I undertook a 3-month internship at the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Jakarta in late 2012 during the final semester of my Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) degree at RMIT University. UNIC Jakarta offers internship opportunities for graduates and current tertiary students studying undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Primarily they are looking for applications with qualifications and experience in communications as well as a sound knowledge of international relations.
I applied via email after carefully following the application instructions listed on their website. The internship program duration has a minimum required duration of three months and is unremunerated (unpaid). This was something I was prepared for as an internship was a required component of my Bachelor, and at the beginning of my degree, we were notified that many internships are unpaid.
Once I was confirmed as an intern by UNIC and my University, the UNIC office provided a letter of acceptance that I used to process an appropriate Sosial Budaya Visa (2-month Social-Culture visa). Immigration policies and processes vary from province to province and change often. As a result, I would recommend speaking directly to the agency you intern for regarding their advice. Alternatively, you can try to contact your local Indonesian Consulate or Embassy for the most up-to-date information. Often you also have to extend this Visa once in country, this was a challenge but one that many an international intern had done before me, so I got some tips from others before jumping on an Ojek (motorcycle taxi) to the Immigration office!
I worked in the Information Centre for the United Nations (UN) in Indonesia. The UNIC Director coordinates all the internal communication between the many UN agencies located in Indonesia as well as representing the UN Secretary-General in Indonesia. The main aim of the office is to raise awareness amongst Indonesian society of the UN and their current programs. Each morning our task as interns included collecting local print and online media articles which we collated and then sent to update UN headquarters in New York, thereby providing publicity and coverage of local and international current affairs.
The first task I was given to work on was to put together the monthly e-newsletter. This is sent to as many contacts as possible including international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), various government and embassy staff, universities etc. I created the English version and it was then translated by a professional into Bahasa Indonesia.
Also during my time at UNIC I worked on the UN4U campaign which is held all over Indonesia each October, involving UN Staff giving lectures at many universities across the archipelago. This campaign ends on the 24th of October (UN Day).
Along with four other interns and the permanent staff, I assisted with the preparation for all the events between Bali and North Sumatra. I photocopied thousands of surveys, counted out thousands of certificates and prepared hundreds of goody bags. We also got the chance to attend and assist the presentations in Jakarta and the surrounding areas. I attended an International Labour Organisation (ILO) lecture about Decent Work and on the same day large labour protests about outsourcing and wages broke out in Jakarta. The questions from the student and staff body to the national ILO director were very interesting! We also travelled to Bandung, a city about 2 and a half hours away, to assist the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Director in communications with more than 200 students, involving the broadcast of live footage from UNESCO employees in the wonderful Central Javanese city, Yogyakarta.
Other tasks I completed at UNIC were to assist with translations from Bahasa to English, to help prepare press releases, media advisories, speeches, interviews, presentations and newspaper articles produced by our team. Working in the communications sector was truly a valuable experience. I learnt so much; from creating videos to photo exhibits, organising events, assisting with daily social media and updating the website. I dabbled in so many new tasks during my time at UNIC that I felt so much more equipped for the workforce, AKA life after university. I cannot recommend an internship enough to students.
Life in Jakarta
I lived in a Kos-kosan (boarding house) in central Jakarta in an area called Kebon Kacang, located right behind Bundaran HI and two huge shopping malls (Grand Indonesia and Plaza Indonesia). My Kost was called Avalon Residence, which was very secure and had all the necessary facilities; AC, laundry service, own bathroom and shared kitchen. I was lucky to live with a majority of Indonesian women who taught me some things about their way of life (getting up early for prayers for example) and traditional food which they sometimes shared with me!
I made many friends at UNIC who were also undertaking internships whilst completing studies. They were so great to me and helped me settle into the office and city with ease. Having Indonesian friends to hang out with, show you the good places, help you negotiate the public buses and practice your Bahasa was fantastic!
There was also a large network of interns from across the world at all the UN agencies/departments who would often travel, party and just generally socialise together to make the most of our time in Jakarta and Indonesia.
Don’t sit at home at night. Discover all that the city has to offer – there is so much!
Traffic is crazy, the humidity and pollution are overwhelming, early morning wake-ups by the mosque and school children are unavoidable and rats and cats run rife especially when the sun goes down but overall Jakarta is a wonderful place to live and work. There is so much to explore and do when you have free time. Some top ways to survive the crazy city:
1: Find an apartment complex nearby that has a pool. Use it to survive the heat after work and on weekdays.
2: To avoid being stuck in traffic for hours on end, live close by to where you work so you can either walk or ride a bike. Utilise Ojeks to get places as they are much quicker than Taxis. If you are going with friends, try to use TransJakarta rather than Taxis.
3: Try all the local warungs, shop at local markets, speak Indo with anyone who wants to (they all will if you show just the smallest amount of language knowledge), make local friends at your Kos, travel to other cities/areas and most importantly accept invitations to grab coffee, eat and attend events! Don’t sit at home at night. Discover all that the city has to offer – there is so much! I was lucky to attend birthdays, karaoke parties, launches of new products/initiatives to Indonesia and even a wedding. Experiences like this will make your time in Jakarta all the more memorable.
4: Do get away and explore on the weekend. Some trips I’d recommend are:
Pulau Seribu – just a short two hour or so boat ride away from the city. Here there are so many beautiful islands surrounded by crystal clear water. I recommend Pulau Putri Barat for a private, relaxed weekend with friends. We basically hired the island for the weekend as there is just one residence there. We did some island hopping and snorkelling with the family who owns the place and they provided most meals as we were quite isolated. Also Pulau Pramuka, the most inhabited island with a small township. I volunteered here one weekend with local school children, almost just like helping out with a school holiday program. It was a fun and very rewarding weekend during which many friendships were formed.
Bandung – not far by bus or train, Bandung is a great city. It is known as the Paris of Java, I was lucky to visit Bandung with a local friend who had grown up there and stay at her grandparent’s house, meeting some of her school friends. We had a great weekend shopping, eating and exploring as well as just enjoying the cooler climate!
Yogyakarta – if you can get the overnight trains you can definitely do a long weekend in this cultural hub of Indonesian Javanese culture which is an amazing student city!
Bali/Lombok/Gili’s – a short plane trip away to escape and mingle with primarily other Western tourists.
Of course, there are so many more amazing places to visit but these are just a few I did!
You can find more information here about the UNIC internship here, and read my travel blog from Jakarta here.