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ACICIS Public Health Tour, Indonesia

Last summer, I participated to the Public Health Study Tour, a program organized by ACICIS, the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies and supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs through the New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant, of which I am a recipient. I wanted to complete the subject “Professional Placement” in a way I could totally dedicate all my time and attention to learning and applying all the acquired knowledge built up throughout my degree in relation of population health in the Indo-Pacific region. I had the chance to making sense of my years of learning and at the same time had a cross-cultural experience. I could not hope for a better way to complete the Professional Placement subject required in the final year of my Bachelor.

During these two weeks tour, I had the opportunity to attend seminars on topics related to public health issues, as well as go on field visits. Participants like me were invited to learn about the Indonesian public health system, health policies, understand the multiple health challenges faced by the population in the very complex Indonesian context, but also learn about the strategies and interventions in place to address the challenges.

I spent one week in Jakarta and one week in Yogyakarta. Our days were busy. We did not stop! The two weeks were packed with seminars, field trips, Bahasa classes, pre-readings and assignments. Dealing with tight schedules was challenging. My days stretched from 5.30am until 10pm (if not later) because I incorporated daily workouts to keep physically and mentally healthy.

I have so many highlights: from the time spent with our local peers, to the food safari-kind of challenge that I happily took on my own. But my top highlight was the field visit to the World Mosquito Program in Yogyakarta, where I learnt about the innovative strategy in place to fight dengue fever, using Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes. Truly fascinating and of a great ingenuity.
The initiative works towards protecting the community from mosquito-borne diseases using the Wolbachia method. The trip was memorable as I volunteered to feed mosquito offering my forearm, letting hundreds of “farmed” Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes feasting on it!

I am still amazed by the kindness and generosity of the Indonesian people who accompanied us, ensuring everything run smoothly. My gratitude goes towards the health professionals, NGO representatives, academics, logistics people, local students, who contributed to my learning.
I had a great human adventure. None of the participants knew each other. All were coming from all over Australia, all of us were in the mindset of letting the unknown in. I am grateful I had the opportunity to have an amazing cross-cultural experience. It is confronting to realize how little I knew about one of our closest neighbours…Such an eye-opening journey.

I encourage everyone to embark on an adventure during their studies, whether it is Indonesia or another country. You’ll be left fulfilled, inspired, and smarter!

Linda Benyunes

Bachelor of Health Science

Global Short Program Student – ACICIS Public Health Study Tour, Indonesia

New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant Recipient

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