During the second semester of 2017, I was lucky enough to study abroad at the University of Gadjah Madah (UGM) in Yogyakarta on the island of Java; made possible for me by the New Colombo Plan. Originally, I was hesitant to pounce at the opportunity given the unknown logistics involved, however, all it took was a gentle nudge from my friend who previously went on the same program to be sold on the whole opportunity and it has by far been the highlight of my time at university.
My interactions with UGM were actually quite challenging, but it was quite the character-building experience. In the first week I was there, I learnt that one of my lecturers was on a pilgrimage and would not be back for several weeks with no replacement in that time; course outlines were yet to be written and due dates were being changed left, right and centre. If this were to happen at ANU, it would greatly conflict with the times that I would plan to be at Moose! The hardest part of my study abroad was trying to communicate with UGM to find courses I could get pre-approved course credit for as part of my degree. With course outlines not written and census dates approaching for both universities, I nearly ended up taking courses that wouldn’t give me credit for my degree and would end up prolonging my degree (which isn’t the end of the world). It took a bit of effort to resolve this issue, but what fun is life without a little bit of a challenge?
Despite the minor difficulties I went through with the university, it was all worth it once I was in a beautiful country such as Indonesia. It is hard to be stressed about organisational matters when you are climbing active volcanoes, hooning around the country on a motorbike, eating exotic food or being extremely Aussie and jumping on an under one hour flight for a cheeky weekend away in Bali. Yogyakarta was an amazing city to live in for a semester, the food was amazing and cheap, the people were kind and welcoming, and the madness of the streets was an eye-opening experience.
Overall, the best part of being in Indonesia was being able to study the language and to be able to apply what I learned in class immediately as I stepped outside of the classroom; something that you can’t easily get when studying in Australia. It was very rewarding to be able to feel your level of fluency increase when making a conversation becomes much easier from a day-to-day basis and certainly an experience that I will miss in the future. Going on exchange to learn the language added another layer of authenticity to the experience and improved my relationship with the local population which I would not have been able to have had were I speaking English. Although it is not the easiest way of going on exchange, I would encourage any student, regardless of your level of language fluency, to give a language-based exchanged a go.