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Jul 09 2017
by Nadia Setianto

Why I Chose to Leave Indonesia to Go to College in Australia

By Nadia Setianto - Jul 09 2017
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I have lived in the same city for my whole life: Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia — the city where the buildings are so tall that when you reach the highest point of that building, it feels like you're looking at the whole world even though you are only looking at a city. Streets that are so crowded that you can be stuck in a car in the same area for an hour, and prices so low that you can be full by eating a meal that costs 10 cents. I have gotten so used to the way of life in Jakarta that if I go to another city smaller than Jakarta, I have to make a lot of readjustments, even when I am only traveling.

My parents have a mindset that if I ever move for university, I would have to move to a big city similar to Jakarta because semi-permanent readjustment would be an irritating inconvenience. The thing is, a lot of people in Jakarta have the same mindset as mine. This means that I cannot escape people from Jakarta anywhere I go, as we will have similar destinations. I did not have a problem with that until high school.

My high school experience made me realize that I do not want to stay in Jakarta. Why? First, opposing ideologies. A few months ago, our ethnically Chinese and Christian governor got thrown into jail because of accused blasphemy against the Islamic religion. Religion still plays a dominant part in Indonesian politics, even though religion and politics do not mix well together. It is even worse for the LGBTQ+ community, as those who are caught expressing their identity will be publicly shamed and jailed, even though it's "legal." Recently, 141 men were arrested for throwing a gay party.

Second, the traffic. Jakarta, according to a Southeast Asia travel website, is the most populated city in Southeast Asia and according to CNNMoney, is ranked number four on having the worst rush hour traffic in the world. When using a car, it takes approximately one hour to get from my house to my school on weekdays, which is about 8 kilometres. With the rankings and my multiple experiences with Jakarta, it's safe to say that I'm not overreacting when I say the traffic takes half of my energy because of the stress I experience.

My end goal of going to university abroad (specifically in a developed country) is not only to learn, but also to live there because I know that the living conditions there are way better. The U.S was my first and only option before Donald Trump won. One of the many things Trump's campaign was based on "America for the American people" and Islamophobia. This meant limited job opportunities for foreigners like myself, especially those who identify as Muslim. The only country I could have thought of that was similar to the U.S. was the U.K. and Australia, as they are also english-speaking countries.

The reason why I did not end up choosing the U.K. is because the pound is a stronger currency than the AUD and when I did the math, going to university in Australia would be relatively cheaper. One of the main reasons of choosing Australia is also because the Australian National University (located in Canberra) is one of the top ten universities in the world for my chosen major, Politics and International Studies, according to QS Top Universities.

Another reason I chose Canberra is because of the close community. Canberra has a small population and is known for being a "quiet city," so it is easier to get around and know the people (as people who have lived there for years told me). Also, not many people from Jakarta consider it as an ideal place for living or studying, as they would rather choose more populated cities, such as Melbourne, Sydney or Perth.

Second, distance. As previously mentioned, Australia is relatively near to Indonesia, so it is not much of a problem if my relatives want to visit me or if I am homesick. Third, inclusivity. Australia is much more "open" than Indonesia regarding the issues of LGBTQ+ and race, as for example, I saw a male, female and queer advisor for relationships in one of a university’s residential hall. Regarding race, there are many organizations in Australian universities that support international students and the many exhibitions regarding the history and contributions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Fourth and most importantly, no traffic.

Saying goodbye to the city I have lived in for all my life is more than challenging, as I have become accustomed to the way of life here and because of the people I will leave behind. I could choose to stay and study in a university in Jakarta, although I kept thinking about the opportunities and experiences I could have if I go to a university abroad. The benefits outweigh the limitations. After all, life keeps moving forward and if an opportunity presents itself, why not make the most of it?

Lead Image Credit: Pinterest

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Nadia Setianto - Australian National University

An undergraduate student at the Australian National University, doing a degree International Relations and majoring in Economics. Interested in sharing my life experiences as I go through this crazy journey called life. Twitter: @nadianandini

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