Report from Students

Study Abroad Report (2016 inbound: Universitas Indonesia)

Indonesia 09.05.2016

Anselma Widha Prihandita
Universitas Indonesia


Hi! My name is Anselma Widha Prihandita. People usually call me Widha. I am an English literature student at Universitas Indonesia, but for the past 5 months I’ve been studying International Relations at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, through the AIMS exchange program. This student exchange experience has given me so many lessons, not only academic lessons, but also practical lessons for life at large. (P.S. It’s also a lot of fun!)

When I first stepped into the land of the rising sun, my first impression was how clean and orderly Japan was. This was a stark contrast to my home country Indonesia and my hometown Jakarta, which is famed for its sprawling urban areas and traffic-jammed streets. Shortly after, as I took more steps into Japan, I encountered a toilet which has very different norms of usage from Indonesian toilets (you can flush the toilet paper into the toilet?), and thus got my first taste of culture shock.

Don’t worry about culture shock, though. When you come to live in Japan, the culture shock that you experience will mostly come in the form of wonder and amazement, with some eyebrow-raising moments when you encounter Japan’s various quirkiness. It’s more fun than shocking, really. Japan is a very advanced and orderly country, but in spite of that, it remains beautiful, comfortable, and surprisingly friendly. You will be amazed at how technology can exist side by side with beautiful and well-preserved nature, how modernity can accommodate traditions, and how in spite of the rigid discipline employed by Japanese people, they are still so polite, warm, and caring, especially towards confused fresh-off-the-boat foreigner like me. I have learned from Japan that you can have the best of both worlds: development and nature, modernity and tradition, professionalism and warmth.

But the best thing of my student exchange experience is probably the global environment provided by Ritsumeikan University. In the dormitory, Ritsumeikan International House Taishogun, I was able to taste the wonderful experience of living with people from various countries with various cultures. Only by cooking together, watching movies, playing games, or having casual chit-chats in daily life, you can get so many insights about the world outside, about other countries and cultures that you have never lived in. I learned that people actually have more in common although they come from different countries. It is far easier to make friends with them than to turn them into enemies, if only we keep an open mind. Furthermore, in the classroom, you can also get the same multicultural experience, because the classes in Ritsumeikan actually have students from many countries, not only Japan. This makes discussions in class more interesting, as you are able to discuss an issue from more varied perspective, drawing from the experiences of different people.
From all the classes that I have taken, the two Special Lecture classes that I have with Tomomi-sensei are probably the most impressive to me. In these Problem-Based Learning classes, which is exclusive for AIMS students, we learn about social and cultural issues in Indonesia, Thailand, and Japan. Because of the nature of the class, I was encouraged to learn about specific issues in Indonesia, propose solutions to those issues, and then share my findings to the class and discuss those with them. As a result, at the end of the course, I got my most valuable lesson yet: a deeper understanding of and reinforced tie with my home country, Indonesia. I found that although Indonesia has much to learn from other countries, we also have a lot of things to be proud of. I think that I wouldn’t have gotten this realization if I hadn’t experienced this multicultural, problem-based learning that Ritsumeikan provides.

Aside from all the valuable life lessons that you can get through this student exchange program, there are also plenty opportunities to have fun. Hangouts with friends are always just a few steps towards the dorm’s kitchen and lounge, and of course there are a gazillion places to visit and matsuri to attend, especially if you live in Kyoto. Go out. Travel. Visit a thousand temples. Wear a yukata. See a geisha dance. Climb a mountain. Walk on nightingale floors in centuries-old castles. All these you can do, and more. Remember that every moment can be a lesson, not only in classrooms, but also in every step you take in places you’ve never been. And this is the perfect opportunity to be anywhere you’ve never been, experience everything you’ve never experienced. Good luck and have fun!