Public Health Study Tour (PHST)

Danai Makova undertook the Public Health Study Tour in July 2019 as part of her degree at the University of Western Australia.

Q: Why did you decide to undertake ACICIS’ Public Health Study Tour?

As part of my degree, I have to do at least a unit or course overseas. When I started searching, I did not have anything particular in mind but once I found this one, it caught my interest and amazingly it ticked all my boxes. I wanted to travel to a country I had never been to, explore a different world and eat exotic food. An added plus was the course is related to the Health degree that I am studying and will help in my future career.

Q: What did you find to be the most challenging about your experience on the PHST?

The most challenging experience for me was trying to communicate with the local Indonesians. My very limited knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia which was basically none, coupled with their limited English made it difficult at first. Although it was frustrating to begin with, Indonesians are so kind, welcoming, caring and patient that we would end up understanding each other with sign language. It also became an environment for me to learn Bahasa Indonesia.

Q: What public health issues in Indonesia have you become more interested in/aware of as a result of this tour?

I am interested in the issue of provision of adequate and efficient healthcare. The large geographical, numerous cultures and population distribution impact where and how health services are provided. I think this issue although on a larger scale in Indonesia is an issue we face here in Australia with providing health services to rural and remote areas and also encouraging health workers to stay in those communities. This similar shared issue could be a space of collaboration to overcome our mutual problem. Another issue that stood out was the degree to which smoking is acceptable in society. The advertising is rampant and people start smoking from a very young age. This is the total opposite to Australia with large public health campaigns to reduce the number of people who smoke and a limit on advertising.

Q: Which was your favourite field trip?

My favourite was the Kali Code River community. Homeless people built shelters on the riverbank and with poor waste management the river had become polluted. Then came an initiative to help rehabilitate the area and the river and it is a testament to how community involvement and collaboration can improve outcomes. I think when any researchers and policymakers create proposals, especially when made for specific individuals having those communities involved in the process makes it more successful. Walking through the streets, it was beautiful to see the pastel coloured houses, the children running and playing in the streets, the banana plantation and the community garden. Everyone smiled and greeted you as you walked past and it was great to hear how our tour guide expressed his pride for what his community has done and showing us their neighbourhood.

Q: How do you think the Public Health Study Tour will influence your future career or studies?

I have always had an interest in health and economics and I think that Public Health is the closest to a middle ground between them. Doing this tour, has opened my eyes to so many possibilities of what I could to do as a job. All the people who took time out of their day to give us seminars are inspirations and they have encouraged me to find what I am passionate in. The tour encouraged critical thinking and analysis which will help in my future studies and has helped me develop new skills.

Q: What did you most enjoy about the seminar series?

I enjoyed the varied topics, with some that I did not at first think I would find interesting. It helped me to try new things that I would not choose myself but have helped me to grow as a person. The different speakers from Academics, to people who work for Non-Governmental Organisations all gave us different perspectives of seeing issues and it was encouraging to hear the actions people are taking to better Indonesia.

Q: What was your favourite aspect about visiting Indonesia?

My favourite aspect was the food, the people and the culture. The food is amazing, there are so many different tastes. I loved that I got to have a traditional rendang and my favourite fruit is now mangosteen. The people are so friendly and willing to offer help and assistance to anyone who looks in need and even though they have just met you. As an example of their hospitality, I went to order some food at a restaurant and it was all in Bahasa Indonesia, which I can’t read, and so I took a stab in the dark to see if the person after me speaks English and thankfully she did. She ordered my food and we had a short conversation and when it came to pay, she proceeded to pay for my meal. She wouldn’t take any money from me to pay her back. That’s just one of many examples of how welcoming Indonesians are.