Journalism Professional Practicum

Matthew Toohey was a participant in the 2024 Journalism Professional Practicum. Matthew is studying a Master of International Relations and Journalism at Monash University.

Q: Why did you decide to undertake the ACICIS internship program?

Initially I was really excited at the prospect of living and interning in another country for an extended period. My long term goal is to work internationally, and so this aligned perfectly. Once I looked into it further though it seemed like there was a fair bit more to it. The JPP is not only a challenging immersive experience, but a robust academic and professional one too.

Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? Do you think the NCP is an important initiative? If yes, why? The NCP is a signature initiative of the Australian Government which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates on experiences such as the Professional Practica.

Obviously the NCP is an excellent grant that gives students a financial leg up to dive into this program, if it’s available to you – take it! However, as a postgraduate student this wasn’t available to me. My advise to those who aren’t, but would still like to do it, is absolutely go for it! There might be funding/financial aid through your university, and in the end it’s a subject that should count towards your degree. I met many masters students over there in the same boat as me, and once there immersing in the program, we didn’t give this another thought.

Q: Where did you live in Indonesia (Kos, homestay, hotel, rental etc.)? Any tips for prospective students on finding accommodation?

I stayed in a hotel for the first two weeks during the academic portion of the program – if you can, I highly recommend doing this. There will likely be a few ACICIS students at the same one, and you’ll more easily commute to atmajaya university for class, as well as group together to hang out after and explore Jakarta. That and being in the same spot for two weeks will ease you into the city.

Once you’re there and have your bearings, you can pound the pavement with the student officers and try to find a Kos. The best spot for one depends on your placement and who you do or don’t team up with – the advice here about waiting until your in country to organise the longer stay accomodation should be regarded as sacred. Seriously, don’t bother until you’re here, and always go see it first.

Because my placement was in central Jakarta, I found a Kos in Menteng (upper south) for about $300 for 4 weeks. This was perfect and meant I could commute easily along the MRT as well as the explore cool areas in the south like Blok M.

 Q: How have you found the academic components of this program – i.e. the language classes/seminars?

The academic program is great. The language classes are long, and they are intense (4 hours a day for two weeks) – so be prepared. You’re all in it together though, and your teachers are the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. The journalism portion was fantastic. It heavily skewed to foreign correspondence (my interest) as well as the ins and outs of the Indonesian media landscape. We had foreign correspondents from Al Jazeera, Metro TV, as well as decorated journalists from local outlets come and speak to us throughout. We also went on excursions to places like kompas.

Q: What organisation are you interning with? (Explain your role and responsibilities)

I interned with Voice of Indonesia (VOI). My responsibilities included: completing assigned audio-visual features, pitching and producing my own, recording news bulletins, broadcasting live on air, as well as attending foreign diplomatic events to create social media content and news packages.

Q: How have you found the work culture of your host organisation? How is it different to work experience in Australia?

Working culture is extremely different to Australia, and so there are some differences navigate between cultures – but that’s why you’re here right? In that respect you’ll be fine. In general though, everyone is extremely friendly and helpful, and keen to see you do well. There’s a strong emphasis on showing you Indonesian culture, and experiencing things unique to work life. I found VOI to be very ‘family like’ as long as you’re open, you’ll learn and see a lot.

Q: What are the main skills you have learnt during your internship?

I’d put it into two categories. One, working in a foreign context, where you learn to operate inter-culturally and often at a disadvantage because you don’t know the language or cultural context you’re operating within. This is all about being uncomfortable, but learning to be effective and deliver outcomes anyway. Often is this through finding a way to connect to the team despite all your language shortcomings (and let’s be honest, ignorance!). The second, was learning journalism hard skills, and deploying them in this difficult context. VOI were happy to throw you in the deep end and let you run with a story. This was challenging though, because even things like Vox pops on the street required you to navigate some awkward moments and be quick on the trigger with Google translate! The sink or swim mentality though, and putting things immediately into practice is the best way to learn.

Q: What did you get up to in your free-time? i.e. in the evenings and on weekends.

The best strategy here, depends on who you are. I had all the intention to fly off to Bali and all of Indonesia’s islands on the weekends. I realised halfway through week two that this was an insane take. You will be tired, and the pace of this program is nuts. There were people who did this, and kudos to them, but I had a much more rewarding time delving deeper and deeper into Jakarta in my spare time. I pounded the pavement and tried to uncover its secrets, taking photos, befriending locals, venturing into old town and antique markets with friends I made from the program. This approach got me access to
things you otherwise wouldn’t, I.e. I uncovered the underground music scene and attended shows (as sometimes the only foreigner), I got up and played guitar with a local band in old town, I got into the local film photography scene, and had nights that seem to unravel into ever more intersting layers. If you take the approach I did, which is that you’re in a. Unique position to live and experience Jakarta like you never otherwise could, I think like me you’ll be handsomely rewarded.

Q: What surprised you about Indonesia? Any new insights?

For me it was the thriving counter culture and underground music scene – no joke, it’s huge. Once I cracked that, this whole thriving culture seem to unravel. I’m so hooked that I’m listening to Indonesian bands now every week, and checking for when some are going to play in Melbourne! A broader point here was just how much I could see myself living and working here.

Outside of this, the fact that Indonesians seem to be the most open and friendly people you’re ever likely to meet. Seriously, you’ll have an in depth conversation, or someone will come up to take a photo, just because you’re there, every day.

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

The connections you make with intensely like minded people in the ACICIS program. The confidence you gain in yourself making it work in such a different cultural and professional context, and the mindset you leave with – now broadened, and rich. I’ll never Indonesia, let alone South East Asia the same way.

Q. Were you able to learn about the Indonesian culture from this program? If yes, how was this achieved?

The way I’d answer this question is – it’s hard not to learn about Indonesian culture in this program, even by accident.

However, to maximise it, say ‘yes’ to the majority of things you get invited to, or asked to do. Make connections with everyone you can. Ask questions in lectures, engage with the readings, take the chance to look around the corner rather than stay in tonight. Do those things, and I promise you won’t regret it, not even for a second. And that feeling you have in the back your head about looking silly – no one cares!

Q. How will the internship benefit or influence your future career?

Honestly priceless. If you’re interested in working in an international context at all – there’s no reason you shouldn’t do this program if you can. Indonesia is so strategically and geographically important, that you can’t help but generate professional capital while here, you also don’t know what kind of connections and work you might generate.

As a journalist, it was a crash course on foreign correspondence, not something you usually get access to as a junior.

Q. Would you recommend this program to your friends?

Without question.

Q. Favourite Indonesian word/phrase:

Jam Karet “rubber time”.