By Anastasia Pavlovic (Feb 2016/Semester 42)
The University of Sydney

I love ice cream – it’s great on its own, in different flavours, and even with small chopped up bits of bread, pearls, fruit, cheese and condensed milk as I discovered here in Indonesia. Known as ‘es campur’, it’s odd, but strangely delicious. To describe my experience in Indonesia over the semester is a little bit like a bowl of es campur, with each layer, as mysterious as the next, interweaving to create my invaluable semester experience in Indonesia.

First up we have the layer of a mix of chopped up fresh fruit. I like to refer to this as the fundamental reason why I came to Yogyakarta – to immerse myself in Indonesian culture. This fresh fruit came in one way through the form of the FLIP program provided at UGM (Universitas Gadjah Mada). Here I could choose subjects taught in Indonesian, offering me the chance to learn about gender inequality, ethno-videography, community development and social movements through a whole new perspective.

Fellow students and lecturers were friendly, relatable and embraced me as their own, with the lecturer even asking me to (embarrassingly) introduce myself at the front of the class. There were times when my classmates have sent a few too many unrelated messages in WhatsApp conversations, asking when to go out for karaoke or coffee, but it was these encounters that made each day exciting and spontaneous. On one particular occasion, my lecturer even hosted a class party at his house (which finished at 2am!). Despite the challenges of group assignment tasks, finding out when exams were on and thumbprint scanning classroom system, UGM allowed me to immerse myself right into Indonesian student life.

Now onto the next layer – the Ice Cream, or which I like to call my internship with the local representative government of Yogyakarta (known as DPRD DIY). Ice cold but satisfying, my internship was where I could put my language skills to the real test through experiencing and observing first hand how Indonesian local governments operate. From listening to veteran concerns, to plenary sessions about local government budget expenditure, to overseeing recent community building developments in Bantul – DPRD DIY taught me so much about such a wide variety of community issues in such a short amount of time.

I was able to speak to important stakeholders, including leaders of the major political parties, Heads of Health, Tourism, Development, as well as current Indonesian Education and Culture Minister, Pak Anies Baswedan. As I remember learning about him in first class of Indonesian Studies two years ago, meeting Pak Anies would have to be the most notable highlight of my intern experience at DPRD DIY. Goofing off with the official camera along with fellow staff members however comes as a close second.

Infused with the ice cream is the rubbery-sweet, cheerful sago pearls. I like to refer to this as my involvement with the Australia Indonesia Youth Association (AIYA) Yogyakarta Chapter. Meeting up each week with like-minded, driven individuals to plan events connecting to Indonesian-Australian relationship was rewarding, particularly when bilateral friendships were fostered through our efforts. Be sure to get involved with your local AIYA chapter to access these kinds of opportunities!

Top it off with some chucks of bread, cheese and condensed milk – also known as the hilariously fun memories on weekend gateways, the unapologetic treats of martabak, the confusing sidewalks, my ibu kos constantly asking if I had already eaten, the local gado-gado seller’s smile, gojeks and the occasional reminiscence of Australian milk.

And there you have it – the tantalising es campur that has been my Indonesian semester experience.

It’s the experiences like these that took me out of my comfort zone (… way out of my comfort zone), that have moulded me into the person I am today. In the midst of the challenges and confusion, I was thankful to always have ACICIS there to lend a hand, providing me with all the helpful advice and guidance whenever needed.

Somehow I was able to fake it with my broken ‘matur nyuwun’ (‘thank you’ in Javanese) and get my es campur. This bowl of ice cream has only cemented my love for Indonesia, and with that, I’m definitely coming back for seconds.

You can have a read of Anastasia’s articles in Indonesian written for the DPRD DIY website, found here, here and here.

For more information about this program visit: Flexible Language Immersion Program (FLIP)