35 students from 10 Australian universities undertook our two-week Virtual Public Health Study Tour (VPHST) from 20 November-4 December 2021. Out of the 35 students, 28 received mobility grants through the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan Mobility Program. Students learnt about the rural and urban public health issues currently facing Indonesia, including the latest COVID-19 pandemic situation. This fourth virtual tour was led by Dr Emily Rowe, who was also the in-country PHST Tour Leader in November-December 2019 and the VPHST Tour Leader in July 2021.

The virtual tour started on Saturday, 20 November, with an opening ceremony. 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. This was followed by an orientation session from the ACICIS and UI staff. The students also had the 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.

In this tour, students were required to attend a series of virtual 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. The students also had the opportunity to virtually meet people with HIV and Leprosy who shared their journey on fighting the diseases. In addition to partaking in webinars and sharing sessions on public health topics, students also went on several live virtual visits. Some of the visits included the Kali Code Riverside Community, where students learnt about water and sanitation management, the Yakkum Rehabilitation Centre, where students got to know the services available to assist people with disabilities and mental health issues, and the World Mosquito Program, where students gained insights into how the project aims to minimise the spread of dengue fever. Our students also virtually visited Puskesmas and Posyandu – local community health centres in Yogyakarta and Bogor, hospitals in Depok and Bogor, and waste management sites in Bogor. Representatives from each site gave a presentation and answered questions through pre-recorded videos.

Being unable to physically visit Indonesia didn’t mean that the students couldn’t get exposure to the Indonesian culture. ACICIS and UI provided an opportunity for the students 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. During the traditional culinary class, students learned the story behind a royal cuisine called Pastel Krukup and followed the instructor to cook it in their own kitchens. The students were also very enthusiastic about learning a traditional dance from North Sumatra called Las Roha.

The tour wrapped up with academic presentations. Students were assigned into groups with Indonesian students from FPH UI to create and deliver their presentations to the Dean of FPH UI, FPH UI lecturers, Tour leader, and ACICIS staff. The presentations were followed by a virtual closing ceremony, where one of the students treated his cohort to a piano performance. What a beautiful way to close the program! We hope all students enjoyed the overall experience from the program and we look forward to seeing them all in Indonesia soon when travels resume.