By Bayan Yazdani* (Virtual DSPP 2021)
Flinders University

If there are three words to describe the Development Studies Professional Practicum, they would have to be inspiring, engaging and future-shaping. Selamat siang semua, my name is Bayan and today I will be representing the DSPP cohort to share some key reflections, highlights and takeaways from the program.

Before commencing this virtual practicum program, I, like several other students, was sceptical of its ability to reflect a truly immersive in-country experience. After almost a year of online lectures and countless zoom calls and conferences, I worried about the prospect of zoom fatigue. Having had the privilege of spending three months in Bandung, West Java on the ACICIS International Relations Program just before the pandemic disrupted everyone’s lives, I personally believed it would be extremely difficult to continue truly immersing myself in Indonesian culture and society from my own unexciting bedroom right here in Adelaide.

Nonetheless, on behalf of all DSPP students, I can honestly say that this program far exceeded our expectations. With insightful and pertinent themes as diverse as Indonesian politics, gender equality and COVID-19, to more controversial matters such as the contentious omnibus law, human rights and religious pluralism, the supposed dichotomy between the economy and the environment, and notions of corporate social responsibility – if you don’t that an oxymoron – the DSPP students felt that the seminars and workshops were mengamgumkan. That’s not to mention the outstanding calibre of the incredible speakers we met, ranging from the likes of researchers, directors and professors at Indonesia’s top universities such as UGM and UI, to an ACICIS alumna promoting public health and sustainable development at the grassroots in communities across Salatiga – let alone a Regional Campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia and a senior professional with experience across several UN agencies. I guess it would suffice to say that the speakers of our seminars were awe-inspiring individuals, and the insight they were able to impart on us is something we feel truly grateful for and won’t forget.

However, it wasn’t just the seminars that we loved. We also watched a film called Asimetris (or asymmetric in English), which explored some of the consequences of environmental exploitation and social inequality or exclusion (which often go hand in hand and reinforce one another) in Indonesian society, particularly across rural areas. Afterwards, we had an insightful Q&A with the director, Pak Dandhy Laksono, who the students found to be keren sekali. Later in the program, we watched another film titled The Staging Post, which provided insight into the lives of foreign refugees living in Indonesia. It was inspiring to learn about their struggles and to be able to speak one-on-one with the directors of the film. As students of development, we were able to reach an understanding about how film, and the arts more generally, can act as tools to provide insight into something so central to the development process: the human condition. It was these deeper connections we formed with the directors of these films, as well as the aforementioned speakers who generously offered their time to patiently respond to our countless questions, wherein the DSPP students felt the true value of this program for enhancing our understanding of Indonesian society.

Another major highlight was our first virtual field trip to Kali Code, which shed light on urban development and resource management – as well as the role of the community in the development of squatter settlements. Moreover, our second and final virtual field trip involved a visit to a touristic village known as Nglanggeran to explore its communical atmosphere, rural eco-tourism and community empowerment, as well as how a focus on local capacity building has helped promote sustainable development. We even got a tour of a chocolate store and insight into the chocolate production process – a key highlight for many of us even though we weren’t there in real life to try it! Despite their online format, these virtual field trips provided on-the-ground insight into the development process across both rural and urban areas in Indonesia – thereby enhancing our studies and adding a new perspective to everything we were able to achieve through our virtual internships with local organisations in education, human rights and labour law, humanitarian aid, women’s empowerment, environmental advocacy, governance and policy, and microfinance.

As DSPP students with a deepened and more critical perspective on developmental issues, we approached the end of our program with a clearer understanding of the numerous pressing challenges our generation must inevitably face – and, yet, we now feel empowered to look beyond borders to assist, and indeed learn from, the experiences of our brothers and sisters in humanity residing in a land so geographically close to us yet so, so culturally far.

Kesimpulannya, para siswa sangat menikmati program ini dan belajar banyak darinya. Beberapa orang mengatakan itu menegaskan kembali keputusan mereka untuk mempelajari pembangunan. Kami juga senang mendengar perspektif baru dan melakukan diskusi yang mendalam dan bermakna satu sama lain. Banyak siswa menyukai perspektif kritis yang kami dengar tentang banyak masalah di masyarakat Indonesia dari berbagai sudut pandang, dan beberapa siswa menggambarkan kelas bahasa mereka sebagai aspek favorit mereka dari program ini. Kami sangat berterima kasih atas semua yang telah dilakukan ACICIS untuk kami, dan ingin mengucapkan banyak terima kasih kepada semua staf atas kerja keras mereka. Kalian semua sangat rajin! As Australian students living in a relatively fortunate situation, we know that the Indonesian people are suffering immensely right now due to COVID-19 and its economic and socio-cultural consequences. For this, we extend our thoughts, prayers and love to the Indonesian people, our condolences to all those who’ve lost loved ones from this vicious virus, and together hope for better days – perhaps ones where we can see each other face-to-face on the chaotic albeit charming streets of Jakarta. But until then, hati hati, dong!

*This was delivered as a speech at the Virtual Practicum Program Closing Ceremony in February 2021.