By Ashleigh McFarland, BPP 2016
Griffith University

Participating in the Business Professional Practicum program with ACICIS in Indonesia allowed me to travel to a new part of the world while getting professional experience, but also be accredited towards my degree. The adventure did a lot more than this though, I returned home with an entirely different outlook on life.

After spending two months living in Jakarta, I can honestly say that the people I met were the nicest and most genuine people I have ever met. People would go out of their way to say hello and families who had nothing would put all their food on the table and offer you everything.

Our weekends were spent exploring Jakarta and other parts of Java, from the west to east and north to south. We climbed active volcanoes, snorkelled stunning reefs, visited ancient temples, getaways on deserted islands, devoured street food, weaved through the Jakarta traffic on ojeks, swam in waterfalls, and danced until the call to prayer at sunrise. The memories and adventures make my heart flutter.

Whilst at Atma Jaya University, we studied Bahasa Indonesia and seminars on the Indonesian political and cultural landscape. With my newly acquired language skills, I was ready to jump into the Indonesian workforce and commence my internship at Trade and Investment Queensland. I assisted over 15 Food and Agricultural exporters from Queensland and conducted extensive market research to help the companies break into emerging and established markets in Indonesia. Focusing on Processed Foods and the Health Food Industry, I completed competitive analysis, market penetration and entry strategies, and I met with key stakeholders including importers, distributors and clients. It was exciting promoting Australian products to Indonesian counterparts.

If I was travelling through Indonesia, I don’t think I’d enjoy macet (traffic jams) and the pollution of Jakarta. However, living in the beautiful bustling city for two months, was simply refreshing. It opened my eyes to the fascinating nation of Indonesia, I saw what is really happening underneath the surface and what the media fails to show us, and I met the most wonderful friends who I will cherish for a lifetime.

In the evenings, we would sit on our rooftop together after work or uni and watch the sun set over the city while the call to prayer erupted around us. Sometimes we splurged on wine (cheapest is $40/bottle) and cheese ($12/block). There were many little things that I missed about Australia, drinkable running water and fresh clean air were #1. But since returning home, there are many more things that I miss about Indonesia. Yes they are a developing country, but they are far more advanced in other areas. Kindness being the first thing that comes to mind.

One of my fondest memories has to be spending time with the ojek (motorbike) drivers who you could order off an App (GoJek) and they’d be at your door within minutes. Every where I went, I would catch a ojek – hearing their stories and seeing the incredible sights as they took you on tours of the city made the crazy ride worth it. We were complete strangers but that doesn’t mean anything in Indonesia. They will welcome you with open arms and a full heart.

Eating at warungs (street food) became a regular event and it was such a great time to get to know the culture and eat like a local. Adventuring to get Sate Ayam (chicken satay skewers) for $1.70 was always a ball of fun. Tempe, a fried soy bean fritter thing quickly became my favourite food, especially when the office driver would bring us freshly fried Tempe or some other hot fried carby food. Working culture in Indonesia is so different to that in Australia.. Almost everyday someone will bring some home cooked food to share with the office or “Oleh Oleh” (souvenir food) if they’ve been away on holidays. The office staff felt like my family, a home away from home.

I’ve now returned to Australia with an unending love and fascination for Indonesia, unforgettable experiences and lifelong friendships. I would never have thought of living in Indonesia and that the memories, life experience, knowledge and skills are things that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

To those considering a program with ACICIS or those interested in Indonesia, please set some time aside to to live, work and/or study Indonesia – I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

For more information about this program visit: Business Professional Practicum