In-country experience has been key for The Australian National University (ANU) student Harriet Roberts to better understand the region and make a tangible impact.
Harriet, who will graduate from her Bachelor of Asia-Pacific Studies (Year in Asia) program in December, travelled to four countries in the Asia-Pacific region as a part of her degree.
Her highlight was a year-long stint in Indonesia, studying in Yogyakarta and Bandung as a part of the Year in Asia program, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific’s flagship overseas study program.
“The Year in Asia program was the most exciting and challenging part of my degree,” said Harriet.
“It allowed me to refine important skills such as intercultural communication, cultural sensitivity, problem solving and flexibility.”
Harriet, who is also undertaking a Bachelor of Laws at ANU, interned at a branch of Legal Aid in Bandung while on her Year in Asia, supported by the prestigious New Colombo Plan Scholarship.
“The NCP is intended to be transformational, and I think there’s no better word to sum up my experience,” she said.
“I left Indonesia with crucial practical skills from my internship experience, a more nuanced understanding of Indonesian language, and with a number of friends for life.”
Beyond Indonesia, Harriet also studied in-country on the Modern Mongolia short course and on the Thai-Myanmar border in the Southeast Asian Frontiers (SEAF) program.
SEAF is the College’s longest-running study tour and has given over 100 students the unique opportunity to undertake field research on the Thai-Myanmar border.
“I would definitely say that the Southeast Asian Frontiers program was life-changing for me,” said Harriet.
“Whilst dealing with complex issues in such a foreign environment was at first challenging, the experience enabled me to gain crucial resilience and interpersonal skills.
“The course also fostered my interest in human trafficking and labour exploitation – an issue which I focused on in the mini-thesis I wrote whilst studying in Indonesia.”
This mini-thesis, or skripsi, was a 10,000 word essay written entirely in Indonesian. A student of both Indonesian and Thai during her program, Harriet said her language study enriched her experience abroad and gave her crucial skills.
“Whilst language study may be frustrating at times, the value of studying languages for me is always shown whilst spending time in-country,” she said.
“I love the satisfaction of being able to hold conversations with people in another language which I otherwise would not have been able to without my language skills.
“Developing a nuanced understanding of Indonesian language has allowed me to grasp the subtler meanings behind language use and word choice.”
As graduation day approaches, Harriet said what she will miss most about studying at ANU is the people.
“One thing that stands out about the College is how passionate the students and academics are about their field of study, and how willing everyone is to share their passions with others,” said Harriet.
“This is definitely what makes the University such an exciting place to study at!”
To see more ANU College of Asia and the Pacific students as they travel and study around the region, follow the College on Instagram.