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Development Studies Professional Practicum

Mia Preto was a participant in the 2023 Development Studies Professional Practicum (DSPP). Mia is studying a Bachelor Philosophy (Honours) from The University of Western Australia. Mia received a $3000 New Colombo Plan mobility grant to support her participation on this program.

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

I wanted to take the ACICIS internship program as I have had a personal connection to Indonesia for a long time. Many of my closest and best friends are from Jakarta, and when I heard about ACICIS, I knew I wanted to sign up as I really wanted to see the city and country where my friends came from. I was also really interested in the internship component of the program, and was really keen to have the opportunity to work overseas.

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.

Yes, I received a $3000 NCP Mobility Grant. I think it is really important. Truth is, not everyone is financially able to pay for exchanges. Between flights, tuition fees, accommodation, food, drinks, materials and fun, the costs can really rack up quickly. I feel like it would be unfair, and a huge shame if people were denied the opportunity to go on a life-changing exchange trip because finances were an issue, as idealistic as that sounds. The NCP grant really helps easy that pressure and is so crucial in helping get us to travel to places we’ve always wanted to, and experience things we’ve always wanted to experience as well

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

I stayed at a kos while in Indonesia. My tip is to find a place close to your workplace, or the place you’ll be frequenting the most. Transportation can get really annoying, especially in traffic, and if you don’t have to go far, you’ll be able to get around much quicker. Being only 10min away from work by bike really relieved a lot of stress for me. Also, make sure you have loads of food and shopping options nearby! My essentials were a laundry place, a mini/supermarket, a pharmacy, a coffee place (which opens before 8am!) and at least 4-5 food options for variety. If it’s walking distance, it’s even better. Having these places close by made life a lot easier as well.

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

I found the academic component of the DSPP program really rewarding. Coming in with little to no real knowledge of Indonesia, being able to learn from local academics, and professionals was extremely interesting. It was also really inspiring to be exposed to so much of the on-going work which is happening in Indonesia as we speak. Many of the speakers who came to share their work with us were advocates, organisers, visionaries and scholars. It really reminded me of how important it is to always be critical of the spaces we live in, as well as how critical it was to have the confidence and drive to step forward and begin working on creating the changes we wish to see in our society.

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

I interned with Humanitarian Forum Indonesia, a secretariat which operates within Indonesia, and coordinates some of Indonesia’s most established humanitarian organisations, such as Muhammadiyah Disaster Management Centre, Dompet Dhuafa, and Rumah Zakat. During my internship, Mustafa (my intern buddy!) and I were seconded to three other organisations who were members of HFI – Human Initiative, Wahana Visi Indonesia, and ADRA Indonesia. Thus, our internship was a valuable opportunity to learn about the humanitarian sector in Indonesia from four different organisational perspectives, and at each organisation, we learnt about and participated in a different component of humanitarian work. With HFI, we were exposed to humanitarian coordination. With HI, we learnt about disaster aid work on-site, in Cianjur, an area just south-east of Jakarta which had recently been hit by a serious earthquake. With WVI, we participated in community engagement and sustainable social development work. And finally, with ADRA Indonesia, we were able to learn about project management and the administrative and logistical demands of humanitarian work. Overall, it was a really comprehensive education in how humanitarian work, works, in Indonesia.

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

I found the work culture of my HO extremely welcoming and friendly. Everyone was comfortable and casual with one another, and there was always an opportunity to chat, joke and share stories with my colleagues. Everyone was also really helpful and so excited to tell us about Indonesia. One thing which I noticed was how in each organisation, everyone always had some kind of snack which they brought to the office to share with the rest of us. Sometimes, these snacks would come out of nowhere! I really loved that generosity which permeated every office we were in.

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

Personally, I feel like I improved my interpersonal skills the most during my internship. Since we were always moving around, we got to know a lot of people in a very short period of time. Every time we moved organisations, we not only had to get used to a new workplace and culture, but we also had to get used to a whole new group of people. Furthermore, a lot of this communication and relationship building happened across a cultural and language barrier as well – not everyone we met could speak English! I feel like the internship really helped me learn how to build an overseas network of colleagues, and I’m very glad to call many of the people I met along the way my friends 🙂

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

As mentioned previously, I think the most rewarding part of this experience was my chance to make lots of new friends, from both Indonesia and Australia. Now I know that Indonesia will always be a special place in my heart, because of all the amazing and lovely people I met and had the pleasure of getting to know while I was there. I have been inspired by all of them, and all of their work, ambition and passion. Not to mention, as I have not even travelled that much within Australia, it was really exciting to meet people from other parts of the country , and learn about what life is like there. I feel like I now understand Australia better than I did before. Now I’m really excited to go around Australia and catch up with my friends from all over the country 🙂

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

Yep. My favourite way to learn about new cultures is through food. It was so much fun trying all the different food from the different regions of Indonesia. It was also interesting having conversations with local Indonesian friends about what they thought of their country, what they liked to do, and how their lives were different from mine in Australia.

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

It will definitely benefit my future career as it has given me a really broad introduction to the humanitarian sector, and now that I know how it works, I can really focus on finding my niche and specialising on a particular issue, which is a critical element of being successful within the field. I now also have a great network to draw upon within Indonesia, so if I ever decide to return to work in Jakarta, I know who to call for some help and advice.

Q. Would you recommend this program to your friends?

Yep, I would 100% recommend this program to anyone who is looking to challenge themselves professionally and want to experience a new country for the first time. I didn’t want to leave when it was all over! Indonesia is an amazing country and I feel really lucky to have been able to live there for six weeks, and experience what it had to offer. I’ll definitely be returning sooner rather than later.

Q. Favourite Indonesian word/phrase:

This is a little bit of a downer – but I really liked the word ‘zonk’ which I learnt at ADRA. ‘Zonk’ is basically slang for when you work really hard on something, or really hope for something, but in the end, nothing actually ends up happening at all. While this may not be a happy, or good feeling, I think that it is one which we have all experienced at some point in our life, and it was cool to see how Indonesians had a special word for it!