My name is Danti and I was an AIYEP participant in 2013/2014, representing the province of East Kalimantan. During my time in AIYEP, I travelled to Sydney for the Australian phase of the program and to West Sumatra for the Indonesian phase. AIYEP was a fantastic and life changing experience. Let me tell you why.

Danti with her 'host sisters' at a festival in Sydney. Photo: Fati Ramadhanti

Danti with her ‘host sisters’ at a festival in Sydney. Photo: Fati Ramadhanti

Although it has been three years since I participated in AIYEP, I still hold the memories close to my heart. Through the program I was given the opportunity to learn about Australian culture, history, values, weather, foods, events, animals and more. I had experiences in Australia that would have never been possible if I had travelled by myself, and the best part was that the program was free!

My fondest memories were living with a host family, singing and dancing in front of high school students, and working and networking within an Australian company during my internship. I also had the opportunity to meet and be welcomed by the Governor of New South Wales, the Mayor of Kiama, staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, staff at the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia, and more.

Danti - Me and Greg Moriarty

Danti with then-Australian ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty. Photo: Fati Ramadhanti

I learnt so many things and met so many people in such a short time. I could tell you dozens of things that I loved about Australia, but let me tell you my favourite three. Firstly, Australia has lots of different and cool events. One of my favourites was the Jurassic Lounge, held at the Australian Museum. This event featured interesting lighting in the museum, Xbox games, music, photo booths and cafes. It was such a creative event and I liked how the managers made the museum a place for youth to hang out. I wish we had events like these in Indonesia!

Secondly, what I loved was the Australian working culture. Australians are very disciplined, talented and organised. The supervisor during my internship was only three years older than me, however he was already a project manager, can speak fluent French, had received a scholarship for his Masters degree and even taught me how to invest in good stocks! I was very inspired by him to develop my own skills. Thirdly, what I also found interesting was how Australians eat their lunch. Australians love to eat their lunch outside in the park so that they can see the greenery and breathe in the fresh air with their friends and co-workers. This is not common in Indonesia.

Danti - Me and My Supervisor - Sydney

Danti with her supervisor in Sydney. Photo: Fati Ramadhanti

I discovered many differences in our cultures between Australia and Indonesia during AIYEP. While most of the experiences I mentioned might seem very common for Australians, they were new experiences for me as an Indonesian. The AIYEP experience changed my perspectives, cultural understanding, values and even my whole life. Not only did I discover myself but also a whole new group of people that I now consider my family. Now anytime I go to a province in Indonesia or a state in Australia, I have friends to catch up with. Furthermore, my experiences in AIYEP gave me better opportunities and greater networks to help me in my career. Thanks to AIYEP I was able to work as a Finance Management Trainee with Nestle Indonesia, and received a scholarship through The Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education.

AIYEP allows Australians and Indonesians to learn more about one another. We are only 2,000 miles apart, yet the cultures and environments are vastly different. Only by experiencing the cultures for ourselves can we understand each other’s values and know what similarities we have in common. We are neighbours. Understanding one another will benefit us to build stronger relationships as people and as nations.

Cultural performance for AIYEP participants. Photo: Fati Ramadhanti

Cultural performance for AIYEP participants. Photo: Fati Ramadhanti

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.