Bryanna - Universitas Gadjah Mada

B. Arts
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

My exchange to Indonesia was really about learning the language and meeting new people and my experiences at the University really helped in achieving that. I took courses in Indonesian language and translation as well as gender studies courses and Javanese culture. Although the academic system in Indonesia is vastly different from what I have experienced in Australia and sometimes challenging to get your head around, it definitely provided a way for me to get more involved with the local students and create support groups. One key tip I have is to make friends in your classes, and preferably with the students at the front of the room. That way if a teacher doesn't show up, or you are not sure when your next exam is, or what you have to do for the next class, there is always someone who will be more than willing to answer your questions and just reassure you about what is going on in general, especially when everything is happening in a foreign language.

You are living in a foreign country, everything will be foreign and the best way to cope is to treat it as a learning curve. You are learning a new culture and that is one of the most amazing things in the world and even though sometimes you may be a bit, or completely, confused if you just keep smiling there isn't that much that can go wrong.

Personal experience

I know this sounds corny, but there are no words which can explain how much I gained from this exchange. Amongst many experiences, I made new friends, explored amazing and exotic corners of the world, which I never could have imagined, learnt new languages and developed immensely as a person. But above all I can't stress the value of gaining a little bit of insight into the values and mindset of people in different parts of the world, who speak a different language, practice a different religion and grew up in a different culture. As an international relations student understanding how different social and political systems work is vital to my discipline and what better way of doing this than living amongst them.


During my exchange I lived in a "kos", a form of student accommodation in Indonesia, kind of like a boarding house. I really enjoyed my time in my kos and really enjoyed the friendly atmosphere. Not only did I make friends with the other local and international student in my building, but really enjoyed the tight-knit community relationships, which are so common to Indonesia.

The best part of living in Indonesia is the chats with the "Bapak Kos", the "father" of the kos, or the ladies at the laundry, or the man who owns the food stall around the corner. I would definitely recommend being as friendly and open as possible, because not only will it make you feel a lot more comfortable in the community, but it will help you to understand their way of life and for them to understand you.


Everyday living in Indonesia is very cheap compared to Australia, especially in Yogyakarta. In my experience accommodation ranges between around 65AUD a month, for a basic room with a mattress, shared bathroom and squat toilet (this is how most local students live) to around $250 a month for a luxurious room with a queen-sized bed, air conditioning and hot water shower. I opted for the middle of the range, paying about $100 a month.

Food is especially cheap. It is hardly heard of to pay more than $10 for a meal, and that is only at really fancy restaurants. At average restaurants on the side of the street you can get a plate of rice with a number of sides for under $2.

I went to Indonesia planning to only spend my $5000 Asia Bound Scholarship. It would have been fairly easy to stick to this budget if I were more stringent, but my multiple extravagant holidays, diving, climbing mountains and exploring did push my budget over a bit.

Travelling in Indonesia is definitely something I would recommend. Indonesia is such a diverse country and you find so many different cultures and landscapes at its different corner, depending on how far you are willing to go. I had some really amazing experiences on remote tropical islands or small villages in the mountains.

Make friends and go off the beaten track. People in Indonesia are always willing to take you to visit their hometowns and university students come from all across the archipelago. I went to traditional dance performances, wandered through cities, drank local coffee in small villages and visited ancient temples across Indonesia with the friends I met along the way.

Professional development and employability

Travelling through and living in Indonesia has changed how I perceive other cultures and individuals. I have gained a much better understanding of how different people view their lives as well as their personal and business relationships. This enhances my employability by improving my ability to create business relationships with co-workers and potential clients, especially on an international business scale. Living and studying in Indonesia has also made me more flexible, able to think on my feet and adapt to foreign and challenging situations.


One of the many highlights of my experience in Indonesia was going with a friend from uni to visit her hometown about an hour north of Yogya. We visited her home and met her family, where we were greeted with an abundance of homegrown food and sweet tea. After chatting and eating for hours we took a walk around the village and surrounding area finding vast paddy fields, dense forest, rivers, waterfalls and an extravagant and incredibly out-of-place water park, typical only to Indonesia. Then we went back into the town centre where a traditional Javanese reog ceremony was taking place. Not only were we able to see this incredible event, but were invited onto the balcony with the village heads and treated as special guests.

Top tips

  • Smile as much as possible, talk to everyone and never say no.
  • Go travelling, keep your mind open and don't expect anything to happen how you think it will.
  • Be willing to adapt to the environment you are in and make the most of every situation you are faced with, and you will be accepted wholeheartedly and have the best experience possible.