I have been back in the US for a few weeks after spending the summer in Indonesia (and it will probably be a few more weeks before I eat any rice). I have been abroad a few times before, Canada and Mexico a few times each for a couple days (but they don’t really count), Spain for two weeks, and China for two weeks. However, this was my first time studying abroad (and my first time to Indonesia).
Before leaving for Indonesia, my goals were pretty simple. I wanted to learn some Bahasa Indonesia, explore a small portion of Indonesia, and make many new friendships. I definitely achieved my (meager) goals. The teachers and tutors at Sanata Dharma were fantastic! It was being able to chat in Bahasa Indonesia with my MBA classmate (who is from Jakarta). And one of my new roommates speaks Bahasa Malaysia; however, as expected I have no idea what he is saying half the time (but he can understand me)! While in Indonesia, I feel like I went all over Java (Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, all around Jogja, the Surabaya airport, and Bromo. Jogja was a great city to spend a couple months.
Bandung was also a really cool city and Bromo was awesome as well. However, aside from all the great tourist attractions, traveling off-the-beaten path was the most rewarding part of the summer. For instance, visiting coffee farms/villages near Merapi and getting swarmed by kids or getting stared at by a cute little girl (who only spoke Bahasa Java) on the train to Bromo. I definitely feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people in Indonesia. My fellow American students were very accomplished and I look forward to both staying in touch and watching them succeed in the future. The faculty at Sanata Dharma were excellent but were also really interesting and nice people too; I look forward to keeping tabs on my tutor Mas Gustav.
My host family was absolutely wonderful. They were the epitome of good, religious people. Seriously, they made me want to be a better person when I was staying with them. I am grateful that they opened their arms (and their kitchen) for me. During Idul Fitri they took me all over the place! I met the Mayor of Jogja and a “Chief Justice,” went to a few weddings, visited their mosque, attended some NU meetings, and also got to visit their extended family during the Idul Fitri break! Lastly, everyone at PCMI, USINDO, and Wikikopi (my internship) were awesome as well! Reconnecting with everyone is worth a trip back to Indonesia in its own right.
Getting exposure to different cultures and perspectives stretches your mind and lets you see the world in a different lens. This experience has changed me; it has made me better. I certainly think of Indonesia differently. What was just the 4th most populous country with a G20 economy is now a country I hold dear in my heart. And one I want to get back to so I can reconnect with old friends and explore more of the beautiful country! The food was also really good and I really hope I can find a good Indonesian restaurant here in Seattle! As a result of this experience I will also be pursuing career opportunities in the region.
POST-PROGRAM EVENT with KEMKOMINFO
We spent our final few days of the USINDO Summer Studies Program in Jakarta. The Post-Program event was hosted by Indonesia’s KEMKOMINFO. It seemed like we crammed in as much as possible. We met with several government departments / agencies, visited many of Jakarta’s attractions, and visited the University of Indonesia.
Jakarta is a massive (and modern) city. It dwarfs the majority of “major” US cities. The only city I can even compare it to is Shanghai. We really got an appreciation for the complexity of the city when we were allowed an inside look at Jakarta’s Smart City. And although we ran all over the city, my favorite tourist destinations were the National Monument and the Istiqlal Mosque.
Similar to the rest of the program in Indonesia, the best part of the visit was the people. The officials and guest speakers were excellent. But the highlight of Jakarta was visiting the University of Indonesia. It was wonderful to meet our Indonesian peers and to have a friendly cross-cultural dialogue. Spending the last few days in Jakarta was a memorable finish to an excellent summer!