Michael Zhou was a participant in the 2023 Law Professional Practicum. Michael is studying Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Economics at The Australian National University. Michael received a $3000 New Colombo Plan mobility grant to support his participation on this program.
Q: Why did you decide to undertake the ACICIS internship program?
I decided to undertake the ACICIS LPP as I was seeking an opportunity to gain practical legal experience abroad, as well as, learning about Indonesian culture and language. Given the importance of the Australia-Indonesia relationship and the fact Indonesia is one of Australia’s closest neighbours, when I saw this opportunity on the ANU Global Programs page, I jumped at this opportunity.
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 was grateful to receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant to support my studies in Australia. The NCP Grant is an important initiative as it enables Australian students to participate in programs to learn about the rich and unique cultures of countries across the Indo-Pacific region, without causing significant financial strain. Through the ACICIS LPP, I was able to learn about Indonesian culture and appreciate the issues in the Indo-Pacific region – while also being financially supported. Without such support from the NCP Grant, it is likely I would be unable to participate in this program.
Q: Where did you live in Indonesia (Kos, homestay, hotel, rental etc.)? Any tips for prospective students on finding accommodation?
In Indonesia, I initially stayed with the accommodation arranged by ACICIS for two weeks – the duration of the initial seminar and language class components. After the two weeks, I moved to an apartment, which I found on Airbnb. If you were looking for an apartment to rent in Indonesia, I would recommend booking accommodation as early as possible, as it will broaden your options and be significantly cheaper. Moreover, most apartments I found had free cancellations until 24 hours before the scheduled check-in date, so you can always cancel the booking last-minute with no charge.
Q: How have you found the academic components of this program – i.e. the language classes/seminars?
The academic components of this program were extremely interesting and engaging. In relation to the seminars, I liked the range of topics that were discussed. From the history of the Indonesian legal system and the importance of the Pancasilla to learning about the impact of the new Indonesian Criminal Code, it was fascinating to learn about a range of different topics. In relation to the language classes, it was an amazing opportunity to learn and develop my Bahasa Indonesian. Given I already had some background in speaking Bahasa Indonesian, it was a great opportunity to consolidate my previous learning and learn more about grammar and sentence structures. My Bahasa teacher, Ibu Fitri, was also amazing. She was patient and wanted to help us learn and develop our Bahasa.
Q: What organisation are you interning with? (Explain your role and responsibilities)
I interned with the Legal Aid Division of Migrant CARE. Migrant CARE is a non-for-profit organisation that sims to strengthen the protection of Indonesian migrant workers from exploitation and discrimination by improving the protection and services provided by the government. In the internship, I assisted in preparing documents for cases of migrant workers seeking assistance to return to Indonesia. I researched relevant Indonesian legislation and international law obligations to assist in cases. Given I had background in Bahasa, I was also able to assist in the translation of various documents from Bahasa Indonesia to English. I was also fortunate to visit Indramayu, located in West Java and a small city home to a large proportion of Indonesian migrant workers, for a week to learn about the initiatives Migrant CARE is implementing to educate migrant workers about their rights.
Q: How have you found the work culture of your host organisation? How is it different to work experience in Australia?
The work culture and environment was quite different to ones in Australia. In Indonesia, it was quite informal. Unlike Australian legal organisations, whom are based in offices and have a relatively strict business work attire, in Indonesia the dress code was relatively casual and the office was actually a house.However, like many organisations in Australia, there has been a significant shift to allowing employees to work flexibly. As a result, there were some days I was able to work from home and complete tasks virtually.
Q: What are the main skills you have learnt during your internship?
The main professional skill I learnt during my internship was communication. Not only did I need to communicate mostly to people who were unable to speak in English, but I had to learn how to speak to different stakeholders. Given I had to communicate with victims and their families, as well as government officials from various Indonesian Ministries and Agencies, I had to learn different communication styles and techniques to be able to effectively communicate with them.
Q: What did you find to be the most rewarding part of this experience?
The most rewarding part of this experience would be being able to help advocate for victims, ie. migrant workers who experienced exploitation, and providing assistance to ensure their safe return back to Indonesia. Particularly, it was a rewarding and heart-warming experience to be part of the team that assisted a victim return back to Indonesia – a migrant worker who was forced to work as a scammer in the Philippines and experienced various forms of exploitation.
Q. Were you able to learn about the Indonesian culture from this program? If yes, how was this achieved?
Through both the seminars and through my experiences at my host organisations, I was able to learn about the Indonesian culture and legal system. Through these sessions, I was able to learn about Indonesia’s unique and complex culture and legal system – one that has so many different components, and one that many Indonesians struggle to even comprehend.
Q. How will the internship benefit or influence your future career?
This internship will definitely be beneficial for my future career. Through the various professional skills I have developed, as well as, the general experience to live in a foreign country with an extremely different culture, this will undoubtedly serve me well in my future career.
Q. Would you recommend this program to your friends?
I would definitely recommend this program. This is an experience that you will never forget.
Q. Favourite Indonesian word/phrase:
Enak sekali – which means really delicious. I loved eating Indonesian food, from gado-gado to nasi goreng, or soto Betawi to basko, it was so good. Whenever I’d eat a meal, when I finished, I’d always say terima kasih (thank you) and say the food was enak sekali – and the worker would always respond back with a smile and a chuckle.