In-Country study in Indonesia provides an opportunity to put academic study of Indonesian into practice by learning Indonesian language in its lived context, through field projects, and by undertaking Indonesian-run academic programs.
There are obvious limits to learning foreign languages within classrooms in Australia, so ACICIS offers students academic alternatives to existing courses in several respects. Our focus is on immersion within Indonesian environments, including local universities, rather than on delivery of ‘enclave’ courses (a term which applies to courses designed to be an extension of Australian curriculum). Our courses aim to facilitate study directed by Indonesian academics and are all taught in Indonesian. Students should be aware that studying in such terms is as demanding as it is rewarding; adapting to foreign methods of teaching, reflecting social and cultural norms we will not be familiar with, requires maturity and flexibility.
Life in another culture abounds with new and exciting experiences and opportunities, which may make formal study seem dull by comparison. When language learning opportunities present themselves in everyday activities such as buying food, catching a bus, going to the local football ground, visiting new friends, or just sitting on the street corner, it can be frustrating to have to turn up for classes. Students must appreciate that they are undertaking a course of full-time study. Whatever the distractions, it is necessary to treat study in the Indonesian classroom as seriously as home university study, and to have the discipline to maintain a structured study regime.
This is not to say that students shouldn’t put time and energy into extra-curricular activities. Many ACICIS students have found involvement in clubs, recreational and voluteer activities to be a great way to meet people and integrate into the local community. There are a large number of activities available to students around Yogya and other university towns. ACICIS students have been active in university clubs, the most popular being the nature lovers’ club, sporting clubs, martial arts, dance and gamelan societies. Students have also joined local sporting clubs, both by participating in practice sessions and formal games, and joining in an informal game of soccer in the afternoon at the field down the road. There is also the opportunity to experience the many artistic performances that happen around Yogyakarta.
Some former ACICIS students have entered PABM Speaking Competition in Malaysia.
Students need to be aware that they may experience a variety of difficulties. Coping with a full semester study load in a second language, compounded by unfamiliar teaching practices and administrative procedures, is certain to be difficult, even without the added differences in culture, food, language and climate, both in and outside the classroom.
Students may experience culture shock because of physical and mental changes they undergo in the first few weeks and need to give themselves time to adapt to this. After this, it is still common to be prone to ‘culture stress’, – trying to function as an Indonesian 24 hours a day (when you’re not) can get exhausting. It is also a good idea to have ‘escape mechanisms’ (strategies to deal with culture shock and stress) in place. These might include making a house or room into a home, writing letters or emailing friends overseas. Some students may find that, every now and then, going and hiding in the mall, eating a Big Mac and drinking a cappuccino helps them to stay sane.
Finally, it should be said that while students need to be prepared for difficulties, they don’t need to anticipate the worst. On the whole ACICIS students find the experience of living and studying in Indonesia thoroughly enjoyable, stimulating and fun. We hope that you will too.