By Lachlan Haycock (Semester 42/Feb 2016)
University of the Sunshine Coast

Words are powerful things, and so it comes as no surprise to me that when you can’t find the right ones or say them in the right way, you lose the power to articulate your meaning or intention as you had envisioned. This is of course the case for any language, but in particular one that is not your first.

You might think after such an introduction that this isn’t a positive review of the Indonesian learning experience. Indeed, living, studying, eating, and simply existing in this country presents challenges to everyone, and denying that would be an injustice to the rich and complex land of the Indonesian archipelago. Yet, these obstacles are almost necessary to understand and feel comfortable in this country, and of course are balanced out by many wonderful and uniquely astonishing phenomena.

Also, you aren’t alone. The crux of the matter is this: ACICIS is here to help, and I believe they provide it extensively. From the initial application and enrolment phases, through orientation and initial steps to mid-semester crises, I’ve seen how issues been addressed impressive forethought. Much of this assistance is unseen. University enrolment, visa considerations and safety countermeasures are all duties assumed by staff, beyond the day-to-day sphere of ACICIS-to-student and student-to-ACICIS communication.

Most significantly of all, ACICIS facilitates fast-paced relationship building between students on the program. Some would heartily embrace being located in a foreign country with its plethora of stimulating singularities and use their skills of adaptability to speed towards contentment and inner comfort. Others might need a little longer. Yet both are accommodated, as you find yourself in the presence of many similar others who are taking the same steps and confronting the same challenges. No need to feel distanced or out of place – there are people with whom you can connect and build solidarity.

This is a considerable aid when acclimatising to the differences in lecturer-student dynamics in the classroom; when feeling like the centre of attention as you walk down the street with everyone’s (and I mean everyone’s) eyes on you; and even when meeting someone new, smiling at them and opening your mouth to begin a conversation – before realising you’ve forgotten everything you ever learnt in that language. Even when words fail you, rest assured that you can fall back on some very welcome support from peers.

For me, the best aspect of studying in Indonesia via an ACICIS program, or indeed any intensive in-country language service, is the opportunity to connect with and feed off others. Many of us are leaving our relatives and friends behind for many months, which means you can develop strong and mutually supportive bonds with new and fascinating people. The benefits are plentiful, and are best experienced, not explained.

My life is now tied to this country in ways I’m probably yet to realise, and in no small way are these binding experiences bereft of input from the pastoral care and administrative support of ACICIS. An ever expanding and strengthening network of staff, current students and alumni are present to guide and foster, facilitating further engagement with the people of places of Indonesia. Here is a base from which to work, grow and expand into new surroundings.

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

Lachlan Haycock received a New Colombo Plan Scholarship for his time in Indonesia.