paper in an international conference. FYI, information technology major requires students to publish research in a conference or journal.

I am pleased to report that we successfully achieved our goal, and we proudly published an article titled “Automatic Item Generation with Reading Passage: A Systematic Literature Review” at the International Conference On Education and Technology (ICET), held on October 15, 2022. Then I took a break until the end of the year due to the final project for Blockchain subject in the 3rd semester, which I had written about in the previous section.

After that, I focused on conducting research for my thesis. With the literature review completed, I already had a draft to write Section 2. Starting in January-February 2023, I concentrated on sharpening the problem statement. As a result, my research would focussed to develop a method to generate distractors with paradigmatic relation in English vocabulary tests. To get the context, an English vocabulary tests is a test to measures student knowledge of particular frequency level of words. In a TOEFL test, vocabulary test presented in a multiple choice question including four components: a reading passage, a target word, a correct answer, and distractors. Below is an example of English vocabulary tests in TOEFL test.

English vocabulary test

In the following two months, March-April 2023, my focus shifted to developing the method. I tried to improve existing method to generate distractors with paradigmatic relation in English vocabulary test. I used several tools such as WordNet, Part of Speech Tagging, dan FastText. Then, in May 2023, I worked on developing the Proof of Concept (PoC) for proposed method, generating distractors using PoC program, and conducting an expert evaluation for generated distractors.

In June 2023 i was focussed to write my thesis. During this process, I took pride in using LaTex and cloned a LaTex template from this repository. June was a tight month for me, but fortunately, I managed to complete writing my thesis within this timeframe.

Finally, on July, 21 2023 was my pre-exam day. I presented my thesis result with supervisors Dr. Indriana Hidayah and Prof. Ir. Dr. Sri Suning Kusumawardani, S.T., M.T.. Although the exam was originally scheduled in the S211 room on the 2nd floor, it had to be conducted online due to Prof. Suning being in Jakarta. Alhamdulillah, the supervisors provided positive feedback with minor revisions. Here is list of feedbacks from supervisors.

I completed the pre-exam revisions a bit slowly due to other commitments, which I will explain in the following paragraphs. Le’ts now focus on my final exam which took place on September 22, 2023. The were three examiners: Ir. Adhistya Erna Permanasari, S.T., M.T., Ph.D., Prof. Ir. Lukito Edi Nugroho, M.Sc., Ph.D., and Dr. Indriana Hidayah, S.T., M.T. Normally, the final exam is conducted with four examiners, but in August 2023, Prof Suning was inaugurated as Direktur Pembelajaran dan Kemahasiswaan in Kementerian Pendidikan, Kebudayaan, Riset, dan Teknologi. During the final exam, i was presented my thesis in 20 thesis. Then, the three examiners asking a lot of questions to asses my understanding about the research. Alhamdulillah, the examiners stated that I passed the final exam with minor revisions. You can see the revisions here.

Final Exam

My thesis was a part of Dr. Indriana Hidayah’s research, funded by UGM internal grant namely “Rekognisi Tugas Akhir” (RTA). This fund used to support 3 student researches (Hary Fadly, Shofiyyah, and Me). RTA was an output based fund, so at the end of 2023 we should publish 2 conference papers and 1 paper in Q1.

RTA program played a crucial role in supporting my research, particularly in terms of financial assistance. Several research activities required financial support, such as conducting expert validation for the generated distractors. I engaged five experts, including one native speaker, for this activity, which incurred a budget of almost 5 million. Then conducting a FastText model testing. FYI FastText model size is very big, it’s almost 8 GB. So FastText model testing need a cloud server with 8 Core CPU and 32 GB RAM run in one week. I also hired another native speaker to conduct a proofread for my paper manuscript.

August 2023 was a very busy month for me. As i mention earlier, i had to revise my thesis based on the pre-exam feedback from supervisors, and simultaneously, I had to finalize my paper manuscript. The manuscript was wrote using overleaf in Latex format. Alhamdulillah on August, 31 2023 we had submit the manuscript to the Q1 journal, namely Engineering Science and Technology, an International Journal. As of now, the paper is still in the under-review process. If accepted, this manuscript will mark a significant achievement in my master’s degree journey.

Funny Moments

During my studies, i encountered some funny moments. As mentioned earlier, my status was “Tugas Belajar” so normally i only receive a basic salary. But, for two months, I unexpectedly received a money transfer into my bank account labeled “Tambahan Penghasilan Pegawai” (TPP) with a huge amount. In the following days, I discovered that someone had mistakenly input my name as an active civil servant. Consequently, I had to return the transferred money to “Dinas Pendidikan Pemuda dan Olahraga”.

At that time, i didn’t know the procedure for returning money to the “Kas Negara”. I simply withdrew the money and handed it over to “Dinas Pendidikan Pemuda dan Olahraga”. As a proof, they only provided me a piece of paper acknowledging that I had returned the money. Later on, I learned that they were supposed to give me an evidence called ‘Bukti Setor ke Kas Negara.’”

Another funny moment is i was caught “breaking the rules” during an exam. I think i was not technically “breaking the rules”, but i was “breaking ethical rules”. The exam for Software Development subject was conducted online and students allowed to open-book or open-anything conditions, permitting students to use the internet for answers. During the exam, student must open the camera and wearing the formal clothes. At the beginning test, i was still follow the rules. However, midway through the test, I decided to change into a cooler shirt (informal clothes) due to the high temperature in my home. Since the camera had to remain on, I switched the video source from the camera to OBS. Earlier, I had recorded a video of myself wearing formal clothes, which I used during the exam haha

Unfortunately, the invigilator caught me, and she called my name, instructing me to raise a hand wkwk I felt panic and couldn’t do anything. She noticed that i used a recorded video and warned me that this incident would be wrote in the official report test. I couldn’t clarify anything because it’s was 100% my fault. In the end of semester, i am very lucky that this incident dit not affected my grade, and alhamdulillah i got a perfect score. Despite breaking ethical rules, I am confident that I still obeyed to the exam rules.

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