The Story of Two Dutch Students in Indonesia
““David and Bas”. These names were very popular in area of Telkom University among almost all students. This is a story of two Dutch boys that came as the first exchange students from the Netherlands to Telkom University. For only five months, 24-year-old David and 19-year-old Bas were able to travel around famous places in Indonesia, gain popularity and experience cultural diversity. In our interview they agreed to explore their experiences more.
Hello, David and Bas, could you first tell us about your origin and how you came to know about Telkom University?
“We are from the Netherlands”, says David. “I’m studying Small Business and Retail Management in Deventer (fourth year, last year) and Bas is studying industrial engineering in Enschede (third year) at Saxion University. For a very long time, we wanted to explore Asia and when we heard about Telkom University from the International Office of our own universities, we decided that Indonesia, and especially Bandung, is a good place to explore.
What do you think about Bandung? Your impressions and opinions studying there?
Bandung is a very nice city. In our opinion, it is better compared to other cities in Indonesia because it lies higher than other cities. The center of Bandung is very crowded, with a lot of restaurants, pubs and bars. It is also historical, there are many old buildings and I saw many old Dutch buildings because the Netherlands has a history with Indonesia.
Telkom University is a huge university with a big campus. The rooms in the dormitory were good and I had enough space to live. I was in Bandung for one semester and I took business management. The lessons were informative and the teachers were very kind. In my opinion, the level of lessons a bit easier than in the Netherlands.
So when you came did your expectations match with reality?
Well in some points, yes, and in some points, no. We did not expect that Telkom University is as developed as it is in terms of facilities. Telkom is a huge university with a big campus. The rooms in the dormitory were good and we had enough space to live. Moreover, we expected that we would see more students from European countries, but mostly we saw Asian students. It was great experience also to become friends with international students from Asia. We lived in the same dormitory and became close friends.
How was your relationship with local people? And what do you think about Indonesians in general?
At the beginning when we came, everyone looked at us and it felt like we were superstars for no reason. People also often asked us to take pictures with them. It was a very weird experience. So we knew from other people that Indonesians treat white people, what Indonesians call “bule”, in that way.
However, people are so friendly. They are interested in where we are from and especially about our height (laughing) because Dutch people are very tall compared to Indonesians. And very frequently they would ask the same question all the time: “Why did you choose to study in Indonesia?”
What kind of culture shock did you have when you first came to Indonesia?
The first shock was when everybody wanted to take our picture when we were walking, when we were eating, whenever. The second was the traffic. In the Netherlands, it takes only 10 minutes to drive 4-5 km, while in Indonesia it often takes 45 minutes. And, of course “cold showers” and toilets with water guns (laughing). We had to get used to cold showers in the morning and water guns in the toilets instead of toilet paper (laughing). Another thing was unexpected rain. In the Netherlands, it only rains a bit. In Indonesia, the weather can be sunny one moment and in the next there can be a huge storm.
Do you think that each exchange student has to learn about the entire culture of a state before going to reduce culture shock or not to feel uncomfortable?
We don’t think so! It is more fun and memorable when you do not know and you get in awkward situations.
David: Haha, I have a very funny story. After a day with many lessons, we went to the supermarket because I was very thirsty. So, I went to the refrigerator in the supermarket for a Coke or a mineral water. I looked in the refrigerator but all the drinks were gone. There was one drink left called “Kiranti”. I took that drink and went to the cash desk to pay. On the way from supermarket to the dormitory, I drank the bottle of Kiranti. It was disgusting! the taste was so nasty that one sip was enough and I put it in the trashcan. Five minutes later a classmate of mine sent me a message and said: I saw that you drinking Kiranti. It is for girls who are having their period… I said, “Oh my god, that’s why it tasted so nasty!!!”
So back to the main question. What was your priority to come to Indonesia besides studying?
Well, our priority was seeing Indonesia and travelling around. Indonesia has many places to discover. Luckily we had days off on Fridays and Mondays. We had 4-day weekends so it was a nice time for travelling. Indonesia is a cheap country for us Europeans. It gave us opportunity to travel around Indonesia and feel rich. The bad thing was going to some beautiful parts of Indonesia and leaving that beauty after 3 days because of classes.
What kind of places did you travel to?
We have been in all around Bandung, Bali, Lombok, the Gili islands, and Kuala Lumpur. Our favorite and most memorable place was Lombok, because of its quiet beaches. It was interesting to rent motorbikes for only 3 euros a day and drive all around the island and see marvelous places.
What do you think about the Asian education system? Did you have any problems studying?
We were in Telkom for one semester and followed the Business Management department. Lessons were informative and the teachers were very kind. In Telkom University, it is almost the same education system as in the Netherlands: all presentations and group assignments. The only difference is that Telkom has its new courses only twice a year, once a semester, while in Saxion in one semester we can have two new courses. In a year, we have four new courses. In addition, we think that the level of lessons is a bit easier than in the Netherlands.
Well, if we had any problems with documents, students cards or exams, the International Office was always there for us. Moreover, the International Office organized the Telkom Bhinneka Race. That was nice and fun.
I believe your experience will inspire other students to visit Indonesia as well. Are we to expect new Dutch exchange students next semester?
Yes, that is true. Some students have asked us about the process of applications, visas and tickets.
What would you advise the next exchange students from the Netherlands?
We would advise them not to have very high expectations of the living standards. It is not same as in the Netherlands or in Europe. They should be prepared for “cold showers” (laughing) and spicy food. They should also work on their patience–patience with traffic, and of course patience with punctuality. They shouldn’t expect punctuality from Indonesians. They should also learn some basic Bahasa words.
All of these actions are worth it. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will open their minds. Even if it is hard, it is worth it in order to see beautiful Indonesian nature, volcanoes, beaches and the things that you cannot experience in Netherlands
Currently David and Bas are continuing their studies at Saxion University in the Netherlands. They left Indonesia in December 2015. They don’t think that they have explored Indonesia fully. David and Bas both, but especially Bas,, still remember the good memories about Indonesia with a smile on their faces and they may think about coming back to visit unseen places.