ACICIS warmly welcomed 26 students for the Development Studies Professional Practicum (DSPP) held in Indonesia in January-February 2024. These students hailed from 11 Australian universities: The Australian National University, La Trobe University, Macquarie University, Monash University, Murdoch University, RMIT University, The University of Adelaide, The University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, The University of Queensland, and The University of Western Australia. Notably, 24 of these students were recipients of the $4,000 New Colombo Plan mobility grants from the Australian Government. This diverse cohort of students created a dynamic learning environment, underscoring the program’s commitment to cultural understanding.

Returning to her role as the DSPP Academic Program Officer, Dr. Maharani Hapsari (Rani) played a vital role in this cohort, collaborating with ACICIS in-country staff to structure the academic program. This included personalising seminar series, overseeing professional placements, and ensuring pastoral care for the students.

During the initial two weeks, students participated in a 40-hour Indonesian language class hosted by Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia. Additionally, they engaged in 30 hours’ worth of seminars, tutorials, and field trips designed to enhance their understanding of contemporary development issues in Indonesia. Alongside academic sessions, students were invited to partake in Batik painting organised by Rumah Batik Palbatu. The cultural activity excited them and served as a rejuvenating escape amid their academic commitments.

Additionally, DSPP students visited Kampung Akuarium, an urban residential area in Penjaringan District, North Jakarta. Conversations with local communities centred on their involvement in government policy implementation, highlighting collective actions tied to urban development struggles. Another field trip took students to Kampung Samtama, a community-based climate resiliency model in Cempaka Putih District, Central Jakarta. Here, they learned about constructing a sustainable Kampung in the era of climate change. Hence, besides acquiring knowledge in development studies through academic channels, students can also engage with practitioners to observe firsthand how development operates in the Indonesian context.

Additionally, 20 students had their placement in 13 organisations in the Greater Jakarta Area, which are Asosiasi Pendamping Perempuan Usaha Kecil (ASPPUK), Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) Indonesia, Divers Clean Action, Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ), Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan (IKa), Indonesia Resilience (IRES), KONEKSI, KIAT, NIRAS International Development Consulting, Pusat Riset Ilmu Kepolisian dan Kajian Terorisme Universitas Indonesia (PRIK-KT UI), Samudera Indonesia, World Resource Institute (WRI) Indonesia, and Yayasan Kalyanamitra.

Students engaged in various unique experiences through their placements, each contributing to a rich and diverse learning journey. At IRES, they delved into the intricacies of traditional Indonesian medicine at Jamu Clinic, Petamburan Sub-District, as an integral part of a community-driven, sustainable post-pandemic business model. At UCPRUK, students were invited to a national workshop to discuss the acceleration of assistive equipment fulfilment in Indonesia. At CSEAS Indonesia, our students delivered sharing sessions to explore community-based health management and natural disaster preparedness, drawing valuable insights from practices in Australia. Finally, at KONEKSI, our students had the honour of hosting Senator Hon. Tim Ayres, Australia’s Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing, and observed the organisation-supported activity on the multipurpose coastal reservoir at Cisadane River, Tangerang Regency.

Students met with Dr Rani and the Program Assistant from ACICIS each Wednesday for their weekly catch-ups. During these sessions, students openly discussed their challenges in adjusting to life in Indonesia and shared obstacles encountered during their placements. This time also allowed students to connect with one another and enjoy the flavours of Indonesian cuisine. These catch-ups fostered a supportive community and enriched the students’ immersive learning experience in Indonesia.

The DSPP concluded in the second week of February 2024 with a closing ceremony attended by Atma Jaya Catholic University staff, mentors from the Host Organisation, and members of the ACICIS team. It is inspiring to witness the dedication and hard work put in by everyone to make this program a success, and we hope that the students gained valuable insights and experiences from their time in Indonesia. May this program foster cultural understanding and create opportunities for students to engage in real-world development issues.