How studies looks in ISI Yogyakarta

It’s an interview from website about my experience in Darmasiswa scholarship program (in ISI Yogyakarta university). Hope it will be useful for those who are thinking to choose this university for future studies or other university in Yogyakarta city.

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

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 6 months). I heard story from my friend which was selected for Darmasiswa scholarship in Indonesia. I found this scholarship interesting too. This scholarship is unique opportunity to discover Indonesian culture by participating and learning straight from the masters. You can choose the island or city, period of studies (6 or 12 months), university and the subject which you want to study: batik making, traditional Indonesian dances, gamelan lessons, Indonesian language and many other subjects. And it’s quite easy to apply – you just need to fill the application form, collect needed documents and send them on time to responsible embassy. So I decided to try my luck and applied. I was one of ~550 people who were selected from all over the world. I quit my good paid job and start my adventure in Indonesia.

Why did you choose your specific program?

I’m dancing from the childhood, but it’s just my hobby, I never thought to become a professional dancer. I tried many kind of dances till now. When I saw that Darmasiswa scholarship suggest to learn traditional Indonesian dances, I decided that it’s the subject which I want to study. What can be better than learn one more “dance style” and collect new experience in my dance “career”, especially when Indonesian dances are so colorful. Each island have different dances, stories behind them, moves, clothing and etc. One year it’s really not enough to learn all dances and learn them professionally, but at least to understand them and enjoy it’s quite enough :). Even if many universities suggest to study 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 cultural center and students capital city (in Java island). Where is better to be if not in the center of everything? :).

Here is the short video from music class that I entered.

What was your favorite part about the location?

Yogyakarta is very live city. Here are so many cultural events every day, so many artists with whom you can collaborate and meet. You just need to be open, curious and you will have many possibilities to discover not only traditional Indonesian culture but modern art as well. Also Yogyakarta city location is very grateful; within 1-2 hours by motorbike you can reach really amazing nature places: waterfalls, caves, mounts, beaches and etc. As well in the city you can find many beautiful places, meet interesting people. It’s a city that never sleeps :). ISI Yogyakarta university is located in south part of Yogyakarta city. Here are many places covered by rice fields. So most of the time you can see green color around you and Parangtritis beach is ~40 min. away (yeah it’s not the most beautiful beach in Indonesia, but at least sometimes you can feel sea breeze and see amazing sunsets). For me, this location was perfect – not so far from center, you can still be at least in small part of nature and the prices here a bit cheaper than in other parts of Yogyakarta.

What makes the program you participated in unique?

Uniqueness is to learn about the culture and exchange your knowledge with others.

Pictures from Darmasiswa students participation in cultural camp.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

Darmasiswa program coordinator in my university Pak Bambang Supinardi just perfect. He is working with Darmasiswa students already many years and everybody tells that he just amazing. He always advices, answer the questions, helps in other issues. I never heard from him “no”/”not possible”. In any case, how he could – he always helps. I think his help made this studies more colorful.

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

All Darmasiswa students enter studies with 1st year Indonesian students. It means, no matter how you experienced with your activity in your country, you had master degree in that field or other. Here you will study with youngster that just finished the school. In this case, I think I could be more curious and go to lessons with last year students, try to ask teachers to let me participate. I followed the rules and did what was asked ;). I think if you into something, you need to try your luck and reach more. How you can know if you wouldn’t try. So my advice, if you want something, you see it more interesting, just be proactive, try to join and participate.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

Dance studies in ISI Yogyakarta for Darmasiswa students was the most active comparing with other subjects. Studies are divided in 2 semesters. Each semester has own schedule and different subjects, different dance styles. In each semester we had to choose 3 subjects from all possible ones. I had lessons every day. Each day the timetable was different – one day 1 had 1 lesson per day, another day 3 of them. 1 lesson is for 1,5 hour, there are breaks between lessons for 20 min and during lunch time longer break. Sometimes we had projects, so we needed as well to work with groups after lessons. Also I had music lesson, for better understanding of dance rhythms.

Here is the short video from music class that I entered.

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program?

