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Precious Experience in Indonesia인도네시아
황지연 생활환경복지학과 3학년  |  trbune@cnumedia.com
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승인 2008.01.19  13:48:38
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Precious Experience in Indonesia

By Hwang Ji-yeon, Junior, Department of Family Environment & Welfare

▲ Hwang Ji-yeon with children dressed up in traditional indonesian costumes

Don’t Let Your Chance Go
  Before telling my story of adventures in Indonesia, I should begin to talk about the reason I applied for an overseas internship program of the May 18 Memorial Foundation. That story goes back two years. . While I was hesitating to apply as a student ambassador of Chonnam National University (CNU), one of my upperclassmen who is friendly with me said, "If you let this chance go, you might be regret it in your future. Do you want to regret losing a good opportunity for a variety of experiences in your younger days?" I was totally impressed with his saying because I was just 20 years old.

I took my courage in both hands for getting a chance, and finally I got it. As an ambassador of CNU, I could be faced with more chances than before. It is one of the main roles when foreign guests visit our university we guide them and make them understand many things about our university. Through this experience I needed acquire “global-eyes” which means a person who can hold conversations of international topics. I applied to the internship program and took an opportunity to improve my global sense. Now I am in here, in Indonesia.

Difference is Nothing

▲ A class of Children Learning Group

  On August 2, 2007, I was on an airplane heading for Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, which is called the “Heart of East Asia” because the headquarters of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is located there. While eating 'Bibim-bab' on the airplane, I thought it could be the last Korean food I could eat by the time I would return to Korea. This is only the beginning of my long journey. Before going to Indonesia I tried to get some information on living there, but I could not find any books that had information about traveling in the country or its history. I was so afraid at that time nor could I not know about the country which I would be living in for ten months. 

   I have known that Indonesia is a country which has the fourth-largest population in the world and most of whom follow the Islamic faith. It has the largest Muslim population in the world. In this regard, Indonesia still seems to be still a largely unknown and unfamiliar to most Koreans.

▲ Indonesian children show their photos
  At firs,t everything was not going well to me. I had difficulties in adapting myself to the Indonesian environment, which is completely different from Korea’s. Indonesia has a tropical climate and also only has two seasons, the dry season and the rainy season. The average daily temperature of Jakarta is over 35 degree Celsius all year round. Hot weather was greatly bothering me. Indonesians’ life styles were also strange to me, such as using their hands for eating food and using them instead of toilet paper in restrooms.

During the first month, it was most difficult to have discussions on religious matters with natives. I have no religion, but they countlessly asked me the reason why I had no any religion. It was quite unpleasant being asked such questions because I thought that religion should be a personal choice and not an obligation. Now I understand them by realizing their questions were based on different culture and background. Here is a good example. In order that they issue identification cards they should fill out their own religions in the cards under Indonesian law. To Indonesian people, religion is not a personal choice, but it is a duty and a part of daily life itself.

  To overcome those difficulties was a task that I had to finish. However, I realized that I had already assimilated into the Indonesian culture and way of life. I began using my hands for eating food and began having a tolerance for hot weather. I currently know that lack of information is not important. It is the critical to have a flexible attitude for obtaining useful information and for understanding cultural differences in other countries. I kept learning all of the real Indonesia step by step. Difference is nothing!


Into the Urban Poor Community

  Through the internship program, the May 18 Memorial Foundation dispatches student volunteers to the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC), where I will have worked as an intern until May, 2008. The UPC is a kind of NGO in Indonesia that works with the urban marginalized groups and international volunteers to solve Indonesian urban poverty problems. To defend the rights of the urban poor, it aims to develop strong people’s organizations and networks, through which they can reclaim their right to live healthy and safely as human beings in the city, Jakarta.

  The goal of the UPC is grassroots empowerment through advocacy, organizing and networking. The grassroots organizing programs is divided into alternative health care, children’s learning and saving through garbage recycling. There are 32 communities managed by the UPC in Jakarta. The communities are usually formed along rivers and around railroads in the city, and their residential environment do not have any facilities like water supplies that are close. They should even procure water for drinking and washing from a distance waterworks office after payment all the time. To make matters worse, they become poorer and poorer owing to the lack of jobs.

▲ A meeting with leaders of children's learning groups of 19 communities

  I would like to be a help to children in the urban poor communities and work with the members of children’s learning groups. I usually visited the children’s learning groups in 19 poor communities in Jakarta and participated in weekly meetings in the communities with teachers from each children’s learning group. I cannot but firstly communicate with peoples in the communities in English, and it was very difficult. However, I decided to learn the Indonesian language to understand their living situation deeply.

   I can speak Indonesian smoothly for conversation with others in the office and the communities in three months after that decision, and then I feel more familiar with them and to get opportunities for direct communication. As a result, I could know the details of their conditions better. Since then, I have tried to do my volunteer service activities harder. I started to investigate child abuse problems in poor families. I hope my research data could be adopted to improve children’s condition in urban poor families.

Pursue Your Desire

  It is not simple to live alone by myself in a foreign country, but I am sure that during the internship term I acquired a variety of experience. Though I am still a student, I have lived a social life as a staff member of an NGO before graduation. I would like to say to CNU students, “Pursue your desire in your younger days, and jump into the new and unfamiliar world for your better future.”


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