“Everyone I know who have been studying abroad tells me that it has been the best time of their lives, and it certainly was for me too.”

Outi studied abroad at Udayana University in Bali, Indonesia during spring 2013. She comes originally from Finland and studied at the Karelia University of Applied Sciences. Read her report below.

Before the exchange period

Ever since I started in Karelia University in 2010, I knew that I really want to go study abroad as an exchange student. I thought that it would be the easiest way to get to live abroad and not only travel around but study, and therefore get some benefit for your future too. I saw an advertisement of Asia Exchange studies in my school’s notice board and that was it. I wanted to go as far as possible and Asia was perfect.

In Bali you can study maximum of six courses altogether, the options include for example Indonesian Language, Indonesian History and Culture, Economy and Business of South East Asia, International Tourism Management and Business Law and Legal Tradition on Trade and Investment. There were not so many courses to choose from but I heard this will improve in the future.

Study arrangements were really easy with Asia Exchange. You just need to fill up an online application and send attachments they list on their website, and within just few days you will get your approval and you can start to plan your trip. It’s important to book your flights early enough. Then you can apply for the Indonesian student visa, which costs about 40 euros and lasts for 60 days before it needs to be renewed.

It’s also very important to get your travel insurance if you don’t already have one, and get all the vaccinations you need. Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and Teta- nus-diphtheria should be kept up-to-date and hepatitis A and B are recommended. Some travelers may also be advised to take vaccinations for Japanese encephalitis, cholera and typhoid fever. After all the essential things are taken care of, you can sit back and wait for your journey to begin!

At the destination

I flew to Singapore with Lufthansa and then continued to Bali from Singapore with Air Asia. I had about three weeks free time before the school begun so I had plenty of time to explore Bali and get used to the new culture and climate. Bali and the whole Indonesia is a cheap country to live in, one euro is about 13 000 rupiah (in spring 2013). You can get a good local meal for as low as 8000 rupiah in restaurants on the streets. In the western restaurants prices start from about 50 000 rupiah which is about 4 euros. You can find any kind of food in Bali because there is a lot of tourism there.

Most exchange students who come to Bali choose a huge luxurious villa for accommodation and rent it together with other students so that the price comes down enough. I lived in a beautiful 3 bedroom villa with pool and housekeepers, and paid about 270 euro per month. I shared it with 5 other Asia Exchange students. There are of course many cheaper options as well (apartments, spare rooms or living in a local family) and finding a good accommodation is not difficult.

School started in the beginning of January with a two-day orientation where we were told essential things about Bali and studies in Udayana University. Our school week was from Monday to Thursday, starting at 9 am and ending at 12.40 pm. Every Thursday we had excursions. We visited the orphanage, art centers and one hotel for example. The courses here were a lot easier than what I have used to in Finland. Classes were always lectures with a few group assignments, expect for the language course, where the students got to do exercises and practice the language by speaking it aloud in class. Every course had two exams, the mid semester exams and final exams. I really enjoyed learning the Indonesian language and I was surprised how easy it was.

Because our school week was always only four days we had long weekends and a lot of free time after school during the week as well. Many students got exited with surfing and I think that it is the most popular leisure activity in Bali. I tried it once, only to find that the sea water and I don’t go so well together so I settled for just watching the surfers from the beach. You can find many good quality gyms in Bali too with huge variety of programs from yoga to zumba. Other popular activities in Bali are trekking, jogging on the beach, diving and snorkeling. I spent my free time mostly by travelling around. Because of the long weekends I had time to visit for example Jakarta, Singapore and nearby islands. We also had mid-semester holiday for two weeks which I spent travelling around with my friend in Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand.

Adapting to a new country

I did not have much of a culture shock when arriving to Bali because I had been travelling in Asia before. I think the biggest shock I got was that how much tourism and tourists there are in Bali, I had never visited any part in Asia where I could have seen so many western tourists at once. Luckily most of the tourism is on certain areas and you can find real local life in other parts of Bali. In Bali, the traffic can seem really chaotic with no rules what so ever, but it is actually not that bad when you get the hang of it. We drove to the school every day with scooters and everything goes well if you don’t stress too much and just follow the traffic carefully. Another interesting thing about Bali is the religion. Most of the Balinese are Hindu and this can be seen everywhere. Bali is called as the “island of gods” because there are so many temples and altars everywhere. Balinese place small gifts for the gods on small altars in their shops and homes above ground and similar gifts can be found on the ground as well. Those are meant for the demons.

Balinese are very friendly and happy people and they are eager to help you if you need help. But you must pay attention and use common sense. Because of the tourism there are also people who will try to take advantage of you by acting helpful. It is also normal in Bali that you have to always bargain when shopping. Yet again because of tourism the prices asked at the beginning can be really ridiculous and bargaining might be really hard in places where there are a lot of tourists who will pay anything the salesman ask. In these situations it is good to know some Indonesian, this will help you to stand out from the everyday tourists and get a good price much easier.

Bali is always advertised as a paradise island but I wouldn’t call it that. It is beautiful, nature is amazing and there are some beautiful beaches. But because there is so much tourism there, there is also a lot of garbage and this is a real problem in many areas of Bali. Especially Kuta beach and the sea water there can be really dirty at certain times of the year.

Anyhow, I still enjoyed studying in Bali a lot. I might not travel there as a tourist for a second time, but for a student it was great. I really miss the laidback lifestyle and my beautiful house with pool, the low cost living and fresh food bought from the markets and then cooked at home to an amazing meal. Also our two housekeepers were really amazing and I do hope to see them again someday.

Why go abroad, what did I learn?

Overall I spent almost six months abroad and got to see so many amazing places, not just in Bali, but around South East Asia. I learned basics of Indonesian language which was really useful and I am trying not to forget about everything I learned now that I am back in Finland.

During the spring semester I got to know some really great people with who I hope to stay in touch with in the future as well. In my semester there were many Finnish students, but the program is getting more and more international every year. There are students from various European countries Australia and the United States as well. Most of the time there were not so many local students in our campus. However it is not hard to get to know local people outside of school. Like I said before, Balinese are very friendly and easy to approach.

During the semester in Bali I gained more confidence and courage, and I am certain that it will help me in the future. I believe having exchange studies in Indonesia in my resume will help me to stand out from other job applicants. Exchange studies abroad are not only to benefit your working and student life but it can (and it will) grow you as a person and widen your view of life in ways you have never experienced before! I recommend for everyone to take the chance and go study abroad when you have the opportunity to do it. Everyone I know who have been studying abroad tells me that it has been the best time of their lives, and it certainly was for me too. During my exchange semester I also wrote a blog (in Finnish) that can be found here for more information, pictures and experiences http://soymanzana.blogspot.fi

Find out more about studying abroad in Bali

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