New Colombo Plan takes Zoe to the cultural heart of Indonesia – and earns her a shout-out from Julie Bishop

Growing up in regional New South Wales, Zoe Croucher’s friends always asked her why she had her heart set on studying Indonesian.

She says there wasn’t much knowledge about Indonesia in her local community.

But the La Trobe student has long been enamoured with the South-East Asian country. So it was only natural that, when she enrolled in University, she’d study its language alongside her other passion: the economy.

Her interest in and talent for these subjects led to her being named a 2018 New Colombo Plan scholarship recipient.

Her selection for the prestigious Asian education program meant she could sign on for an entire year of study at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

It was a boon for Zoe, whose only previous experience in Indonesia was holidaying in Bali.

The program proved an immersive experience for the Politics, Philosophy and Economics student. Although most of her classes were conducted in English, she also enrolled in some subjects taught wholly in Bahasa Indonesia.

Zoe says studying in a second language was a daunting but rewarding experience, and her teachers were really supportive.

“They were very accommodating and just happy that a foreigner was trying to learn,” she says.

When not in class, Zoe used every minute to soak up experiences only afforded to New Colombo Plan scholars.

A chance meeting with the Australian Consul-General in nearby Surabaya led to two stints as a intern with the Department of Foreign Affairs. She was the first student to intern at the department’s brand new offices in Surabaya. Her East Javan stay even earned her a shout-out from the then-federal minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

“Thank you Zoe for the wonderful support you’ve given at the Consulate General, you are a marvellous ambassador for Australia in Indonesia,” J-Bish said at the opening of the Consulate.

Back in Yogya, she also worked as a research assistant at the Centre for South East Asian Social Studies, helping put the finishing touches on a journal before publication.

The NCP scholars in Indonesia even scored a toured of the Indonesian province of Aceh.

Determined to have as an authentic experience as possible while living in Indonesia, Zoe tried her hand at motorcycle riding, the preferred method of transport in bustling Indonesia. She even stayed in a kos, or boarding house, in a simple room with little more than a matress and access to cold water.

She was also asked to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of a friend on the island of Ambon, where little English or Indonesian was spoken.

“That opened up my eyes to how diverse Indonesia was,” she says.

The food culture n Yogyakarta was another highlight for Zoe.

“Everything revolves around food, you socialise around food,” she says.

“Dinner was only about one or two dollars so I only cooked for myself one or two times.

“It’d be 11 or 12 o’clock at night and there’s so many people around.”

She raves about the networks she’s made as an NCP scholar, saying the training days alone were worth the time and energy spent completing the application process.

“You’re an alumni, you’re permanently in that network, you have these contacts with DFAT and you’ve got all these resources online,” she says.

She urged anyone interested in pursuing study and work in Asia to consider applying for the NCP program.

Please submit your expression of interest to be considered for this prestigious award by Monday 15 June.

Contact Brett Smith at La Trobe Abroad with any queries or for more information: