Looking back on it now, it has all gone by so fast! But I guess it is very easy to be swept up in the current when you journey out into the deep! That’s kind of how it felt for me the beginning; immersing myself into a strange new place where I would have almost no control of the outcome!
When I chose to study abroad, I looked at all the options in front of me. Most of my options were based in surrounding countries of Europe, and something about the thought of studying in Europe during my exchange period was not as fulfilling as I had hoped it might be! There simply wasn’t that spark that I needed to dive right into an application, not even for universities in my favourite country France! My next thought was; well, why not Asia? Getting warmer! So, I checked the partner schools from my university and the options were also quite limited to China and Korea. Still no spark. That was when a link to Asia Exchange caught my eye. Bingo!
“You can study in Bali?? You mean the place from Eat, Pray, Love??” Fireworks!
Aside from the obvious tropical paradise daydreams, my motivation for choosing Bali for my study abroad destination was majorly because of its’ exotic and international atmosphere, and because of the large impact that tourism has on its’ economy, environment and the culture of the Balinese people. Because I already have a bachelor’s degree in Tourism, and I am currently studying International Business, the internationality of Indonesia as a whole and the courses available from Udayana made Bali the best choice for my exchange! Plus, I couldn’t think of a single person I knew that had ever even been there before!
I realised during the application process that the thought of being a free mover student had never crossed my mind before: wasn’t that going to make the exchange process a lot more difficult? I quickly learned that with the help of Asia Exchange, it was not a difficult at all! After reading over their webpage over and over again I felt a lot more comfortable with the idea of studying in Asia, and not to mention they had answered all of my questions online quickly and clearly as well! What did I have to loose?
So I gathered up my courage, and I applied for my study abroad in Bali! The feelings that followed were a roller coaster ride, ranging from a little bit of fear of the unknown, to extreme excitement! These emotions stayed with me up until the moment that I found myself on the other side of customs and inside Indonesia, which was a lot quicker than you might think, especially with Asia Exchange by my side every step of the way!
How to put Bali into words? Intense, breath taking, unique and exotic! Somehow familiar yet soooo far from the reality back home! From checking into the Villa we would eventually call home, to walking down to the beach every afternoon for live music and sunset! Having a wide range of restaurants and shops just a short walk away, and having an ice cold drink while we would play guitar and float around our own private pool! I have never felt so spoiled in my whole entire life!
There was also a bit of culture shock to be found in Bali, especially from the perspective of someone who had never been to Asia before! This taught me the most valuable lesson of all from day 1: Patience. In Indonesia, as well as in many other developing countries in the world, it is not logical for westerns to expect what they receive from their local environment and studies to be up to par with, for example, the standard of Europe.
Developing countries and universities simply do not always have the access to many of the luxuries that we use and abuse in our daily lives here in Finland. I suddenly felt myself very grateful for everything that I had back home, as well as for the unique things I had at hand in Bali that those back home may never even see outside of Instagram!
Overall, studying in Bali taught me the importance of balance, especially when it comes to day to day life and the ups and downs that come with it, which brings me to the second most valuable lesson I learned: Versatility. In Bali, you simply cannot know what will go wrong, or when it will go wrong. Oftentimes, things will go wrong when it is the least convenient for you! Things will also go right a lot more often than not, and that is a clear example in the balance of life in Bali! Do you believe in Karma? I can now confidently say that I do!
You will notice that you get used to taking a little bit of bad with a whole lot of good, and the little things that used to consume you will begin to affect you less and less as your studies go on! You find that you can laugh a lot more about the little things instead of piling them all up to produce a “bad day”. There is no such thing as a bad day if you don’t invent it yourself! In Bali, you will find you become more agile and develop great problem solving skills at the drop of a hat. You will learn the true value in communication with strangers, whether with spoken language or with your hands!
That being said, in Bali I learned how to live with an open mind and heart. When I started to focus only on myself and my own goals and my teachers and their goals, the lessons I learned both in school and in practice became more valuable! It seems to me that in Bali, the teachers you meet both in school and on the street only teach those who truly wish to learn. When you open your mind and your heart, you will see the doors swing wide open from all around!
The courses I studied in Bali were not so much about the ability to be the most book-smart student in class armed with logic, theory and facts. They were designed to make us think for ourselves and in our own way, and to teach us some independence. In the end, those who faced their challenges head on took the most away from the whole experience!
In my own experience, my most important studies in Indonesia were not carried out with books; they were carried out by driving a scooter for the very first time and falling off within the first five minutes, recovering from the theft of my wallet (twice!), giving a little bit more even where and when it wasn’t expected or asked for, opening myself up to another culture polar opposite of my own, learning to trust and distrust every single person around me without being too nice or too arrogant, learning to bargain for equality because being from the West often meant a good business opportunity for those from the East, learning to live with less, giving respect to others regardless of our differences, letting go of the things I can’t change or control and living with failing at things I can control, taking risks from time to time and the adrenaline rush which followed shortly after, and most importantly or all, learning that life can be the most precious gift in the world.
It’s true: Everyone can be alive, but not everyone knows how to live.
My colourful exchange in Bali has opened me up to a world I simply never knew existed, and I am honoured to have been given the change by Asia Exchange to take part in such an exotic and meaningful experience! My life is forever changed after just one semester in Bali, and this was truly the best experience of my life!
Melissa is a former AE student who studied in Bali in Autumn 2015. More information about her and other former students can be found here