Isaac - Universitas Gadjah Mada

B. International Studies
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

As you might expect, the workings of an Indonesian university are wildly different from those of an Australian university. But that, of course, is half the fun!

Navigating a foreign education system in a foreign language is a unique and invaluable experience and you are guaranteed to meet some fantastic people in the process. My ACICIS immersion program consisted of a mix of history and development subjects at UGM. Ultimately, though, as great as immersion can be, just being there is the most important thing if you are wanting to study the language.

The main academic challenge anyone studying in Indonesia is likely to come across is the ubiquity of English at universities and therefore the concerted effort it takes to actually speak Indonesian consistently. If you are struggling with this, one suggestion is to befriend the owner of your closest "warung burjo", who (almost always) won't speak a word of English but will happily converse until you excuse yourself or someone passes out.

Personal experience

I cannot imagine a better use of anyone's time than spending at least six months of it in Indonesia. The friends to be made, volcanoes to climb, cultures to experience and learn from, languages to dabble in/master, beaches and reefs to explore: all these are endless. In Indonesia, you will discover how much you have to learn from the rest of the world about life, the universe and everything.


During my time at UGM, I lived in a "kos" (kind of a student boarding house), as does the vast majority of students in Jogjakarta. I would definitely recommend the kos as a choice of accommodation for foreign students, as there really is no comparable way to properly experience Indonesian student life. Depending on the kos, you will be constantly surrounded by local students from all over the country.

A word of advice: if you do choose to live in a kos, find the cheapest/most basic one you can live with, as the cheaper and more basic the kos, the further away you will be from the fun but totally inauthentic typical expat experience.


Everything is extremely cheap (especially in Jogjakarta), but expenses can start to rack up as a result of all the awesome travel options available. Student accommodation can range from below 50 Australian dollars per month to pretty much as much as you want to spend on rental share houses. Prices of food and entertainment are negligible. Altogether, before travel, I would guess that I spent about 300/400 Australian dollars per month.

Professional development and employability

For obvious reasons, the ability to speak a foreign language is a great asset. To be able to speak the language of one of Australia's closest and largest neighbours is even better. Just as important, however, are communication skills, cultural sensitivity and adaptability. In all respects, the opportunity to form relationships across the small stretch of water to our North is an invaluable one.

It is an exceedingly difficult exercise to identify a single highlight, but one among many would have to be the time I was asked by history classmates to participate in a historical reenactment of the siege of the old Dutch fort during the national revolution. Having been welcomed with open arms into this historical society of Jogjakarta, I stood atop the only remaining Dutch tank in working condition in Indonesia, giving orders in Dutch as we shot fireworks at the nationalists in the fort. It was a surreal and profoundly enjoyable experience, made so by the extreme warmth, inclusiveness and good humour of everyone involved.

Top tips

My main piece of advice would be to get involved in every opportunity presented to you. And by opportunity, I mean everything – from the opportunity to have a chat with food sellers on the street to travel opportunities or an invitation to meet a friend's family.