By Mark (Semester 40/Feb 2015)
Why Indonesia and not America or Europe you ask? To answer this question we need only consider that Indonesia is Australia’s largest neighbour, it has a rapidly emerging economy and a fascinating political past, which is still unfolding. It is no coincidence that the Australian government has provided large sums of money for Australian students to study in Indonesia, hoping that they may return with the sorts of knowledge and skills it needs to further strengthen the relationship between the two nations.
It should be understood however this will by no means be the easiest thing students will ever do. Indonesia is a complex and fascinating place, requiring them to think on their feet and adapt to their surroundings. These are highly important skills for anybody who wishes to work in foreign affairs or international business and by completing an ACICIS program, students may take steps toward proving to potential employers that they are capable of coping with the pressures of working overseas. Personally, prior to completing my ACICIS program I knew little about Indonesia, or its complexities. However now having completed it, and learned so much, I realize how important Indonesia is to Australia’s economic, security, and geopolitical interests.
I’d always wanted to learn about Islam, particularly from an Islamic perspective, rather than a western centred one. Given Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population; this was an opportunity too good to be missed. Studying at the Universitas Islam Indonesia, Indonesia’s oldest private university, students were able to choose from a whole range of topics, from Islamic thought and civilisation to Islamic criminal law and even Islamic finance. The other international students and I felt overwhelmingly spoilt for choice. Ideally, we would have liked to study them all. After much deliberation, I settled on diplomatic and consular law, Islamic criminal law, and Islamic thought and civilisation. I also completed an Internship with the Universitas Islam Indonesia LKBH legal aid office.
It was an interesting time to be an Australian in Indonesia, especially as a student studying diplomatic and consular law during the time of the execution of the Bali Duo. For the most part Indonesian’s are adverse to conflict; therefore discussing the matter wasn’t as clear cut as it may have been in Australia. I was also required to conduct a presentation comparing Australian criminal law to Islamic criminal law. This was made all the more exciting, although somewhat intimidating, by the presence of approximately thirty exchange students from Malaysia. The Malaysian students seemed very interested to hear my presentation, as each of the legal systems differed considerably and I believe we all benefited from the experience.
Perhaps the best part of my studies in Indonesia however, came by way of the LKBH legal aid internship. This was as real world and hands on as you can get, with each week providing a practical insight into how the Indonesian legal system operates. In the initial weeks we were given an overview of how the Indonesian legal bureaucracy works, and in the following weeks we were able to sit in on real time legal consultations and attend actual court hearings. For me, this was exactly what I was hoping to experience when coming to Indonesia, and for anybody interested in studying international law, this is a must.
Experiences such as these last a lifetime and I cannot recommend the ACICIS program highly enough. Without a doubt, it ranks firmly among the greatest things I have ever done, providing a key point of difference and hopefully allowing me to get ahead of the pack.