By Mercedes Whelan (Sem 40/Feb 2015)
Murdoch University

I decided to apply for the ACICIS Islamic Business, Law and Society (IBLS) Program after speaking to a friend from Murdoch who had participated in the program and loved it. As a young person growing up in WA, I was like many others who had a slight addiction to regular trips to Bali. I loved the people, the culture, and their relaxed way of life. So when I saw the opportunity to combine my study and my love of Indonesia, I took a chance and applied, and not long after I was on a plane to Yogyakarta (Jogja).

When I first arrived I was completely intimidated by the different sights, smells and the language that I was faced with. I could barely speak a few sentences of Indonesian, and I found that many of the locals did not speak English (except at my university- Universitas Islam Indonesia or UII). However, rather than this being a negative, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as after the six months I spent in Jogja and the introductory Indonesian classes I took part in when I arrived, I was able to easily have conversations with the people around me and grew to love the language (and still regularly find any excuse to speak Indonesian in Perth – much to the dismay of my parents- maaf!).

After completing a month-long Indonesian language course at the UII Economics campus, I began taking a number of classes at the Hukum (law) campus. The subjects on offer were beyond fascinating and there were so many to choose from, so I decided to focus on courses that reflect my main areas of interest, which were international law, and human rights. The classes I took included Islamic Criminal Law, Diplomatic and Consular Law, Human Rights Law, International Business Contracts Law, and International Dispute Resolution. I found these to be extremely interesting- the international law subjects were relevant for me to learn about whilst living in another country, as I learned a lot about the law in different areas of the world. I found most interesting the subjects that related to criminal and human rights law. I felt very privileged to be in such an honest and accepting learning environment, where all of my fellow peers and lecturers made the international students feel safe and open to share our opinions on controversial topics. My classmates were very interested to hear our view on topics such as Islamic criminal law and its traditional criminal sanctions, and our Westernised view on human rights abuses and how we believe Indonesia is dealing with such human rights issues.

The academic aspect of the IBLS program was absolutely amazing, and I learned so much about the law, and in particular Islamic and Indonesian law that I would not have had the opportunity to study in Australia. I would definitely recommend this program for any student who is interested in undertaking a student exchange in Indonesia- not necessarily just a law student as many other subjects such as business and finance are on offer. I also believe it will help me to ‘stand out from the crowd’ when applying for graduate positions in the future, as I now have the ability to view legal issues from an international perspective.

Aside from the academics, the ACICIS experience provided me with some of the best memories, and I made life-long friends. I regularly socialised with both fellow- ACICIS students, and also Indonesian friends who I met through classes, or ACICIS-based activities. I believe that the student exchange experience leads to strong friendships being formed in a shorter period of time, as you are experiencing so many new things together, including a totally new culture and way of life. There are also many opportunities during university and exam period breaks to travel and explore more of Indonesia. During my exchange, I travelled to Jakarta three times, Bali twice, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. I had many interesting experiences during the program, which included visiting traditional rural villages; learning about Indonesian batik-making; visiting an orphanage to help the UII students entertain the children; and also general Indonesian daily-life.

Overall, participating in the ACICIS program was absolutely life-changing for me (cliché, yes, but true). I have made the very best of friends, I have grown as a person, and become more confident and mature as a result of living overseas in a different environment. I have also developed essential skills, both legal and otherwise, that I believe will help me in my future career, and a love of Indonesia and the culture that will always be with me. If you’re up for the adventure of a lifetime, want to improve your resume, or learn about a new culture, religion, and way of life, then I encourage you to take a leap of faith and apply for the IBLS program.

To find out more about this program visit: Indonesian Business, Law and Society Program (IBLS)