Indonesia is 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 was going to many festivals, events, celebrations and 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 us 3 nights in hostel. With university “buddies” (local students) we were searching for a place to stay for all study period. Some of the students found a place to live alone, others the houses for 6 people and etc. The main thing that when Darmasiswa students arrives, most of places (cheap ones and near university) already rented for local students. But still there are always what to choose. We (3 girls) found a place near university, the distance maybe ~10-15 min. by foot. Nice surrounding, neighbors, new build house (yeah it was without any furniture but we bought everything that we need by ourselves). Just pity that after 4 months we needed to move out (even if we agreed to stay there 1 year). If you are curious, here is all story why we moved :)

Now that you’re home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

The studies period is from September till May/June (depends on university time table) but scholarship period 1 year (if you choose 1 year). It means, that you have opportunity 2-3 months after your study still stay in Indonesia for traveling and you will get still scholarship amount. This is the idea of this scholarship – give opportunity for students not only learn about Indonesian culture, exchange with students your culture but give possibility to see more of Indonesia. My scholarship year is 2014/2015, so I decided to stay in Indonesia. Honestly I don’t want to go home yet, still so many places want to see. If everything will work out I will stay here a bit longer :). And even without coming back home – I feel the impact of this program. I started to see things in different way, realize that we don’t need many things to be happy, met many people who gave impact to my life and views which I saw in Indonesia – just refresh my life.


What is your experience in Darmasiswa program? What you would like to share with future students?

Useful? Great! :) You might also like these:

Frequently asked questions
First days in Indonesia
Scholarship amount


What story hides Vesak day lanterns?

Probably most of you, at least once, seen the spectacular pictures or read amazing impressions about Vesak celebration in Borobudur temple in Indonesia? Thousands lanterns fly up at night in the horizon of Buddha statue and temple? But how many of you know what people are ready to do to see this unforgettable view? What is going on during all day celebration and how are treated officers?

I have been in Vesak celebration this year and I will share what real story hides Vesak lanterns ;).

Why this day so special?

Waisak (in Indonesia language) also known as Visakah Puja or Buddha Purnima in India, Visakha Bucha in Thailand and globally known as Vesak – is a major event in the religious calendar for most Asian Buddhists. Buddhists this day celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. Those who observe the religion use it as an opportunity to pay homage to The Enlightened One, seizing the opportunity to reiterate their devotion to principles of Buddhism: the determination to lead a noble life, the promise to develop their minds, the practice of love and kindness and the strive for peace and harmony with humanity. The holiest day is celebrated across the Buddhist world, but is most spectacular at Java’s island Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Many articles already written about rituals of this celebration, so if you are interested you can read about it more here or here.

2015 year celebration was more special

First of all, this year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and other government officials decided to attend the opening ceremony of the Vesak celebration. It means more people wanted to come, not only to see the lanterns inflammation but to see the president from close. Second, organizers were expected ~20 000 Buddhist to attend this event this year.
Also because of some anxiety between Buddhist and Muslims in Myanmar, was a bit worried that can be made some Muslim attacks during this ceremony (like revenge for Buddhist actions in Myanmar). Even not so many monks, that usually come, came this time (maybe they were afraid?). Because of these reasons in Borobudur and around that area were working ~15 000 soldiers and policemen from all central Java.

And what is the reality, how people get inside for celebration closing ceremony – lanterns ignition?

People can freely enter daytime ceremony in front of Mendut temple, as well join the procession from Mendut temple till Borobudur. But to the final part, closing celebration in the evening, you can enter only in several ways (not allow to get inside all people, it’s just prevention not to make too crowded around UNESCO heritage – Borobudur temple): you need to be Buddhist and prove it then you will get invitation or you can give donation at least ~100 000 Rp (~7 EUR) (for this amount you will get your own lantern, will enter Borobudur temple cheaper during daytime and you can go to closing ceremony at night).

