Gonca’s study abroad experience in Bali: A childhood dream coming true!

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“The complete package that Bali had to offer made me decide to spend my semester abroad there”

Gonca (24) from Germany made her childhood dream to travel and live in Bali become a reality. She studied abroad for one semester in the Bali International Program on Asian Studies (BIPAS) at Udayana University. Back home in Hannover, Gonca is studying economics at the Leibniz University. We asked her everything about her study abroad experience in Bali, from finances and accommodation to university life and travel highlights.

What was your motivation to study abroad in Bali?

When I was considering studying abroad, I had two places in mind: the United States and Bali, Indonesia. Two completely different locations. But as I researched more about each place, considering costs and the experiences each destination offered, Bali won in every aspect. As a child, some of my family members traveled to Bali, and I always dreamed of going to this faraway tropical destination as well. It was a childhood dream of mine. I also wanted to experience island life and have the opportunity to travel easily from one island to another. What convinced me the most were Bali’s location, nature, people, and culture, along with the university’s topics and courses. The complete package that Bali had to offer made me decide to spend my semester abroad there. Looking back, I wasn’t disappointed in any aspect.

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Gonca during her study abroad experience in Bali
“What convinced me the most were Bali’s location, nature, people, and culture, along with the university’s topics and courses. Looking back, I wasn’t disappointed in any aspect.”

How did you find your Accommodation in Bali?

When I got to Bali, my friend and I chose a cheap hotel for the first few days, following the advice from a former student. They said it would be easier to find a place once we were there. Then, we joined some Facebook and WhatsApp groups. A very useful piece of advice here is to have a public profile picture – it matters for that first impression and helps decide who to reach out to.

Through these groups, we met other students and even looked for a villa together. Facebook gave us some good options, and we found a nice one in Jimbaran – close to the university and with good shopping nearby. We also spent a month in Seminyak, finding that villa through a Facebook ad. We negotiated until we got the price we wanted. For the Jimbaran Villa, we paid around 360 euros per person, and in Seminyak around 420 euros per person. The key is to be open, talk to people, and see if you get along.

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Gonca captured Bali’s breathtaking volcanic scenery from Nusa Lembongan, a neighboring island, during one of her trips

How did you finance your semester abroad, and what was your budget?

In Bali, my friends and I never really cooked for ourselves because it’s often more expensive to cook than to order or buy food. We always went out to eat and enjoyed whatever we felt like having. You could say I lived like a king when it came to food. So for a comfortable lifestyle, including eating out every day, you’d need around 1,000 to 1,200 euros. But it also depends on where you live and how much you travel. If you stay in homestays and eat local food, you can easily keep your budget under 1,000 euros.

Since my second semester in college, I’ve had a scholarship. Applying for a grant for my semester abroad in Bali was a straightforward process with my foundation. I had to write a one-page letter explaining why I wanted to do the semester abroad and what goals I had. The money was automatically transferred to me every three months, and the process was quicker and easier compared to the BAföG application (German governmental funding for students). I highly recommend every student to apply for scholarships. There are so many available, and many students hesitate to apply even though they would have a good chance of getting one. The scholarship was a significant support, covering a lot of my expenses. But I still used some of my own money, which I had saved up for the semester abroad.

Read more tips on how to save money while studying abroad here!

“I went as a free mover and applied through Asia Exchange because Bali was a personal goal for me.”

How was your study abroad experience in Bali at Udayana University?

At Udayana University, I enrolled in International Business, a course I truly enjoyed with a professor who made it even better. Additionally, I took Economics of Southeast Asia, which was super interesting, as it helped me understand the countries I’m now traveling in. I also explored tourism management and entrepreneurship, where we created our business concepts – a great experience. Coming from a university where I’m used to a different setup, the class feeling was initially unfamiliar. However, I found it quite beneficial, allowing me to connect with people much faster. We had mid-term exams, and the concept of open-book exams was new to me.

I went as a free mover and applied through Asia Exchange because Bali was a personal goal for me. My university lacked partnerships with universities in Indonesia. I applied for a lump-sum credit transfer at my home university, meaning I don’t receive grades; I just need to pass to earn the credits.

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Lombok, Kuta Beach, Study abroad experience in Bali, student photo
Gonca made the most of her study abroad experience and traveled not only through Bali but also to Lombok and other Indonesian islands

did you have any difficulties? And what advice did you take away from it?

Asia Exchange was incredibly helpful in organizing my semester abroad. Of course, they don’t just hand everything to you. You still have to take care of things like visas, etc. One needs to be aware of that, but if you’re really excited about a semester abroad, you’re more than willing to take on those tasks. Whenever I had questions, I literally received quick answers from Asia Exchange. The support was excellent! I always recommend asking if you have a question. It’s your first time doing a semester abroad, and even if you think it’s a silly question, the worst-case scenario is that you’ll still get a proper answer from Asia Exchange, and they’ll help you.

