MEET THE STUDENT: Indonesia meets Norway

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Isabelle Konghaug og Anne Haws, Meet the Student.

“Meet the student” is a column written by Isabelle Kongshaug and Anne Marie Haws. The columnist meets students from different countries who live in Rogaland, and talks about their home country and their lives in Norway.

She comes from the fourth most popular country in the world and moved to Norway for a master’s degree in Environmental Technology. She misses the spicy and tasty Indonesian food, but not the traffic jams in the crowded capital, Jakarta.

Anissa Sukma Safitri grew up in Garut, Indonesia. She moved to the city Bandung to study Environmental Engineering at Institute Technology Bandung – one of the most popular engineering schools in Indonesia. Later she found work as an engineer in environmental consulting in Jakarta, before moving to Stavanger for a master’s degree.

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Can you describe your home town?
I grew up in Garut. It’s a nice and small city located on the west side of Java island. Indonesia consists of over 14 thousand islands, and Java is the most populous of them with about 140 million people. Garut is a Sundanese ethnic town in the highlands, surrounded by mountains, volcanoes, and lakes. It’s a calm and quiet city, maybe not as quiet as Stavanger, but much calmer than the capital, Jakarta, where I lived for a while before coming to Norway. I loved living in Garut, because of all its parks and open areas, and also the mountains surrounding the city. The northern part of the region is reserved for development of the city while the southern region is rich with beautiful coastline, nature and scenery.

How was schooling in Indonesia?
I spent six years in elementary school, three years in junior high school, three years in senior high school, and four years for my bachelor’s degree. During junior high school I was involved in some student activities such as the student union and traditional dance lessons. My best time in school was during senior high when I followed the same class for three years, and we were all preparing for further studies, so it was a good atmosphere. In my spare time I love painting, sewing and crafting, and I also joined the sports club because I like swimming a lot.

Tell us about culture and language in Indonesia?
All Indonesians belong to different ethnic groups, and with that comes different traditional art, music and dance. We also speak different languages, though everyone can communicate in Indonesian, which is the official language. My traditional language is Sundanese, and that is also the language I speak at home. I find the traditional language more difficult than Indonesian, because it has a more complex grammar. Altogether there are over 700 indigenous languages in Indonesia, and they are all very different from each other, so I can’t understand any of the other traditional languages.

What kind of music is popular in Indonesia?
The popular music is very similar to the western music, with genres like RnB, pop and rock. We also have an Indonesian music style called «dangdut», which is popular especially in the countryside. The «dangdut» music has influences from Malay and Arabic music, and today it’s often a mix of traditional elements and more modern music styles. I’m not a big fan of the music, but many people like it and dance to it.

What are the biggest differences living in Norway compared to Indonesia?
The food. Oh, I miss Indonesian food! The weather is very different. In Indonesia we only have two seasons – dry season and rainy season. And it’s very hot, even during rainy season the temperature is high. The way people interact is also very different. Indonesian people talk a lot, even with people they don’t know.

What do you miss about the Indonesian food?
«We use a lot of different ingredients and spices when we cook. For one Indonesian dish you can easily use more than ten different ingredients, which makes it very tasty. One of my favorite dishes is «rendang», a traditional Indonesian dish with meat, coconut milk and a lot of spices. It takes about eight hours to make, because you have to cook the meat for a very long time. Sometimes here in Norway I meet up with my Indonesian friends and we cook together in the dormitories.

Can you recommend some tourist attractions in Indonesia?
The beaches, of course! The islands Bali, Lombok and Karimun are popular destinations, both for tourists and for Indonesians who want to go on vacation. Raja Ampat is also famous to foreigners, there US dollar can be used as currency. There are coral reefs in the sea, so you can go snorkeling. The water is crystal clear and the view is literally breathtaking.

Why did you choose to come to Norway to study?
I had read some books by the Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder, and he describes the beauty of the Norwegian nature. This made me curious, so I looked up the universities here. Now I’ve lived in Norway for almost two years, and I will finish my master’s in Environmental Technology in June this year. I’ve learned a lot during my studies here, and I have improved my English a lot. And I’ve learned some Norwegian as well!

What are your plans after graduation?
When I’m done I would like to find work here in Norway. If I can’t find work here I’d like to go back to my old work as an environmental engineer in Jakarta, though I don’t really miss the traffic jams going to and from work in such a crowded city. I’m also thinking about applying for a PhD in the future.

Facts about Indonesia
Capital: Jakarta
Independence: 1945
Population: 255 million people
Islands: approx. 14 thousand
Most populous island: Java
Major religion: Islam

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