To get invitation you need to come to Mendut temple in early morning (and depends on you – you can follow all ceremony till the evening or leave and come back at night).
But to get invitation you need to be a Buddhist. Guess how many tourists who are coming to see lanterns during Vesak day are Buddhist? Probably not a lot (I didn’t check, it’s my guess:P). So how they get to the evening ceremony? Donate? Mostly, not. Because maybe 100 000 Rp (~7 EUR) it’s too big amount for donation even if they can save money on entrance fee to Borobudur temple (what normal cost for tourists ~280 000 Rp – ~18 EUR).

They prefer lie, pretend Buddhist, jump over the fence and maybe try other tricks. How do I know? I was a witness of all this actions.

During daytime, when we arrived to the place where invitations are given, we were told that invitations will be given at lunch time. I met couple of other tourist who were trying get invitations like me.
We all came back to the same post on exact time. Everyone’s had their own strategy how to get invitations (because mainly people weren’t Buddhist)

  • The foreigner’s couple that I met before and had short conversation, came to me and asked if I already got invitations, I said not yet. And they were happy that they have it already. I asked how they get it – they very joyful and satisfied told me that they lie that they are Buddhist
  • One foreigners group which for me didn’t look like Buddhist (sorry maybe it’s my stereotype, but come to holy celebration wearing things like going to the beach, doesn’t associate with going to pray or meditate) had local guide. He was convincing responsible person that this tourist group is Buddhist and wants to get inside in the evening. Unfortunately they didn’t have any paper that proves that they are Buddhist. Guide took some time for convincing but finally he got invitations.
  • I met one more familiar foreigner. She was wearing T-shirt with one Buddhist organization logo. When I asked if she is a Buddhist, she said no. Just she have Indonesian friend who is Buddhist, so she asked him to be written in their organization participants list to get inside in the evening ceremony.
  • I saw and Indonesian people who I know from the look. They are not Buddhists (they follow other religion). They came wearing white T-shirt (they dressed up it when arrived). It’s not written law that Buddhist if not wears they organization T-shirt, they can wear white T-shirt – it means they are Buddhist or at least very supportive to Buddhism.
  • Inside the temple, in the evening, where you can get in with invitations, I met one foreigner. He was surprised that to get inside people needs invitations. He didn’t know about it. He just jump over the fence to get in. Even if it was many security who checked surrounding, probably if you really want you can find the way to go through the fence.
  • Others-were waiting in front of the entrance gate for the time when they will be allowed to get inside (usually when ceremony already partway, people are let inside without invitation as well). But instead of waiting they started organize “fake” pressure in front of the gate just to get in. Security didn’t want any tragedy, they open the gate for couple of minutes, to first people get inside and reduce crush.
  • Some Indonesians made “fakes” organization paper with participants list, to get inside “officially”.

I’m not writing here the advices how to get in the ceremony “illegally”. I just want to share reality of people behavior.  What they can figure out and do just because of their aim. The right way to get inside – is just come with an official paper from the Buddhist organization. If you are not Buddhist just donate money. I started to think is those 100 000 Rp really worth to lie, pretend and betray your belief? Is this holy celebration is all about it?

You curious how I get in, if I’m not Buddhist? No I didn’t use my “contacts”, lied or did something else. I went to post where they was giving invitations and ask for couple of them (for me and friends). They asked me if I’m Buddhist and I asked back “how you will check it, if I will say yes? The religion written only in Indonesians ID, in my country ID isn’t written”. I told him “I don’t want to lie or pretend that I’m Buddhist, because I’m not, and will be honest with you, because all this celebration about good things. I just really want to go inside and see how its looks like”. He smiled, said thank you for honesty and gave me couple of invitations. Why I didn’t donate money instead of asking invitation? For me, living only from scholarship amount, these 100 000 Rp believe or not is big money – I can eat for this sum almost 10 times. Reason only this, otherwise, I would be happy to have my own lantern and put it to the sky with my wish. Many people do that, leave a note on inflammation lanterns in willing that their wish will come true.

How 24 hours working soldiers and policemen were treated?

