Paul Lander - 2010 Program Participant

The beach front of Kudeta restaurant and hotel in Bali, Indonesia

This is on the beach in front of a restaurant/hotel called Kudeta. Most people in the program would meet at this beach around sunset everyday for a drink and some sunset surfing. Photo by Paul Davidson Lander

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to see the world. I wanted to LIVE in a completely different way, not just vacation for a few days. I wanted to feel what it was like to live in another culture, to see what other ways of life were out there. I wanted to make new friends and learn another language.

The view of Mount Bromo on the island of Java in Indonesia

Mount Bromo on the island of Java. Paul flew to Java and traveled through rainforests and mountains to make it here. He did a sunrise hike up to the top of a mountain overlooking Bromo. When the sun started to come up, it heated the surface of the Earth, making the clouds drift across the land like water. Definitely his favorite moment of his whole experience. 

Why did you choose Indonesia?

I chose Indonesia because it was so different from America. I wanted to see what it was like in a third world country, but also one that seemed laid back. I wanted to live in a place where there weren't as many rules or laws. I also wanted to live somewhere on the other side of the world.

Why did you decide on Asia Exchange over other programs?

The main reasons I decided on Asia Exchange were the price and the freedom of the experience. Every other program I looked at that was either through my school or an independent program was at least $10,000...and most were almost twice that. I came across Asia Exchange and literally wondered if it was a scam- it was one tenth the price of every other program! And the only requirement for going was that you speak English! Once I did more research I trusted the program more and more. Because most other programs are very selective about who can participate, they also have mandatory meetings, orientations, mandatory living in dorms or with a host family. With Asia Exchange I could literally do whatever I felt, AND they had more support than I ever needed if I really needed some advice or comfort.

How was your housing arrangement?

My housing arrangement was insane-in the best way! I didn't know anyone when I was traveling to Bali, and I also didn't have a place lined up to live. I contacted someone from the program in Bali and she hooked me up with a villa. I actually went and looked at many different villas, and finally decided on one. And as it turned out, six girls ended up moving in with me. I lived there for a month or so, and then got another place with two friends I made from the program, and lived there for the next three months.

The walkway to a villa in Bali, Indonesia

This is the villa Paul lived in for most of his time in Bali. It was under $300 a month and right near the beach. Baby deer wandered around the grounds all the time and there was a private swimming pool too. Paul lived with a friend from Finland and another from Germany.

The villas in Bali are amazing...for $300 a month you get a beautiful place with your own private pool not far from the beach. Our villa was called the "Zoo Villa" because there were baby deer wandering around the grounds. Literally every morning I would wake up and hang out on the porch and there would be baby deer at my side. The service at all of the villas is amazing as well. There are only a few places on Earth you can live like a king for not much money at all, and Bali is one of them.

What was a normal day like as a student in Indonesia?

A normal day was different for each person. But for the typical student, it went like this. Wake up around 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. and mellow out with some coffee and breakfast at your villa or at a breakfast place. Go to school from around 9 a.m. to around 3 p.m. Get out, head to the beach and either chill, or surf with a bunch of other people from all over Europe or locals. Then catch some drinks and dinner somewhere along the beach and head home to relax before falling asleep. There was never any homework. It barely felt like you were in school. It was paradise.

A beach on the island of Gili Meno in Bali, Indonesia

A beach on the island of Gili Meno. Paul and his roommates and took a boat over to the island and relaxed for a few days. It is actually known as "Honeymoon Island" because it’s so peaceful. There were probably five to seven different places with bungalows to stay in, one bar, and one restaurant. Photo by Paul Davidson Lander

What was the biggest challenge about living abroad?

The biggest challenge abroad was learning to stay cool and calm in a completely different environment on the other side of the world without any family, old friends, or familiarity around you. At first it was overwhelming and I thought about coming back. But within a week I already started to feel amazing and meet really good people. I know now that being confronted with the scariest situation you have ever experienced can make you a much stronger, more confident person than you ever imagined you could be.

What advice can you give other students thinking about studying abroad in Indonesia?

I would say have a good idea of what kind of experience you are looking for. If Paris or Spain is your thing, if you don't want to leave western culture, if you want to just have fun somewhere besides your hometown or university, then Bali might not be the place for you.  Don't get me wrong - I ended up being so, so comfortable there. But it is a different style of life.  Your first impressions will be that it is dirty, loud, chaotic, and insane. So if you are not looking to challenge yourself a little, maybe reconsider where you want to go. Other than that, just cruise into this experience in neutral and see where it takes you. That's the best mindset you can have, hands down.

Tanah Lot Temple in Indonesia

Tanah Lot Temple. What makes it really special is the fact that you can only get to it towards low tide. Once the tide starts to rise, you're trapped! Unless you want to swim back that is. Photo by Paul Davidson Lander

How has your experience in Bali impacted you since returning?

It has changed my life. I pretty much look at myself and my life in two ways: my life before going abroad and my life after. If you are willing and if you let it, the experience of getting out of your comfort zone and living in another culture will open your eyes. It will show you that there are so many more dimensions to living than you ever thought of before. It will show you what you don't like about your own culture, while at the same time showing you what you do actually like about it. It will open your eyes to the possibility of living your life in a way you didn't expect, a way you didn't know was out there. It will make you a more independent, stronger person. It will make you realize what things you worry about that are not worth worrying about. It will show you yourself. It will give you an idea of HOW you like living, of what kind of people you are drawn to, or what kind of life you want to live. It is the healthiest, most inspirational experience I have ever had.