In July 2021, ACICIS welcomed 33 students from 10 Australian universities to join the Virtual Public Health Study Tour (PHST). Of the 33 students undertaking this intensive program, 28 students were awarded virtual mobility grants through the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan Mobility Program. The students spent two weeks learning about the rural and urban public health issues currently facing Indonesia, including the latest COVID-19 pandemic situation in Indonesia. This third virtual tour was led by Dr Emily Rowe, who was also the in-country PHST Tour Leader in November-December 2019.

The virtual tour started with an opening ceremony in which the tour was officially opened by the Dean of Faculty of Public Health Universitas Indonesia (FPH UI) as the host university, Prof Sabarinah Prasetyo and the ACICIS Resident Director, Dr Adrian Budiman. It was then followed by an orientation from the ACICIS and UI staff. The students also got a chance to meet their counterparts, the FPH UI students in a fun ice-breaking session to get to know each other as they would be studying together for two weeks.

Like the in-country programs and the previous virtual programs, the students were required to attend a series of seminars presented by various speakers, such as experts and lecturers from FPH UI, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia, Indonesian National Task Force for COVID-19, and local NGOs like Samsara and Rifka Annisa. This time, we were very fortunate to have people with HIV and Leprosy sharing their journey on fighting the diseases. Apart from joining a series of webinar and sharing sessions on public health topics, the students also got an opportunity to go on live virtual visits to Code Riverside Community to learn about water and sanitation management and Yakkum Rehabilitation Centre to get to know the services available to assist people with disabilities and mental health issues. Moreover, the students also virtually visited sites such as the World Mosquito Program – where students were able to gain insights into how the project aims to minimise the spread of dengue fever, Puskesmas and Posyandu – local community health centers in Yogyakarta and Bogor, hospitals in Depok and Bogor, and waste management sites in Bogor through pre-recorded videos with representatives from each site giving a presentation and answering questions from our students.

Although the students were unable to visit Indonesia, they still had the opportunity to dive deeper into Indonesian culture through virtual language classes, a traditional culinary class, and a traditional dance class hosted by Lembaga Bahasa International (LBI) UI. In the traditional culinary class, they learned the story behind a royal cuisine called Pastel Krukup and followed an instructor giving a cooking class of the dish. Students followed the step-by-step cooking instructions in their own kitchens and enjoyed trying out this new recipe. The students were also very enthusiastic to learn a traditional dance from North Sumatra called Las Roha, which was also performed in the closing ceremony.

The tour was wrapped up with academic presentations. Students were assigned in groups with Indonesian students from FPH UI and they delivered presentations to the Dean of FPH UI, FPH UI lecturers, tour leader, and ACICIS staff. This was then followed by a touching virtual closing ceremony where the students read their farewell sentences in Indonesian language and the FPH UI students presented a creative video to congratulate PHST students who ‘graduated’ from the ACICIS PHST. We hope all students had a lot of rewarding and fun experiences on the tour and we look forward to seeing them all in Indonesia soon when travels resume.