It’s official: I’m moving to INDONESIA, studying in Malang for a year!

It’s been the craziest of months, or heck, YEARS for me. FULL of lows, but the highs are FINALLY here: I AM moving to INDONESIA, on a FULL-RIDE scholarship. It is OFFICIAL!!! Here’s when I made the announcement to my Facebook fans 2 weeks ago:

I was so busy signing contracts, looking for cheap flights, having serious conversations with my boyfriend and family members, etc. that I couldn’t blog about it until now! And just wait until I tell you, the situation it’s a weee bit crazier than we all expected…

Moving to Indonesia — and a city I had never heard about (until now)

SO! The first thing you’ll notice is that I wasn’t sent to Yogyakarta, my first choice. Heck, I wasn’t even sent to my second choice, which was close to Jakarta. In fact, I was sent to the Muslim University of Malang (Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang), also known as UMM. While I am a Christian, you know I lived over 16 months in North Africa (Egypt and Morocco), so I am quite used to living in a Muslim society. So the fact that they sent me to a Muslim school is not an issue — it will be quite exciting to see the nuances between Muslim Indonesians and Muslim North Africans, actually. But

moving to Indonesia, Malang caldera

Where are you guys sending me…!? [Malang’s caldera by Flickr user]

I had never heard of Malang. Ever.

It was nowhere in my application: all I talked about was how I interesting UGM’s Bahasa Indonesia program was, due to the mix of field trips and classroom instruction. Furthermore, Yogyakarta is known as the cultural center of Indonesia, which would allow me to delve deep into their customs, traditions, arts, music, DANCE. But like my boyfriend said, be careful what you wish for…! Imagine my shock and mixed emotions when I saw that I was selected, but sent to a campus and city I had never heard of…

I hyperventilated. Freaked out. Cried. I didn’t know how to feel.

Malang city panorama, moving to Indonesia

OH! For a moment I thought I had been sent to the middle of the jungle…              [Deshi Yin, Flickr]

“What an experience that will be!” yapped my boyfriend, as I stood there, frozen. It wasn’t until he sat me down, gave me a big hug, started looking for pictures, video, ANY INFORMATION he could find about “Malang” that I calmed down — and increasingly restored my excitement for this HUMONGOUS move.

Kota Malang traffic, moving to Indonesia

PHEW! Kota Malang traffic by Ikhlasul Amal, Flickr

Malang and Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang

My heart was comforted: the more I read about Malang Indonesia, the more I realized how locals and tourists alike LOVED it. Indonesians have nicknamed it “the Paris of East Java” due to its cool air (elevation) and economic prosperity even. It is quite a small city considering what I’m used to, with about 800,000 residents. Still! I did live in Ifrane, Morocco after all, right? Here’s a video of Kota Malang (in the Indonesian language!) to get us acquainted:

What about my new alma mater? Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang (UMM) only has students from Indonesia and 10 other countries (mostly Asian). This means that either Bahasa Indonesia or other languages will be spoken around me. WHOA! 😀 As for the Darmasiswa scholarship program at this university, it is quite unique and even more intensive than my first choice UGM. I will be taking between 16-19 credits, and if I place at the intermediate level as I hope to, I’ll even have to perform at a freakin’ Indonesian Musical as part of my curriculum. How crazy awesome is that?!


It’s the first time I won’t be attending an American University in any shape or form. I’ll truly be in uncharted territory and honestly, I CAN’T WAIT NOW!

Have you visited Indonesia or Malang? Share your travel tips with me!

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About Maria Alexandra

Maria Laborde, aka latinAbroad, is an open-minded, highly-energetic woman with the spirit of a child. A world citizen, Puerto Rican at heart, carrier of an American passport. A passionate translator and writer, sprinkling Latin spice around the world!

27 thoughts on “It’s official: I’m moving to INDONESIA, studying in Malang for a year!

