Around the end of July 2018, I had decided that I would like to join an exchange study program for the next two semesters ahead, which started in February 2019. Talking it through with my parents and friends, they encouraged me to apply. I started filling out applications for the exchange program and applied for an IELTS exam. The selection process wasn’t easy, and only five people out of the whole institution got to go to the same university of my selection. Several steps later, I finally got an acceptance letter to Tomas Bata University in Zlín, Czech Republic.
It was time to say a temporary goodbye to my people and the dorm room that I had spent living there for 2.5 years. During my summer semester of 2019 in Zlín, knowing I had been given the opportunity of studying abroad – also to travel but we’ll get to that later – I realise I had to document it. For my personal documentation, perhaps to share it with the world. Then, the idea of creating an exchange study journal came in. And you’re reading this right now.
First time living abroad with others, first time in Europe
The first week wasn’t easy. My schedule had been kind of packed up and I had only arrived a day before my official semester started. It was challenging, I admit. First time in Europe, six hours away from the land I spent living for 20 years. Especially the thought of living abroad with people I weren’t close with. At that time, I only knew one friend from my university but I came a day earlier than her.
Throughout my university years, I was okay on my own, and the thought of living with others scared me. Will we get along? What if we dislike each other then? What if I can’t enjoy the whole experience of exchange study because I can’t live with others? Those kinds of thoughts popped up, but as soon as I met the whole group – there were 5 of us – I think I would be fine. Not long after that, the thought of documenting my first month in Zlín came in. To be honest, some of the footage were meant to be a one-second-everyday film, but I couldn’t keep up so I turned it into a whole film.
Traveling to other EU countries
One of the main reasons why I chose European countries to be my top priority on my exchange program application was because I got to travel! Especially if it is in the EU, the chance of me travelling to other EU countries get higher. It’s a privilege, I know, to be able to travel. The money that I spent wasn’t tiny, yet it was enough to cover a wholesome experience. Do your budgeting guys! Be mindful!
For a while, I had been into making films and documentaries on my travel, so I decided to make this one too. Of course, I had to! I don’t even know when I will go back to these countries, maybe some years from now. In the first episode, my friends and I travelled to Amsterdam, Krakow, Budapest, and Prague. Later, we visited Vienna and Steinbrunn, Split and Klis, Barcelona, Porto, Paris, Gent, and Prague, before going back home to Jakarta.
Note that some of the places I travelled to were organised by our very own Buddy System, an organisation that organise events and such for us, taking care of international students. They would put us in groups and did sightseeing and experience culture together.
Life in Zlín as an exchange student
Living and studying abroad has shaped me into becoming the person I am today. The struggle to cook and not miss home-cooked foods, to socialise with many people from around the world, getting to know them and their culture. Keep in mind that I also had to present my home country and my own culture.
Throughout the semester, we had this once in two weeks event from our Buddy System. The event was a country presentation. Two countries presenting their own countries from culture – dances, dishes, habits – to landscapes, national anthems. Sometimes they would give the participants quiz or fun activities to try out.
In the end, they prepare dishes for the whole participants and vote for the winner of the presentation. It was exciting to see a lot of people coming and wanting to try and experience the culture. My friends and I are from Indonesia, we presented out some of our favourite dishes – Balinese Ayam Suwir, Bakwan Jagung, Dadar Gulung, Pisang Goreng, and (not-my-favourite) Bandrek. We didn’t win but I felt honoured to be able to share a word about my country with a lot of people. Toleration wins. Love wins.
Below, I’ve put a link to give you a visual journal of my daily life in Zlín. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Some had become close friends with me, and we still remain in touch. I am proud to say I was a part of the Erasmus+ Exchange Student. If I have been given another opportunity to study abroad, do an exchange study, even to live abroad, I would love to take that and maximise my own experience. You should too!