Academic experiences:
I had the opportunity to go on exchange for a full semester at Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) in Yogyakarta. It is the top university in Indonesia and thus brings along with it a certain prestige amongst the Indonesian population. Being on exchange through the ACICIS programme was a convenient option as they have a wealth of experience running in-country programmes. Ultimately, this meant less time spent on battling the highly complicated web of bureaucratic structures and translated into more peace of mind and focus on the exchange experience.

At UGM, I was enrolled in two faculties and undertook cross-disciplinary modules. ACICIS conducts a placement test for its participants prior to university enrolment and according to those results, recommends suitable streams of language courses and immersion programmes. I was enrolled in the writing, conversational and grammar subjects at an advanced level with the Faculty of Cultural Sciences (Fakultas Ilmu Budaya), plus Karawitan (the history and method of the gamelan orchestra). Wanting to increase my interaction opportunities with Indonesian students, I enrolled in the Political and Social Sciences Faculty (FISIPOL), studying the political and social systems in Indonesia. This proved to be the most challenging course, having to grapple with lecture material in Bahasa Indonesia and Javanese.

Perhaps the greatest challenge was trying to figure out how the academic system worked at UGM. Classes and timetables change routinely and students would usually find out about a cancelled class only after turning up and waiting more than 30 minutes for the non-existent lecturer. Where there is Blackboard at UQ with all the lecture material displayed completely and neatly, learning material here is passed on manually, changing hands from student to student. Despite it all, it is not difficult to get used to the system and to live with it. I will even go as far as saying I have enjoyed working around it.

Personal experiences/What I got out of it:
Indonesians are very friendly people, and even if you were not confident in your language skills, they will remain patient and try to help you. Aside from the friends made in class, I also joined the university’s Taekwondo club, which welcomed people of all ages from all backgrounds to train with them. Nothing is better than learning a new sport and making new friends at the same time!
Although enrolled in 5 subjects of which all taught in Bahasa Indonesia, there is ample time to travel and explore the cultural enclave which is Jogjakarta. Aside from the obligatory tourist destinations like Candi Prambanan, Candi Borobudur and the Kraton, Jogjakarta is has many hidden historical gems awaiting a travellers who go off the beaten path.

Accommodation:
Accommodation options in Yogyakarta are aplenty. Known as a “kos”, the facilities provided in each hostel vary according to price. Of course, the more luxurious a kos is, the more expensive it will be. My room was furnished humbly and did not have an air-conditioning unit or an attached bathroom, which translated to rent costing approximately AUD90 a month. That is a tiny fraction of the cheapest student accommodation in St Lucia! Although my kos is located about 2km away from the university campus, the 20 minute walk to and fro daily is enjoyable and it allows you to be closer to the local establishments and people, compared to whizzing down the road on a scooter or a bicycle.

Expenses:
I would suggest that a modest budget is sufficient, but of course that will depend on your willingness to forgo certain comforts in life. On average, I spend less than AUD80 a week, inclusive of rent, groceries and eating out. The price of takeout meals on campus and from roadside stalls are sometimes less than if you bought fresh produce and prepared your meals in the kos. Whole meals cost approximately AUD2, which includes rice, meat, vegetables and a drink. Restaurants are priced reasonably too, and if you had to quell that craving for a good steak and chips, some places offer a very high quality of western food for less than AUD10 a sitting, per person.

5 TOP TIPS:

  • Mediterranea Restaurant offers high quality food at very reasonable prices. That is my one-stop eating place to satiate cravings for food which is not rice, covered in MSG or simmered in curry and chillies. For vegetarians/vegans, Mila’s is the place to go.
  • For a caffeine fix, Kedai Kopi or Philokopie offers a variety of coffee beverages and have outlets in close proximity to campus.
  • Arm yourself with a UGM campus map. ACICIS will provide you a little goodie bag with a million maps of Yogyakarta, but what you really need is just one good campus map. The campus is HUGE and sprawling.
  • The cheapest and most exhilarating way to get around is by Ojek (motorcycle taxi). These are less costly than a taxi ride and are much quicker as motorcycles can weave through traffic and in and out of little alleyways, whereas taxis often get stuck in congestion. Minor bargaining skills are compulsory however.
  • Look both ways multiple times while crossing the street; traffic lights are generally unreliable and one-way streets often have two-way traffic roaring through them.

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