Asia Exchange provides Study-Abroad opportunities to students from Europe and elsewhere who are keen to learn in a region that shows huge potential in terms of economics, social development and softer aspects of life like cultural appreciation in the broader world. The group shared an interview with us from Sarah, an exchange student who spent time in Bali.
Did you have a specific destination in mind for traveling and studying? Why?
No, not really. I love traveling, but I didn’t even think about studying abroad at all. Mainly because I never thought that it is so easy to study in Asia and I didn’t really want to study in Europe. Studying abroad was the idea of a friend of mine and she convinced me to join her going to Bali. And I have to say, for me it was the best decision and destination to go to. The mixture of western and local life, of party and tradition/culture, as well as surfing, food and cheap living, created the perfect spot for me to go to. I never thought that I would fall in love with this island, but my time studying abroad with Asia Exchange showed me the incredible magic of Bali everyone is talking about.
Are you more “sun, sea and sand” or “sun, sea, and surfing”?
Definitely sun, sea, and surfing!!!! I love the beach and I love hanging out there and having a coconut but the feeling of catching a wave is unbeatable. It took quite some time to get this feeling. To start with surfing is hard, you will have breakdowns, tears in your eyes and you will probably hate it in between, but when you keep on trying, it will work out and that’s the best! If you have the chance to study abroad at a surfers’ paradise like Bali, you should definitely give it a try (or more)!
In general, Bali/Indonesia and my home country Germany couldn’t be more different. While in Germany everyone is doing his own thing independent of the tradition, local people in Bali are living in big communities bound through their culture. The culture in Bali is basically ruling everything, such as the daily life. Hinduism holiday? Shops are closed or you are not allowed to leave the house. Ceremony? Streets get blocked… People here follow rules created by the communities and their beliefs. Or they don’t have rules at all, such as in the traffic. All those things are completely different in Germany. There, everything and everyone is following the law or the rules given by the government. Furthermore, people in Germany are not living out their culture and beliefs as much and so visible as the Balinese people do. Even though it might be sometimes exhausting to live in a more chaotic world like in Bali, it also gives you another way to look at life.
Why are we following so many rules back home? What are they based on? The culture in Bali gives the daily life a sense and forms the society. Balinese people are way more relaxed than people in Germany where everyone is stressed. In Bali, people live more like “what you can do today, you can also do tomorrow”. And after a while, you will question yourself about the structures you were living in back home. Why be stressed when you can also do everything more relaxed?
Despite all the differences, I also have to say, in comparison to many countries or places in Asia, Bali is the best for living as a western person. The whole island lives more or less of the tourists visiting every year. The locals are open-minded, you can see a lot of western places for food and shopping… All that makes it so much easier to get into another culture and to feel at home while living in Asia. It is a great place for everyone who wants to study in Asia but doesn’t fully want to leave the European lifestyle behind.
Are there any differences in study culture? Is more or less expected of you when it comes to studying, and in what ways?
Well, yes! The study culture is relatively different from the one back home, but most of the time you know this already beforehand. In Bali, the culture and the Balinese way of life also influence the university life and all the processes. This means that the lecturers are more than happy to show and tell the students everything about their country and culture. Additionally, you can join different cultural workshops and excursions such as cooking classes or learning how to make offerings to get deeper into the local culture. Moreover, things are way more relaxed and if there is any kind of Balinese holiday, you can enjoy another day off. In general, the course requirements are not too difficult but they are designed more as independent work, such as assignments and project work, which means you have to invest some time into it.
What have you learned from studying abroad?
There are so many things you learn, mostly about yourself. Studying abroad changes you a lot and forms your personality for the future. For myself, the most important thing I’ve learned is: There is no need to be afraid! Just go for it. I never thought of studying abroad and when I look back, it was the best time of my life. I fell in love with Bali, met some awesome people, found my love, and my passion for surfing. When you go to Asia, you will be confronted with different (global) problems you don’t really see when you live in a western country: environmental pollution, poor people and a lot of street animals. My time abroad showed me that those things matter so much more than going shopping or having a new phone. Even though I knew those things before, experiencing them in your daily life is something different. Since then, I try to support different organizations working on those problems, and I try to live a global friendly lifestyle. Moreover, studying abroad showed me, that I can also imagine living in Asia, or other places in the world. Before my time abroad, I always thought that I wanted to live in Germany. Since my semester in Bali, I couldn’t be more bothered living back home, I just want to continue exploring and discovering other countries.