My journey as an AFS Exchange Student

Bina Antarbudaya
5 min readJan 4, 2019

Afif Akbari Habibie (INA AFS to JAPAN Asia Kakehashi YP 2018–2019)

(Sports festival at Seki High School)

It has almost been 100 days after my wonderful adventure begins. The day I will never forget, the day I marked as the pioneer of my life, the day every other kids not just me has been anticipated. It is incredible how I was able to surpass my expectations, fears and worries. It is very astounding how I am able to survive this long in a country that does not speak Indonesian better yet English.

Being outside of your comfort zone is not an easy thing to do just like someone said, but it is half true and half wrong. At first, you may think how am I supposed to adapt here when people surround me doesn’t even understand a word I’m saying, even worse they don’t know much either about Indonesia. But then, once you go along with the flow, once you find your own tempo eventually it will become much easier and by the time you have somehow adapt, you won’t notice. It took me almost two and a half months to be able to adapt here. Not to mention, to make friends who you can truly treat like the ones back home and being able to freely express your emotion and not get those words stuck at the end of your tongue, it’s funny. How times flies quickly. I am sure that it was just yesterday when I got home, opening a letter knowing that I’ll be going here and now here I am.

Talking about my life in Japan, it has been somehow like a Roller coaster ride for me. My placement is in Gifu Seki, a town where if you look at right and left, you would see paddy fields, farms and outskirts Japan. But, even though it is a countryside like city I am amazed at, there are still a lot of buildings built here. It is the first time I live with different people, different culture and different food. My time here has recently been the best at its peak. I thanks to how hospitable Japanese are especially to my host family. They are now became my family.

(With host family in Gujoodori * traditional Japanese dancing festival)

I study at Seki High School. This school has been around for more than 100 years but had been rebuilt in 2010. Here, I made friends, not a lot but enough to make me enjoying my life here as an exchange student. Talking about exchange experiences, of course, it is not an experience without struggles. One of the hardest obstacles I go through is obviously the language barrier. Throughout my time here in Japan, one thing I notice quickly is that Japanese can’t really speak English fluently or at least Indonesians have better ability in doing so which makes it hard even if you want to speak in English, they will most likely won’t understand a thing you say. However, the more you talk and interact with them, the better you’ll get in communicating. Of course, my Japanese is still far from pro but at least I’m able to understand and express my feelings with ease.

( English bukatsu’s Halloween celebration)

Some says that being an AFS student means that you’ll be Another Fat Student as how the AFS really stands for, but in my case it is wrong. Why? Because Japanese don’t usually eat much and even if they do, in this case my host family, they eat the healthiest food I’ve ever eaten in my whole entire life. Growing up in Indonesia, means growing up with one of the most delicious culinary, though that the fact most of the cuisines are oily but Japanese foods are different. They don’t use oil much and aren’t that spicy comparing to Rendang, Dendeng Balado, chicken curry, Nasi Goreng or Nasi Padang. Because of this case, most Indonesian would struggle including me as Indonesian food would mostly be spicy and rich with flavours.

Going to school has also been the factor on how I lost my weight. You might hear how most Japanese would rather use bicycle than car, yes it’s true. Most of the high schoolers ride bicycles almost every day, apart from rain and other conditions. Having home and school which are 35 minutes away by bicycle, really put that fat in work. As a result, I have lost almost 2 kg by now.

Also, one of the most common things that us, exchange students, feel here is a syndrome called “home sick”. Some may have it early when their new live have just begun, some may even have it halfway through their program and some may even don’t feel it at all. And yes as a normal human being, I have felt that too. It was not until my 75th day here. I felt it really hit me that I missed my hometown so much: parents, family, foods, and would you not believe it, even though I would act careless towards my siblings, being here away from them made me realized the true definition of siblings, those who would back you up when things go bad, those who’ll eventually be there for you (besides parents). It made me realized that siblings is a nice thing to have! This program really does change views and opinion huh?

But all that said, there are also things about Indonesia that we all should be proud of. That is the rich diversity in our culture where I noticed that all after I am here in Japan. Irony isn’t it? I soon realized that, the fact we are all scattered around the world is not to play around and have fun all the time, but also to study cultures, differences, similarities and etc. Because as soon as we walk in through these doors, we are expected to be the pioneer of Indonesia. I’ve been hoping that I would be able to show more about Indonesia not just from my perspective but also from others.

(AFS Chapter Gifu trip to Miyajima, Hiroshima)



Bina Antarbudaya

The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning Official Partner of AFS Programs