These past two months in Bandung have been a whirlwind introduction to life in Indonesia. Before arriving in Bandung, I spent three weeks in Yogyakarta. I really enjoyed my time there, especially my many visits to Space Coffee Roastery which I still miss, but I have now come to think of Bandung as my home away from home. I arrived in Bandung from Jakarta on the intercity train from Gambir Station to Kota Bandung Station at the end of February 2023.
It was hard to anticipate what life would be like in Indonesia. I came here to conduct my PhD research on the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway. It may be surprising to learn that I planned to live in Indonesia for over a year for my research without having visited Indonesia before. I prepared for my time here by reading about varied topics related to Indonesia, and especially related to my dissertation project. Fortunately, at the University of Colorado Boulder, my home institution, there are at least two professors whose research is focused on Indonesia so that I was able to discuss with them, prior to my travel here, their experiences in Indonesia and my project. However, there is only so much secondhand information can prepare you for living in a different country. Fortunately, I had a network already in Indonesia, through the university system, that has been generous in welcoming me and supporting me during my time here.
In Bandung, Universitas Islam Negeri Sunan Gunung Djati Bandung’s Fakultas Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik (FISIP) welcomed and supported me immediately upon my arrival. From helping me navigate finding an apartment in the city to providing opportunities for me to connect with the academic community in the department. Due to their support, I was able to begin to have a sense of community. This was essential in helping me feel grounded as I grew to know the place that will be my home for the next year and a half. Though I must say, Bandung is a pretty easy city to enjoy with many great restaurants and cafes to visit as well as fun outdoor activities. For example, Taman Hutan Raya is a great park for a weekend hike.
Shortly after my arrival, I gave a presentation introducing my theoretical approach to studying the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway at FISIP. I gave my presentation along with Dean Ali who presented on infrastructure development under President Widodo. It was an invaluable opportunity to learn from Dean Ali and to gather initial feedback from other members of FISIP on how I was approaching my research. We had a spirited question and answer session where challenging questions were asked, and feedback was given that helped me refine my project.
I can now say that I feel very comfortable living in Bandung. I have relished the beginning stages of my research while I get to know Indonesia. It has been invaluable learning about my new home with friends, such as the connections I have developed within UIN’s FISIP. Over the next year, I look forward to pursuing my dissertation research and to continuing to stay connected, personally and professionally, with UIN.