Stephanie - Universitas Gadjah Mada

B. International Studies
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

The academic program that I completed in Indonesia was called the ‘Development Studies Immersion Program’ (DSIP) run by the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS). It involved 2 weeks of development seminars and 6 weeks of intensive Indonesian language at Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) in Yogyakarta before an 8-week community development program. This program is called KKN (Kuliah Kerja Nyata) and is compulsory for all UGM undergraduate students to complete at the end of their degrees.

For 2 months, I lived in a village home with 10 other students and a host family while we completed our projects under the theme of ‘Improving community health through increasing quality of life and welfare’. For this task, 30 UGM students from the medical, social, engineering and forestry clusters were divided into 3 groups to undertake specified projects in their sub-villages. Some of our programs included; salsa dance classes for the village women, English tutoring & teaching, healthy cooking and baking workshops, making a veggie garden, anti-smoking workshops for youth, and cultural exchange days!

The challenges that arose from studying in this format were something I was not familiar with at UQ, because my learning environment was completely different and I wasn’t attending lectures day-in, day-out for an entire semester! I learned to adapt by embracing hands-on learning and applying myself to the projects. 

Personal experience

The thing I love about studying in Indonesia is that it will both challenge and reward you in so many ways! The friendships I made will last a lifetime, and there are so many islands to explore (besides Bali!). Indonesian people are honestly some of the most friendly and helpful people on earth. Don’t be afraid to try and speak Bahasa Indonesia because they will always be more than willing to help you out and are so happy when they learn that you speak their national language (it may be helpful when bartering at the markets too!).

Indonesian history is so layered and complex, and it was fantastic finding out more about this diverse nation when I was travelling in and around Yogya - from history to culture, local languages and religion! Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, less than 2 hours away from Yogya. 30 minutes from the city is Prambanan, a spectacular 9th-century Hindu temple! South there are some eco-tourism villages where you can get tours, try your hand at pottery, or make ‘Batik’, a traditional Indonesian decorative cloth with detailed wax patterns and dye.

By train or plane you can visit other cities in Java, like the sprawling capital city of Jakarta or the shopping hub of Bandung. I spent 2 weeks in Malang, East Java for a volunteer internship and the surrounding mountains and farmlands are spectacular!  


During my study in Yogyakarta, I stayed at the most common form of student accommodation in Indonesia - a kos! Kos living is fun, cost-effective and a great way to meet fellow Indonesian students! We had a welcome pizza night, and our kos mates were the first to guide us Australian students around the city. I loved walking to uni every morning (approx. 15 minutes) and seeing the sights! The great thing about choosing a kos is that there are so many options to suit your budget, from around $50 AUD per month for a basic room and shared bathroom, to around $250 for something fancier. My advice would be to check out a few different places with your Indonesian friends or assigned student buddies on arrival to see what price, location and arrangement suits you best! Additionally, home stays with families and share houses with other students are another cost-effective form of student living.  


One of the best things about undertaking an exchange in Indonesia is the low cost of living for foreigners. Combined with the fact that Yogyakarta is aptly named the ‘student city’, it is considered one of the most affordable areas to live in for Indonesians too! Per week, I spent around $200 AUD in total (accommodation, meals, transport, entertainment- the lot!).

In Indonesia, it is almost always cheaper to eat out/get takeaway rather than cook your own food. Great street food (at warungs) is available everywhere and a full meal including rice, vegetables, meat and a drink won’t usually cost you any more than $2 AUD. There are lots of specialty cafes open late, and the South offers a nice selection of Western restaurants that won’t break the bank (most expensive meals = $10 AUD). Viavia, Mediterranea and Nanamias are my personal favourites.

In terms of transport around the city, many students rent scooters on a monthly basis, in addition to public transport, riding bicycles or catching a taxi or ojek (motorcycle taxi). To put the cost of a taxi in perspective, it’s a minimum of $2 AUD and you don’t usually go over $5 AUD for a 15 minute trip. TransJogja public transport buses are usually around 50c AUD per trip, ojeks are $2 AUD for a trip and rental motorbikes are around $60 AUD per month.

Before travelling to Indonesia, make sure you sign up for a KITAS visa, which will allow you to pay the local entry price for most tourist attractions. Also, bring your student ID card around with you.

Snacks and supplies are never far away with the trusty Alfamart and Indomaret shops on every corner! You can also go to Indomaret to book train tickets to other cities.

For leisure time, many students like to nongkrong (hang out) at cafes or malls, go to the movies ($5 AUD max), or travel to tourist areas outside the city which include some amazing beaches, forest lookouts, caves and museums.  

Professional development and employability

Participating in an exchange can be overwhelming and hectic, but also an incredible opportunity for self-development, independence and awareness of the world around you. When planning travel and budgeting, my decision-making skills and ability to prioritise improved remarkably! Additionally, I am more confident in my everyday Indonesian language skills and have a deeper understanding of the Indonesian way of life. Coming from the UQ major of International Inequality & Development, I realised how important local ownership is to the success of any development project. Living in the village certainly improved my resourcefulness and resilience through adapting to my circumstances. 


Travelling to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi was absolutely fantastic! There is so much unique culture and amazing architecture in the Southern areas of the island and Tana Toraja that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. 

Top tips

  • Consider what universities/countries you can apply for scholarships and grants with, and preference them over more expensive destinations. Your money will go so much further!
  • Don’t judge a country by what other people say about it, go and have your own experiences and form your own viewpoints!
  • Write small reflections along the way, they are super helpful to look back on and really help to map your personal development.
  • Don’t hesitate to join campus groups and buddy clubs - they will go out of their way to make you feel as welcomed as possible!
  • They often organise trips and events that will make it easier for you to travel in a group and you can meet locals and other international students!