The Difficulty of Being a Physics Graduate Who Returns to His Village

Muh. Syahrul Padli
4 min readAug 30, 2023

(Muh. Syahrul Padli — Reflection Series)

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

How many majors in college are geared towards graduates who can be directly beneficial to society? Many, but not physics. Physics is a science that could help Einstein, Bohr, and Faraday change the world, but it won’t help its graduates change their small villages.

How can a physics graduate contribute to his village? Make energy independence based on cat poop briquettes? What about graduates of theoretical physics?

Wait! Perhaps you haven’t heard much about what theoretical physics is. Let me explain a little bit.

In short, physics can be divided into two types: applied and theoretical. Applied physics can be related to health, electricity, computing, artificial intelligence, and materials engineering. In short, it is useful directly for industry or can be developed in a relatively short time for direct benefits in fields that generate profit.

Theoretical physics is the study of the universe, processing observational data, and studying and developing formulas. In short, theoretical physics is physics that is mostly useless for industry, where people who study it are more often alone while scratching equations. The truth that is achieved must be waited for its proof for decades or even hundreds of years depending on the ability of technology to approach the accuracy required by experimentalists.

Imagine, if you studied something like theoretical physics, and suddenly you went back to your village, what could you do with the skill of scratching equations and understanding how the world works? Do people need your scientific articles or papers to support the development of rice in their fields?

But aren’t all theoretical physics students just learning quantum mechanics and general relativity? Not all of them. Unfortunately, many are not. Try asking theoretical physics students, how many of them are involved in organizations, join UKM (Student Activities Units), learn applied things like graphic design, behavioral psychology to support product sales, applications of choice theory to create ads that influence the subconscious, and so on?

Theoretical physics takes a lot of time to understand. Time to read textbooks, time to scratch equations, time to discuss with friends with the same passion, and time to manage time so that physical and mental health does not decrease in a warning level. Theoretical physics demands focus and isolation, so it is very unhealthy socially for people who study it — and don’t have strong mental privileges.

Hmmm. It’s hard to pass this problem. Well, because I am one of the graduates of physics with a focus on theoretical physics research and have chosen to live in the village for several years, here are my suggestions for other physics graduates who return to the village and want to contribute to society.

First, just cultivate papaya. Papaya cultivation is good for contributing to the community. It is not difficult to plant and papaya is not a spoiled plant. If you don’t have land, plant it around the house first.

You don’t need a variety of fertilizers or certain pesticides if you don’t have a budget yet. Just compost fertilizer first. When it bears fruit after several months, give it to those in need. Surely that gives direct benefit. How is it? Logical isn’t it? Don’t be a bank teller because a bank teller’s job is mostly beneficial only to bank customers. How many people in the community have a bank account? Let other graduates be bank tellers, physics graduates, don’t.

Second, plant guava Guava is also good for contributing to the community and the environment. Guava is loved by bats and humans. So, you are not only contributing to the community of human beings but also to the animal kingdom. It is a very great contribution to the sustainability of life on Earth. How about the cost of living? Just be a journalist. Writing mathematical equations is already a daily meal. Writing news, maybe, is much easier. I was a former journalist at one of KG’s subsidiaries. And life as a journalist is not too bad for a theoretical physics graduate like me.

But, whatever you are in society after returning to the village, don’t be obsessed with the standard of being useful. This standard comes from the high expectations of people in the village. This expectation is not surprising because most of them are eaten by the doctrine that people who go to college must be smart and all-rounders. In fact, the university is only a place to learn at the miniature of the world. The real world is in society. Unfortunately, not all of us are ready for the transition.

The usefulness or uselessness of a university graduate, regardless of their major in college, is not determined from the early years of their return. This is a long process. If we are not useful at the moment, maybe in the future we will be useful. At least as an example of someone who chooses a major that is considered useless.



Muh. Syahrul Padli

A Science Teacher, Head of Penghayat Sumur Community and Digital-Creative worker. co-Founder YT Bawah Pohon Science (an alternative education platform).