🇬🇧 My experiences as a Guestlecturer at University Padjadjaran (UnPad, Bandung, Indonesia) (2) 🇮🇩

🇬🇧 GG: I had the honor of being invited by the Department of Cultural Studies & Languages of the University Padjajaran (Bandung, Indonesia) to held a lecture in English and an intercultural workshop for the Professors of the German Department (in German).

As it was an interesting and exciting experience for me, I decided to write a few words about what I think might be worth to share.
To be sincere, it was the first time that I am in Indonesia and my knowledge about this culture was very limited. I was aware to come to the country with the biggest Muslim population of the world, which has experienced an economic boom recently. But did you know, that it s population is the fourth largest in the world with about 360 ethnicities and 700 different languages? I also had read in intercultural guidebooks about the famous „Gummizeit“, what means that time is something very elastic here, and that one should better keep relaxed when things are not going fast. Another thing I had just read in an article was that social media are extremly important, and that everybody (who can afford) is very active in using them. Both facts were confirmed after my arrival at its best (read below). I will start with my professional experience:

Intercultural challenges for Indonesian students studying German

I was surprised to hear, that German language is very popular in Indonesia and that every year, 80-100 students enroll at the German Department. My lecture about Intercultural Communication in the Higher Education context was very well attended. It was exciting for me to hear the student’s questions and to discuss with them. Thus, a very interesting question for me was, how to behave in social media when trying to make friends in Germany. The young woman who asked told that she was trying hard, but not very successfull so far. Well, it has been confirmed by research, that it is difficult for international students to make friends in Germany and we have discussed strategies in intercultural workshops many times and I highlight always that it is very important to create a common ground as soon as possible. But the perspective on social media interaction opens a new dimension of the problem (if one of my readers knows about research concerning this topic, I d be glad to learn more about that).
A student asked if the contact might be hindered by stereotypes Germans have about Indonesians and wanted to know, what Germans think about them (I think, that Germans don’t have specific stereotypes about Indonesians, but they generalize stereotypes about Asians and about Muslims and transfer them to Indonesians) . Another question was, how to be a good student in Germany („just be active and try to be autnonomous, ask questions, when you don’t understand; try to make friends with other students and over all don’t stay in your Indonesian expat networks!). A male student revealed himself as a big fan of WW II history and asked me very specific questions about some Nazi monuments…and he is very keen on visiting Berchtesgaden. When I told this to my Indonesian colleagues, they sad dryly, “ at least the guy has a strong motivation “

During the intercultural workshop with the professors of the German Department (all of them are ladies), we continued discussing the difficulties for Indonesians when they come to Germany for studying. They told about their own experiences and several critical Incidents they experienced (I hope to find a moment to write them down and to upload later). Most striking for them (and for me to hear) was the fact, that they had come with a degree, having been very good students in their countries, and in Germany they felt like absolute beginners, especially because of not understanding many things (e.g. the oral language with different accents, academic language, German university system), what made them lose their self consiousness. And they were not prepared for the ‚Selbständigkeit‘ (autonomy) which is expected from students in Germany, so that some of them, after having been very successfull in their countries, have made frustrating experiences of failure in Germany.
This was a confirmation for me of my work being useful in trying to sensitize German faculty and staff of how to support talented students from other learning cultures in a better way.

Challenges and surprises of a German lecturer visiting Indonesia

So the challenges I experience here so far are not really concerning human interaction, but rather causes by weather, cataclysms and infrastructure.

1) Inch’allah – Time is not calculable because of nature and infrastructure

This was confirmed after my arrival at its best: Having arrived after a 15 hours flight in Bandung with the airport shuttle bus (which instead of 4 hours took 5 for 200 km), I took a taxi which should bring me in 30-40 minutes to the house of a German colleague. The taxi moved extremely slowly forwards because of a traffic jam. After 1 hour I started to wonder what was happening, but the taxidriver didn’t speak English. After 2 hours I became a bit nervous. I asked the driver to call my colleague, and she told me that she had just read that, because of very strong rains the road was flooded and there were traffic jams all over.
Then I experienced the impact of the social media activity in this country: all the colleagues of the German Department are connected in a Whatsapp group and they became very excited and upset when hearing about my difficulties of being stuck in one of the biggest traffic jams one can imagine. As hospitality is very important in this country (I am experiencing this every day), they discussed the problem and tried to find a solution. From now on they kept on discussing amongst them, and calling the taxidriver every 10 minutes. One of the local colleagues said, that she lives very close and that I should spend the night in her house. I agreed, but after one more hour we still hadn’t arrived. And I have had no idea if I was close or far from her or my final destination (the expression „very close“ is also very relative). After another hour I asked the taxi driver to drop me off in a Hotel where I checked in after 4 hours of taxi ride (apparently we had made only 5 km).

In the Hotel, I learnt, that the volcano in Bali, where I want to go next week had just errupted, and in the room I found instructions, how to behave in case of a earthquake…


2) „You cannot stay alone!“

Another (positive surprise!) issue worth to mention my accommodation. I was invited to stay in the house of my German colleague, while she was supposed to travel to another city the day after my arrival. When the Indonesian colleagues heard about that, they were very sorry for me, and decided that I cannot stay alone in the house, because this would be to sad and boring, and I was invited to stay with one of them. I, for my part, quite jetlagged and tired, had nothing against staying alone in that house. But I grasped the opportunity to live 2 days with a charming Indonesian family, which was of course, more fun in the end!

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