On the 29th of January, I arrived in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It was hot, humid, and the scent of floral air fresheners seemed to follow me through the airport, but little did I know that by the time the month was over, I would grow completely immune to all of this and I would have had one of the most fulfilling experiences I could have imagined.
I completed the full Yogyakarta/Jakarta program organised by International Internships. This involved spending one week in Yogyakarta which would give an introductory insight into the area’s culture and history (and importantly, food), followed by a three week internship in the country’s capital, Jakarta.
Yogyakarta, or ‘Jogja’, is one of those places where you find yourself smiling a lot. Indonesians smile a lot in general, but I met so many bright, funny people in Jogja that it was impossible not to join in. The Australian students were paired with a buddy from Universities Islam Indonesia (UII) on our first night over bakso (a meatball soup) and avocado juice, and we would visit many historical sites and come to learn about Yogyakarta from their perspectives over the week.
We learnt about batik, which is the traditional Indonesian printed fabric, visited the UII campus, explored Borobudur and Prambanan temples, walked through the Sultan’s Palace, squealed through a jeep tour of the volcanic Mount Merapi, sang with our buddies at karaoke, and had amazing language classes that would come in usefully throughout our entire time in Indonesia. It’s a place I’ll undoubtedly be visiting again in the future, because it’s a creative city surrounded by greenery, rich history and religion, with so many warm people.
And then Jakarta came along. I hadn’t experienced much of a culture shock travelling from Sydney to Jogja, but went through hints of culture shock after the trip from Jogja to Jakarta! We met our buddies from BINUS university who would be undertaking the internships with us, and they were again our source of local knowledge, and seeing Jakarta from the perspectives of students living in the city. Although Jakarta had a high population and we seemed to spend far less time outside than inside air-conditioned buildings, I had an eye-opening time there. The Australian students went to three different workplaces with one Indonesian student in each group. Working in our group internships, we learnt about the cultural differences in the workplace, but constantly, I met Indonesian people who were considerate and so willing to have fun.
As part of the project my workplace had provided us to work on, we were required to organise interviews with experts in Indonesian corporate law, foreign investment, property and market trends. Going out to visit real business people who had knowledge about Indonesian business opportunities and shortfalls was fascinating. With the Bahasa language skills learnt from the classes in Jogja, as well as the phrases our buddies had been teaching us, I felt like I could lessen the gap between me and the people I met. This ranged from practising Jakarta slang on our office security staff, to directing Uber drivers, to thanking the experts in Indonesian business who we met. Jakarta is where parts of traditional Indonesia meet and live alongside skyscrapers and suits, and every day was unlike the day before.
Indonesia had faced terrorist threats and attacks in the weeks prior to my arrival, but I never felt unsafe or unwelcome. Instead, I was greeted warmly, shared so many giggles, and spent time in a country I might not have considered visiting before. I learnt that there are corruption issues and laws that aren’t enforced effectively during our visit to Legal Aid and speaking with business people, but Indonesia is aiming to become a developed country by 2020, and from speaking with our Indonesian buddies, it seems like progress is coming along well. Terima kasih to everyone I met throughout my journey in Indonesia. It’s one that will stay with me for a long time.
~ Rianna Darby