Everyone will surely get something from Asia
Juuso Ruotoistenmäki studied abroad at Udayana University in Bali, Indonesia during autumn 2011. He comes originally from Finland and he studied Service Management at Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Read his interview below.
Why did you decide to go on an exchange to Bali?
Some of my friends were also coming here and therefore I had the courage to go to the other side of the world. I had never been in Asia and wanted to explore it. Applying through Asia Exchange was easy, since they arrange all the practical matters. I thought that Asia as a study abroad destination supports my studies better that Europe, since I’m studying service industry. On the other hand, I wanted to go to exchange to study, but I also wanted enough time besides school to get to know the culture and the location. That’s why Bali seemed like the perfect destination.
How was the application and acceptance procedure?
Applying at asiaexchange.org for studying abroad was easy. Once I made the decision and send the application, I got the answer within few days. It gave me the feeling that it’s easy to leave, since the practical matters are working. When applying in the beginning of the application period, it was certain to have the chance to go. Everything worked well with our home university and we were able to get the courses accepted as a part of our degree.
What has been the most interesting part of your studies?
The course subjects have been interesting. I have gained new experiences and perspectives on the differences of the western and Asian universities. I have learned most of the Indonesian language, law and history classes. Also the business class has given me new information of South-East Asian economies.
Did you know that the GDP growth of Indonesia was as high as 6,5% in 2011? And this was in the middle of economic crisis in Western countries..
How is the balance between studies and free time in Bali?
They are balanced well although for me there could be even more school and still time left to do other things. The weekly schedule has functioned well and there is plenty of time to see places during the long weekends.
What have you learned in the Indonesian language class?
I have learned a lot, but I would’ve wanted to learn even more. I should have practiced even more with the local students. I have spoken a lot of small talk with the locals. You get more respect from the locals when speaking Indonesian. It’s good to speak the language whenever possible. When you are going to eat, to have dinner or where ever, it’s beneficial to speak as much as possible. The language is different but actually quite easy to learn.
What type of accommodation have you had during the exchange?
I’m staying in a villa with five other students in Umalas 2 street in Kerobokan. Everybody has their own rooms which is good since most students in the exchange are sharing a room with somebody but still pay the same price as we do. However the villa doesn’t include a garden or a pool.
Did you experience any culture shock in the beginning of the exchange?
No not really, since I’ve been in Africa, where i had a bigger culture shock. The culture is very different there and that’s why I knew that things are not going to be the same here as in my home country. The purpose is to adjust and respect the local culture of your host country. It is not worth losing your nerves right away when something is not working. I was also surprised how important role religion plays in everyday life of Balinese.
Why Asia is such a good study abroad destination?
Because it’s good to see the fastest growing continent of the world. Asia is like its own world the same way Africa is. Here you can witness rich religions which will broaden your mind. There are numerous places in Asia to visit. It is possible to find culture, adventures, hobbies, career possibilities and education. Everyone will surely get something out of Asia and find his/her own thing.
What have been the highlights of your exchange?
The feeling when I left Finland, hehe. No, actually the greatest thing about living in Bali has been getting to know the local people and the culture. Also realizing the differences between Bali and my home country has been an eye-opening experience. I have learned that I should complain about nothing.
The exchange time has given new perspectives to my life. Living abroad really does widen your understanding. Even though (or because) the education here is different it gives new viewpoints. Also the trips have been the highlights of my exchange. When travelling to the North of Bali, I’ve seen the more local way of living. For example In Jatiluw, north from the Tabanan village, I´ve seen the world famous rice fields.
It was also great to be chosen as one of the receivers of Asia Exchange’s Role Model Stipend at the closing ceremony!
Where have you traveled during your exchange?
I have driven around Bali. I went to the west, east, north and south end. I also visited Ubud and did trekking in a sacred volcano called Gunung Agung. Especially in the east and north of Bali you can see some beautiful landscape, rural areas and local living. During the exchange I also went to Kuala Lumpur and to the Gili islands next to Lombok. After the exchange I´m going to visit Singapore, Lake Toba and Sulawesi.
What do you think about the charity work of Asia Exchange?
Visiting Seeds of Hope orphanage was a great and memorable experience and it was nice to actually see where the Asia Exchange donations are going to. It would be great that the local children would have the opportunity for good life, studying and career. It’s good that there are organizations which try to influence as much as they can. Visiting places like SoH gives new perspective to the everyday life in the country. It teaches that it is not worth complaining about every single little thing. There are people here in Bali who would want to have our everyday life. I wet my eyes when we listened the children of SoH singing “You raise me up”.
To see the world and gain experiences, would you recommend studying abroad or backpacking?
Both ways give you experiences but in a different way. When studying abroad there is a possibility to experience things that you would not experience when just traveling. You can really immerse yourself to the culture and your new home environment. As a student you are able to get to places and situations which you would miss if you were just a tourist.
Besides studying you can also do some backpacking. In student exchange you get to do trips, which bring more variety.
What would you like to say for somebody who is thinking about going exchange to Bali?
I recommend that everyone goes to exchange abroad. When going to Bali or somewhere else in Asia you get more versatile experiences that if just going to Europe. In Asia the culture is so different, religion is strong and things are not working as smoothly as in many western countries. This is actually one of the things which make it so fascinating. Life is more real here!
I do recommend Bali but also advice to consider the exchange destination before making the decision. Think about what are the motives of going to exchange. If you are going to exchange in Bali or somewhere else in Asia, try to learn at least the basics of the language. By using the local language you can get deeper into the culture and receive more smiles and respect. You should act towards others as you would like others to act towards you.
It is good to have open mind, have sense of humor, be social and interested in things. Then you will find yourself in new situations and receive invitations to new places. I would advice to go outside of Kuta and not party every week. You have time to party back at home. It is nicer to go back home with other memories besides party memories. If you go around places without too exact plans you will find more new possibilities. Lastly don´t act as a regular tourist, respect the locals!
Any other greetings?
In Bali I have received new matters to think about and gained new perspectives. I will most likely return to Bali one day and also travel around Indonesia more.
Picture tells you more than a thousand words.