All security people came to Borobudur area ~4 am and should leave next day at the same time or whatever other time, when all people from Borobudur area will be gone. People were working all day long, without any care from government to provide them water and food (one soldier told us). Do you think these people will be motivated to work and secure if they treated like this? Some group’s chiefs paid for food and drinks from their own money. And when policemen left some water bottles in boxes near the gate (for the later time when they will be trusty), other people just came and took it from boxes while soldiers were further. I saw it by my eyes. They did that without any shame or hiding.
I know all this things because during the day and in the evening, till we were waiting, few policemen, soldiers came to me to speak. You know everybody is curious about foreigners. Even if there were many foreigners they felt more comfortable to come to me, because I was with Indonesian friends, so they felt that I can be more open and friendly to chat with them. Yeah, I really like to speak with people and know more about their work, what they think and etc.

And finally what about organizational side?

This year, some of the parts were a bit different than previous year (my friends who participated before told me). The good thing that almost nothing was delay, everything by the program, maybe because of the president visit? But the lanterns first time were prepared not upstairs Borobudur temple but downstairs. There were a lot of volunteers who helped to show the way and organizing things. As well all rubbish from all area were cleaned so quick that I couldn’t believe that what I saw 15 min. ago, already gone (Indonesian people put trashes whatever).
But something didn’t work out properly with lanterns inflammation. Usually the lanterns should by lighted after monks make the last part of ceremony “Pradaksina”, when they goes 3 times around the temple and turn on the first lantern from the stage, that symbolize enlightenment for the entire universe. But this time the guys in down part started to light them much earlier, when procession wasn’t finished yet. And I saw how organizers on the stage were confused tried to fix the situation, but it was too late. As well this year they didn’t put the thousands of lanterns at one time, just small amount little by little. Like ceremony finished at ~2 am, people were already tired. Most of them started leave after first amount of lanterns were up in the sky. We left ~3 am and we saw that many lanterns still waiting their turn to be lighted.

The bright side

Yeah, even if I experienced different reality of Vesak day (I even thought that I was expected “fairy tale”, but got “daily life” experience), still it’s really beautiful ceremony. In the evening especially. I can’t describe the feeling when 20 min. of meditation thousands of prayers were totally quite. Was possible to hear only moving leaves sound and geckos. Really amazing to see that magnificent lights, joy of prayers. If you will have chance to see it, it’s worth – just please don’t get inside in “wrong” way. It’s holy celebration, so at least you can behave in good way :).

As well, by accident we met one Danish guy with whom we met in Gili Meno island in January. It was so nice surprise in thousand people crowd to see known faces after 6 months :). And one funny thing that I still remember – one Indonesian youth couple, was sitting all the time in front of “angkringan” where we stayed for a while. Till it was bright outside – the girl was with hijab, but when became dark she took out her hijab. So what means to wear hijab in Indonesia? Fashion? About this I will tell you later :)

So this is my story behind the lanterns beauty.

Have you been in Vesak celebration in Indonesia or somewhere else? What was your experience?

  • Each year Vesak day celebrated in different days. You can check in calendar when will be celebration in 2018 and 2019.
  • Prices of parking and everything else rises double during the celebration. Parking in front Borobudur 20 000 Rp. You can go and search for any other place, further and can find for 5 000 Rp. Just before leaving the motorbike ask till what time is parking. Because some of the people cheating and let park motorbike only till 6 pm, so what to do till all the celebration finish?
  • If you are foreigner, be ready to get attention from locals. There comes a lot of people and will ask many pictures with you. One of my Indonesian friend advised me, to try educate those who asks pictures. Just ask why you want a picture with me if we are equal. I’m a human like you, just look differently, like people from different Indonesian islands looks differently.
  • If you want to walk through all procession wear good shoes, the distance not far, but it will be very slow, will take 2-3 hours of walk.
  • To donate money for lantern you can during daytime in Mendut temple. You will see signs and people who will walk around and suggest you to donate. It’s really worth – you get lantern, get into Borobudur and final ceremony part.
    Pricing for entrance ticket to Borobudur temple.

Interesting? Great! :) You might also like these:

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Mount Merapi defeated me

How many times you read bad or failure stories? Somehow most of the people shares only good things. In one hand it’s good – more positive thoughts – creates more positive things. But in other hand – is it real life, when everything goes just right?

