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Inspiring stories and ‘gezelligheid’ at the reunion and career day of South and Southeast Asian Studies

Staff members, alumni, and students were greeted by a warm spring day to follow the various programmes during the reunion and career day of BA South and Southeast Asian Studies. From alumni panels and yoga session to informal activities such as board games.

From civil servant, academic to entrepreneurial paths, the alumni shared their respective successes and challenges throughout their careers. The day was organised by the chair of the programme, David Henley, with help of study association SIITAA. The combined reunion and career event consisted of two alumni panels, a yoga session, and other informal. This included playing board games that originated from the region, such as snakes and ladders, pachisi or ludo, and pallanguzhi or congklak.

‘A learning process’

There is no doubt that the pandemic had a sweeping impact on job opportunities; one alumnus, Lotte Troost, briefly explained her experience. She lived in Indonesia several times, including through the study abroad programme within SSEAS which she described as ‘life changing’. ‘I knew I wanted to live and work in Indonesia’, unfortunately this plan had to be postponed due to Covid. Eventually, she landed a position as the Programme Director of International Internships (Australia), where she finds the work to be very fulfilling.

Here, resilience and confidence are the keywords, as told by Audrey Ajjpassa, Senior Policy Advisor for Innovation in Education (Ministry of Education in the Netherlands). She reminded students that our career path’s a learning process with setbacks and mistakes. The pandemic aside, personal problems will arise, and these are ‘part of the journey’ that’ll build your resilience. Alongside this, students are advised to make use of the integrated career service that will contribute to their skills and confidence in entering the job market.

What the university has to offer: resources and choices

Aside from the study abroad programme and the university’s career service, choosing a minor’s another way in which students can further specialise in their area of interest, and thus increasing the chances they will secure the job they desire. Iona Susanto, a yoga instructor, mentioned how she struggled to find a job at first. However, learning the specific skill set in her minor in human resources has helped her tremendously. After working several years in human resources, she chose to take the entrepreneurial path because of her fascination in the healing practices of yoga.

Speaking of specialisation, many alumni have continued their journey in the academia. Marit Feld, until recently the Junior Education Director in Museum Villa Mondrian, had taken two master’s: Arts and Culture, and Asian Studies. Indeed, finding employment will be easier if you can demonstrate tangible dedication and specific skill sets in your area of interest.

The trajectory of South and Southeast Asian Studies

Edwin Jurriens is another alumnus that chose the academic path. He was a lecturer for Indonesian Studies in UNSW Canberra, and now he is the Convenor of the Indonesian Studies programme in the University of Melbourne. ‘I enjoyed it so much that I don’t want to stop studying’, he reflected on how Leiden University has significantly shaped him, as well as its professors’ loyalty to the programme. Furthermore, he stated that he is optimistic of the trajectory of Indonesian and SSEA Studies, ‘the interest level is strong and it’s bouncing back’. Jurriens recalled the many events surrounding the region in Melbourne, signalling its significance.

This also holds true in our university, home for leading research projects surrounding the region, such as the Purana. Olii-Pekka Littunen, a PhD student specialising in Sanskrit literature, is involved in said project. He explained how the Purana project isn’t exclusive to Sanskrit, and mentioned there might be more opportunities to research other Ancient texts in the future.

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