Interview with Magdalena Schwenck

Name: Magdalena Schwenck

Host country and university: Indonesia, Universitas Gadjah Mada


Motivation

  • What was your motivation for doing your semester abroad?

I believe leaving your normal patterns and living in a new environment helps a lot with personal growth, so I was happy that the RUG offers exchange semesters with such a broad range of partner universities. I knew that I wanted to use this opportunity when I first applied for my studies here already.

  • What was your motivation for applying for this country and university?

I really wanted to leave the West for my exchange semester. I think that in our IR studies we mostly use Western or Eurocentric thinking and I wanted to escape that for a while and experience different approaches. Indonesia seemed like a great place to do this.

  • Did you have any expectations before leaving?

No. I always think that everything will turn out fine just as it is, so I try to not set myself very high expectations.


Administration

  • Did you find the application procedure difficult?

The application as such was fairly easy. It is clearly stated what documents you need to hand in. What was a bit annoying is that the university was sometimes hard to reach or slow in their email responses. But in the end, everything was fine.

  • What were the requirements for doing your semester abroad in that country and university?

I had to have my propaedeutic certificate, passed TIR, and provide an English certificate. Also, you need to fulfil some medical requirements, as in being healthy and having all relevant vaccines.

  • Where there any initiatives of supporting Erasmus/international students in the host university throughout your stay?

Yes, a lot actually. There was an office for all international students, as well as another office for internationals in my faculty. You could easily reach out to them in person or on WhatsApp, and they were always really supportive. They also organized activities outside of university to facilitate more cultural exchange.


Studies

What did/do you think of the university?

  • The location? The buildings? The study programme? The teachers?

UGM is located right in the centre of Yogyakarta and thus quite easy to reach from everywhere. The faculty for our programme is located within a really nice building, very open and green. The library is not very nice, but there are many collaborative working places (like quiet cafes) in the city, where everyone goes to study. The programme offered for IR students is good. You can choose from a broad selection of courses, which are often more issue orientated and practical than the ones at RUG. I only had one bad teacher, the other five were nice, well studied, and provided interesting classes.

  • Did you like the way of teaching and studying?

The style of teaching is really depended on the teacher, as they can decide whether they want to structure the classes more like lectures or working seminars. The way of studying reminded me a bit of high school. You have to do more smaller assignments instead of only one big final exam. Thus, the grade splits more between those assignments and the exams.

  • How was the workload compared to IRIO?

It was almost ridiculously little. You definitely wont experience a ub life like here. The workload is easy to manage and leaves lots of time for free time activities.


Social contact

What about the people in the university?

  • Did/do you meet many international students? Did you rather stay with locals or other international students? Did you get to know people outside the university?

The international student community is great. Its very easy to meet people, and many also stick together for travels. I decided not to do that, as I am not a fan of traveling in bigger groups. Therefore, I also met more locals and people outside of university. Generally, it’s easy to meet people in such a relaxed and friendly country.

Finances/Logistics

How did it go financially? 

  • Did you aquire a fund?
  • Did you have to experience a difference in lifestyle compared to living in Groningen?
  • Was it hard to find an accommodation? Was it affordable?
  • What about spendings on food, public transports and leisure?

I got the Marco Polo Fund for students outside of the EU. And I definitely experienced a different lifestyle, but in a good way. Everything in Indonesia is super cheap – living, eating, traveling… Finding accommodation isn’t hard. There are lots of people renting out houses to international students at a rather cheap price.

Leisure

  • Did you go out a lot? Can you give any recommendations?
  • Did you practice any sports there?
  • What was your favourite place there?
  • Where you able to do some sightseeing and/or travel within the country?

Food wise I would recommend trying out the little street food stands (warungs). In my experience they often even taste better than the fancier places, especially when the warung is specializing in only one or two dishes. Generally, there is no need to cook. Food is so cheap that you can eat out every meal. Just go and try out new foods! For partying in the city, I liked Club Platinum most, as it plays good hip hop music. I didn’t sign up for any sports club, even though I do a lot of sports in Groningen. But because I was travelling so much and didn’t really have an everyday routine my exercise was compromised to Yoga, hiking, and swimming. I travelled only within Indonesia during my studies, and after they finished in December, I spend January in Kuala Lumpur and Thailand.


Cultural insights

  • What was your favourite local food there?

There was one super cute lady selling fried fish with a tomato sambal at Kaliurang street and its literally the best food ever. I went there every week! Another one, Special Sambal, is a local food chain and has stores all over the city. It’s great to go there and share all the little dishes with friends.

  • Did you experience something similar to a culture shock? How and in which sense was it different to living home/in Groningen?

I wasn’t really shocked at anything. But I think that was because I informed myself quite well about the culture and customs beforehand. Also, I always actively reminded myself to keep an open mind and to embrace the different style of life.

  • What was the most surprising thing about the new culture?

I heard before that Indonesians are really friendly people, but in reality it blew my mind how amazingly friendly and helpful everyone is there!

  • How was the communication? Were you able to improve your language skills? With whom did you speak the language?

Communication could at times be hard, as English wasn’t much spoken outside of the tourist hotspots. But somehow its always possible to make yourself understood. I took a language course there so I could at least order some food in Bahasa.

  • What is the most funny word you learned in the new language?

Hati-Hati! It sounds so cute but it actually means something serious like “watch out!!” or “attention!”


Evaluation

  • Do you have an interesting story to tell about your stay?

I can’t decide on only one story. I made a ton of great memories and I value all of them!

  • Something you have learned/grown with thanks to the experience?

I learned to live in a culture that is really different from the one that I grew up in. It helped me to appreciate both new and familiar things.

  • Is there something you want to tell students who will go to that country and university in the future?

Be mindful of your environment and the people around you and everything will fall in place.

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