  1. Enjoy your journey, Indonesia has lots of beautiful islands like Bali, Lombok etc. It’s a good place to explore nature and white sandy beaches. Not too hectic like Thailand. And you can visit Australia too its very near! Congrats on your scholarship!! 🙂

    • thank you very much Sarah! I am so thrilled. I’m a little sad that I won’t be able to visit Australia in a bit though, because it’s so expensive. I do plan to explore Southeast Asia after concluding my studies in Malang Indonesia, though! 😀

  2. Hi, Malang is my hometown and I’ve recently moved back from Bali to this lovely town. If you’re not into hectic big city like Jakarta then you might love it here 🙂
    Let me know if you need anything. Meet up over coffee or local food perhaps? 🙂

    • IA! I might actually need your help looking for a boarding house (kos) to call my new home! I already have several options, we’ll just have to go with you to check them out in person and make sure the contract says what it’s supposed to say 😉 you up for it?!

      Better yet: I’m thinking of starting a series on local Indonesian food, DAILY fun videos, so maybe you can be my partner in crime! 😀 dan saya harus praktikken Bahasa Indonesia dengan kamu!

    • surprisingly Debbie!? Indonesian is SO easy! There are NO plurals (you just repeat the same word twice lol) and NO VERB TENSES — yeah, you read right! The difficulty lies in learning the many synonyms and different words used for the same pronouns. But I believe just a few months there and I’ll be all set. So excited! 😀

  3. Maria Alexandra, I have never heard of Malang, but you seem to have the absolute best attitude for making it work and I’m sure you will love it! Good luck. I can’t wait to read about your adventures!

    • can’t wait to show you all the photos and videos and tales as well, Corinne! it all starts last week of August ;D

  4. Congratulations. You are definitely an adventurer. Learning the language and studying. Living in the culture will be a fantastic experience. Wow “)

  5. I remember when you announced you were applying for this scholarship. I’ve never heard of Malang either, but Paris of East Java and cool temps sound like a great combination to me. Frankly, no one I know who goes to Jakarta ever likes it, so perhaps it’s a blessing that you dodged that one. Even though it’s primarily Muslim, none of the women in the photo you show are wearing headscarves, so it seems that you won’t have to either. Looking forward to hearing all about your adventures there, especially the musical.

    • indeed Michele! As for the musical I don’t know yet, because I will only have to do it if I place intermediate level… but it’ll sure be an experience no matter how you put it! Can’t wait to share it with you guys 🙂

  6. Congratulations, Maria! I’ve been to Bali a few times, Lombok once, and Yogarata. Enjoyed then all. You will have a great time. Living in the “Paris of East Java” would definitely excite me!

    • thanks Nancie! I’m a little nervous and anxious, were really excited to explore the rest of Indonesia, particularly Yogyakarta, Lombok and the Gili Islands 😀

  7. Hola Maria Alexandria, congratulations. That sounds like a great, fun and adventurous opportunity for you. I haven’t heard of Malang but it sounds wonderful being “Paris of the East Java” and definitely sounds like a more pleasant place to live and study than Jakarta. Good luck and looking forward to hear more about your move.

    • thanks Marisol! I can’t WAIT to share the myriads of travel videos I’m planning on coming up with through my YouTube channel and blog! I REALLY want to document this transition into a completely foreign continent to me xx

  8. What a fantastic experience. That must be a challenging language to understand. You are definitely an explorer. Residing in the lifestyle will be a amazing encounter.

    • it was actually very, very easy! They don’t conjugate verbs for gender or number. Rather, they simply put the tense word (which are only a few to memorize) in front of the verb (or the number in front of the things you want to pluralize) and that’s it! It was amazing! 😀

  9. You can try Indonesian high grade coffee direct from the producer. The coffee’s name is Lax Coffee, we’re in Malang thinks that it has the best taste.

    Just try it and you will find out why we liked it. 🙂

    • I really did love it, Lily! Have you read my posts about Bali and other parts of Indonesia?! I definitely have to write more about my life there, though! Soon 😉

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