Over the course of six weeks from January to mid-February 2021, ACICIS has recently run its first virtual Agriculture Professional Practicum amidst COVID-19 pandemic, hosted by Atma Jaya University. Eleven students from six universities in Australia: The University of Melbourne, Australian National University, Deakin University, Curtin University, Murdoch University, and RMIT University participated in the program, with eight of them supported under the New Colombo Plan Mobility Program. Throughout the program, participants have completed a series of academic components and professional placement hosted by government institution, private sector, and non-governmental organisations.

The program kicked off with orientation and an introduction to Indonesia session. Students then conducted Indonesian Language Training with Atma Jaya University’s Language Teaching Center, followed by a seminar and tutorial series led by APP Academic Program Officer, Dr Ari Rakatama. These touched on a wide-range of agriculture topics, such as tropical agriculture, COVID-19 impacts on agriculture sector, agribusiness and IA-CEPA, livestock production, food security and safety, environmental impact, and future career in agricultural sector delivered by speakers ranging from industry experts, practitioners, government officials, and academicians based in Australia and Indonesia. Furthermore, students had a chance to brainstorm their ideas in the tutorial sessions as a follow-up to each seminar held.

On the language class, Isabella Meerwald, APP Participants from RMIT University commented, “Even though I’m at home, I am still feeling like I am having a cultural experience, I find the (language) classes really interactive.” Jasmine Schmidt from Curtin University added, “The combination of tutorials and seminars work really well when we learned the content in the seminars and then were able to consolidate the learnings when we are talking to each other in the tutorials. I think that is really good.”

Apart from that, ACICIS held a series of virtual fieldtrips, movie screenings and networking sessions. The first fieldtrip was presented by Kebun Kumara, pointing out the importance of permaculture, especially in urban areas. Next, Divers Clean Action took us on their virtual ecotourism tour to Kepulauan Seribu in North Jakarta to enjoy the virtual beach trip. ACICIS also held two movie screenings: Asimetris (2018) by Dandhy Laksono from Watchdoc Documentary and Mangroves for the Future Indonesia (2015) by Rekam Nusantara and the students were able to discuss these films from both an agriculture and development studies perspective. Moreover, APP students were able to participate in a fun-networking session with Australia-Indonesia Youth Association (AIYA) Jakarta Chapter and meet with fellow youths passionate in strengthening Australia-Indonesia bilateral relationships.

Students completed a 160-hour internship virtually at eight host organisations based in Jakarta, Bogor, Bali, Yogyakarta and Kalimantan. Most of these organisations were working remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions. The host organisations included Rikolto, Tanjung Puting National Park, Centre of Orangutan Protection, PT. Mitra Sejahtera Membangun Bangsa, Koalisi Rakyat untuk Kedaulatan Pangan (KRKP), Divers Clean Action, IDEP Foundation, and Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP). Students were able to complete various tasks: from proof-reading documents, data entry and data collection, research, social media strategy and campaign development, content design, to assisting with the delivery of online international seminars.

Sydney Roldan, APP participant from Murdoch University summarised her experience about the virtual APP program, “ACICIS has done a really great job in transitioning the entire program (online) and putting everything together. Being able to work by myself (independently) without supervision, it has gotten me into the new mindset for a new semester at university, that is one of the transferrable skills I have developed not just from the placement but from the overall program.”

ACICIS would like to extend our warmest congratulations for APP students on successfully concluding the program and we wish all students the best for their future endeavours. Last but not least, we would like to gratefully thank all parties, including host organisations involved in the success of the first virtual APP program, as well as the continued support and enthusiasm despite COVID-19 pandemic limitations. We hope we can all meet in person post-pandemic, and until then, stay safe and well. Sampai bertemu lagi!