Welcome back to Spotlight on an AIYA Member! In this regular series, we talk to a different AIYA Member from either Indonesia or Australia to hear their story. This week, New Colombo Plan Scholar and nasi padang enthusiast James Ritchie answers some questions.

What is your day job?

I am currently a political adviser to a Member of Parliament. I graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Business, as well as studying International Relations and Islamic Finance in Indonesia.

What is your favourite place to visit in Indonesia?

There is no shortage of amazing places but Solo is definitely one of my favourites. The city has an incredible buzz with rich history, strong Javanese culture and it still seems to be relatively unknown compared to its next-door neighbour, Yogyakarta. Nothing struck me more than how polite and friendly the people were.

What is your favourite meal in Indonesia?

Nasi padang – rendang, vegetables and kuah. I love it. It doesn’t count if you don’t use your hands either!

What is your favourite word in Indonesian?

Selow – a word which basically means ‘relax’ but seems to defuse any situation of anxiety or hostility.

What is your favourite film?

Indonesian films are great and increasingly getting better. Initially I started watching films to improve my language skills. The first one I ever watched was Ada Apa Dengan Cinta as it was the only film I found with English subtitles at the time. Since then I have thoroughly enjoyed watching various films which gave me a better understanding about significant historical figures and events in Indonesian history. I think my favourite would be Rudy Habibie about the life of former President Habibie focusing on his time studying in Germany.

How did you first become interested in Indonesia?

I volunteered teaching English at a school during a gap year. Didn’t know a word of Indonesian but I quickly developed a love for the people and country. Since then I have kept coming back to study, intern and holiday.

How did you first get involved with AIYA?

After returning from a stint in Indonesia, a few guys in Tasmania came together to start a small AIYA chapter. When I later returned to Indonesia, I always endeavoured to get involved with the closest chapter to where I was staying.

Any hopes for the bilateral relationship?

Being from Tasmania, I am hopeful and confident that Tasmania can engage more with Indonesia. With less Indonesians than any other state or territory, there is definitely scope to attract more Indonesian students to the state as well as developing business and tourism ties.

What do you like most about AIYA?

It’s a casual way to meet like-minded people and therefore accelerates knowledge transfer about both Australia and Indonesia.

Sum up your experience as an AIYA member in three words.

Fun, engaging, opportunities.

Read more AIYA Member Spotlight interviews here.