The New Colombo Plan has completely changed Omar Elkharouf’s focus and career goals. Originally planning to travel to the Middle East, a region the University of Sydney student was already familiar with, Omar instead found himself undertaking an internship with an environmental consulting company, Wesfarmers owned - GreenCap, in Jakarta, Indonesia.
When he first arrived he knew little about Indonesia beyond the stereotypes often portrayed in the Australian media, but he says,... “I quickly fell in love with the vibrancy and diversity of Jakarta and the hospitality and warmth of the Indonesian people. I found the experience of working in another culture and learning to understand different values, ethics and practices to be a challenge but also an opportunity for great personal growth.”
Omar soon gained a working proficiency in Bahasa Indonesia, formed positive relationships with his colleagues, and began to feel Jakarta was like a second home. The experience soon changed the way he saw his future.
Returning home to Australia, Omar decided to write his Honours thesis on environmental assessment reports within the context of Indonesia, using the company he interned with as a case study. And looking further ahead, he intends to take up the company’s offer of another, longer internship following the completion of his studies.
From having never considered working in South East Asia before, Omar now wants to build his career working on the bilateral relationship between Australia and Indonesia.
For students considering applying to the New Colombo Plan program, Omar says, "I really encourage any student interested in the South East Asia region to capitalise on opportunities and programs like the New Colombo Plan. It will definitely be an academic, career, and most importantly personal milestone that will change you in ways you never thought of previously.”