I remember my best friend and I felt a bit overwhelmed on the first day, but by the second day, we already felt like locals and realized it was the best decision ever. We felt right at home, comfortable in the company of kind people and surrounded by good food. Bali will always feel like my second home now. Regarding accommodation, we had more concerns than necessary. In the end, we easily found a villa, and I worried more than needed. In the worst case, you can always stay in a cheap hotel or wait to meet people at the university with whom you can share housing.

One thing I was concerned about initially was riding a scooter. I didn’t dare to drive a scooter for a month. However, it’s more flexible and cheaper than always using Gojek/Grab, even though their prices are really affordable. After a month, I finally dared to drive myself and am now even considering getting a motorcycle back home. Regarding Gojek, it’s also worth mentioning that using their apps is worthwhile. But all of these were, in a way, luxury problems. None of them made my semester abroad difficult or were real issues I couldn’t handle.

You might also want to read “8 TIPS ON HOW TO PREVENT OR DEAL WITH CULTURE SHOCK

which goals did you have for your semester abroad in Bali?

I always have my bucket list ready when I travel to a new country. But beyond my goal of experiencing Bali, I had a personal goal – to immerse myself in the feeling of living abroad and become a part of something new. I wanted to avoid feeling like a typical tourist just passing through. Of course, the locals might still see you as a tourist, but personally, I felt like I was living there and being a part of this new place.

This journey was not only my first long travel but also the first time I lived on my own. So, my goal was to step out of my comfort zone, grow beyond my limits, and test what I could do alone without my safe space back home. I aimed to continue my personal development and improve my English language skills. I love speaking English and will miss engaging in conversations in the language. Connecting with people from around the world was also a dream of mine.

The frangipani is also called the temple flower because it is often found near temples and shrines in Bali, because the flowers are used as an offering or as festive hair decorations

How did you spend your time in Bali, and where did you travel around?

We traveled to Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan – it was wonderful! Lombok, however, turned out to be our favorite island. Lombok’s nature was incredible, quieter than in Bali, with high-quality streets and fewer tourists. Lombok became our perfect semester break getaway, allowing us to unwind. We also explored the Gili Islands, enjoying the open-air cinema on the beach, biking around the island, and snorkeling. Exploring the islands during the semester is a definite recommendation – you’ll have plenty of time for it. We even flew to Singapore for a week, which was a fantastic experience. I didn’t neglect my studies and attendance despite the extensive travel, which I find necessary because the experience of studying at a university in Indonesia is unique. In my opinion, balancing university and travel was very manageable.

Besides all the travels, we tried to spend our time on bail as well as possible and do the most out of it. I surfed for the first time in Bali, and it became my new hobby. We also utilized our time to travel around Bali. For instance, we visited Ubud six times, and it became one of my favorite places. There are so many activities in Ubud, and the natural environment is stunning. We frequently drove to Uluwatu to explore different beaches, planning which beach and restaurant to visit each day. Sometimes, we simply ordered food and spent a quiet day at home by the pool. There are so many activities I would recommend to future students, such as water rafting in Ubud, making silver rings in Canggu, visiting beach clubs, etc. I had a whole list of things I wanted to do and did even more!

If you are interested in studying abroad in Bali, read “10 Things I Wish I knew Before Studying in Bali”!

What would you say to future students in Bali?

It’s important to know what to expect from your semester abroad. You should know that it’s island life in Bali, where everything is quite laid-back, especially regarding traffic, planning, hygiene standards, etc. Being adventurous is crucial because unexpected things you’re not used to happen all the time, but if you take it easy, they turn into cool experiences. It’s helpful to learn a bit about the culture and locals and approach it respectfully. Adapting to the traffic is also essential. Respecting the culture and bringing patience is vital. In Bali, there are many ceremonies, and sometimes, you might need to wait for half an hour due to road closures. However, the locals are so kind and understanding.

All in all, it was the best decision of my life. Whenever someone asks, I always say it was the best time of my life. I gained a lot, even in university. Although the university system was sometimes unfamiliar, I found it very interesting, and I enjoyed listening to the lecturers! I didn’t know that much about the culture and Southeast Asia before. Through the university and traveling, I learned a lot about it.

Gonca during her study abroad experience in Bali ar Rice terraces in Ubud
You can see more of Gonca’s experiences on her Instagram goncadevec1 & goncastraveldiary

Did Gonca’s study abroad experience inspire you? Find all you need to know about studying abroad in Bali here!

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. 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.