Camille Bismonte is an alumna of the 2018 CLS Indonesian program in Malang, Indonesia. She’s a junior at Georgetown University majoring in Economics and double minoring in Mathematics and Spanish. She takes Advanced Indonesian discussion classes at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and is learning to speak colloquial Indonesian at the Indonesian Embassy. Camille was recently selected as a Boren Scholar for the 2019-2020 academic year, which will allow her to continue her Indonesian language learning and intern at an environmental NGO in Jakarta, where she will be researching environmental protection to become more acquainted with sustainable development methods in Southeast Asia. She plans on pursuing a career in the Foreign Service or in economic development.
If there’s anything I remember about being in Indonesia, it is probably looking Southeast Asian; being a person of color in Indonesia gave me a unique perspective on the CLS Program. I identify as being fully Filipino and fully American, so it was interesting to explain to people that I did not live in Manila, and grew up near San Francisco, CA. It was particularly interesting arriving in Indonesia, and not speaking any Indonesian aside from “Nama saya Camille” (my name is Camille), “di mana kemar kecil?” (where is the bathroom?), and “apa kabar?” (how are you?).
Indonesia has an amazing culture, filled with depth, joy, and compassion, and I think there’s a lot we can learn from their budaya santai (culture of relaxing).
Inspired by an Indonesia-Philippines Connection
There have been two constant goals in my life: to travel and to live a life helping others. I was always interested in the economics of the reduction of poverty and as a sophomore, I learned about Indonesia’s pro-poor policies, and how they were able to reduce extreme poverty by 45% in the past decade. As Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia, I was curious to see what the Philippines could learn from Indonesian economic policy. I also cultivated an interest in environmental conservation while in Malang; my final project on CLS focused on Green GDP and grassroots organizations in Indonesia that promote environmental protection through economic incentives.
Building a Personal Bond
I didn’t speak a drop of Indonesian until I arrived, and my host mother didn’t speak any English, so our life was a game of Pictionary for the first two weeks. My Ibu and I spent our nights walking around the neighborhood and watching Mahakaali (and Indian soap opera) every night. She’s Muslim and I’m Catholic, so when she did her Five Muslim Daily Prayers, sometimes I joined her and prayed my rosary, since they take about the same time to complete. I appreciated how supportive of a community I had in CLS and in my host mom, and how much they wanted me to not only succeed, but to excel at the language and acquiring it during the CLS Program.
Advice for Learning Indonesian
I would say semangat (keep spirited) to anyone who wants to learn the Indonesian language. Its structure and grammar are very similar to English, so it is a realistic language to acquire over the two months on CLS. Although I was at the Novice-Low level at the beginning of CLS, I ended my time on the CLS Program at Intermediate-High. More than anything, I think the CLS Indonesian community is incredibly supportive. Being in Malang, Indonesia, was extremely helpful, as it is a big college town, and gives more insight into Indonesian culture than being in Bali or Jakarta, where English is a common language.
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