I have such story – “failure” one – how mount Merapi defeated me ;). And want to show that not only sun shines in Indonesia, but sometimes comes some clouds as well (but beautiful ones) :).

Many people that I know, who comes or stays longer in Yogyakarta, wants at least once, climb up to mount Merapi and meet there the sunrise. I was one of those people. Just till now, somehow wasn’t right time to do that or people with whom to climb. By the way “Gunung Merapi” (literally “Fire mount”), the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548 (~68 times).

But finally, some of the friends organized night trekking to mount Merapi to meet sunrise. So I wanted to join them for sure (when if not now? :)).

Day before trekking I was a bit nervous – it was my first trekking in life and as well to so high (2930 m.) and vertical mount. I didn’t know what to expect, how my body will adapt it, if I like it and it’s at night. You know, Lithuania is a “flat” country, highest point is 294 m. Also all my trips in Europe somehow wasn’t around hills :D. But at the same time I was excited.

The adventure begins!

We all (8 people) met at meeting point on the way to mount Merapi. We started our motorbike trip ~10:00 pm. Of course, which trip goes without “surprises”? After ~30 min. of driving, one of motorbike got flat tire. So we needed to find who can fix it. We were lucky, like near was one service who was still working in late evening. We wait a bit and moved on.

The road wasn’t the best – holes, not in all parts of the road was lightening, tortuous way. Going higher became colder and colder. We even stopped to dress more clothes before reach the post.

Maybe after couple of hours we were in the post of mount Merapi (from Selo village side). Surprising that in the post nobody was working. Usually, many people come at night for trekking till sunrise. But we were thinking, maybe because of Ramadhan, local people fasting, going to visit relatives and doesn’t go for such trips.

We were trying to find somebody who could park our motorbikes and as well register us that we are going up. Like couple months ago one Indonesian guy died in mount Merapi (he was making selfie in the edge of the top and slipped). After that, the rules to entering and leaving mount Merapi became stricter. As well it’s not allowed anymore to climb exactly to the top (the last point is ~500 m from the real top of mount).

Finally we found responsible people (they were already sleeping – it’s normal thing to do at midnight :D). The registration, parking took us ~40 min., because of waiting we started freeze (you know at ~1 am in high place, not so warm, even in Indonesia). We saw some other motorbikes, guy in the post told that they arrived day before and are camping in mount Merapi national park.

After all bureaucracy things, we dressed the warmest clothes, covered all naked parts and started to trek.

Already from the beginning, after the post, the road was quite sharp (in my opinion, from person who never made trekking ;)). After maybe 15 min. my lungs were almost locked. I couldn’t breathe properly. I don’t know why, maybe because of nerves, pressure or first time such activity. The rest 6 people went up and me with friend decided not to be in a rush and go slowly.

Little by little we were going up, the path was more complicated, slippery sand and not wide. I needed stop more and more times. During stops we meet couple of foreigners groups (probably they came with travel agencies that organizes trips). In my mind already was an idea to go back, but I thought maybe still little by little I would manage to go to the top.

Unfortunately, after almost 1 hour of going up, I decided to go down. Yeah, I gave up (even if it’s not common to me). Just I was a bit afraid that if I will go further up and I will feel worst then I will make problems for myself and the entire group. So I decided that better not to push myself and make problems for others. I didn’t reach even the mount Merapi national park gate (that is in ~1 km distance from post). Pity :( But at least, now I know that I need to prepare more for trekking trips. I already imagine how I would be trekking in Lombok island, mount Rinjani, when I planned to do it during my 3 weeks trip there. But at that time, park was closed because of rainy season, so need to change my plans. Now I think it was a sign :D.

The way down was even more difficult because of slippery sand and bluff way. I even couple times slipped (I had proper shoes for trekking). Going down took me the same 1 hour.

