Get an insight into Darren Wong’s life as a student in Bali

Valentin sat down with Darren, a student from Singapore studying his second semester in Bali. Darren is well known as the “sunshine” of the campus and a great friend to everyone. Due to his Asian background, he knows a lot of the South East Asian cultures which he explained very briefly in this interview.

A student smiling in front of the camera in Bali.
Darren Wong from Udayana University. Photo by Valetin / CC BY

You study your second semester in Bali now, but why did you come to Indonesia in the first place?

I’m from Singapore and I studied in the US before. As I was away from home most of the time during my studies, I wanted to go to a University which is close to home. I thought about Bali a lot, before I finally decided to come here. I heard a lot of things about Bali.

I like the freedom of Bali. In Bali, you can be more creative compared to Singapore and that’s something I love about this place. I always lived in major cities my whole life, the people there are always super stressed, but in Bali people actually care about what you’re talking about, how you feel, and who you are, which I really like.

Another reason for choosing Bali is that it´s hard to have a future in Singapore as a creative person. Also, my mom is Chinese-Indonesian so I wanted to get to know Indonesia more and see what my mother’s background is like. Furthermore, it´s way cheaper than school in the US.

Front picture of the Rectorate building of Unayana University in Bali.
Udayana University, where Darren studies during his semester abroad. Photo by Valentin / CC BY

Do you have any hobbies here in Bali, like surfing or something else?

I manufacture my own jewellery, which I would consider as my hobby. I have started to design earrings here, like the ones I’m wearing. In Bali there’re many opportunities to find manufacturers. Bali is a small island and it’s easier to get established here.

Can you tell our future students what they can expect from the Asian culture and what they will experience here?

When you talk about Asia you cannot talk about a specific cultural characteristic because each country is very different.

Indonesia, and especially Bali, is more relaxed and people don´t have those time constraints like in developed countries. For example, two o’clock doesn’t really mean two o’clock, it can also be two thirty (laughs). Here people don´t think of work in terms of time, but rather in terms of tasks. Specifically in Bali, you must be a go-getter if you want to get things done. Nothing will be handed to you. If you want to find for example a manufacturer, you have to drive around, ask people and do research on your own. But the great thing here is that people will try to help you to find what you are looking for.

Two Indonesian women are smiling over their shoulder in the camera.
The happy and friendly Balinese locals are always willing to help you. Photo by Tyler Morgan / CC BY

You have been to several countries in Southeast Asia. What differences have you observed during your travels?

Let me split my answers into some different countries I have knowledge about, because Asian countries are so different.

In Singapore people are super stressed, they care a lot about where you go to school and what are you doing for your education. After school, kids study with a tutor at home for another 2 hours. Singapore is an extremely efficient country and the financial capital of South East Asia, but as a creative person, you will have a hard time there.

In Malaysia, people are totally different compared to Singapore. People value family and relationships way more and are like the Indonesians.

About China, what I remember and realized, most people think that Chinese are very rude and aggressive, but that’s not true. For example, if you bump into someone they don’t do it intentionally. So if the same thing happens to you they won’t get mad, they just don’t care. Moreover, they have a different understanding of manners compared to other countries, in terms of etiquette and social behaviours.

Finally, I can just say about the Indonesians that they are some of the happiest people in the world. They smile all the time and are always happy. They’re great at hanging out and chatting with you. They might not have the best organizational skills, but they are really sweet, nice and good people. Oh, and I realized that they are, specifically in Bali, very talented with their hands. They are amazing artisans.

Handmade dreamcatchers and jewellery in Bali.
Beautiful handmade dreamcatchers and jewellery in Bali. Photo by Artem Bali / CC BY

What’s your favourite Indonesian dish and do you know how to cook it?

One of my favourite Indonesian dishes is called “Oncom”. Unfortunately, you can only get it in Jakarta. It’s made of all kind of scraps from coconuts, soybeans and other veggies and it is fermented.

Another Indonesian dish I really like is called “Tahu Pepes” and is also only available in Java. It´s made of mashed up tofu with a lot of different herbs, shallots, tomatoes and you steam it in a banana leaf.

Is there anything that you found hard to get used to in Bali?

The hardest thing to get used to was the lack of organization at the university. It’s hard for people who come from fast-paced places like Singapore. But, the beneficial thing about that was, I learned to rearrange my priorities and learned how to take things easy.

Illuminated tall buildings on the waterfront during the evening in Singapore.
Darren comes originally from Singapore, a country very different from Bali. Photo by Cegoh / CC BY

There are some conveniences I miss. For example, public transport, efficiency, having a laundry machine in the house. Basically, you have to go out for everything. You have to buy an electricity voucher if you don´t want to sit in a dark villa. Finding a place to live was also really hard because you can´t do it online if you want to have a nice place generally. If that happens you are just lucky.

You might also be interested in: Student Life In Bali – Nick van Calck

Is there anything you´d like to mention about Asia Exchange and all the destinations we are offering?

Asia Exchange gives an amazing opportunity for people to travel around different places in the world, for an affordable price. For American and Singaporean citizens the tuition fee is cheap. In general, it’s hard to stay in one place for such an extent of time. With this exchange program, you can live in one place and learn something too.

A man standing on a green rice terrace with blue sky in Bali.
Live and study in Asia and discover its beauty with Asia Exchange. Photo by Sasint / CC BY

Combine travelling with studying and have the same life-changing experience as Darren.

Click here to find out more about studying in Bali

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.

This text was written by our former intern Valentin.

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