Merle Smit is studying Bachelor South and Southeast Asian Studies at Leiden University. Merle 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) ?
I study South and Southeast Asian Studies in Leiden and a large part of the studies is learning a language. I chose Indonesian as my focus since the first year of the bachelor. Because language is a main component of the study, the program therefore requires students to go abroad in their third year, to have a more intensive language training. So, even though it was not really a choice to go to Indonesia or to follow this program specifically, I saw the ACICIS program as the ideal opportunity to take my Indonesian to a higher level and to live in Indonesia for a few months. The lessons offered at Gadjah Mada in combination with the use of Indonesian language outside the classroom, so on the street, in warungs, with fellow students, or in malls, seemed to be an incredibly good addition to the Indonesian lessons I followed in Leiden.
Q: What classes/units are you currently enrolled in? (List and brief description)
In Leiden: Migration and Diaspora of South Asia, Current affairs of South and Southeast Asia, and Indonesian in Practice.
Membaca: In this class we mostly read texts related to Indonesian culture, but sometimes more academic articles as well.
Tata Bahasa: In this class we discuss the Indonesian grammar.
Kosakata: I was taught Indonesian words and concepts in a fun way. It was a very interactive class with games and quizzes.
Percakapan: In this class we discussed topics that the class found interesting, and we discussed these topics in Indonesian. We also played fun games.
Kebudayaan Indonesia: Our teacher discussed a variety of topics about the contemporary culture of Indonesia. One can think of topics like Islamization, festivalization, media, education and more.
Geopolitics of the Middle East: this course was a non-INCULS course and was given at the faculty of political science (FISIPOL). In this class students were taught about the different political situations and conflicts in the Middle East, which were then linked to geography.
Q: How will your proficiency in the Indonesian language gained through the Flexible Language Immersion Program influence your future career or study?
I think that first of all, the FLIP program gave me much more confidence in using Bahasa Indonesia in conversations. In addition, my level of Indonesian is also higher and I can now better understand and read articles and books. I believe that this can be of added value for the rest of my studies, including when writing my thesis, but also in my follow-up studies. I have now the opportunity to use Indonesian sources, in addition to Dutch and English ones. On top of that, the FLIP program provided me with a better understanding of the culture that is surrounding and intertwined within the language.
Q: How different is in-country Indonesian language learning to your previous experiences in an Australian classroom environment?
The main difference was that I normally only spoke Indonesian in the classroom, whereas an in-country program forces you and gives the opportunity to speak Indonesian outside class on a daily basis. Partly because of this, I was able to use certain words much sooner in my conversations or understand them in articles because I encountered them in various places. In addition, I got a much better understanding of how the Indonesian language sounds and is used in daily life. Finally, I understand the culture in which the language is spoken much better.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time in Yogyakarta?
What I loved to do most in my free time in Yogyakarta was of course exploring the city and the region with friends: Jalan Malioboro, Kraton, Taman Sari, Merapi, Bantul or one of the many malls. In addition, I loved going out for lunch or dinner with friends, trying new foods, discovering new places, seeing new streets, watching people walk and drive by and see the streets change every 5 minutes. I also really enjoyed going to the gym and doing some creative activities. Finally, I liked relaxing in my room with the air conditioning on after a long day at campus and a long walk home.
Q: Favourite Indonesian food/ favourite place to eat:
I am known for my love of rendang. I would not know how many times I went to a nasi padang and ate delicious rendang there. I do not think I should want to know either. My favorite nasi padang place is Putra Kandung, which is in the Pogungs, close to my old kos. If I may give another tip, one thing you need to taste is martabak! Especially martabak manis coklat kacang or Nutella. The best place is the one at Pandega, but smaller stalls always satisfy 🙂
Q: Favourite Indonesian word/phrase:
Kerennnnn! Do I need to say more? 😉
Q: What places in Indonesia have you visited during your Semester so far?
Fortunately, a lot: Semarang, Dieng, Solo, Gunung Andong, Magelang, Gunung Bromo+ Malang, Parangtritis. I find it difficult to choose a favourite destination, because I valued the wonderful time that I had with different people during all these trips. I must say that the sunrise from Gunung Andong was a wonderful experience. Every few minutes the view changed again, and I could hardly believe I was experiencing this, it was a surreal moment for me.