New Colombo Plan - Connect to Australia’s future - study in the region.

Flexible Language Immersion Program

Charlie Barnes is a 2022 New Colombo Plan scholar from The Australian National University. He is studying Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Asian Studies. Charlie undertook the Flexible Language Immersion Program for one semester at Gadjah Mada University from August until December 2022.

Q: Why did you decide to undertake ACICIS’ Flexible Language Immersion Program (FLIP) ?

Having studied Indonesian at school and university I was keen to put my language to the test in an immersive environment. The program provided me with the opportunity to spend six months in Indonesia’s trendy university city, learning, living and socialising with Indonesian students from around the archipelago.


FLIP facilitated an exchange semester at one of Indonesia’s leading universities. I had the chance to learn about Indonesia’s economy, politics and foreign policy from and alongside an impressive cohort of students and from leading academics. The immersive nature of the program – where I was the only foreigner living in my student accommodation, studying in my classes and playing in my sports teams – was the attraction of undertaking the ACICIS program.

Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? If so, how did this contribute to your experience in Indonesia? 

I was fortunate enough to receive a New Colombo Plan Scholarship to support my participation in the ACICIS program – I wouldn’t be here without it! The New Colombo Plan Scholarship gave me the opportunity to immerse myself fully into Indonesia culture – I now have many treasured experiences (including sitting on the street for hours eating sate sticks with locals) that will influence my future career and development.

Q: What classes/units are you currently enrolled in? (List and brief description)

While at UGM I took a number of Indonesian language classes, Indonesian Foreign Policy, Political and Social Systems in Indonesia and Public Sector Economics. It was interesting and fun learning about Indonesia’s economy, politics and foreign policy from an Indonesian perspective. My lecturers were engaging, enthusiastic and knowledgeable and I also learned a lot from discussions with my Indonesian classmates both in the classroom and outside.

Q: Are you involved in any clubs/societies at the universities? (List and brief description)

I joined and participated in a number of clubs and societies at UGM. I played tennis in the UGM tennis team, training several times a week at the excellent university courts. I also played hockey, first for my faculty in an inter-faculty indoor hockey competition and then for the university in an inter-university competition in Jakarta, traveling and staying with the team for several days. I also participated in formal and informal events and discussions with a student-run journal and politics and international relations student organisations.

Q: How will your proficiency in the Indonesian language gained through the Flexible Language Immersion Program influence your future career or study?

The Indonesian I learned while undertaking FLIP has opened up the possibility of working in Indonesia in an Indonesian work environment. Many new opportunities have become available as a result of the immersion program.

Q: How different is in-country Indonesian language learning to your previous experiences in an Australian classroom environment?

There is no comparison between learning in a classroom environment and learning in-country. Learning in-country is much more fun and interesting, but I was pleased to have studied Indonesian for a number of years before arriving in Indonesia because it meant I was able to make friends quickly and wasn’t as lost as I might have been when I tried to immerse myself in Indonesian culture and society.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time in Yogyakarta?

I never felt like I had a lot of ‘spare time’ in Jogja. My weeks and weekends quickly filled up with sport, social events and activities, assignments and travel. When I did have some spare time I went to my favourite café where I would ‘nongkrong’ (hang out) with the waiters, who became good friends.


Q: Favourite Indonesian food/ favourite place to eat:

I love Indonesian street food, particularly chicken satay. Not far from my accommodation was an older couple that would setup a little ‘kaki lima’ (street food stall) with delicious peanut sauce. There is no shortage of delicious, affordable food in Jogja.

Q: Favourite Indonesian word/phrase:

My favourite Indonesian word is ‘mantul’ which means roughly amazing. Like many of Indonesia’s best words it’s an abbreviation – of ‘mantap’ (meaning excellent) and ‘betul’ (meaning true).

Q: What places in Indonesia have you visited during your Semester so far?

I visited many of Java’s major cities including Jakarta, Surabaya and Malang and a number of beautiful nature spots including the beaches around Jogja, a couple of mountains and volcanos and some tea fields. There is no shortage weekend trips to do while studying in Jogja!