30 October 2017
When Kaitlin Pepper of Diddillibah signed up for a USC Indonesian language course at age 15, she began a journey that would see her studying in the buzzing Javanese city of Yogyakarta.
Now a fourth-year Arts/Law student, Kaitlin, 21, recently returned from a six-month exchange program with the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies, which included studying at Universitas Islam Indonesia and completing an internship at a major Indonesian legal aid organisation.
Kaitlin’s passion for Indonesian culture developed in Year 11, when she enrolled in two USC language subjects through the University’s Headstart program, and studied alongside university students.
After leaving high school, Kaitlin decided to continue her Indonesian studies as part of her degree at USC, and jumped at opportunities to deepen her knowledge of Javanese culture.
“To be living and interning in Yogyakarta felt like the culmination of many years of interest and study,” Kaitlin said. “The best way to learn a language is to be right in the thick of it, so being able to do that as part of my degree was perfect.
“My internship with Lembaga Konsultasi dan Bantuan Hukum was incredibly valuable – it was really satisfying to use both my language skills and my knowledge of Law to help give free legal advice and education to vulnerable clients.
“My time in Yogyakarta really advanced my skills and gave me real-world professional experience. I’d love to work in an embassy one day, and remain in close touch with the Indonesian people and culture.”
The exchange was Kaitlin’s second Indonesian experience as part of her degree, after she took a six-week language intensive course in Lombok in 2015. Both experiences were supported by grants under the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan.
Kaitlin recently returned to her former high school, St John’s College at Nambour, to share with current students her experiences of studying through Headstart and living in Indonesia.
“My conversation was about the steps they can take in high school to help them follow a passion into university,” she said. “Headstart really helped me find my footing at USC, and I loved being able to earn credit towards my degree while still in high school.
“It was the entry into the opportunities I’ve had to study overseas – not once, but twice.”
— Gen Kennedy