EVERY year, some 14,000 students from Indonesia enroll to study in Australia. And I’m one of them.
One of the first things I discovered when I first arrived in Melbourne last year was how life wasn’t going to be as dramatically different as what I had imagined. It’s amazing what you can find here, and anywhere else in Australia these days, really.
A good place to connect with people from home is through the Indonesian Students Association of Australia, otherwise known as the Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia Australia (PPIA). PPIA has branches across campuses including Melbourne University, RMIT University and Monash University.
Numerous social events are held through the year. PPIA Melbourne University held an Indonesian cultural music night at the Melbourne Convention Centre last year, and is planning to organise another one this year.
Miss the nasi uduk or pecel your mom used to cook for you back in Indonesia? My friends and I compiled a list of places we think are pretty good.
In and around the city, there’s Nelayan Indonesian Restaurant (265 Swanston St), Bali Bagus (85 Franklin St) and Es Teler (319 Swanston St; 162 Cardigan St).
For something a little bit different, head to the “drive-in” Garage Cafe at 221 Berkeley St, Carlton. As its namesake suggests, the cafe is housed in a 700sqm garage. Park on one side and dine at the other, fitted out with chunky Balinese furniture and ornamental umbrellas. And it’s not just about the décor, the food’s good too.
Further afield, there’s Bamboe Cafe & Restaurant (643 Warrigal Rd, Chadstone).
I know friends from other countries find this a strange concept, but you can also have home-cooked food delivered to your home just like in Indonesia. When I first arrived in Melbourne, a friend recommended Indo Sari and Annie’s Catering.
If you would rather cook for yourself, visit Laguna Oriental Supermarket (221 Little Lonsdale St). The rows and rows of towering shelves stocked full of speciality produce, Indonesian snacks and drinks will make you feel like you’ve never left home. On your way out, pick up a copy of the free Indonesian print publication Buset.
For an extensive listing of Indonesian restaurants and catering services available in Victoria, see the directory on PPIA’s website.
And as a final word, get comfy, but not so comfy you miss out on getting to know people outside of the Indonesian community.
Volunteering is a great way to meet people. In addition to the PPIA, I decided to join my university’s student union committee to expand my network.
I got to make new friends, organise events and pick up new skills as the activities officer for the Melbourne University Overseas Student Service. I made some mistakes along the way, but those mistakes did teach me many things about life.