By Theodore Craig-Piper (Sem 42/Feb 2016)
Murdoch University

Late this January I arrived in Jogja with little more than my clothes, vitamin pills and the few basic but crucial Indonesian phrases I had made myself learn before flying out from Perth. I carried with me at once both a burning curiosity about Indonesian culture and a naive cluelessness about what living here would be like. How the busy streets can be full of millions of people, yet each of them will smile as they pass you. How the haunting music of prayer rings out across the city every day. How the sun blazes into the sky in the early morning and stays up there until it reluctantly drops back below the horizon, leaving a lush but sunburnt country in its wake.

The end of my double degree gave me a semester of electives to enrol in as I pleased. An email from Murdoch University appeared in my inbox, detailing the New Colombo and AsiaBound grants for a semester abroad in Indonesia. At first I was hesitant – I’m not one to step spryly from my comfort zone – but I thought of how I’d always wanted to travel, and how my study finances (lack of) had always held me back from doing so. On little more than a whim, I put together the application, and was accepted into the IBLS (Indonesian Business, Law and Society) program. I haven’t looked back since.

I can’t emphasise enough the opportunity a semester abroad offers you – the experience you’ll find that you didn’t realise you were missing – and ACICIS are immensely helpful in getting you on your feet before and after you arrive. They certainly gave us all the tools we needed to live for a semester here in Indo.

The IBLS program at UII (Universitas Islam Indonesia) allows you to choose from various units within its international program, from any one of its faculties spread throughout north Jogja. The program also includes a language class to suit your level (I was a beginner), as well as an optional internship of your choosing. All units are in English, so this is a great program if you are not confident with your language skills. As well as some introductory management classes, I took a one-on-one independent study unit, Islamic Teaching, which has proven to be a fascinating insight into many aspects of Islamic culture in Indonesia and around the world. My lecturer Mr. Nurhadi has also given me the opportunity to learn Arabic script as part of the class. I feel happy being surrounded and challenged by new languages and a complex and still unfamiliar culture.

UII life is a great cross-section of life in Yogyakarta. The students and staff alike are polite, devout, studious and genuinely happy. Considering the rarity that we are, they will stop whatever they are doing to help a foreigner, to offer advice, or to simply say hello and introduce themselves – many are happy to be given the opportunity to practice their English with a native speaker. Also, connections are everything in Indonesia – social media is everywhere, and I regularly find myself being asked for my contact details by people I have just met. You’ll get used to it!

Jogja itself is a beautiful place in the world. Taking just one step outside the smoggy city and you will find yourself in dense green jungle, climbing a volcano, or drinking fresh coconuts at a warm beach. Step back inside and you’ll find a mingled culture of tradition and modernity, the clash of high and low technology, cheap food and friendly faces. Every building is different from the next. Every street leads to something new. It is a student city, progressive and youthful.

My time here is some that I will remember fondly for the rest of my life. I have met people, learned things, and seen things I will never forget. As a student of academia and as a student of life, this is invaluable experience.

For more information about this program visit: Indonesian Business, Law and Society Program