Viktorija Panovaite - 2014 Program Participant

Traditional Indonesian wedding dress

Indonesian friends’ wedding

Why did you decide to go abroad?

I'm always searching for new opportunities to travel and stay abroad for a longer time (as well I was volunteer in EVS program in Greece for six months). I heard a story from my friend which was selected for the Darmasiswa scholarship in Indonesia; I found this scholarship interesting too. This scholarship is a unique opportunity to discover Indonesian culture by participating and learning straight from the masters. You can choose the island or city, period of studies (six or 12 months), the university, and the subject you want to study, including batik making, traditional Indonesian dances, gamelan lessons, Indonesian language, and many other subjects.

It's quite easy to apply for the scholarship too, you just need to fill the application form, collect needed documents and send them on time to responsible embassy. I decided to try my luck and applied. I was one of around 550 people who was selected from all over the world, so I quit my good paying job and started my adventure in Indonesia.

Why did you choose the Institut Seni Indonesia Yogyakarta?

I have been dancing from childhood, but it's just my hobby. I never thought I’d become a professional dancer, but I’ve tried many different kinds of dances now. When I saw that Darmasiswa scholarship suggest the opportunity to learn traditional Indonesian dances, I decided that it was the subject I wanted to study.

What can be better than learning one more "dance style" and collecting new experiences for my dance career, especially when Indonesian dances are so colorful? Each island has different dances, stories, moves, clothing, etc. One year is really not enough to learn all the dances and learn them professionally, but at least to understand them and enjoy it, a year is quite enough.

Even if many universities suggest the study of Indonesian dance, I choose ISI Yogyakarta University. First of all, I heard many good reviews about this university from previous Darmasiswa students. Second, because of the Yogyakarta city. This city is a cultural center and the student capital city (on Java island). Where is better to be if not in the center of everything?

Waterfall in Dieng Plateau, Central Java, Indonesia

Waterfall in Dieng Plateau area

What was your favorite part about Yogyakarta? 

Yogyakarta is very lively city. There are so many cultural events every day, so many artists with whom you can collaborate and meet; you just need to be open and curious, and you will have many possibilities to discover not only traditional Indonesian culture but modern art as well. Also, the location of Yogyakarta city is very beautiful, within one to two hours by motorbike you can reach really amazing natural places, including waterfalls, caves, mountains, beaches, and more. You can also find many beautiful places in the city and meet plenty of interesting people. It’s a city that never sleeps.

ISI Yogyakarta University is located in the southern part of Yogyakarta city. There are many places covered by rice fields, so most of the time you can see green color all round you. Parangtritis beach is about 40 minutes away from campus (and yes, it's not the most beautiful beach in Indonesia, but at least you can sometimes feel the sea breeze and see an amazing sunset). For me, this location was perfect, not so far from the city center, you can still be at least somewhat close to nature, and the prices were a bit cheaper than in other parts of Yogyakarta.

What aspects of your program made it unique?

Its uniqueness is the chance to learn about the culture and exchange your knowledge with others.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The Darmasiswa program coordinator at my university, Pak Bambang Supinardi, was just perfect. He has been working with Darmasiswa students already for many years and everybody will tell you that he just amazing. He always advises, answers questions, and helps with any issues. I never heard him say "no" or ”not possible”. In any case, he could always help. I think his help made my studies even more colorful.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

All Darmasiswa students enter their studies with first year Indonesian students; this means that no matter how you experienced with the activity in your country, whether you have a masters degree in that field or not, you will study with youngsters that have just begun university. In this case, I think I could be more curious to go to lessons with last year students, but I didn’t try to ask teachers to let me participate so I followed the rules and did what was asked. I think if you are really into something, you need to try your luck and reach for more. How you can know more if you don't try? So my advice, if you want something, you see it as more interesting, just be proactive and try to join and participate!

Sunrise at Mount Merapi in Indonesia

Sunrise in front of mount Merapi

Describe a day in the life of your program. 

Dance studies at ISI Yogyakarta for Darmasiswa students was the most active compared with other subjects. Courses are divided into two semesters, and each semester had its own schedule and subjects, or different dance styles. In each semester we had to choose three subjects which we would have lessons in every day. Each day the timetable was different, one day we had one lesson per day, another day three lessons in one day. One lesson lasted for an hour and a half. There were also breaks between lessons for 20 minutes, and during lunch time there was a longer break. Sometimes we had projects, so we needed as well to work with groups after lessons. Also, I had music lessons, to gain a better understanding of dance rhythms.

What did you enjoy doing on your free time? 

Indonesia is an amazing country! First of all, during free time I was trying to see as much as possible and travel around Yogyakarta or somewhere further. I was interested in Indonesian art, so I went to many festivals, events, celebrations, etc. I was curious to meet Indonesian people, so I tried to communicate with them more. I really tried to fulfill my day and discover more and more about Indonesia.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

When we arrived our university provided accommodation for three nights in a hostel. Once we had university "buddies" (local students), we searched for a place to stay for the entire study period. Some of the students found a places to live alone, others in houses for six people, and others chose other options. The main thing is that when Darmasiswa students arrive, most places (cheap ones that are near the university) are already rented by local students. However, there are still always some to choose from. We (three girls) found a place near the university, the distance was maybe 10 to 15 minutes walk away; it had a nice surrounding neighborhood and was a newly build house. Although it was without any furniture, so we bought everything that we needed by ourselves. It was just a pity that after four months we had to move out (even if we agreed to stay there for one year), but it is a long story.

How has your time abroad impacted your life?

My scholarship year is 2014 and 2015, so I'm still in Indonesia! I have one more month left to live here, and honestly, I don't want to go home yet because there are still so many places I want to see. If everything works out, I will stay here a bit longer.

Even without going back home yet, I can feel the impact of this program. I have started to see things in a different way, realized that we don't need many things to be happy, and met many people who have impacted my life and views. What I have seen in Indonesia has just refreshed my life.

Royal family members with foreigners in Java, Indonesia

Javanese New Year celebration with royal family members