Thursday, June 15, 2017

What is Darmasiswa

Me and my two friends after watching an all-night Calonarang, a Balinese purification ceremony with stories of Rangda and the Barong.

The first thing that let me get a taste of the traveling bug was the year-long Darmasiswa scholarship from the government of Indonesia. So if you want to go to Indonesia and delve into another country's art, language, and culture, I suggest signing up for this scholarship. The deadline always comes around on the February or March to apply for the scholarship that begins in September of the same year (or earlier, for certain 3-6 month programs).

On their revamped website this is how they describe the scholarship, 
 “DARMASISWA is a scholarship program offered to all foreign students from countries which have diplomatic relationship with Indonesia to study Bahasa, art and culture. Participants can choose one of selected universities located in different cities in Indonesia. This program is organized by the Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC) in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).” 

You can choose from a list of locations and universities. For me coming from the USA, this was a continuation of my gamelan music studies from Santa Cruz, California. I got my first choice of location which was at the university of ISI Denpasar on the island of Bali. My focus was in what they label as "karawitan" or traditional gamelan music. The whole year experience was nothing I could have imagined... living in Bali was beyond my wildest dreams. The people that I met, the friends that I made, the ceremonies I got to see and participate in were nothing less than extraordinary.

A friend of mine performs in PKB, the annual Balinese Arts Festival
Indonesia is one of the most generous countries in the world for doing this. While you are there, they give you connections to the university as well as money for living expenses. Being in Bali, I used up at least $2000USD from my savings for extra food and music lessons. The government has already done a lot for you. If you stay there on your own, you need to renew your visa every month which can be a hassle even for people used to it. So much so that there are people you can pay to do the process for you.

And the best part is you are doing this with other Darmasiswa scholars. We were about a group of 10-15 scholars. Some of us went on our own path but about 10 of us stuck together as we learned the arts and the Balinese and Indonesian languages. Of course, I also got stuck into some bad habits. I wish I pushed myself more to meet more Balinese and Indonesians. I was too embarrassed to make mistakes in a foreign language and make a fool of myself. That's what I needed to learn the language and the etiquette. The Indonesians are a very friendly people. Despite how much money from tourism can darken certain Indonesian mindsets, there are hundreds more Indonesians who are willing to help you.

A word of advice, travel consciously and keep a journal. It's very easy for this to be a year-long vacation. So know that there will be plenty of time to rest and have fun. This is Indonesia opening its doors to you. Learn about them and learn with them how they can connect with you and the world. I'm still wondering how I can help them out. For now, I'm teaching gamelan here in Mexico City, but I think the least they want is for the world to know about their land and culture. All my friends were curious when I came back...

Wearing Balinese ceremonial clothes at a Balinese family ceremony

The Official Darmasiswa Website

If you have any questions about the process or anything you have read on this website, feel free to contact me through Facebook: Brandon Yu

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