Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Because sometimes you need to travel far away to gain clarity
Dijana (27) experienced a life-changing semester when she studied abroad in Bali, Indonesia, in 2016. She grew up in a small community in Slovenia, but she followed the urge to experience cultures beyond the borders of her home country. Now, Dijana shares her story with you from the beginning. Find out how her exchange semester in Bali influenced her career and led her to the path she is currently on.
Hi Dijana, so who are you? What can you share about your background?
I am Dijana, 27 years old and from a small town in the alpine area of Slovenia surrounded by mountains and forests. That’s why I’m very nature bound and passionate about the environment. I would describe myself as an independent and fearless person who always asks questions.
When did you become interested in new countries and foreign cultures?
I still remember when my interest in traveling first started. The seed has been growing during childhood. I started to train in karate when I was a kid. I became better, and my coach invited me to competitions. At first, the competitions were regional, but later I joined international karate events, for example, in Italy or Hungary. When I was 14, I was good enough to join the national team of Slovenia. Honestly, during this time, my life focused on sports, and school was in second place. My teammates were like a second family. We experienced a lot, like preparing for the European championships by training for and attending competitions. For instance, in Morocco, Malaysia, or Sweden. Moreover, I first became interested in Asia during this time because Karate is from Japan. Consequently, I began to do my research.
What is your study background?
Yes, I visited a law school in Slovenia. I was especially interested in human rights. However, university and sports didn’t work out since I lacked time. Additionally, I had to be on-site and couldn’t join competitions, so I had to give up Karate. Unfortunately, there was no option to make a living from karate. During this time, I was not happy. I was mostly sad sitting in a library all day, studying from morning to evening. Finally, even my parents were asking why I looked so low energy. Moreover, it was a very competitive environment and not supportive, so I felt like the university was not my place.
Why did you decide to study abroad, and what were your first steps toward reaching that goal?
It was winter, it was cold, and I was unhappy. I always dreamed of going to an island in the tropics, and I wanted to travel to find out if I wanted to continue my studies. Consequently, I checked the ERASMUS opportunities at my university, but my international office was almost rude. I felt like they were not trying to enable young students to go abroad since I was still in the first semesters of my studies. It turned out that only students in their last year were supported in their study-abroad plans. But I told myself, “C’mon, I am not going to wait 4 years until I can go!?”.
How did you study abroad as a freemover without the support of your university?
After I didn’t get help from the international office, I didn’t give up and looked for other opportunities online. I knew I needed a change in my life, especially after some people told me that I had changed and that I was only studying and not going anywhere. So, I checked out different programs online until I found Asia Exchange. On their website, I found the BIPAS program in Bali, Indonesia, which offered law and economy courses. The subjects in the program were for different study fields, but 3-4 courses were related to my interests. Luckily, I also had law courses, so I could use the credits if I continued my studies.
Finally, I informed my parents that I would go abroad to study in Bali. I remember their initial reaction, “Can you not go any further?”. “Yes, New Zealand”, was my response. My dad was scared, which is typical for the Arabic Balkan culture. However, my mum said she didn’t have the opportunity and that I could go abroad to study, so I should do it.
Read also “Why study in Asia?“
How could you finance your studies abroad in Bali?
I was never rich. Some people wore super expensive clothing at my university, but for me, it was just crazy and not what I valued. So, I always felt like a “black sheep”. I could finance my studies in Bali with my savings since I worked in a café in my hometown on the weekends. Additionally, during high school, I had a sports scholarship. Consequently, everything felt as if it was falling into place. Asia Exchange is not expensive, but I wouldn’t have paid money at my home university in Slovenia. However, I was happy that I had savings, and I didn’t mind spending it on studying abroad.
Finally, your semester in Bali has arrived. How did you experience this new chapter?
Wow, Bali was an adventure. When I came to Bali, I was such a mess. I booked a room in a guest house and planned to look for long-term accommodation after I arrived. I had the contact of one Indonesian guy who helped me to find an accommodation. That’s how I ended up living with two Polish girls. The moment I entered, it clicked! We realized pretty fast that we have things in common. It was like, “Oh, you love climbing, oh you love mountains too!” Consequently, they gave me the guest room. Meeting these girls would later have a huge impact on my experience abroad.
