Things to Do Before Graduating College: Student Exchange Program


To be able to study abroad has been a dream of mine since I was in Junior High School. As a junior high schooler, my reason was very simple, I wanted to travel the world without spending any money. A simple-minded student yet a very realistic one, wasn’t I? Lol. Through my journey, as you may have guessed, yes, this simple reason was not strong enough to push me in pursuing my dream to study abroad. Due to lack of information as well as eagerness, I failed to attempt this dream during my teen years.

Fortunately, as time goes by, the doors to my dream opened as I become a college student. There were plenty of opportunities that UGM had offered me to study abroad. Thus, from all of the opportunities, I luckily got the chance to studying abroad for two times during my college years. I went to South Korea for a month to join a summer school program back in 2013 and went to Japan a year after to join an exchange student program. Through these two experiences, I managed to develop myself more, both academically and personally.

During my first experience of studying abroad in South Korea, I didn’t get as many experiences as I got in Japan, but still, academically, it was really helpful for me. The reason was mainly that during that summer school, I can still find a lot of Indonesian people whom I can talk to because I know some of the participants. I find it a little bit less challenging if I compare it with my second journey, which was to Tokyo, a year after. There, my whole new world begins.

In front of Tokyo University
In front of Tokyo University

It was late September that I went to Japan when the season was autumn. As a tropical country kid, I am pretty excited to see how the leaves are falling with a beautiful color of yellow. Not only excited, I also felt very nervous back then as that was going to be my first experience ever living outside the country for more than a month and without my parents supports. My first days there were not that good. It was kind of hard adapting to a country which language I didn’t speak. I got this funny experience, where I mistakenly bought a Mirin (rice vinegar which has some alcohol in it) because I thought that it was a Cooking Oil. But as my first week has come to an end, I began to enjoy every moment I spent there. I started making friends, studying the language, as well as researching data for my thesis back home.

Autumn days with foreigner friends

While studying in Japan, the classes that I took were mostly about the politics, culture, and economics of Japan, South Korea, and China. The most important differences in studying these matters directly in Japan was that I could access more data and journal to deepen my understanding about this area studies. Besides that, I could also ask directly to a Japanese professor whom the knowledge was very amazing. I managed to get close with one of the professor, as we like to share about the politics of East Asian as well as other ASEAN countries. Up until now, we still talk with each other through Facebook messenger.

With my favorite Japanese professor

One of the things that I love the most from my stays in Tokyo is that I was able to meet such great friends from all over the world; starting from Japanese, Western people, as well as other Asian people. It was quite hard to make Japanese friends in the first two months. They tend to avoid foreigners somehow and focused more on their study. I only have two Japanese friends whom I met back in Yogyakarta when they were doing an exchange program in UGM. Luckily, University of Tokyo international office offered a lot of activities that facilitate the foreigners and Japanese to meet and hang out, such as food party and trips. Thus, I managed to broaden my friendship with people from all across the globe, be able to understand the culture of other countries, even able to meet people with such different backgrounds with different ways to handle. Through the relations that I built in Tokyo, up until now I still remain as good friends with them.

Not only making friends with the foreigners, it was also crucial for me to make friends with the Indonesians. Living in such a different environment is not an easy thing to do. Especially when it comes to religion; how hard it was to find Halal foods, how hard it was to have a regular religious meeting. Thankfully, I got a chance in meeting a bunch of great people in PPI Todai, whom I can count on. They complete my stays in Tokyo as they were kind of a reminder to me that I still have a family in Japan.

A trip to Yokohama that was held by International Office of UTokyo
Posing with one of my favorite sensei as well as classmates
Posing with one of my favorite sensei as well as classmates

My journey to Tokyo was very meaningful. To summarize my one year journey to Tokyo is a hard thing to do. I learned a lot through that journey and I grow more as a person. To be able to go to Tokyo itself was not an easy journey for me. I had to face the rejection first as the Hokkaido University didn’t accept me as one of the exchange students for their University. Thankfully, another opportunity was given to me. The University of Tokyo chose me as one of their upcoming exchange students back in 2014 for about one year. Through this experience, I understand that the phrases “When there is a will, there is a way” is not only a bunch of empty words. It does have meanings, that If we really do want something so bad, just try our best and believe that it will happen if we give out the best of us.

To everyone whose dream is studying abroad, I really support you guys 100%. Seek as many information as you can inside and outside of the University and do not lose hope even though you fail. Keep trying and try to find the program that suits you the best (academically and personally). As for the example, in my case, I chose Japan because academically, my study focus was the politics and economics of the East Asian countries back in College. Thus, Japan and South Korea were the perfect choices for me. Doing an exchange program before you graduate may delay your graduating time, but I guarantee you that the time that you sacrifice is not going to be wasted compare to the experiences that you’ll get. I wish you guys the best for your journey in the future!


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