Information to consider before accepting a Fulbright Grant to Indonesia
Hundreds of former Fulbright grantees have found their time in Indonesia to be a life-changing experience. The average grantee leaves Indonesia having formed an in-depth relationship with one of the largest and most complex countries in the world, and he or she carries the experience into future careers as part of the global Fulbright alumni network. However, successful completion of a Fulbright grant in Indonesia requires overcoming certain challenges, some common to all exchange programs of this kind and some unique to Indonesia. Some of these challenges are as follows.
Under the new Indonesian immigration law, each grantee has to obtain his or her visa through their sponsor in Indonesia, that is, the American Indonesian Exchange Foundation (AMINEF) as the Fulbright Commission in Indonesia. The application must pass through several government agencies, including intelligence agencies, to get the required supporting documents for your visa application, and it is subject to approval or rejection at each step of the process. The whole process can take up to six months.
AMINEF will do everything possible to assist selected grantees in obtaining the necessary visa, but issuance is ultimately the decision of the government of Indonesia and could be delayed or withheld due to circumstances outside the control of AMINEF, the US government, or the grantee. This could lead to a decision to withdraw by the grantee or a decision to cancel the grant by AMINEF. This is extremely rare but always possible.
The Indonesian government requires that your passport is valid for 18 months from the date your grant begins and has at least two empty pages.
Options in many areas of Indonesia are seriously limited. Environmental factors include certain areas prone to flooding and insects and rodents causing comfort and health risks – these can be mitigated through conscientious cleaning and use of the mosquito nets, but they cannot be avoided entirely. Cultural factors include differing perceptions of privacy and acceptable noise levels – living areas in Indonesia are often much nosier than Americans may be accustomed to. Infrastructure issues include interruptions in water and electricity service. AMINEF works with grantees and host institutions to try to ensure acceptable living situations for each grantee, but conditions encountered from site to site vary greatly and a grantee should not expect his or her living situation to be the same as that of other grantees. AMINEF is neither a landlord nor a rental agency.
The re-opening of the Fulbright program in Indonesia after the COVID-19 pandemic will require the Fulbright grantees to understand and accept the additional risks that come with joining the exchange program in an endemic. Also, it will require Fulbright grantees to comply with AMINEF standards for mitigating these risks wherever possible. Please read important travel advice related to the COVID-19 in Indonesia from the US Embassy in Jakarta at the following link https://id.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/covid-19-information/.
Many health risks exist in tropical environments such as Indonesia. The medical care system in Indonesia is not as advanced as that of the United States. Please follow this link https://id.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/doctors/ to check which hospitals throughout Indonesia which are listed on the US Embassy’s website.
Medical insurance and State Department health benefit plans might not cover every kind of treatment a grantee may need. Treatment needed as a result of recreational activities and individual travel may not be covered. Prescription drugs may not be available, and needed treatment may only be available by leaving Indonesia, sometimes at considerable cost via medical evacuation.
Although a medical examination is required before receiving the grant, grantees are responsible for managing their health and carefully considering whether they have any kind of chronic or acute condition revealed in the medical examination or not, which would preclude them from safely doing their grant in Indonesia without convenient access to high-quality medical care. Such conditions could include but are not limited to, allergies, food sensitivities, mental health, bipolar and other disorders.
Benefits provided by the Department of State’s Accident and Sickness Program for Exchanges (ASPE) are subject to limitations, and it is recommended that grantees retain insurance coverage from a different source during their time in Indonesia. Read ASPE’s guidebook here https://www.sevencorners.com/docs/default-source/usdos-documents/usdos-benefit-guide.pdf?sfvrsn=d4c0e7af_1.
Schools and Host Institutions
As in any country, there is a great variety of schools and institutions in Indonesia. Some grantees find their schools and higher education host institutions professional and academically rigorous, while others do not. Conditions encountered from site to site vary greatly, and grantees should not expect their situations to be the same as those of other grantees.
During their Fulbright grant in Indonesia, AMINEF always encourages grantees to maintain their relationship with their affiliate. A good relationship between grantees and host affiliate may become a key factor in a successful grant.
Indonesia tends to be much more socially conservative than the United States, and the schools and communities in which grantees are placed are likely quite different from the university environments from which a majority of grantees come. Significant social adjustment may be required for successful acculturation. Food options may be very limited. Opportunities for socializing in English may be very limited.
Relations between men and women in Indonesia are subject to many dynamics, some of which are similar to those found in the United States and some of which are very different. Male and female grantees may experience sexual harassment, even in professional settings such as placement schools. Grantees may not be able to form friendships with individuals of the opposite gender because of prevailing social norms, and grantees may be subject to gender-based expectations from their community.
Women in Indonesia, including Fulbright grantees, are frequently subject to unwanted attention and what may be perceived as sexual harassment beyond what they normally experience in the United States. While AMINEF has no reason to believe grantees are in physical danger, it is always prudent to exercise caution and heightened awareness when abroad. Gender relations will be a topic discussed at the in-country orientation or your initial briefing, but AMINEF is unable to change the reality that women frequently attract unwanted attention from males in Indonesia, as they do in many other countries in the region. Potential grantees should carefully evaluate their ability to navigate this reality and are advised to decline the grant if they feel they cannot do so.
The following are some information from US Government and Indonesian Government on some areas in Indonesia that may posit dangers to US citizens.
Shootings continue to occur in the area between Timika and Grasberg in Papua. In Central Sulawesi and Papua, violent demonstrations and conflict could result in injury or death to US citizens. The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Central Sulawesi, and Papua, as US government employees must obtain special authorization before traveling to those areas.
Terrorists continue plotting possible attacks in Indonesia. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting police stations, places of worship, hotels, bars, nightclubs, shopping areas, and restaurants.
On January 14, 2016, terrorists using guns and explosives attacked near the Sarinah Plaza in Central Jakarta, killing four civilians, including a foreigner, and injuring 17 others. ISIL claimed responsibility and is believed to have inspired or provided support for a handful of small-scale attacks elsewhere in Indonesia since then. In 2002, more than 200 foreign tourists and Indonesian citizens were killed in Bali’s nightclub district. Since 2002, Indonesian police and security forces have disrupted a number of terrorist cells. Police have arrested more than 1,200 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 2002 and have greatly reduced the capacity of domestic terrorist organizations, though extremists in Indonesia continue to aspire to carry out violent attacks against Indonesian and Western targets.
Demonstrations are very common in Jakarta and other cities. You should avoid demonstrations and other mass gatherings since even those intended to be peaceful can become violent.
Please read through Indonesia’s official Country Information from the US Government here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Indonesia.html
AMINEF’s role in helping grantees navigate these challenges is limited. Advice and support will be offered, but grantees should realize that AMINEF is not able to change the conditions prevailing in Indonesia. Significant adaptation will be necessary – but most grantees find the experience to be well worth it.
Last Updated: Feb 17, 2023 @ 5:19 pm