Abbey Cutler was a participant in the 2021 Virtual Law Professional Practicum. Abbey is studying a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University. Abbey received a $3000 New Colombo Plan mobility grant to support her participation on this program.
Q: Why did you decide to undertake the ACICIS program?
After reading the description about the ACICIS program, I felt like it would be a great opportunity to expand my Indonesian whilst learning more about Indonesia’s legal system. The fact that the program was to be delivered online did not phase me. I was excited to be a part of ACICIS and further develop my professional skills and knowledge. Being an Indonesian student and a Law student, I felt like there was no better program to be a part of.
Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? Do you think the NCP is an important initiative?
I did receive the NCP Grant. I do believe the NCP is an important initiative, as it helps provide students to create an accessible pathway to study in Asia. Indonesia is Australia’s closest neighbour and one of our most strategic international partners. It is important that all students have the opportunity to study in Indonesia, or anywhere in Asia, as it helps us to expand our understanding of Asian culture and its importance for Australia. Without NCP, this would not be accessible to as many students.
Q: How have you found the academic components of this virtual program – i.e. the language classes/seminars?
I found the academic components quite challenging but very informative. I learnt a lot from the ACICIS seminars regarding the legal system in Indonesia. This is knowledge that will be extremely helpful for me moving forward. Furthermore, the language classes were quite challenging, however I learnt so much from them and I know that my Indonesian has improved significantly.
Q: What organisation are you interning with?
I was placed with the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS). KontraS is one of Indonesia’s biggest human rights organisations. Their main role is to advocate and fight for important human rights issues in Indonesia. They do this by petitioning the government, advocating for minority groups and routinely reporting to the UN.
My main role with KontraS was to conduct research into the use of the death penalty in Indonesia. I did this with the assistance of KontraS staff. At the conclusion of the internship I submitted a research report on this issue. In addition to this, I completed small tasks aimed at highlighting the most important human rights issues in Indonesia, and the government’s response to them. Finally, I also wrote short weekly reports on international human rights issues, particularly in Myanmar, Palestine and Syria.
Q: How have you found the work culture (albeit online) of your host organisation? How is it different to work experience in Australia?
The work culture at my host organisation was quite upbeat and positive. From an online perspective it seemed as though everyone in the workplace got along and the workplace was always buzzing. The staff at KontraS worked extremely hard, however they never let their work take over their life. The Indonesian attitude towards work is a lot more laid back than some other Asian countries, however I found this to be a positive thing.
In Australia most workplaces aren’t as upbeat. In an office environment most people stick to their desk and get their work done. Any talking with other colleagues is done quietly and occasionally privately. However, at KontraS all chat was open and the office was never quiet.
Q: What are the main skills you have learnt during your virtual internship?
The main skill I have learnt is the ability to adapt. Completing an internship with an international organisation is always difficult, however completing it online is even more challenging. Being able to adapt to this environment is important, as failure to adapt will lead you to not enjoy or fully participate in the program.
Another skill I have learnt is the ability to communicate both online and cross-culturally. When conducting internships online, communication is key. Without communication work will never get done. Additionally, knowing how to communicate with someone from a different culture is also important in a professional environment.
Q: What did you find to be the most rewarding part of this virtual experience?
The most rewarding part of this experience was creating new friends, both in Australia and Indonesia. After 5 weeks of intensive language classes, I grew quite close with the people in my class. These are friendships I will always hold dear. Additionally, I feel blessed to now have so many connections in Indonesia, and I can’t wait until I can visit Indonesia again.
Q: Were you able to learn about the Indonesian culture from this virtual program? If yes, how was this achieved?
The introductory session taught us a lot about Indonesian culture, which was very helpful. Additionally, the language classes taught us a lot about Indonesian culture simply from the way they communicate. Finally, the weekly seminars taught us about Indonesia culture, as we were able to understand the legal system and how it is perceived within Indonesia. This taught us a lot about how Indonesian’s view their society.
Q: How will the virtual internship benefit or influence your future career?
Being a Law student and an Indonesian student, I have always wanted to be involved in an area of law that covers both Australia and Indonesia. The knowledge and skills I have gained from this internship will now help me pursue such a career, particularly now that I have better language skills and more knowledge on Indonesia’s legal system.
Q: Would you recommend this virtual program to your friends?
I would 100% recommend this program to anyone! It was so insightful and helpful, and I learnt so much from it. Anyone from any background should get involved in this program, as you will surely learn so much. This program is so well structured even when delivered online. I am sure the in person program is even better.
Q: Favourite Indonesian word/phrase:
As-salamu alaykum. ‘Peace be upon you’
This phrase is a very respectful way to greet people and begin meetings. It gives out positive energy which I think is a beautiful way to start any day.
Q: Describe your experience of the virtual internship program in three words: