Nurzahara Amalia (Zahara) of Banten was an 2013-14 Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP) participant, and here shares a reflection on the ups and downs of experiencing life in Australia.

I was born to a simple family in a small town in Pandeglang, the furthest West part of Java Island. My mother is a housewife and my father was a teacher. When I was in junior high school, I dreamt of going abroad. I thought this might never be possible as my family wasn’t a rich family and you need a lot of money to travel overseas. At that time, I thought it was just a dream. I never thought that it would happen.

But then I had a chance to make this dream come through, by applying for the Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program. I applied in 2012 but I failed. Was I upset? Yes! Did I give up? No! The next year, I tried again. I practiced so hard, even taking an English course to better prepare. When preparation meets opportunity, it’s called success. I cannot tell you how great the feeling was when I set foot at the Sydney airport for the first time, it was indescribable!

Zahara interning at

Zahara interning at SBS Radio Indonesia. Photo: Nurzahara Amalia

I joined AIYEP as a representative from my province of Banten. The program has two phases: the first in Australia and the second in Indonesia. During my stay in Australia, I had so many new experiences. It was the first time I had lived with foreigners. Experiencing a new life requires you to adapt quickly and be flexible. It was particularly difficult for me to adapt to the food. I had heartburn and a stomach ache in my first week. I wasn’t eating rice and I even threw up when I tried Vegemite. But my favourite food is fish and chips. It’s delicious!

The Australian phase had many activities including cultural performances and an internship. As part of the first phase, every Monday my friends from the program and I went to schools to perform Indonesian professional dances. I was so happy seeing the audience looking so excited. I felt so proud of my own country because of its diversity. We interacted with students after our performances, which enabled me to learn more about Australian culture.


The dance crew post-performance. Photo: Nurzahara Amalia

The second part of the Australian phase was an internship. I interned at SBS Radio Australia, working every Tuesday until Friday. I had a really kind supervisor and enjoyed my time there. I learnt how to produce news and how the broadcast system in Australia works. I learnt about discipline and punctuality. I remember one time when I woke up late so I missed the train. I felt so ashamed to come late because I was worried that they believed all Indonesians were always late. I learnt from that experience to always wake up early.

I also learnt about the Australian people. They are nice, speak with an open mind and quite bluntly, and are helpful and hospitable. The country is clean and orderly. I miss my time in Australia, and I miss the fish and chips. I miss the program and the people and am grateful for my opportunity through AIYEP.

This article is one of a series of reflections from alumni of Australia-Indonesia student exchange programs. Read the experiences of other AIYEP participants here. The editors of the AIYA Blog would also like to thank Samantha Howard for her assistance in commissioning and editing these articles. You can find her solo and collaborative blog and journal writing here and here.