Nikhil Mehta is a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant recipient from Monash University. Nikhil undertook the Public Health Study Tour in January 2023. Nikhil is studying Bachelor of Public Health.
Q:Why did you decide to undertake the ACICIS Public Health Study Tour?
The Public Health Study Tour encompassed all my passions, including my interest in Public Health and my fascination with the Indonesian language. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to solidify my Bahasa skills as well as apply what I have learned in the first two years of my Public Health degree. Additionally, I felt the PHST was a valuable opportunity for personal growth, as I had the chance to think critically about my own cultural biases and beliefs and develop a more nuanced perspective on public health at a global level.
Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? If so, how did this contribute to your experience in Indonesia?
I was fortunate enough to receive the New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant. This grant helped me immensely, as it alleviated the financial pressures associated with this tour.
Q: What did you find to be the most challenging about your experience on the PHST?
I found balancing the academic and social aspects of the tour most challenging. A lot of my days, especially during the first week consisted of going to sleep at midnight and waking up at 6.30! This was due to the copious amounts of readings, seminars, field trips and group assignments. On top of this, I tried to spend time with my friends each day. While this was beneficial for me socially, it may have prevented me from performing at my best academically during the tour.
Q: What public health issues in Indonesia have you become more interested in/aware of as a result of this tour?
The issue of stunting in Indonesia caught my eye. I was astounded by the fact that the vast majority of Indonesians were unfamiliar with the term ‘stunting.’ During my first group assignment, I was intrigued by learning about the cultural factors associated with stunting in Indonesia. While I knew smoking was a substantial issue, seeing it first-hand was eye-opening! I was amazed to see that many men were smoking in indoor settings such as cafés and clubs. I was also fascinated by how commercial determinants play a role in Indonesia’s smoking epidemic, such as the continuous advertisement of cigarettes on television.
Q: What was your favourite field trip? Explain why.
Visiting the mental health rehabilitation centre (Rumah Sakit Marzuki Mahdi Bogor) was my favourite field trip. Being able to speak Indonesian with the patients was a very special moment as it allowed me to resonate and empathise with the patients. Additionally, dancing with the patients to PPAP (Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen) is a moment that will always live in my head rent-free.
Q: How do you think the Public Health Study Tour will influence your future career or studies?
The PHST reiterated the fact that I enjoy learning about global health. I will consider picking up the global health unit next semester! I would also love to work in Indonesia in one form or another. This is because the PHST was a perfect stepping stone in understanding the Indonesian healthcare system. The PHST also increased my confidence. I was a little apprehensive about partaking in the tour as it was quite outside my comfort zone. By completing the PHST, I am better able to communicate with others. Additionally, through completing two large group assignments I was able to solidify my leadership skills, which I am sure will be valuable in the future.
Q:What did you most enjoy about the seminar series?
I enjoyed listening to all the varying perspectives from the speakers. I was in awe of the lecturers’ passion. It was evident that they all thoroughly enjoyed working in their specialised field. I particularly appreciated the seminars from the COVID-19 frontline workers where they highlighted their personal experiences in dealing with the pandemic. Their adversity made me admire Indonesia’s health personnel and their healthcare system.
Q: What was your favourite aspect about visiting Indonesia?
Meeting new people. I made the most amazing friends on the PHST – shout out to Tom, Jacob, Theresia, Elysha, Angelina, Ally, and my buddy from Universitas Indonesia, Rifah! I will always remember our little adventures together, such as the jeep ride up Gunung Merapi, visiting Borobudur temple, and our difficulties in crossing Indonesia’s roads. Tidak dapat disangkal bahwa ini adalah pengalaman yang luar biasa. Saya akan mengingat ini selamanya!