Going on exchange is an important part of studying Indonesian at university. We are fortunate that the great work of a few has given us excellent opportunities in the ACICIS‘ programs in Java and the RUILI program in Lombok, along with government programs such as AIYEP, and numerous others across the archipelago. These provide us with opportunities to travel to Indonesia and connect with our Indonesian counterparts. The continuance of these programs, their expansion and the establishment of new programs are essential to Australia’s future relationship with Indonesia.

I have been lucky enough to participate in both the RUILI program in Lombok and in two semesters of study in Java with ACICIS. On both occasions I have come home surprised by the progress in both my understanding of Indonesian language and Indonesian society. I have also come home slightly disappointed. Not with the programs, but with myself. As I reach the end of my degree I realise my opportunities for extended, government subsidised study in Indonesia are just about over and although I enjoyed blissful days of drinking kopi while waiting for tides to turn and swells to arrive, I wish I had taken advantage of all the opportunities presented to you in a country like Indonesia.

So with that in mind, I give to you my top three regrets while studying in Indonesia.

1. Not taking my studies seriously

You are guaranteed to encounter three things while studying at UGM; kelas kosong, token questions on your view as an Australian and a general disregard for your opinion from the lecturer. It is not the fault of the lecturer. Other exchange programs often enrol their students in classes taught in Indonesian without the requisite skills, and some of us will drift off after half an hour of trying to keep up. I know I did. Lecturers seem to take this as a sign to just let us sit there and doodle our way through the semester. In hindsight, I wish I had spent that extra hour going through readings or preparing answers for class, employing a post-graduate tutor or just sticking my hand up and bumbling my way through my opinion in front of the class.

2. Not being active in student society

Campus life in Indonesia is a big thing; people meet on campus for lunch, arrive early and leave late, and even go there on the weekends. Just for fun. At my university students tend to be a bit ‘kupu-kupu’ and go straight home after studying. Involving myself in debate clubs, sports, arts and other campus societies would have given me the opportunity to connect with like-minded Indonesians who could form a useful network as I reach the end of my degree.

3. Not engaging in more meaningful ways outside of campus.

Just about all of us will volunteer a bit of our time while away. We might do things like teach English in a nearby village or change nappies at a local orphanage. It is a great way to ground yourself in Indonesian life and provides assistance to the NGOs themselves. Now that I am back in Australia the opportunity to engage with Indonesian businesses and organisations does not so readily exist. If given the chance to relive my trips to Indonesia, engaging with volunteering on a deeper level would be at the top of the list.