Time: 3pm to 4:30pm AEDT
Date: Friday, 17 May 2024
Venue: Online via
Meeting ID: 345 072 5439
Meeting Password: 991667
Speaker: Elena K Williams, Department of Anthropology, CHL

Study abroad programs between Australia and Indonesia have grown significantly in recent decades through a framework of ‘international education as public diplomacy’. Since the launch of Australia’s ‘New Colombo Plan’ scholarship scheme in 2014, more than 10,000 students have travelled to Indonesia to study and live among Indonesian ‘host’ communities. Yet, despite this increase in Australian outbound mobility to the region, and Indonesia’s prominence as a destination, gaps remain in scholarly accounts of the impact of study abroad in the lives of Australian students and Indonesian host communities, and their potential for bilateral relationship building. Who benefits from study abroad? Who gets to be transformed by these experiences, and what does ‘transformation’ look like?

Through a case study of the longest-running facilitator of study abroad programs to Indonesia, the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS), my research interrogates these questions by speaking directly with students and host communities about their experiences of study abroad programs in Indonesia and examining their pathways of impact to transformation. 

In this seminar, I will present findings from interviews and focus group discussions with 160 Australian alumni and Indonesian host community members about their views of transformation at three levels: self, community, and the bilateral relationship. Data from these discussions sheds new light on the complexity of these transformations, and challenges assumptions in study abroad literature that self-transformation necessarily leads to transformations in the Australia-Indonesia relationship. By asking students and host communities to redefine and reconceptualise what ‘transformation’ means to them in their own lives, my research highlights voices which have often been minimised or excluded in the literature, emphasising their potential to enrich scholarly understanding of study abroad experiences, inform future policy discussions about Australia-Indonesia relationship building, and better understand the pathways from impact to transformation arising from programs like the New Colombo Plan.


About the Speaker

Elena's research examines the impact of learning abroad and DFAT-funded higher education programs on Australia-Indonesia relationship building. Between 2013 and 2017, she served as the Indonesia-based Resident Director with The Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS), and is a current selection panel member for the Australia Awards Indonesia and board member with DFAT's Australia-Indonesia Institute, ACICIS’ National Reference Group and ANU’s Indonesia Institute.

In 2024, Elena was selected as a delegate in the Emerging Leaders’ Dialogue as part of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, and in 2022 was awarded ANU’s Sir Raymond Firth Research Prize and ANU’s Ruth Daroesman Graduate Study Grant in 2021 in recognition of her research on the Australia-Indonesia relationship. She regularly presents to government, industry and academia, and contributes to media in Australia and Indonesia on higher education, Indonesia literacy and Australia-Indonesia relations.

Event Speakers

Elena K Williams

CHL PhD Candidate Elena K Williams

Elena Williams is a higher education consultant and PhD student at the ANU School of Culture, History & Language in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

Event details

Event date

Fri, 17 May 2024, 3 - 4:30pm



Related Academic Area

Event speakers

CHL PhD Candidate Elena K Williams