No matter where you are in the world or what you’re up to, you are always going to need time for yourself – whether it’s for your self-care habits, exercise, creative outlets, or just having down time. However, this can be especially important when you’re in a new environment and away from your usual support networks like when you’re on exchange.

I realised shortly into my exchange experience in Yogyakarta that my normal hobbies and self-care habits would have to change drastically. I no longer had college as a crutch to organise all my creative and athletic outlets for me, and my friends don’t live down the hall anymore. Netflix is banned here in Indonesia (which came as a real shock), there isn’t an AFL team to join to let out aggression, and I’ve had to build some new friendship networks from scratch.

However, this transition came (mostly) quite easily. In Yogyakarta, there are lots of other exchange students and ridiculously friendly locals to get to know. Being a student city, there are also lots of clubs to join – even if they’re not what you’re normally used to – and the cheaper prices allow you to indulge in some things you might not be able to back home.

But, changing all your hobbies and habits can be particularly intimidating, so to any potential future Indonesian residents, here are some of the things I’ve enjoyed doing in Yogyakarta to relax, unwind and enjoy my free time (when I’m not interning or studying super hard, of course).

  • Give a crack at an activity you’ve never tried e.g. Saman dancing!

Exchange is the perfect opportunity to give something new a try, particularly if it’s something specific to the culture you’re living in. One of the clubs I’ve joined here is Saman dancing.

 Saman is a traditional dance style from the province of Aceh in Sumatra that focuses on very fast rhythmic movements (check out my university’s Saman club on YouTube at SAKA UGM if you want a better idea).  

Joining Saman has given me an extremely unique creative outlet that I wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else, as well as helping me to meet more Indonesian students.

  • Movie Nights

One thing a lot of exchange students have found is that the movies are MUCH cheaper in Indonesia – making it a very affordable pastime and way to switch off. The movies here cost about $3.50, so anytime you’re missing Netflix, head to the bioskop (cinema) instead!

There are some amazing Indonesian movies if you want to get more language practise in, lots of Hollywood blockbusters, as well as many other foreign films.

  • Get out of the city

As wonderful as Yogyakarta is, one of my favourite things to do so far has been to get out of the city on weekends and days off. If you’re in the mood for a road trip, there are some gorgeous nearby beaches (only 2 hours away), waterholes (30 minutes away), or mountains (2 hours to the North).

 If you want to head further afield, there are cheap flights and train tickets to places all over Indonesia and if you have more time you can fly to most countries in the region from Jakarta!

  • Pamper yourself

I’ve always been a big fan of some good-old-fashioned spa treatments, and luckily here I can do it without the guilt of breaking the bank! Getting an hour massage will cost you around $7.50, a mani-pedi is about $10, and facial-treatments are only $5. I’ve found treating my aching back to a massage every week has done wonders for my stress levels.

  • Café hopping

Yogyakarta has a booming café culture and a quick Google search will show you dozens of unique and groovy cafes right around your corner.

I’ve loved café hopping, reading a book or meeting a friend, and enjoying some good food and coffee (especially as the average cappuccino is $2).  There are some amazing cafes which are perfect for study and are open until midnight!

  • Sweat it out!

Walking around is much harder in Yogyakarta than in Canberra due to the quality of footpaths and the intense humidity. So, to get some exercise in and make some more friends, I’ve taken up some sporting clubs and activities. My favourite activities so far are playing Softball for UGM (free membership), doing Zumba classes with friends ($2 per class), and going swimming at the local pool (only $1.50 entrance fee). The many universities in Yogyakarta create an overabundance of most sports and outdoor activities such as climbing, caving and trekking.