Students around the world are accustomed to the delights of instant noodles, but have you tried them Indo-street-style? Indonesia is cheap, hot, fascinating and the food is exceptional. The culture is rich and diverse, the history enthralling and heartbreaking and the plethora of wondrous natural and man-made sites; from colossal temples to active volcanoes, matchless coral reefs to wild rainforests will knock your flip-flops off.

Indonesia has a great collection of excellent universities as well as abundant textile, art, music and other courses tailor-made for international students. The most popular subject to study in Indonesia is language; whether you’re keen to master Arabic in the world’s largest Muslim nation or want to learn the national dialect: Bahasa Indonesia.

While the study of language is the most common program choice for international students in Indonesia there are many other options to consider. Who could say no to completing part of a degree on a tropical island?


Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) is the language of instruction in the vast majority of universities. There are courses specifically set up for students wishing to study Indonesian in-country. These programs can be an extension of Indonesian study at your home university or a totally separate entity. If you’re looking for a different course but still want to converse in the local tongue, there are heaps of options for you to consider. Check what your chosen placement has to offer.

Academic Life

Wear long trousers and shirt to class! Especially in Islamic universities it’s culturally unacceptable to show up to a lecture in a t-shirt and shorts, even if the climate demands it. Make sure you pack loose-fitting, modest (cover your elbows and knees, mind your cleavage) clothing so you can cover up while keeping cool. Ladies are not expected to wear a jilbab or hijab unless they choose to.


Housing options in Indonesia are many and varied. If you don’t mind passing up a few creature comforts then the best way to immerse yourself in the experience is to live on-campus in an ‘asrama’ or similar dorm setup. Otherwise, off-campus student accommodation such as a ‘kos’ is the way to go. Anything from a five-star resort to a simple homestay are probably on the cards too. Most programs include or organize accommodation, or can help find suitable housing.

The most popular cities for studying abroad in Indonesia are located on the island of Java. It’s the most populace island in the archipelago, home to the capital city and full of great study and travel opportunities. But don’t limit your search for a placement to Java. Sumatra and Bali also have fantastic universities, as do many of the nation’s thousands of islands.

  • Yogyakarta: Yogya is the home of study abroad in Indonesia; there are numerous universities ideal for international students to study arts, Indonesian, Javanese and much more. The city’s vibe is a perfect blend of traditional culture and progressive thinking; a modern university town that still has a sultan at its head. The city encompasses and is surrounded by some of the best tourist attractions in the country; The Kraton, Borobudur, Jalan Marlioboro, Prambanan and Mt. Merapi are all on the must-see list.
  • Malang: If you’re keen to escape the tourist trails and delve into a genuine Indonesian experience then maybe the leafy, green streets of Malang are for you. Tucked away in the mountains of East Java, in the shadow of the breathtaking Mt. Bromo, Malang is cooler than most parts of Indonesia, and not just because of the climate. Universitas Islam Negeri (UIN) and Universitas Muhammidiyah are among the universities which host internationals as language and research students.
  • Jakarta: Jakarta is big. It’s full of money, poverty, opportunity, culture, universities, business and lots of people. For those go-getters who love the big city and want to be in the thick of the economic and cultural hub of the nation Jakarta is where it’s at. Jakarta’s airport links pretty much everywhere in Indonesia; so it’s a short flight from wherever you want to go.
Social Life and Student Culture in Indonesia

A common practice in Indonesia is for the host university to provide a pendamping or ‘buddy’ for an international student. These guys are an amazing resource for discovering the best and cheapest eateries, the coolest coffee shops and for proof-reading assignments!

As a local student you can sometimes use your ID card to gain entry to attractions for a discount price!

There isn’t much of a drinking culture in Indonesia, especially in the Muslim areas. But Jakarta and Kuta (Bali) are known for their outrageous club scenes and no matter where you are you can always find somewhere to relax with a beer.

Student Visas

To study in Indonesia you will need a sosial/budaya (social/cultural) visa. These can be obtained by most nationalities if you have a sponsor (usually your university or educational institution). Sosial/budaya visas are generally valid for three months and are extendable. They must be obtained from an Indonesian embassy or consulate before you travel. It’s always worth checking the current visa regulations because they can change without notice.

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and its economy is one of the fastest growing. If you’re looking for a leg up in the international business world, the challenge of living a new way of life or respite from a cold climate then spend a semester in Indonesia!


Your best bet for securing a scholarship to study in Indonesia is to look within your home country. Many governments around the world are encouraging students to learn Asian languages and will gladly contribute funds to your Indo-Odyssey (this is particularly true in Australia). Here are some places to start your search:

Contributed by Pat O’Shea

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