International exchange opens door to new side of Bali life

February 9, 2018

Coral reef restoration: Nathan Wells, Shannyn Casey and Lauren Peck construct a dome in the village of Les, Bali. Credit Jillian McHugh photography

Arriving on the day of the Mount Agung volcano eruption proved to be a baptism of fire for a group of Murdoch University students on an international cultural exchange program.

The four students were awarded New Colombo Plan grants to undertake a Sustainable Community Development Practicum in Les Village, Bali, Indonesia.

Involvement with some of the 100,000 people told to evacuate surrounding villages was an unanticipated addition to the list of transformational experiences on this Federal Government-funded cultural exchange program.

Over the four week program, the students were involved in monitoring coral reef rehabilitation and alternative livelihood programs, planning a village based plastic recycling program by creating unique jewellery products, establishing a worm farm, preparing environmental education tools and teaching English, computer skills and swimming to local children.

Shannyn Casey, who is studying Conservation and Wildlife Biology, said the eye-opening experience provided a solid grounding that was invaluable to her future career development.

“Being exposed to communities where people are far less better off gives makes you ask yourself what you can do to help, coming from a position of privilege,” she said.

“It gives you an understanding of other cultures and opens your mind to new ways of collaborating with others to help solve the world’s problems.”

The students were placed with non-government organisations working on a variety of projects in northern Bali including eco-tourism, aquaculture research and development, organic agriculture and youth engagement activities.

Bachelor of Science and Tourism student Nathan Wells said the trip was an experience he would never forget.

“The main highlights for me were the people, their accepting and welcoming culture, as well as the opportunity to learn from some very experienced people who run NGOs in Les Village,” he said.

“We were also privileged to be able to see a side of Bali that many visitors do not.”

Associate Professor Carol Warren from the Asian Studies program in Murdoch University’s School of Arts said the program was an excellent opportunity for a two-way exchange between Australia and its neighbouring countries in the Indo-Pacific

“The NCP program gives these high-achieving Murdoch students the opportunity to gain real world experience in the areas they are passionate about. It helps broaden their perspective and equips them with the knowledge, skills and life experience that will enable them to build satisfying and world changing careers,” she said.

“Students chosen for next year’s program will have the opportunity to build on the previous projects and start up new ones. We are looking for students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds who are keen to take their academic skills and personal experience into new cultural contexts.”

The students visiting Bali were from a range of disciplines including International Aid and Development, Marine Science, Indonesian, Community Development, Environmental Management and Sustainability and Tourism studies.

By the end of this year, the New Colombo Plan will have supported more than 30,000 Australian undergraduate students in the Indo-Pacific with the aim of strengthening Australia’s relationships with its neighbours by creating influential professional and personal networks across the region.

Images must be credited to Jillian McHugh referencing or @jillianmchughphoto (Instagram).

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