Find out which university fits you best: UDAYANA UNIVERSITY VS. WARMADEWA UNIVERSITY – WHAT IS THE BEST UNIVERSITY IN BALI FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS?
Did studying in Bali give you the clarity that you were hoping for?
When my semester ended, I couldn’t leave because I felt not ready to return. I needed more time to reflect on my life and what I wanted. So, I traveled through Indonesia for a bit. I wanted to find solutions to improve my situation. I couldn’t go back to my old life. Consequently, Eva and I drove with our scooters from Bali to Flores. We were sleeping in the most random places, like in our hammocks at beautiful beaches, in traditional houses of locals that invited us, or in a tent in the middle of a hospital hall. One time, we even stayed overnight at a school in Nusa Penida. The next day we had to entertain the students in the school. All of this gave me time to disconnect and get the necessary clarity.
Finally, I knew that law was my thing, so I decided to continue studying law. My interest in environmental law grew when I saw the shocking images of trash in Bali and I felt the results of climate change. Therefore, I changed my university in Slovenia to one that offered law studies focusing on human rights with environmental law. Luckily, they even accepted my courses from my previous university as well as some courses from Bali at the new university. Thus, I could enter the second year and skip the first one. In the end, I finished my Bachelor’s degree at the European Faculty of Law, where I’m also currently doing my Master’s degree.
How Did your studies abroad in Bali impact your career?
I felt stuck before studying in Bali and as if I was not fitting in. After I decided to study abroad, everything felt like a puzzle coming together. For example, I got passionate about surfing, which resulted in an interest in marine policies and ocean protection. That’s why I joined an Erasmus training ship in Brussels for maritime protection law. Right now, I’m in Brussels for a 5 month’s internship for the European Commission in the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
Furthermore, I also studied abroad in Lisbon, Portugal, for a semester. However, studying in Bali on the other side of the world was more empowering. I had to deal with issues alone and overcome all those little but crazy hurdles and everyday problems, like finding accommodation, dealing with a culture shock, or when the ATM ate my card. Studying in Bali changed how people see me now. People are highly interested in my experience when they read my CV. My colleagues at my current internship said, “Wow, Dijana, you have been living in Indonesia; how weren’t you scared?!”. In the eyes of employers, it has a benefit.
What influence did your exchange semester have on your life in general?
Some people doubted my studies in Bali and thought it was just for fun. But Bali has a different lifestyle and culture that provides the right environment to enjoy yourself, question your life, and reconnect with yourself. You have more time to sit down and reflect. When I go to a park here in Brussels, after a while, I am like, “Um, yeah, I could go home now.” But in Bali, I would watch the sunset, say, “Wow!” and write in my diary. Life is more nature connected, so I could connect with myself, find out what makes me happy, and identify what doesn’t make me happy.
You will learn so many valuable life lessons out of the classroom. Being a foreigner in a totally different culture was a vital experience since Slovenia hasn’t a diverse mix of cultures. In Bali, many people live together from various backgrounds. I had Christian and Hindu friends who would go to church together on Saturdays. Bali’s diversity became natural to me. But people who didn’t go abroad still struggle to understand or accept different cultures.
You might also want to read STUDENT FIELD TRIP IN BALI TO ALING ALING WATERFALLS
Any final tips or thoughts you want to share?
I would really recommend everyone to study abroad in Bali, of course. Maybe, it sounds cliché, but my main tip is that you should take advantage of cultural diversity. Having a friend like Eva, who went on these adventures with me, exploring Bali and hanging with local people, made this experience so special. It’s also nice to go to parties, beach clubs, and fancy restaurants. But I recommend getting in touch with the local culture as much as possible because it is so beautiful! You are on the other side of the world, so get the most out of it! However, that totally depends on your personal preference.
Do you want to know more about exchange student life in Bali? Check out a student experience right here!
Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students worldwide. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact us! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.