Darmasiswa Program 2015 Posted by sasha on Sep 7, 2015 in Uncategorized
Last weekend, people from 82 different countries gathered together at a hotel in Jakarta to kick off the Darmasiswa program for the 2015-2016 school year. Started back in 1974, this program brings people to Indonesia to study the language and culture of the country for an entire year. It’s open to people from all countries that have diplomatic relations with Indonesia, making for a very diverse group from all corners of the world.
This year, over 600 people will study in more than 50 universities scattered across the vast archipelago nation, mostly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Bali. While many focus their studies on Bahasa Indonesia – the national language – plenty will study music, art, and crafts. I feel blessed and honored to be a part of the program this year, which will have me studying Indonesian in the famous Udayana University of Bali. Throughout the year, I’ll be posting about the program and my experiences, along with tons of useful language-learning content and plenty of insight into life on the Island of the Gods in the process. For now, here’s a short look at the kick-off for Darmasiswa 2015.
Opening Ceremony & Orientation
Students from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe – and nearly all points in between – converged on the Grand Sahid Jaya hotel in the nation’s capital for the program’s opening ceremony and orientation. Some had spent multiple days on planes and in airports, but despite the jet-lag and overall exhaustion, everyone was excited to be welcomed by the energetic Darmasiswa staff upon their arrival. It’s no easy task getting 600+ people together, but they did a great job of gathering everyone at the airport, transporting us to the hotel, checking everyone in, getting people their necessary paperwork, start-up cash, and local SIM cards, all in a matter of hours. With a big day ahead, most retired to their rooms, while a few of us gathered in the hotel bar for the first of many Bintangs this year.
Much to my chagrin, the hotel had arranged 5:30 AM wakeup calls for us. After unplugging the room phone, I slept for another hour or so and finally got up for breakfast. The first session of the day was general information about the program, along with a Q&A session. There were tons of questions about everything from our visas, to receiving our stipend, to the official rules for students. A short break allowed for a bit more socializing and much-needed coffee, and the following lecture was all about culture – the inevitable shock of living in a new country and how to deal with it. The speaker – a 70-year old Indonesian woman who spent many years studying in the US – offered plenty of insight and advice mixed in with a bit of humor. At one point, she even had us call out the sound that roosters make in all our respective countries. In case you were wondering, they say “cock-a-doodle-doo” in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia.
After lunch, quite a few of us couldn’t help but retreat to our rooms for a nap. The long flights, early wake-up call, and busy morning caught up to a lot of us. Perhaps the folks in charge may want to consider starting a bit later next year and giving people a little more time to recover from such a long trip and the time difference. Although the afternoon sessions were sparsely attended, we all made it out of our rooms in the evening to meet with our respective schools and see exactly who we’d be sharing a classroom with for the next year. As for me, I’ll be in a group of 14 – all of us from different countries. We got to know each other a bit, and we’re all thrilled to be in the program and especially excited to be spending the year in Bali.
Finally, it was time for the big opening ceremony. Things got started with an amazing performance from an angklung group that’s based in Bandung. A few speeches were given welcoming all of the distinguished guests and Darmasiswa participants, with a couple of cultural performances in between. While people looked a bit groggy and sleepy in the morning, the atmosphere was much different at night. Plenty of folks went all out and dressed up in traditional attire from their country – I forgot my cowboy boots and bald eagle t-shirt at home, unfortunately – and we were all excited to take in some Indonesian culture and officially kick off our year in the country.
The ceremony wound down with a great singer inviting participants on stage to sing along to Katy Perry with her. While most were hesitant to get on stage in front of a large crowd, I tend to jump at the opportunity to publicly make an ass of myself and thus led a small group on stage. Within a matter of minutes, the stage was full of people and flags as we were all united in song. Cameras were out everywhere – on stage and out in the crowd – as everyone tried to capture this awesome moment. This is what the Darmasiswa program is all about – a celebration of our unique cultures, bringing them all together with the purpose of education and exchange. Meeting people from so many different countries in just one weekend was an incredible experience, albeit a bit too short and hectic. With the opening ceremony and orientation finished, we all set out for our respective schools motivated and full of energy for the year ahead.