“You’ll earn credits and gain unforgettable experiences”

Pekko Manninen studied abroad at Udayana University in Bali, Indonesia during autumn 2012. He comes originally from Finland and studied at the Tallinn University of Technology. Read his interview below.

Why did you choose to study in Bali?

I’d been dreaming of going on an exchange at some point during my studies for a long time, and then I got the chance to do it. Getting to know the Asian culture and economy sounded irresistible. I wanted to experience more than only studying while being a student and explore Bali’s unique culture, landscapes and surf.

I have always been keen on new challenges and surfing was the latest of them. I have spent loads of time on a snowboard for the last 15 years but surfing is such a different world – I got really excited about it. Since I have lived my whole life in Finland I haven´t really experienced the ocean so that was exotic and inspiring, too. A study abroad semester is the perfect thing for those who don´t want to postpone their studies back home because of travelling. By going on an exchange you’ll kill two birds with one stone: you’ll earn credits and gain unforgettable experiences!

How did you find the application and acceptance procedure?

The application procedure was all done through www.asiaexchange.org. It was easy and Asia Exchange contacted me soon after I’d applied. It seemed like my home university didn’t have experience with this kind of an exchange yet, so I had to exchange quite a few e-mails with them before I was able to go. Still, they were supportive and helpful all the time. My home university also appreciated the fact that I was going to study the Asian economy during my exchange.

As a Finnish student in Tallinn, you have to pay tuition fees for your studies. So, even though we had to pay a tuition fee for this program (BIPAS), it wasn’t at all bad because the only extra cost for this semester were the airline tickets. Even that expense didn´t bother me much because I knew I was going to get plenty of experiences, warmth and the ocean in return, for the next four months! Tuition fees in Tallinn and in Bali are pretty much the same but living expenses in Bali are, of course, just a friction of those in Estonia.

What has been the most interesting part of your studies?

I’d say that studying the Indonesian language, Bahasa, has been the most interesting bit. I also liked studying law a lot. We studied several actual cases and it was interesting to get another point of view of how laws can be and are executed.

What are your thoughts about learning Bahasa Indonesia?

Learning Bahasa will help you a lot in Bali and you’ll also get more out of your stay if you understand the language a bit. I even felt quite confident about speaking it at the end of my exchange. By speaking the local language, you’ll also connect with the locals on a complete different level. Not to mention that learning the basics in Bahasa is very easy!

How is the balance between studies and free time in Bali?

School and free time were very well balanced! To be honest, you would have had plenty of time to do other things even if there was more school.

How about culture shock, did you experience that in the beginning of the exchange?

No, I didn’t. I think the culture in Bali is very easy to adapt to, even if you haven’t been traveling in Asia before. A good tip is to not lose your nerves if something doesn’t work out exactly as you hoped it would. If you can do that, you shouldn’t have any problems. And try not to stay at your apartment too much, go out to see places and get to know people. I think that’s the best way to avoid culture shock and possible homesickness.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

The absolute highlight has been the possibility to see the differences between your home country and Bali, to see how people live here and to get to know their culture. It really does widen your view of the world and, I think, that is something everyone needs to experience at least once in their lifetime. Also, traveling to other islands, such as Lombok and Sumbawa, was a very nice experience.

After seeing the world and gain experiences, would you recommend studying abroad or backpacking?

Of course! You can explore a lot in both ways. This was my first exchange experience but I have travelled quite a lot before. I honestly think that this exchange period gave a lot more to me. You get to know many new people and you still get enough time for some backpacking.

Where have you travelled during your exchange period?

I tried to surf as much as possible when I wasn’t at school so my traveling was quite surfing-oriented. We went on a weeklong boat trip and visited the south of Lombok and West-Sumbawa. I definitely recommend boat trips to everyone. You can explore so much in only a week! At the end of the exchange, we also went to Perth, Australia.

Pekko surfing in Bali

What type of accommodation did you choose and from where did you find it?

We got our accommodation through the Asia Exchange Facebook page. There are plenty of villas for rent all the time. We had a villa with four bedrooms and a swimming pool in Kerobokan, with a couple of my friends. Kerobokan is a nice area if you want to stay close to the beach and surf and still not be that far from the university.

Pekko student accommodation in bali

What are your thoughts about the charity work of Asia Exchange?

Visiting the Seeds of Hope orphanage was a great experience and it was nice to see where the Asia Exchange donations go to. The local children should have the opportunity for for studying, a career and a good life. The visit gave me more perspective on people´s life in this country.

Any words to someone who is thinking about going to Bali as an exchange student?

Do it! These are the things that give you experiences that you can’t get by sitting in a classroom. I’ve talked with many people who are already in the workforce and many of them think that this kind of experience is a valuable thing in your future. For example, when applying for job, having studied abroad on the other side of the world makes you stand out among the applicants. It doesn’t have to be Bali, there are plenty of other good destinations, too. But going on exchange in Asia would get thumbs up from me, for sure. The culture and the daily life is just so different from what it is back home. For people who are already going on exchange, I’d say that be open-minded, be social and get to know other people.

Read Pekko’s surfing tips here.

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