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Go get it in Jakarta – Your guide to doing a short course in Indonesia

By Mike Zhou

Jakarta. It’s wet season. Someone is down with typhoid. A taxi from the airport to the city took just over four hours. A city that lacks of footpaths, and in fact is quite literally sinking by 4.9 cm per year. Are you sold?

If so, that was easy. If not, I’m going to try to twist your arm.

Mie goreng – yes the ones you eat as a midnight snack. Heard of it? That’s Indonesian.

The country of Bali. Heard of it? That’s actually a province in Indonesia.

Bintang – yes the beer. Heard of it? Guess what, that’s also Indonesian.

Over the summer of 2023, I was lucky to be able to go to Jakarta, Indonesia to do a six-week short course with the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS). The program consisted of two weeks of intensive seminars and language classes, followed by four weeks of placement at a host organisation. The course was a lot of fun and an amazing opportunity to gain practical legal experience abroad, as well as learning about Indonesian culture and language. But how was Jakarta?

Jakarta is a wild city. With a population of over ten million people, it’s truly a city that never sleeps and one that epitomises the hustle and bustle of a metropolis. It’s a city with a mix of historic cultures, one that has developed and modernised. When you visit Jakarta, you can definitely see the remnants and parts of the colonial Dutch that has been maintained. While at the same time, Jakarta is a modern city – with skyscrapers everywhere you look. As Alicia Keys sums up New York in Empire State of Mind, the same can be said about Jakarta – it’s a “concrete jungle where dreams are made of”.

Dreams are made in Jakarta, as the food is to die for. Not only does the food slap, but it’s so damn cheap. I could get breakfast, lunch and dinner for under $10 a day. Whether you are vegetarian or love your meats, there are plethora of food options available to you. Whether it be satay, rendang, nasi goreng (or nasi goreng tapi tidak pakai daging – for vegetarians), gado-gado, Jakarta is a genuine food heaven – one where I implore everyone to go try it out.

I know travelling and doing a short course overseas can be expensive. However, there are a range of different avenues for financial assistance to help you. Whether it be through the New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant, which is available to Australian citizens, or though obtaining an OS-HELP loan, there are various ways to help you get around Indonesia and live your absolute best life.

If I’ve twisted your arm and if you’re interested in visiting Indonesia through a short course, here are my top three tips:

1. Try something different

Whether it be trying different foods or participating in traditional activities (like making batik), I’d urge you to embrace the culture. It’s a culture that truly is unique, and one that’s hard to find back in Canberra. Take a step outside your comfort zone and embrace it.

2. Don’t be scared

It can be a nerve-racking experience going to a foreign country by yourself – I’d be lying to say if I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach. However, what you’ll find is that everyone you meet are so extremely friendly. Whether it be the locals or the other students doing the short course with you, everyone is so approachable and you can definitely make new life-long friends.

3. Value “me-time”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the madness of Indonesia. It’s so important to take care of yourself and to ensure that you do “put yourself first”. Jakarta can be extremely humid and if you don’t look after yourself, you can crash really fast. Make sure you put some time aside for yourself – self-care is integral.

I think it’s time for you to go enjoy your new favourite Indonesian meal with an es teh manis (iced tea) or a nice cold Bintang beer.

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