Lessons learned from teaching Indonesian in China
By Hendy Yuniarto  ·  2023-04-24  ·   Source: NO.17 APRIL 27, 2023
Hendy Yuniarto (back row, first right) and his students in front of a library at Beijing Foreign Studies University (COURTESY PHOTO)

As a kid, I loved watching kungfu movies, and the various elements of classical Chinese culture impressed me. Indeed, many Indonesians know about the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and many other aspects of traditional Chinese culture. However, nowadays, more and more young Indonesian people know a lot about China because the relations between the two countries are becoming closer. Apart from that, it may also be due to the growing people-to-people understanding, including through the education process.

As a person passionate about language, art and many things related to humans and culture, I am always keen to continue to broaden and deepen my knowledge and communicate it with others. That desire drove me to apply to teach at Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) in 2015, after working at Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia as a linguistics lecturer for two years. My Chinese friend, who works in Tianjin, introduced to me the opportunity to work as an Indonesian language lecturer. BFSU is the most prestigious foreign language university in China, and is widely known as the Cradle of Diplomats. I think teaching at BFSU will enrich my experience and allow me to enjoy Chinese art and culture.

Learning the Indonesian language is an excellent way for my students to continue their professional development and increase their job opportunities. I see more and more job opportunities for BFSU Indonesian language graduates. They work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in the media as journalists, in software or app startups, and Chinese companies in Indonesia. This increase in job opportunities has encouraged other universities in China to offer Indonesian language as a major. Currently, there are 19 universities in China that do so.

It is easy for Chinese students to adapt to the life and culture in Indonesia, even though some of them complain that the weather in Indonesia is hotter than in China. China and Indonesia have many cultural similarities. Moreover, as much as 4 percent of Indonesia's population is of Chinese descent. China and Indonesia have had cultural contact for over 1,000 years, so there are many similarities in cuisine, agricultural techniques, traditional clothing making and philosophical thought.

China and Indonesia have a significant economic relationship, with China being Indonesia's largest trading partner. Indonesia supports the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative to enhance infrastructure development, trade and investment cooperation. Many infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, and power plants have materialized, including the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway, the first of its kind in Indonesia, which is expected to boost economic growth and connectivity.

My seven years in China have flown by fast because I have enjoyed teaching, researching, socializing, writing and exploring. In these seven years, I have taught, researched and written books about learning the Indonesian language and literature, and have also enjoyed life in China. By doing so, I have learned to speak Chinese well. I have traveled to at least 15 provinces, studied Chinese cuisine, learned calligraphy, made vlogs, and participated in many seminars, workshops, cultural festivals and activities that have brought me new experiences.

I feel that my life in China is just beginning, and my aim is to provide the best that I can for my students. By providing better quality teaching and guidance on the Indonesian language and culture, I help prepare the Chinese younger generation for success in life and career. For me, teaching has become a rewarding profession, and seeing my students succeed and thrive can bring a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. I hope my job can positively contribute to better relations between Indonesia and China.

The author is an Indonesian lecturer at Beijing Foreign Studies University

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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