New Colombo Plan - Connect to Australia’s future - study in the region.

Virtual Public Health Study Tour

Sharon Potula is a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant recipient from The University of Western Australia. Sharon undertook the Virtual Public Health Study Tour in December 2020.

Q: Why did you decide to undertake this virtual program?

I first came across the virtual program by an email sent by my unit coordinator. As I explored information about the program and what it covered, I felt intrigued and eager to learn. I was also encouraged to undertake this program as the content that would be covered was very relatable to my own current studies.


Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? Why do you think the NCP is an important initiative?

Yes, I did receive the NCP Mobility Grant. I think the NCP is an excellent initiative as it assists, encourages and supports students to undertake such programs. It is particularly important as it encourages and promotes Australian students to gain an insight into the healthcare system and facilities outside of Australia. This grant ensures that students are not limited by any financial constraints and instead can focus on learning and experiencing the full extent of the programs offered.


Q: What did you find to be the most rewarding part of this virtual program?

I found that the most rewarding part of this virtual program was meeting new individuals both across Australia and Indonesia. Throughout the program I enjoyed interacting with my fellow program participants, the UI students, ACICIS staff and lecturers. They all made my experience memorable and fun! I also found it rewarding to gain the extensive knowledge about Indonesia’s health and healthcare system explored by the program as it was insightful and enhanced my interest in my current course.


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

I think my overall experience of the Virtual PHST was amazing, but if I had to pinpoint a challenge in my experience it would be having to sit or stay in one spot for lengthy periods of time. This limitation is understandable as the program was virtual due to COVID. However, I really appreciate the efforts of the ACICIS staff to ensure we had breaks and participated in exercises which were very fun!


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

I have become more aware of neglected tropical diseases and stunting as public health issues in Indonesia, especially since I had no clue that these were prevalent and persisting issues in the country. I was intrigued by the fact that they were so closely related to poverty, and how both of these conditions cause detrimental long-term impacts/consequences on the individual (i.e., trapped in the cycle of poverty, impairment of development (physical and cognitive) etc.).


I have also become more interested in the public health issues of malaria, DHF and gender-based violence. I found it very interesting how malaria and DHF are multifaceted in that they stem from numerous issues such as living standards, education levels, availability of health care resources, etc. I also found it very valuable and relevant to learn about gender-based violence, especially how this violence has been heightened by the current pandemic.


For all these public health issues in Indonesia, it was insightful to know that both government and non-governmental organisations were attempting to address and reduce their prevalence in society.  Learning about these mechanisms was very interesting and helped me to gain a wider perspective of the nature of public health issues in Indonesia.


Q: What was your favourite virtual fieldtrip? 

Honestly, they were all incredibly insightful and fun. I loved them all, but if I had to choose, my favourite would be the Yakkum Rehabilitation Field Trip. This fieldtrip was my favourite as the mission of this organisation was very inspirational and heartfelt. I appreciate the effort of the centre to aid and assist individuals recovering/dealing with mental health issues and disabilities. A key moment that made this trip a highlight was when I saw in live a man who went through a program offered by the organisation, embrace and move past his disability to work in a café and make coffee. I was very inspired and touched when I saw this and was so glad that I had this opportunity to view and visit such an amazing centre.


Q: Were you able to learn about the Indonesian culture from this virtual program?

Yes, I was given so many opportunities to learn about and embrace the Indonesian culture. This was achieved by a dance and cooking session and language lessons. All of these sessions were very enjoyable especially due to the fun and helpful interaction of the coordinators/teachers. I was glad I had some language lessons early on to practice and implement words/phrases I learnt throughout the tour. I feel very appreciative, that this virtual program enlightened both my knowledge about healthcare in Indonesia and the beautiful Indonesian culture that I hope to engage in-person in the future.


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

I think the Virtual Public Health Study Tour was such an amazing experience. My participation in this tour has both enhanced my knowledge and also developed crucial skills that I will require in my future studies/career. The content explored was very relevant to my study area, and I feel as though the PHST has broadened and enhanced my perspective and understanding about health care, the health care system and public health. I have also improved my public speaking skills and confidence by participating in this program, especially through the discussion sessions and group presentations. I was given the opportunity to improve my punctuality and time management, particularly as we had a comprehensive schedule we had to stick to. I think these skills I have developed will be very beneficial for my life ahead, as they are critical for both students and professionals (in future careers) alike.


Q: Favourite Indonesian word/phrase?

Selamat pagi (Good morning)


Q: Describe your experience of the Virtual PHST in three words:

Insightful, inspiring and enjoyable.