Asia Exchange programs in Asia attract students from all over the world. In Bali, the spring 2017 semester has brought together young people from 15 different countries. Alejandro Rafael Berho Suarez, or ‘Alex’, is from Mexico and decided to study at the BIPAS program taught at Udayana University, and has now been studying at the program for one month.
Hello Alex! To start this off, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! Well I am from Mexico City in Mexico and I´m 22-years-old. Until December last year I was a full time University student in Mexico. My studies will hopefully (unless I mess up) finish in May 2018. I study Engineering in Business.
What about your hobbies?
I’ve played tennis my entire life, and enjoy playing football with my friends. I started body boarding when I was a little kid but when in 2011 I took surfing classes in France, that was the point when I officially made my transition from body boarding to surfing – and I’ve been surfing ever since! Surfing gives you a higher adrenaline rush and the feeling is different. I’ve surfed in many places like in Mexico, France, California and Nicaragua, but nothing compares to Bali! Here you can find perfect waves, and I am really looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone and to lose my fear of surfing shallow reef breaks.
Sounds like you’ve come to the right place! What are your general thoughts about Mexico?
That is a hard and pretty wide question… Well, I love my country. Unfortunately all the news give a negative picture of Mexico and therefore many people from other countries have a very defined image due to what they have seen on TV and read on newspapers. Mexico is actually a very culturally rich country.
How is it to live in one of the most populated cities in the world?
It’s time consuming for sure! The city is quite polluted and you spend a lot of time in the traffic. However, there are many things to do. If you are like me – a sports fan – there are wide selections of sport activities. Tennis, football, paddle tennis, you name it. If you get tired of the city there are many places to travel for the weekend. Beautiful beaches and lake towns are close by.
Why did you want to study abroad?
When you are attending University at home it can easily get monotonous and I felt a need to get away from the routine I had in Mexico, a need to try something new and to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to explore a different culture.
There are many benefits in studying abroad but the best one is that it gives you the opportunity to experience a new way of living. However, the bad thing is you miss your family and friends and you may miss out on important events such as a Justin Beiber concert. Hah, just kidding!
Safety first! After the classes, Alex likes to go and surf some of the best waves that are on offer in Bali. Asia Exchange students are encouraged to use scooter for getting around and exploring the island, yet road sense and a safe helmet are always a must! Alex is wearing a full-face helmet that we offer to all our students at a reduced price.
Why did you choose to study in Bali?
Long story short, when I was thinking of an exchange program I was at first thinking of Australia. Many people from my University go to Australia, and for someone who loves to surf, it is a very attractive destination. On the other hand my closest friends were considering big and popular cities like Paris, where I had already lived for 6 months, volunteering at the Mexican embassy.
Anyway, back to the question… Some friends of mine who were studying in Australia took a trip to Bali and met this guy who was studying with Asia Exchange in Bali. My friends told me all about it, and they thought it would be my cup of tea.
Alex seems to have found his happy place. With beaches like this just 10 minutes away from both Warmadewa and Udayana universities, Bali is a popular choice for students who enjoy water sports and living by the ocean.
And here you are! What were your first impressions of Asia Exchange?
The web site had a lot of relevant information. Everything I needed to know about packing, medicine, visa matters, all syllabi of the courses you can take and links to find accommodation were easy to find from there. My first impression was that it is a reliable and professional company.
And did you have any expectations of Bali?
I expected Bali to be much smaller and not as populated as it is. I expected the driving distances to be shorter and everything to be Westernized, but I’m happy that it isn’t quite like that yet. For example, in the Jimbaran area it is quite hard to find western restaurants and it is very easy to meet local people.
How do you find the Balinese culture to be like?
The people are generally very nice. The food is different to what I´m used to but I have had very tasty dishes. I have not been to the rest of Indonesia yet but it seems like Balinese way of life is something we all could learn from because they are very respectful and very grateful at all times. They are also super helpful and always smiling.
What do you want to do this semester other than studying of course?
Hopefully I’m going to get to travel a fair bit. I’m hoping to travel first around Indonesia and later throughout Southeast Asia. I want to take my surfing to a new level too and have a good time with all the new friends.
What do you hope to get out of your studies at Udayana University?
I would love to learn to speak Bahasa Indonesia well, and to be able to communicate in Indonesian at the end of my stay. Hopefully the entire study abroad experience will help me clarify what I want to do for the rest of my life, since I´m now at that awkward stage where I have to finish school, look for a job and start thinking about my future.
On the first week of exchange, Alex also shared some of his first impressions with us in Spanish! If your Spanish skills are limited, we have added subtitles in English to the video too.
Asia Exchange wants to thank Alejandro for the great interview! We truly believe that studying abroad is an eye-opening and life-changing experience, so hopefully your time in Indonesia will bring you more clarity and ideas on what direction to take your life to next!
For anyone interested in reading more about studying in Bali, please click here