But not to go to the top of mount Merapi was the worst part :D. The most “exciting” part was when we (me and my friend) came to post and wanted to take motorbike for going back. What do you think? Everything was closed (why they should be open, if usually people return in late morning from the top?). 2 hours (truly I’m not lying) we were knocking all possible doors, windows, going around the building, even sitting in the street and hoping that some neighbor will pass and would tell us how to reach responsible people. But nothing. The weather was more and more freezing.

During our waiting for a “miracle” that somebody will open the door, one foreigner couple didn’t reach the top as well and came back. So it seems not only me can’t handle mount Merapi – I feel a bit better about it :D.

Finally! ~5 am the people in post heard us and open the door. But it was too cold to go by motorbike straight back (usually in the mornings very cold wind). So we decided to wait a bit, warm up and then go.

We started to chat with the post guy and he told us, that before Merapi eruption the way to the top was much better, but now even for him, who is trekking there almost all life – quite difficult to go. As well, he told that it’s common that people not handle go to the top (may “failure” became smaller :)). And when we told that we wanted to see sunrise, he started to laugh and told that from his house (beside the post) we can see sunrise as well. Just need to wait till ~6 am. So like it left ~45 min. we decided to stay and at least see something ;).

It was very beautiful view! (even it was totally cold). The sun came like from the sea line and colors was so clear; I could say “dramatic”. I felt relieved that at least I had amazing views: in front – sunrise, in the left mount Merbabu softly lighten by sun and twin mounts Sindoro and Sumbing, in the back small part of mount Merapi.

Beauty of mount Merapi

After 15 min. we left – tired and still freezing (I can just imagine how guys felt on the top). On the way, we saw beautiful views of Merapi, other mounts, daily people life’s, active morning market. I was surprised how many traditional Javanese houses there, still build in old way with “gedheg” (like “big tent”). And almost no rice fields – but big plantations of different vegetables. I think if you don’t want to trek but have beautiful views, it’s just enough to come to that area in early morning, before sun goes up ;).

So this is how my first mount Merapi defeated me :D. I don’t know if soon I would like to go there again, but maybe later I be ready more and will win! :).

Now in my mind thoughts how will be in mounts Bromo and Ijien that I plan to visit :D. Hope much better :D.

What is your experience in trekking in mount Merapi or other Indonesian mount? :)

  • If you are not trekker, I suggest at least, one week before the trip, have some more physical activities – riding bicycles every day and etc.
  • It’s not easy to see the post at night, especially when it’s closed, so here is the photo, not to miss it ;).
  • Entrance fee for locals and students – 15 000 Rp. For tourists 155 000 Rp and on holidays, weekends – 225 000 Rp.
  • It took us ~2,5 hour to get there from Yogyakarta with motorbikes.
  • We fill full back of fuel and it was enough go both ways.
  • The post guy told us, that experienced trekkers, reach the top during ~3 hours, others (depends on their condition) during ~4-6 hours. The tourist groups came ~1-2 am and sunrise is at ~6 am, so organizers probably knows that 4 hours should be enough to reach the top.
  • Take with you snacks, enough water, properly clothes (gloves, hat, socks, warm sweater, jacket, scarf, shoes suitable for trekking, flash light, if you are coming near the beginning or in the end of rainy season, take raincoat).
  • Avoid trekking in the rainy season which spans late October to early April.
  • If you want to go there by motorbike – ride north out of Yogyakarta on Jl. Magelang for ~45 min. When you reach Mungkid turn right into Jl. Bololali – Mungkad and head towards Ketep. At Ketep turn right and continue following the Jl. Bololali – Mungkad into Selo. From Selo ride up the steep road (on the right as you come into Selo).
  • There are no straight buses to go to Merapi. You can reach the sub-village by public transportation from Yogyakarta (Jambor station) to Magelang, stopping at Blabak and continued by minibus or hichkiking to Selo. Afterwards, you will need to walk through asphalt roads to the post.
  • I know that those who comes with public bus, usually comes in the early evening to the last village Selo, stay for couple of hours in the hostel (there are several – just ask people, they knows who accept guests) and then goes up.
  • More practical information here.

Interesting? Great! :) You might also like these:

First time in Indonesia
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