Studying abroad is identical to a chance to further our academic degree. However, studying abroad could also be an opportunity to gain more unforgettable non-academic experiences. In this article, Kurniastuti Lestari (Ayi), a Masters of Applied Linguistics graduate from Monash University, Australia, shares her experience making the most of her postgraduate study through being involved in numerous activities.
Hello Ayi! Kindly introduce yourself.
I’m Kurniastuti Lestari (Ayi) and I obtained my Masters of Applied Linguistics from Monash University Australia in 2018 with the support of the LPDP Scholarship. In my spare time, I love traveling, photography, and being a foodie; tasting food from different and unique eateries I can find on my travels, whilst photo hunting would be an ideal day out. I also love doing voluntary activities related to education, culture and arts, and the environment.
I’m currently working at the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS Study Indonesia) as a Marketing & Student Recruitment Officer, in which I’m following my passion regarding the Australia-Indonesia partnership, and aspiring to take part in efforts to improve people-to-people relationships between the two countries. I am based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and I had a chance to go on a business trip to Perth and Sydney in 2019.
Within my roles at ACICIS, I work closely with six Australian universities in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane to promote ACICIS’ programs to Australian and International audiences. My roles include but are not limited to member university relationship cultivation and management where I work closely with the Global Mobility staff, lecturers, and other faculty staff; marketing and student recruitment; event coordination; student administration; alumni relations; and social media promotion.
In 2021, ACICIS Study Indonesia was one of the winners of the IEAA (International Education Association of Australia) Excellence Awards.
Would you mind sharing your academic and non-academic experiences when studying at Monash University?
When studying at Monash, I took several units related to intercultural communication within my degree of Masters of Applied Linguistics. These units have deepened my understanding of how essential it is to respect other cultures and accommodate people who are from different cultures to achieve successful communication, especially in this globalised world. These have also been useful for my current (and my future career) in which I work in an international/intercultural field.
In my postgraduate study, I also had an opportunity to present my intercultural-communication related papers in the International Journals of Arts & Sciences in Paris in 2017, where I presented possible sources to supplement materials for English teaching in Indonesia based on English as an international language framework and in Indonesian Student Discussion Forum in Melbourne in 2018 in which I talked about challenges and strategies in developing intercultural-communication competence in English as a lingua franca communication.
Apart from my academic life, I also tried to make the most of my time while I was still in Australia. Realising that Australia-Indonesia relations have been my new passion, I took part in some efforts in which I can introduce Indonesia to international audiences, especially Australia. I joined Bhinneka Indo Arts where my fellow dancers and I were performing Indonesian traditional dances such as Ratoh Duek from Aceh and Limpapeh from Padang, West Sumatra to Australian and international audiences in Melbourne in different cultural festivals such as Victorian Multicultural Festival, Spring Festival, Asian Festival, among others. We were also invited to schools in Melbourne to perform and to give Indonesian traditional dance workshops to Australian students and were delighted to see how enthusiastic the students were when watching us dance Ratoh Duek and learning different formations of the dance. Additionally, we were also featured dancing Ratoh Duek in a video clip from Oh Mercy, an award-winning band from Melbourne, titled National Park.
I also took part in some activities organised by AIYA (Australia-Indonesia Youth Association) Victoria Chapter. One of which was when I authored a report of one of the AIYA Basa-Basi events that were published on the AIYA blog. You can check the article here.
Other than AIYA and Bhinneka Indoarts, I also joined the City of Melbourne as a student volunteer as a photographer for one of their annual events, Chinese New Year in Melbourne in 2017. Within this activity, I was able to widen my networking mainly with other international students from several universities in Melbourne.
Have you encountered obstacles when living abroad?
Prior to my study in Australia, I had been working in an international environment for more than 5 years where several of my colleagues were Australian, so I did not have a hard time adjusting with, for example, Australian accents, slang, etc. However, I had difficulty balancing between my study and my life especially when I was writing my thesis in my last semester. I focused too much on my thesis and I believe that I should’ve managed my time a lot better and allocated more time than I did for my non-academic life. Thankfully I managed to complete my thesis on time with continued support from my thesis supervisor and my close friends in Melbourne successfully.
What have you learnt from studying abroad? Would you mind how the experience shaped you into who you are right now?’
I remember just before I left for Australia to study, I had this in mind “two years from now, I will go back to Indonesia with a new degree”. Little did I know that those two years of my studying abroad would be one of the most cherished moments in my life. I did not only get a new degree in my academic journey, but I also obtained so much more.
It has widened my perspectives of what diversities are. Melbourne is a multicultural city where people from more than 160 countries reside. I made friends and acquaintances with people from around the world from whom I have learned and understood more about cultures and countries that I wasn’t familiar with before.
It has gained my self-esteem and confidence to explore and push myself more. Before going to Australia, I did not think about participating in an international conference, taking part in international events, or learning traditional Indonesian dances to perform before international audiences. However, when I saw opportunities, I took them!
It has enhanced my soft skills mainly in my intercultural and interpersonal skills and values that are beneficial for me in my current and future career in the Australia-Indonesia field. These include knowledge of Australian education, first-hand experience on cultures and customs in Australia, etc
My knowledge and experience gained during my study in Australia have also allowed me to share my studying abroad experience as well as my successful tips in getting a scholarship with university students in Indonesia who are wishing to study overseas.
Lastly, would you mind sharing some tips for those who want to study in Australia, to make the most of their time there?
I believe that while you are in Australia or overseas in general, there are a lot of opportunities that you can take as an international student. Try to undertake any chances that fit your interests. It’s always easier to take up new activities which we are fond of. Also, as an Indonesian student, it is useful if you get in touch with Indonesian communities there. Try to take part in activities that promote Indonesian culture in the country where you study. It is very rewarding!!!
Last but not least, go travelling! Explore places that are different from your home country and see new perspectives. “If there’s one thing you won’t waste your money on, it’s travelling.” – Trevor Noah.
Kurniastuti Lestari (Ayi) obtained Masters of Applied Linguistics from Monash University Australia in 2018 with the support of the LPDP Scholarship. Ayi is currently working at the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS Study Indonesia) as a Marketing & Student Recruitment Officer. In her spare time, Ayi loves travelling, photography, and being a foodie.