Liam - ACICIS - Student Indonesia

B International Studies
Semester 2, 2018
An incredible learning experience that compliments a well rounded immersion experience that will enrich your learning and life for years to come.

Academic experience

I began my studies in Indonesia at the end of July in 2018. I studied at Indonesia’s premier university in Yogyakarta, named UGM, Universitas Gadjah Madah. My studies were solely focused on learning the official language of Indonesia, Bahasa Indonesia, and becoming proficient at reading, writing, grammar, conversation and vocabulary. These five courses were undertaken in 1-2 hour classes, three days a week over the period of a full semester. To apply for the Intermediate program at Indonesia’s INCULS program at least 4 semesters worth of experience were required. The most enjoyable aspect about a different academic system was the level of immersion and skills I have learnt over the 6 months. Without this exchange semester I would not have the in depth knowledge or appreciation of a foreign culture such as Indonesia's. The academic system is vastly different to Australia's and presented a series of challenges whilst studying. The relationship between student and lecturer in Indonesia is far more hierarchical than in Australia. This meant that approaching and receiving feedback was often difficult in relation to results, which forced me to adapt and learn from my mistakes through other means. Often this meant collaborating and studying with classmates to improve. The enrolment and registration process for Indonesia was a complex one due to the nature of Indonesia's immigration system. Passports, medical forms and extensive forms were needed to ensure a student visa.

Personal experience

The exchange semester has given me so many wonderful experiences in a number of areas. I have gained invaluable learning experience during my semester, from not only the language but an understanding about Indonesian culture and society that is not possible without immersion. The semester I spent in Yogyakarta was as a part of an international program. This allowed me to make friends and create experiences with people from all over the world. I made great relationships with people from the Netherlands, Italy, Russia and from all over Australia. As a result, I was able to reflect on Australian culture in comparison to many different nations and develop my understanding of multiple cultures at a deeper level. I gained a deep resilience during my time in Indonesia. Alongside this, I was able to operate independently in a foreign country. Both of these factors I believed I already possessed prior to leaving, considering that I was living out of home and working. Instead, my growth as a person was significant, as I overcame each problem I was faced with, and as I navigated daily life in a foreign, third world country. This has led to increased confidence and a broader skill set that I can apply in the future. My understanding and competency of the Indonesian language is at a level I never thought possible. Various travels throughout the country allowed me to put my language skills into work at a local level and develop my speaking. Travels to north Java and Bali let me put my learning into action and I took away much confidence from these experiences.

Accommodation

I lived off campus for the duration of my semester. the university in Yogyakarta where i studied did not provide college style accommodation for students. I most enjoyed the privacy and creature comforts of my apartment such as western style amenities and a great location in proximity to restaurants and cafe's. it is strongly recommended that you take the advice of local students as well as researching thoroughly the area before organising living arrangements. My host university, Universitas Gadjah Madah, provided our group with an accommodation booklet giving feedback on past student choices and ratings. They also ensured we were partnered with a buddy for the first few days until suitable accommodation was found.

Costs

Most aspects of life in Indonesia is very cheap for students coming from Australia. Rent was the most expensive recurring payment for myself and that accounted for only $260 per month. Food, transport and entertainment are extremely cheap across most of Indonesia, Yogyakarta the city I resided in has a reputation for quality food at very cheap prices. This is because Yogyakarta is known as a student/tourist city. I would recommend a budget of at least $5000 excluding airfares for the 6 months. This can allow for a well rounded experience during your semester exchange and ensures that you can maintain a good quality of life whilst still immersing yourself in Indonesian culture.

Challenge

The biggest challenge I faced during my experience was the feeling of loneliness and culture shock. I felt this especially so during the start of my exchange but found that with regular engagements with friend groups and participating in social groups I was able to overcome this. The program I was a part of during my exchange was an international one, which allowed me to connect and form close friendships with people from all over the world and across Australia.

Professional Development

I believe I have developed a plethora of skills and attributes during my semester exchange. I have gained a level of resilience and flexibility to challenges, so that I have great confidence with handling time sensitive or stressful tasks going forward. Alongside this I believe I am far more employable from the level of immersion and language proficiency that I have developed over the 5 months. Without a semester exchange I do not think i would be able to have as strong of an understanding of Indonesian language, culture and society as I do now. Finally, I believe university study and living in a foreign country has improved my communication and interpersonal skills so that I am ready to engage at a professional level.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience in Indonesia was a trip to the Karimunjawa Islands, located north of the main island of Java. Karimunjawa has some of the best snorkelling spots in the world for coral, tropical fish and turtles. The archipelago has over 20 islands with gorgeous beaches. During this time I was able to use my recently learned language skills to converse with the locals and obtain a deeper understanding of their local culture and way of life. This trip was my highlight not only from a recreational perspective but also because I was able to put my skills to use and engage with Indonesian locals.

Top tips

I strongly recommend that students take each challenge or hurdle in their stride. Understanding that life and culture is vastly different during your exchange will help prepare you for any difficulty you might face whilst on exchange. I also believe that joining social activity clubs will help to build friendships and ensure a strong element of cultural immersion whilst overseas. Connecting with the people at a social level can make any future difficulties much more manageable because there is a support group a person can draw upon.