A study abroad semester was my dream since the very beginning of my studies…
Seizing the opportunity to go abroad during my studies was something I knew I didn’t want to pass. From my perspective, the intercultural skills you can gain while studying abroad and educating yourself about different cultures are a vital experience for future success in our globalized world.
After finishing my A-levels in Germany, I decided to work in the States as an au pair. That was my first chance to experience living abroad and integrating myself into a new country and culture. Today, I appreciate the opportunity even more: it helped me not only improve my English skills but also evoked my interest for new countries and cultures.
Cultural diversity and inter-cultural communications was one of the major reasons for choosing the international study program at Bali. I travelled in Thailand during my last semester holiday and met a lot of interesting people from all over the world, including people from Indonesia. I also heard many fascinating stories about living and studying in Indonesia, and especially in Bali. Choosing the lovely island of Bali was an obvious decision from then on.
During my semester abroad in Indonesia, I was able to immerse myself in the culture completely and soak up as much information on its culture, which is so different from the German and Western European, as possible.
Before arriving in Bali
Since the semester in Bali stars in early January, I had limited time to really prepare for the adventure. Luckily my university offered to reschedule my exams to December, instead of having them in February, but right after that it was Christmas already and then the lovely goodbyes to friends and family.
I knew someone who had done a semester in Bali before and helped me book a villa there, which saved some time. I booked it for a month but actually booking housing before arriving in Bali is not necessary. If you fly to Bali without having booked long term accommodation you won’t have a problem finding places to live in and people to live with so you shouldn’t worry about it too much. Also, if you forgot to pack something, don’t sweat it, you can buy anything from the stores in Bali.
After the first month was over I decided to find a new home with two Finnish girls and a German boy. We found a nice place to stay at in Kerobokan, not too far away from Jimbaran where the campus is but also in a more local area and still very central to everything by a scooter. The house came with cleaning services, a pool and Wi-Fi. The total cost for the house was 12 million Rupiah (about 800 EUR/650 USD, depending on the exchange rate) a month, plus the electricity which was about a million Rupiah per month. Thus, living was very affordable when splitting the rent in four, and we all had our own bedrooms. Still, this was the high end of the market, you can live way cheaper if you wish.
Due to the favorable exchange rates, it is really affordable to live and study in Bali. Even if you are not supported financially, you can join the program in Bali with only little savings.
Host university & studies and courses
The program offered by Asia Exchange is well organized and highly recommendable. The courses in the program are interesting and give a firsthand perspective and insights into Asia and how their economic and social system work. I took six courses which were: International Tourism Management, Indonesian Language, Indonesian History, Culture and Customs, Business Law and Legal Tradition on Trade, Investment Economy and Business of South East Asia and International Entrepreneurship. The content of the courses covered a wide array of topics but kept Indonesia as the focal point.
The amount of new information offered in the courses depends a little on your study background. I’m a business student so the terminology was already familiar. However, linking the theory into Indonesian ways of execution and practice was very informative and interesting.
The people responsible for you at the university are very nice and interested in hearing about you, where you are from and so on. For me it was especially nice, and new, how the teaching staff knew both your first and last names which made communicating more personal and easy. Moreover, there is always an intern from Asia Exchange who helps with any problems that might occur.
Culture / Social life in Bali
Bali, of course, looks very different from Europe but to only focus on the exteriors would mean sidestepping the really interesting bits: the people and the culture in Bali. You also truly grow as a person when learning from the local customs and people. Indonesian people are very friendly and even though Indonesia is a developing country and the people are very poor, compared to the people in Western countries, they are always happy.
It is recommendable to drive a scooter in Bali, otherwise it is quite difficult to get around. I’d never driven a scooter before and drove around Bali for four months without ever getting into an accident. The traffic flows surprisingly well in Bali even though there is a lack of ‘conventional’ traffic rules. I really do not want to scare anyone; the traffic is really not that bad. The streets are crowded but if you always stay on the left side (traffic merges from left) and you drive at your own speed, you’ll be fine and won’t be pressured into driving any faster than you want.
Bali is also a really good starting point for travelling anywhere in Asia. You’ll also have time to travel during your semester but most of the students go abroad after the semester has finished – there is plenty to discover in the island of Bali, too.
I was planning a trip to South Africa and thus decided only to travel in Indonesia due to my budget. All the other islands around Bali are really nice as well and not as packed as Bali. Tourism has not fully arrived to the outer islands and, for example, on the Gili Islands there are no cars or scooters allowed, you can only get around by bike or buckboard. You can actually walk around the entire island in an hour or less which is a fantastic experience.
There is so much exotic and beautiful to see in Bali and the surrounding islands. Diving and snorkeling, for example, is great in Indonesia. I saw manta rays, turtles and a lot of fish. One of the islands, Gili Gede, didn’t even have electricity during the day. To have a warm dinner they needed to turn on a generator.
To sum up, I will never regret that I did a semester abroad in Bali.