Q: Why did you decide to undertake ACICIS’ Development Studies Immersion Program?
I first found out about the Development Studies Immersion Program because there was a poster at my home university saying I could live in Indonesia for a full semester, and that there were student mobility grants available to help cover the costs. I talked with the ACICIS staff and realised that it was such a good opportunity for several reasons: I’ve never learned a language before, I want to get as much hands-on experience in development as possible, I love living and travelling in Asia, and it fit in with my degree easily. It was a no-brainer.
Q: How will the Development Studies Immersion Program influence your future career or study?
My major is in anthropology/sociology, so being immersed in a different culture whilst learning the language at the same time is a really valuable experience. The program has made a big difference to my study plans because I probably never would have thought to start learning Bahasa otherwise, and now I want to continue when I’m home. Coming here has opened up so many possibilities to keep coming back to Indonesia in the future – for study, work, travel, internships or volunteering. I would feel really lucky if this happened, fingers-crossed that’s where it takes me!
Q: How does development in Indonesia differ to what you’ve seen before?
Something really clear in the village Selopamioro in Bantul Regency, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, where my internship is based, is the emphasis on community. The day before a wedding, every man in the village gets together to pray for the welfare of the marriage and the new family. Every neighbour brings rice or meat or money to the wedding to help the new couple celebrate. Every Rukun Tetangga, the smallest form of sub-village, has a siskamling (sistem keamanan lingkungan / neighbourhood security system) – so every night a roster of men take a night watch, protecting the entire village from thieves, disasters, or any other threats. You see straight away that a really important part of day-to-day life here involves taking time to socialise with your co-workers, friends or neighbours. There is a real sense in the village that lives are intertwined. This community commitment is what I’ve seen reflected in Habitat for Humanity’s development approach – they don’t just build houses for individual isolated families, they develop an entire community, and the entire community assists with the construction process.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time in Yogyakarta?
Eat a lot of mie ayam! We like to go to Blockbuster Movies (near the ACICIS office) where you can rent out a private movie room. Sometimes we bermain billiards so I get to test everyone’s patience with how garbage my pool game is. I really recommend that you try shopping at Pujha Fashion, a second-hand clothing chain (my personal favourite is the one on Jl. Raya Kledokan). It’s great if you’re bodoh (stupid) like me and don’t bring any collared shirts even though ACICIS underlines it pretty clearly in their emails. If you’re in Yogya you also cannot miss the Raminten Cabaret Show at Hamzah Batik!
Q: Are you undertaking an internship while in Indonesia?
I’m interning with Habitat for Humanity Indonesia (HFHI ). HFHI provides housing for families that live in impermanent and indecent structures – usually with dirt floors, bamboo walls, rotting and leaking ceilings, inadequate ventilation, insufficient lighting, and often without proper access to sanitation or any toilet facilities. I have been writing an Impact Report which summarises the achievements HFHI Yogyakarta has made from 2014 until now in Selopamioro Village, and recording a video about a family who recently received a new house from HFHI. These will both be used as promotional tools in a campaign to gain greater sponsors. Several days a week I visit and help construct houses in Selopamioro Village. My other responsibilities include assisting with writing post-reports for houses which have already been completed and joining the HFHI team when they assess potential new development locations. I have been made very welcome in the village and invited to join activities like weddings and prayer ceremonies – all experiences that have been very special.
Q: What is your favourite food/place to eat?
Mie ayam every day, either from the UGM kantin next to the INCULS building/behind the masjid or from any kaki lima. Also, for when you’ve gone a full week only eating Indomie and martabak, you can get good fresh salads and banh mi from Indochine.
Q: What is your favourite Indonesian word/phrase:
Whenever you travel somewhere alone, everyone you meet will ask “sendiri?” (alone?). Once when I said yes, the response I got was “oh… karena anda tidak punya teman?” (oh… because you have no friends?).
Q: What places in Indonesia have you visited during your semester so far?
If you go to one place in Yogya it needs to be the Gereja Ayam (Chicken Church). It was a magical experience to go here and I recommend it highly. There are so many fun places nearby Yogya perfect for day trips or weekend trips, like the beaches (Ngandong, Greweng, Kukup) and hiking (nglanggeran) in Gunung Kidul, and homestays (like Frogstay and Bumi Langit) in the padis and hills in Bantul. During our study break, some of us visited Lombok and the Gili Islands. I’ve also been hiking in the Dieng Plateau – if you go, just make sure you don’t make the same mistake I did and check that the mountain you want to climb isn’t closed for the rainy season before you take 4 buses to get there!