When you’re miles away from the comforts of home and what’s familiar to you, studying abroad can suddenly present many challenges.
For many international students, the overseas education experience doesn’t just mean integrating into the local lifestyle and culture but also finding ways to reaffirm who they are and stay connected to their own heritage.
With a large Indonesian student community here in Melbourne, we wanted to prepare a guide on how Indonesian students can get a sense of familiarity abroad and get a taste of home. Conversely, if you’re someone who wants to just connect with the Indonesian student community — perhaps you’re learning Bahasa or you’re just enamoured by Indonesian culture — this primer might also come in handy for you!
Connecting with the community
There are several ways to get connected to other Indonesians in Melbourne. For most students, the most common way to do so would be to engage with Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia-Australia (PPIA), otherwise known as the Indonesian Students Association.
PPIA operates on multiple levels. The state organisation, PPIA Victoria, operates to help meet the wider concerns of Indonesian students looking to engage with statewide members. Meanwhile, the many PPIA branches in Victorian universities help students integrate better and give students the opportunity to make friends and establish new and meaningful connections.
These Victorian PPIA branches can be found in institutions such as: Deakin University, Holmes Institute, La Trobe University, Melbourne University, Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University, Victoria University, and William Angliss Institute.
Outside of universities, faith-based youth organisations also encourage students to participate and engage with others too.
Mudika is an Indonesian Catholic youth community in Melbourne, headquartered at the Monastery Hall of St. Francis’ Church, and invites students to join in fun activities, monthly mass, sports, and its annual fellowship retreat.
Indonesian Muslim Community of Victoria (IMCV) meanwhile promotes Islam among Indonesian residents in Victoria and similarly hosts religious retreats, sports tournaments and even a food festival.
Events to celebrate and support Indonesians
Many of the major annual Indonesian events in Melbourne are organised by students which may surprise you! The PPIA student clubs from some of Melbourne’s biggest universities often hold annual events that give students a chance to meet new people and deepen their appreciation and understanding of Indonesian culture.
Soundsekerta is an annual music event organised by PPIA Monash University which invites famous musicians from Indonesia to perform for one special and memorable evening. Past years have seen performances from acts such as GAC, Nidji, Maliq & D’Essentials and more grace the Soundsekerta stage.
PPIA Unimelb organises the annual Indonesian Film Festival which not only screens a variety of films from hit comedies and indie arthouse dramas but also invites actors and filmmakers to come along speak about their films. Previous editions of the film festival have seen films such as Hijab (2015), Siti (2014), The Jungle School (2013) screen at the festival and guests like director Joko Anwar and actor Chicco Jerikho attend.
And finally, PPIA RMIT’s charitable campaign, Project O, has raised funds and awareness of Indonesia’s unprivileged students for several years now through its many events. These events are often fun gatherings of Indonesian students in support of an amazing cause.
Indonesian dining in Melbourne
Take it from a fellow Indonesian: finding Indonesian food that’s as great as it is back home can be tough in Melbourne.
Homesick Indonesian students might find the flavor less authentic but that isn’t to say, however, that there is a lack of Indonesian in Melbourne. If you’re looking to get your fill of spices and coconut milk-engulfed meals, there are several places that you can visit.
Salero Kito Padang, located inside the Tivoli Arcade on Bourke St, touts itself as the first restaurant to serve authentic Padang cuisine in the heart of Melbourne. Serving the tastes of West Sumatran, dishes here are affordable and Halal-certified.
Meanwhile, Blok M, which is just a quick walk away from Salero Kito Padang and on the way to the very popular Hardware Lane, offers a little piece of Jakarta in the city. Its wide range of Indonesian dishes are often affordable and some Indonesians even consider Blok M to be the best place to get Indonesian food in Melbourne.
One of the newest Indonesian restaurants to appear in the city, Fat Oma, is also recommended. Located on Swanston St between Bourke St and Chinatown, this quaint eatery has a simple menu packed full of flavoursome dishes that don’t back down on spiciness.
If you’re feeling a little adventurous or just living and studying in the Clayton area, Warung Gudeg is also a great option for authentic meals from Central Java. A family run eatery Indo Sari in Glen Huntly is also is well worth a try and is just a few steps away from Glen Huntly station.
While this guide is purely intended for Indonesians or those looking to engage with Indonesians, similar approaches can also be adopted for other community groups abroad.
But that also shouldn’t mean that Indonesians, or other community groups, should stick entirely to their own. Just keep in mind also that while it is good to connect with your roots and get a sense of home while you’re overseas, especially if you’re feeling a bit homesick, you can still have some amazing experiences simply by reaching out to others too! Your community will always be there.