Studying abroad in Indonesia changed my perspective on what it means to immerse yourself in a culture. Being able to live with local families in the jungle of the Mentawai Islands, roaming around the crowded markets of Padang, and experiencing the tourism of Bali, this trip allows you to experience Indonesia through its vast array of cultures, something that Indonesia is not short of. With its 17,000 culturally diverse islands, Indonesia is the perfect location to study the ever-changing cultural transformations that take place within the country.
We lived with a local family in the depths of the jungle for a week where they taught us about their local traditions, talked to us about how their lives have changed due to a change in their government, and made us feel welcome in their home. During this week we were able to explore the dense, muddy jungle and hike to a traditional house where the family’s elder still lives. With Professor Hammons helping us translate, we were able to get some insight into the changes he has seen, the traditions they choose to uphold, and what it would mean if we grew up living in this village. With little to no electricity, sleeping under bug nets and bathing in the river, you are really able to experience this culture first hand and form bonds with those living in the community.
While this portion of the trip was mentally and physically exhausting at times, it really changed my view on what it means to learn about a culture first hand and the impacts that traditional tourism has on those communities. This was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so grateful that I was able to form a connection with a place so far away from home.