Q: Why did you decide to undertake the ACICIS program?
The ACICIS program was the perfect opportunity to combine my passions for Indonesia and international development. Indonesia is one of our closest and most important allies in the Indo-Pacific region and there is a huge diversity of opportunities that await Australian students prepared to begin exploring the vast archipelago (even if virtually at first!). And as a long-term student of the language, the chance to practice Bahasa Indonesia outside the classroom while learning about contemporary Indonesian society was too good to pass on.
Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? Do you think the NCP is an important initiative?
Receiving an NCP grant has been incredibly important and enabled me to throw myself completely into the ACICIS practicum and internship without worrying about the financial cost of the program. The NCP is immensely valuable and empowers students from all walks of life to engage with our region. As we enter the Asian Century, it is vital that Australian graduates have a deep understanding the Indo-Pacific and strong connections with counterparts throughout the region. In the coming years, I hope to see many more students undertake this and other international study experiences with the help of this initiative.
Q: How have you found the academic components of this virtual program – i.e. the language classes/seminars?
Whether you know nothing about Indonesia or have travelled to the country many times, the ACICIS program will impart unparalleled insights into contemporary Indonesia. There are a wide variety of seminars and tutorials on topics ranging from gender and feminism to the environment and human rights. I was genuinely impressed by the calibre of guest speakers from government, business, civil-society and academia. On the language side of the program, the staff at Atma Jaya University were excellent at pushing our language learning to the next level! Over the three-week language intensive my fluency improved rapidly alongside my confidence using Bahasa Indonesia.
Q: What organisation did you intern with?
I interned with the SMERU Research Institute, a non-governmental organisation that studies a range of socio-economic issues affecting Indonesia. I worked with the social accountability team as they researched and evaluated the KOMPAK program that aimed to enhance democracy in local village governments across the archipelago. My role was to assist in the development of research instruments (i.e. survey questions and interview guidelines) through virtual Zoom discussions. I also researched and produced a literature review and presented my findings to research partners to help them better understand the concept of social accountability. In addition to these tasks, I was lucky enough to sit in on pilot interviews with local government officials – a valuable glimpse into the real-world applications of my studies.
Q: How have you found the work culture (albeit online) of your host organisation? How is it different to work experience in Australia?
Working with the SMERU Research Institute has been an important introduction to the Indonesian world of work. Compared to Australia, the workplace culture in Indonesia strongly emphasises personal relationships and respect for those of senior rank. For example, it is customary to spend five to ten-minutes at the beginning of meetings to introduce and thank all attendees one-by-one. This is often a great opportunity to make personal and professional connections that will continue to serve you into the future.
Q: What are the key skills you have learnt during your virtual internship?
Given Bahasa Indonesia was solely used throughout the placement at SMERU, language skills were among the main takeaways from my internship. However, if you don’t speak Indonesian, most placements offer an English language environment, which still provide an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the Indonesian workplace culture. You’ll find that your intercultural communication skills will rapidly improve, even when speaking English! In addition to this, I learnt how research instruments are designed to evaluate development programs – a valuable discipline-specific skill.
Q: What did you find to be the more rewarding part of this virtual program?
The opportunity to hear from leaders in the development field and garner novel insights into Indonesia was perhaps the most rewarding part of the program. I was truly blown away by the depth of knowledge I gained about contemporary Indonesian society and politics and how the development landscape is predicted to change significantly in coming years. If you want to understand Indonesia, the ACICIS virtual program is an excellent starting point!
Q: How will the virtual internship benefit or influence your future career?
The ACICIS programme is a valuable bridge between the university and the workforce. In the hyper-competitive field of international development, the additional experience of an internship helps me distinguish myself from other graduates. The virtual internship helps develop a range of hard and soft skills including intercultural communication, self-management, digital literacy and teamwork.
Q: Would you recommend this virtual program to your friends?
Yes, I definitely would! The virtual program is a great way to kickstart your learning about one of our closest and most important neighbours while also developing real-world skills and competencies. And, all the staff at ACICIS are incredibly helpful and work hard to make the program an engaging and fun experience.
Q: Favourite Indonesian word/phrase:
Semangat (se-mang-at) – literally ‘spirit’, semangat means ‘keep going’ or ‘don’t give up’. You’ll often hear this word used by Indonesians to encourage their friends and peers.
Q: Describe your experience of the virtual internship program in three words:
Challenging; Rewarding; Memorable