Max Stretton’s exchange experience at UGM in “buzzing” and exciting Yogyakarta

Posted on 21 February, 2018

AIYA NT President and Bachelor of Law student Max Stretton has just completed a stint at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, studying Indonesian and volunteering for AIYA Yogyakarta. Read on to learn more! This article was prepared for CDU and was originally published here.


I am studying a Bachelor of Law at CDU and I’m about to start my fourth year of studies. I have also studied some Indonesian language classes at CDU as electives to maintain my Indonesian language skills and learn more about the country. I am also about to start a three-month internship with the law firm Akset Law in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Describe your overseas study experience.

I just got back from studying law at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta for a semester. At UGM, I studied Indonesian law through their International Undergraduate Program which teaches all the classes in English and I was able to study amazing subjects unique to Indonesia. Every lecturer was fascinating and the other people I studied with were incredibly kind and caring.

One of my goals when heading over there was to improve my language skills. Although I wasn’t studying language specifically, I was able to practice with taxi drivers, my Indonesian friends and basically anyone who was up for a chat. It was great!

Whilst in Yogyakarta, I also became the Communications Officer for the Australia Indonesia Youth Association – Yogyakarta Chapter. Through this, I was able to practice my Indonesian language skills, help the community and meet a bunch of great people who also had a passion for the Indonesia-Australia relationship.

Another thing I did whilst in Indonesia was travel. Although I wasn’t able to do as much as I would’ve liked, I was able to visit other cities such as Bandung, Jakarta and Surabaya.

Why did you want to study overseas?

Studying in Indonesia was an aspiration of mine for quite some time. I first went to Yogyakarta with my Dad when I was 15 and knew that one day I wanted to go back to study. I also aspire to work in Indonesia after I graduate so being able to study Indonesian law at UGM during my degree at CDU was very beneficial.

Furthermore, I also wanted to challenge myself. Living overseas isn’t that easy and not many people have done or can do it. I wanted to test myself to really gauge whether living in Indonesia was something I wanted to do in the future.

What were the most challenging parts of studying abroad?

If you have patience and tolerance, Indonesia is an easy country to live in. The people are great, food is amazing and there is always a new place for you to visit.

Saying that, I did have some difficulties whilst over there which I had to overcome. Like for anyone who studies overseas, the first problem you’re going to have is language. Although I considered my Indonesian language skills strong, there was still so much I didn’t know. What’s great about Indonesia is that the people are patient and will help you out.

Although I don’t really consider this a challenge, Indonesia’s rich culture and religion makes the experience very different to being in Australia and does provide some challenges. The majority of Indonesia is Muslim and so with that, comes some strict social standards which you don’t get in Australia. For example, I basically wore pants 24/7 which isn’t that great in the middle of the wet season, and every morning at 4am I would be woken up by the local call to prayer.

But like I said earlier, I don’t really consider this a challenge, rather something I looked forward to and loved to observe whilst I was over there. Patience and tolerance will help you get over anything in Indonesia.

What were the best aspects?

The highlight of my exchange was being in a country on the verge of becoming one of the biggest nations in the world. I couldn’t believe how many people my age owned clothing stores, cafes, or barber shops. The entrepreneurship in young Indonesians is astonishing and was truly inspirational. There’s a kind of buzz around Indonesia and around what the future holds and you can really feel it when you’re there.

What’s the most important thing you learnt from your experience overseas?

I learned that I can handle myself in challenging situations. I explicitly remember how intimidated I felt after the first two weeks of class, amazed at the level of sophistication and knowledge the other law students displayed. Although I was taken back a bit and questioned my own ability, I was able to prove myself. I believe that this experience has taught me to be confident in my ability and I will transfer this confidence into my future career path.

Can you sum up your experience in three words?

Time for creativity.

OR: Must go back!

Lastly, what advice do you have for anyone considering studying overseas?

Your parting wisdom – fun or functional.

If you’re thinking of studying overseas, you’re already one foot there. It’s a lengthy process to study overseas and you will need to be patient. But, once you’re there it will be all worth it. It’s life changing and you will come back as a different person. Be up for anything.

Please note that this article was prepared for CDU and was originally published here.