If you are an AIKOL student and is at least a little observant, you would notice that our kulliyyah plays host to groups of Indonesian students hailing from Yogyakarta once every year. Ada apa dengan Gombak, really? During their month-long visit this time around, AIKOL Press managed to snag ourselves an interview with the two leaders of the Jogja student delegates as well as AIKOL’s own exchange programme representative to find out exactly what it is that brings them all the way.

21-year-old Muhammad Yanuar Sodiq, a student at Islamic University Indonesia (UII), voiced out his sentiments as concerning the organising committee on AIKOL’s part. “I am very thankful to the organising committee. The programme’s a lot of fun, like the locals here say – best giler.” At this the room erupted in laughter. Way to break the ice, Yanuar! “The preparations to accommodate us since day one made us feel overwhelmingly welcomed. Until today, the organising committee has been providing us with tons of exciting programmes and never leaves us hanging without any activities to ensure each and every moment here is spent doing something meaningful,” he added.

When asked the same question, Tareq Aziz M. Elven, 21, from Jogja’s Muhammadiyah University (UMY), wholeheartedly agreed. “For me, I would like to thank the committee for providing us with the warmest hospitality, and if I could, I wouldn’t want to go home. I wish the programme would last longer.”

The organising committee for the exchange programme consists of former AIKOL exchange students to Jogja, and heading them all is 22-year-old Afiq Rosman. “The programme has been ongoing since 2008. We started out with just one university which was the Muhammadiyah University, Yogyakarta,” he explained. When asked about his feelings, Afiq humbly said, “When I was in Jogja last year as an exchange student myself, the Malaysian
delegates were better provided for.” Afiq admitted that the preparations by the AIKOL committee is not all-perfect but promised to compensate for the shortcomings by planning exciting days ahead.

For some of the exchange students, this is not their first time in Malaysia. For Tareq, this particular Malaysian experience is his third. “I was brought strolling around the campus last year with Ustaz Zaid. Some of the important things I get here are friendship and the smiles of Malaysians,” he said, himself smiling in recollection.

When asked whether they had any difficulties attending the law lectures in IIUM, Yanuar explained that the biggest difference is between Indonesia and Malaysia’s legal systems. Indonesia uses the civil legal system while Malaysia applies the common legal system. Another differentiating factor is the sheer number of female students in AIKOL. Back in Jogja, both girls and boys numbered somewhat equally. Go figure, eh?

The lectures in Jogja too, are different in nature. Between the two Jogja universities, they last for two-three whole hours. And exams are not as much a thing there as they are here – at UMY there is no mid-semester or final examinations. Instead, they have topical tests after finishing every chapter. To AIKOLians already packing their bags for Jogja thinking they can do two to three-hour lectures if they mean you get to skip on the exams, check yourselves. Back in Jogja, the students only have Sundays off.

For this year’s programme, a total of 18 students from Yogyakarta are involved. During their stay so far, they have been brought to visit the Palace of Justice, Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, Batu Caves, and the legal firm Azmi and Associates, among other places.

In sharing with us their favourite thing about Malaysia, Yanuar said, “The tolerance between cultures here is very high where the Malay Muslims, Chinese and Indians could assimilate well.” In addition to that, the architecture in Malaysia has found a fan in Yanuar, and Masjid Jamek is his place of choice. As for Tareq, who is also a teaching assistant at his university, he admires the way females dress here, as it is very much in line with Islamic values. Grinning widely, he added that “Out of all the places, I have to say my favourite is IIUM.”

Yanuar sees Malaysia and Indonesia as ambassadors for Islam in the Malay Archipelago, and hopes IIUM in particular could preserve the sanctity of Islam despite the challenges to and corrosion of Islamic values we experience day by day in modern society.

The warmth with which Yanuar, Tareq and Afiq regarded each other was evident. As though in support of this, Tareq pronounced meaningfully that, “If there exist any disparities or negativities that the media portrays about Indonesians and Malaysians, they are not true. You are as Indonesians are, and we are as Malaysians are.” “We are from one same root,” added Yanuar.

If anything can be learnt from this, it is that one thing needs to be remembered – we might come from different backgrounds and different countries, even, but these differences create what we are. And what we are at the very least are stories worth sharing and celebrating together.