It had been a dream of mine to participate in the Australian – Indonesian Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP) for 4 years, as my family hosted an Indonesian delegate when the program visited Melbourne. Funnily enough in those four years, I didn’t really understand what was involved in the program – but it just felt like I was supposed to be in it.
In this blog post I will attempt to break my experience of the program down into the separate phases, and cover what was included in them.
From the perspective of an Australian Delegate, the AIYEP is a 2 month experience targeted at creating cross-cultural relationships between delegates, as well as giving the individual a better understanding of the complex and multifaceted aspects of Indonesian culture.
There are 18 delegates from Australia (9 Females and 9 Males) that are selected for the program. It doesn’t matter what your educational background is, or what your level of Indonesian language is – you can still apply with a chance.
For the duration of the program you will be paired with an Indonesian ‘counterpart’ of the same gender – basically they will be your partner for everything. They will have already spent 2 months in Australia before you meet, and possess excellent English language skills.
Our time in Adelaide was an opportunity to get to know our fellow Australians and to start getting prepared for what was to come. The way I see it, the program is like a job. To make our group of 18 function as a whole, roles were delegated to individuals based on their areas of expertise - These roles included Group Leadership, Health, Community Development, Social Media, Cultural Performance and more. Once allocated to a group, it was your responsibility to make that area function in harmony with the others.
After a few days, the 18 Indonesians arrived. There were various team building exercises, as well as opportunities for us to get to know each other. This was important, because we would have to be allocated as counterparts after a few days. Funnily enough, my counterpart, Bima from West Java, was the last person I would have expected to be paired with. Our personalities could not be more opposite. However, to this day we have become great friends because of these differences.
For the rural phase we stayed in a village called Tanah Beru; a six hour drive from Makassar, South Sulawesi. Most AIYEP participants stayed in this village, with others staying in Tanah Harapan, only a short drive up the mountain. During our time in Adelaide and Jakarta, we were briefed on what to expect during the village, but were constantly reminded that there would always be surprises – This turned out to be quite true.
To increase our cultural understanding for the program, Australian counterparts were to stay with a host family for both the village and city phase of the program. I was fortunate enough to stay with Muhammad and Hadawiyah Basri, as well as 2 of their 4 children. The amount I learnt from staying with them, as well as the compassion they expressed towards me will never be forgotten. It’s safe to say that I will forever consider them as family.
Our task as the AIYEP team for the village phase, is to begin a number of sustainable Community Development (CommDev) programs. These will help aspects of the village that may need improving, or may not have existed in the first place. Some of the programs we developed were; making bins for the community using recycled materials, a social enterprise program for local merchants, and making a trap to catch wild pigs, as it is a severe problem in the area.
Using my background of Architecture and Construction Management, I was able to ensure that our CommDev team had a clear organisational hierarchy, and clear lines of communication. This was paramount to the success of our programs, as there is a lot of bureaucracy to navigate, as well as personal conflicts that can arise within the AIYEP group. I’m happy to say that all of our programs were a success – sustainable, memorable, and achievable.
In just under a month of the village, all of our projects were wrapped up and it was time to head off for our Mid Visit Break. It was a great feeling to see the effect of our projects on the community and leaving with a sense of accomplishment. However, saying farewell to our host families was extremely tough for those who created strong relationships with them.
Mid Visit Break
For our Mid Visit break we visited Malino, a popular tourist destination located in the highlands of South Sulawesi. After working so hard on our CommDev projects, it was a well deserved time to relax. Most people used their time to see the many beautiful waterfalls in the area, peruse the local market, or just relax and play board games. I managed to do all three, as well as make quite a few friends in the local community as well.
For the city phase, we were based in Makassar, South Sulawesi. As per the village phase, we were to stay with a local family for the duration for our stay. Some people were luckier than others when it came to their location, but this seemed to be balanced out in regards to the quality of their accommodation. I stayed with a young family in Batua Raya – A fairly central part of Makassar located along the banks of a large river, with plenty of markets and amenities around.
Rather than doing CommDev, all delegates were allocated work placements. Ideally, these were based on our career trajectories however for some it gave them the chance to try something new. Myself and four others were based at PT Bosowa Propertindo, arguably Makassar’s largest property development groups.
Whilst there was plenty of work to do during the working week, many of the delegates took the opportunity to see the abundance of sights within and around Makassar. Myself and a few others took a day trip to Samalona Island, where our boat managed to run out of petrol on the way back – Fortunately some friendly locals were close by and helped us out.
The following weekend Prima, Odah and Myself set off on a mission to Toraja, an overnight bus ride from Makassar. This area is famed for its celebration of death and unique burial practices – Resulting in some amazing monuments which I thoroughly enjoyed seeing.
I am actually writing this blog on the plane from Makassar to Jakarta, where we will finish the program. We will be dropping by the Ministry of Youth and Sport, as well as the Australian Embassy where we will do our cultural performances, and give our thanks to those that helped this program happen.
I’ve done my best to summarise AIYEP in a concise yet informative way, yet there is no way that I could portray the entire program without publishing a dissertation. The experiences and relationships that I gained from this trip will never be forgotten, and I will change me as a person forever.
Thank you AIYEP!
- Kieran Maguire, VIC