By Lara Whitehouse (Semester 42/February 2016)
Charles Darwin University

Yogyakarta is truly a city that never sleeps. A city that, if one allows it, can render the humble student wide-eyed and gaping at the opportunities, experiences and fun that they are bound to come across during a semester exchange. Yogya offers an array of cultural activities, academic wisdom and know-how and fascinating opportunities to discover and push one’s limits. It is a city that, within five months, I have managed to fall in and out of love with on countless occasions. A city which has granted me the ability to obtain ‘real-life’ skills while immensely contributing towards my degree!

I arrived in Yogya at the end of January 2016 with high expectations for myself. Study was to be my main priority. I would no doubt arrive back in Darwin in June fluent in bahasa Indonesia. What impresses (and continues to baffle) me the most is how quickly this expectation dissipated as I progressed through the semester. It was this city (and the ACICIS program) managed to see me through to a successful conclusion.

After orientation activities began to subside and new daily routines turned into weekly routines of waking up, finding the best place on campus for a breakfast feed of gado-gado, attending class, sussing out extra-curricular activities, attending social events and exploring this wonderful city and country, I began to notice my motivation for conventional ‘study’ had dropped immensely. At first this made me anxious. I had no doubt my university would frown upon me not taking full advantage of the academic opportunity I had laying idle before me. However, it was on a flight from Yogya to Denpasar about half-way through the semester that I picked up a magazine, and for the first time since I had begun learning Bahasa, was able to read (and understand) an entire article (minus a word here and there!). It was then I realised I had learned more during my semester exchange than I (probably) ever could have in a classroom. I realised then that every time I bartered with taxi drivers, got carried away speaking about my favourite food during assignment interviews with my housemates and met new and exciting people on my travels, I learned far more than I could have memorising words via “look-cover-write-check” for hours on end.

No doubt some interesting experiences accompanied this hands-on learning program. The hustle and bustle of everyday life meant I left virtually no stone unturned. This included no food untasted and certainly no roads untravelled (granted some of those roads may have been due to a wrong turn here or there). I learned a lot about myself because of these experiences. For the most part, I learned that I have the tendency to delve deep into the experience of something new. For example, my first time trying gado-gado, I became instantly addicted and ate it for the next three days straight. This was similar to my first time tasting the numerous gorengans that fill the windows of most of the warungs at UGM. I tried one. I went back for six. As such, the first time I found myself lost in Yogya, I was really lost. A fifteen-minute stroll back to my kos from the ACICIS office turned into a good hour of walking around UNY aimlessly which ended in a ride home from two very kind policemen.

The experience of living in Indonesia is difficult to compare to that of other countries. It’s left me with more questions than answers. The ACICIS program has sparked and furthered my interest in Indonesia immensely. I am grateful to the wonderful staff in Perth, Yogya and those at Charles Darwin University for this opportunity.

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