Neng Koala's founder Melati, left, at the launch of the community blog's anthology on Wednesday (25/04). (JG Photo/Joy Muchtar)

Neng Koala: Stories of Indonesian Students Surviving the Land Down Under


APRIL 27, 2018

Jakarta. Indonesian alumni of Australian universities gathered at the Bina Nusantara university campus in Kedoya, West Jakarta, on Wednesday (25/04) to launch "Neng Koala," an anthology of their experiences studying in the Land Down Under.

Neng Koala (Miss Koala) contains tips on getting a scholarship to Australian universities, stories of student life in Australia and practical tips to get the most out of your stay in the lucky country.

Neng Koala was established as a community blog by founder Melati in 2012.

Melati graduated from University of Indonesia in 2003 then studied for a master's degree in environmental management and development at Australian National University in Canberra.

She created the blog to give herself and other Indonesian students in Australia a platform to tell stories of trials and tribulations adapting to a new country.

Melati, now a mother of two working in a non-governmental organization in Jakarta, said the Neng Koala blog ended up becoming a godsend for Indonesian students in Australia.

They used the blog to share tips on overcoming challenges of being a student in a foreign land – from loneliness to juggling study with family responsibilities for those who take their family along while they try to finish a degree.

The blog started with 20 writers and ended up with more than 100 students sharing their personal experiences almost every day.

One of those writers is Dianhadi Setyonaluri, who started studying for her doctorate while taking care of her two-year-old baby.

Dian was often left exhausted by the stress of juggling her responsibilities as a mother and a PhD student.

Neng Koala helped Dian realize she was not alone.

"There were so many women out there like me, who struggle with the same things, and they inspired me to finish my study," Dian said.

Adhityani "Dhitri" Putri, another Australian National University alumnus who attended the book launch, said studying overseas has taught her that even though she's still a proud perfectionist, sometimes you just have to compromise.

"I sometimes have to skip a class or retake a test. But that's okay," Dhitri said.

Dhitri is also a vegetarian and while she lived in Australia she also had to cook for her husband, who found Australian cuisine leaves a lot to be desired.

"One thing he did get used to, though, was Vegemite. He loved it!" Dhitri said.

Dhitri said aside from the stress there were also triumphant moments too.

"I trained for and ran my first marathon in Australia, and still managed to keep a child alive and a husband sane.... Our house was in perpetual mess, though," she said with a laugh.

Melati returned to Indonesia in 2013 and decided to keep the blog active.

"The idea for the book came during a reunion party with other Neng Koala writers. We thought a book could reach a wider audience," she said.

Neng Koala is available at all Gramedia bookstores for Rp 65,000 ($5).