Inspiring alumni: Marlindah Sumampow

I’m always promoting Utrecht because I have such great memories there

Marlindah Sumampow completed a master’s degree in law at Utrecht University in 2006. She has been actively involved in recruiting Indonesian students ever since. She is a stalwart of the annual Holland Education Fair, where she tirelessly promotes Utrecht University. This year, she helped organise the pre-departure briefing to prepare students who are about to set off for the Netherlands. On top of that, she is a key member of the Holland Alumni Network in Indonesia.

It all started when Marlindah was still studying in Utrecht. The university asked her to travel to her home country to participate in the Holland Education Fair and tell prospective students all about her experience at UU. Seeing the bright-eyed excitement and ambition of the visitors, she was hooked. “I’ve been at every fair since, for 12 years and counting.”

Marlindah Sumampow


“My work at the education fair made me realise that a lot of students in Indonesia didn’t know quite how good it is to study in the Netherlands. Not only do you get top-quality education, but those who have studied in the Netherlands have a special quality – in my opinion they are tougher than alumni who studied abroad in other countries. Universities in the Netherlands are unique in that they require a motivation letter with your application. You cannot just get in based on your grades, like you can in the US for example. And with good reason: to study abroad, you need more than grades alone. Given the practical and cultural challenges students face abroad, they can only succeed if their motivation is strong enough.”


“When students are considering a university course abroad, the first thing they look at is the university ranking. Utrecht ranks number 1 in the Netherlands, so it is popular with prospective students, especially those who have found a special programme that suits their interests.”


“At the education fair, we help students navigate the requirements of the application process. In my early days, it was a little tricky because I knew that not many students would make the cut. Some fair visitors would complain because they found it difficult to get admitted. I talked to my contacts at UU about the process, asking where applicants typically trip up. Now I can explain to prospective students exactly what they have to do and the possible reasons they were not admitted. In the past 2-3 years, I noticed that there have been more successful applications, which has encouraged more students to apply to UU.”


“Every year before the new Indonesian students leave for the Netherlands, we organise a pre-departure briefing. The first question is usually about housing. Aside from that, students are also curious about getting around and other practical matters, like what to bring. To illustrate certain aspects of student life in the Netherlands, we often perform a little play. Students are reassured when they learn that there is an Indonesian Students’ Network that can help them with practical issues like finding a place to stay. But I always make sure to tell departing students that there is no need to bring any food from home. Unlike in other countries, it is easy to find Indonesian food in the Netherlands, even tempeh! This certainly helps us feel at home away from home.”


“It is very gratifying to see students I have mentored be able to access this quality of education and succeed. Some go on to do great things once they return to Indonesia, in the arts, in politics, or in business. One of the students I coached helped make a film about the experience, Negeri van Oranje, which was well-received in Indonesia. Others pursue further education abroad – but they always come back saying the Netherlands is the best.”


Once their time in Utrecht is over, international UU alumni in Indonesia have a lot to look forward to. “The Holland Alumni Network is very active; every year there are around three gatherings specifically for UU alumni. We organize a variety of activities, from visiting a factory owned by a fellow UU alumna to lectures by visiting UU professors – and there’s always time to bond and reminisce. The network provides a great place for nostalgia, but it also serves as a practical support system for career opportunities. A win-win for all UU alumni!”