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10 Things to Expect When Studying Abroad in Indonesia

October 11, 2016

Since I stepped off the airplane after landing in Jakarta, I have been adapting to my new surroundings nonstop. Being a long-time travel blog enthusiast, I researched all that I could before departing for this incredible city, but as most everyone knows, there is nothing quite like experiencing something firsthand. In the name of being honest, here is a list of the top ten things anyone is absolutely guaranteed to experience while studying abroad in Jakarta in order from slightly unpleasant to amazingly wonderful.

10. Humidity

From the second I stepped off of the plane in Jakarta, the humidity hit me like a brick wall. Granted, I had never experienced an extremely hot and wet climate before, so I may be exaggerating a little bit.Don’t worry about this too much because your body will get used to it (whether you like it or not) and become extremely thankful for the invention of air conditioners.

9. Absolutely insane traffic

Growing up in Los Angeles, I thought I knew what horrible traffic was like. Oh, how naive I once was! Due to the countless amount of vehicles on the road and serious lack of traffic rules, you can be stuck in traffic for hours. I’m not kidding – hours – to get somewhere that should only be fifteen to thirty minutes away. On the bright side, you can use this plethora of free time to read, listen to music or podcasts, or practice Bahasa Indonesia using language apps.

8. Breathing in delightful amounts of smog

With lots of traffic comes lots of smog. Like the traffic, breathing Jakarta air is just something you will accept as a part of life and move on with your daily routine. Except for when you’re riding an ojek or walking in close proximity to very busy streets – to avoid breathing in pure exhaust fumes, wear a mask.

7. The squat toilet

Believe it or not, not everyone in the world uses the porcelain throne, and instead call it a “Western-style toilet.” Indonesia, like many other countries in southeast Asia, use what I like to call “the squat pot,” with a curious little water hose located to the side. Google “Asian squat toilets” and be prepared to use one if necessary. Tip: No need to worry when you’re at the shopping malls – they have Western-style toilets and provide toilet paper.

6. Giant shopping malls

Need to find a money-changer, SIM card for your phone, the closest grocery or discount department store? Want to visit an aquarium or ice-skating rink, or spot a Western-style toilet? Take a taxi to one of the 120 enormous shopping malls in Jakarta. An added bonus of shopping malls: air conditioning.

5. Morning prayers

Being the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, daily prayer occurs five times a day and starts very early in the morning. Because there are a couple of mosques near my dorm building, I was half-woken up by prayers at around 4:30 a.m. my first night here. Talk about a cultural awakening! (I know, I know, sorry.) I love hearing these prayers because it reminds me of how far I’ve traveled from home, but on the other hand, I take deep sleep seriously. Because I have the capacity to sleep through almost anything, I have had no problem ever since. If you’re a light sleeper, I’d suggest wearing earplugs for the first couple nights.

4. Taking a taxi or ojek

To put it lightly, Jakarta is not a pedestrian-friendly city. Walking anywhere is a challenge due to poor city infrastructure and busy street traffic, and crossing the street is straight up terrifying most of the time. If you want to get anywhere, I recommend taking a taxi or car. If you’re feeling adventurous and ready to live like a local, hop on an ojek (motorbike). Fortunately for us poor college students, transportation is amazingly cheap, especially if you use the Go-Jek, Grab and Uber apps.

3. Taking a cold shower

Trust me, after spending a day in this humidity, you won’t want to do anything else.

2. Delicious Asian cuisine

My favorite pastime: eating with friends. There is so much rice and so little time! Asian food is amazing, and Jakarta has it all. Authentic Indonesian food and condiments can be spicy, but are definitely worth the try.

1. Friendly people

I cannot stress this one enough. Everyone I have met since I arrived has been incredibly kind, welcoming and sincerely helpful. From the iBuddies assigned to take care of my group of exchange students, to the nice lady standing in line behind me at the supermarket, to the security guard that charitably answers my phone for me when a Grab taxi driver calls (language barrier alert), I have been treated like an honored guest in this country so far and am forever grateful to all the people who make me feel at home here in Jakarta, Indonesia.

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