By Tan Shi Jie, Lie Kehui, Ang Zhi Yi, Undergraduates, SMU School of Accountancy
A low rumbling emits from the depths of Mount Ijen in East Java, electric-blue flames dancing in the night sky amidst its thick sulfuric atmosphere. Moving on to the southern tip of Bali, there were crowds cheering as they watched the Tari Kecak happening above the Uluwatu Temple. These were some of the highlights of our Indonesia trip, experienced virtually.
Our Accounting Study Mission to Indonesia this semester had given us a taste of Indonesia’s rich culture and history, even without us leaving our shores. Adapting to the new normal meant moving lessons and meetings online, which led to the genesis of our virtual Accounting Study Mission to Indonesia. This Study Mission was a unique collaboration with Indonesia’s top university – Universitas Indonesia (UI), and various organisations based in Indonesia, including UOB Indonesia and Genesis Indojaya.
Each project team consisted of a mix of SMU and UI students
A month before the module officially started, we had formed teams consisting of a balanced mix of UI and SMU students, and we were raring to go.
Undoubtedly, the Covid-19 pandemic has served as a trigger point for businesses to digitalise, which was why our team saw the opportunity to play a part in Indonesia SMEs’ digital transformation as an impactful and meaningful project. Our mission? To take on the role of consultants and work with UOB Indonesia in its efforts to help SMEs in their digitalisaton process. (Fun fact: Did you know that SMEs accounted for 97 per cent of Indonesia’s workforce?)
However, being unable to physically step into Indonesia’s borders, we had to rely on online research and conversations with our UI team mates to better understand Indonesia’s economy and business culture. In this aspect, our faculty mentor Associate Professor of Accounting (Education) Yuanto Kusnadi provided much support by arranging for us to sit through five weeks of guest lectures from industry professionals with deep knowledge of the Indonesia economy and business environment. These lectures enabled us to better contextualise our clients’ projects and come up with viable solutions for them.
Guest lecturers shared their knowledge of the Indonesian business environment
We conducted our research online before creating surveys and interviews to better understand the pain points faced by Indonesian SMEs, and finally presented our findings and recommendations to our client, UOB Indonesia. We were very grateful to have worked with Pak Enrico and Pak Steve, who were extremely helpful throughout the course of this project.
Leaving virtual footprints around Indonesia
Although it is a shame that we were unable to physically visit Indonesia this semester, we still managed to have fun through our Indonesia-themed presentations. Over the course of three weeks, every team was tasked to present on a chosen topic or theme revolving around Indonesia, ranging from traditional myths and legends, unconventional travel destinations, exotic cuisines, to childhood traditional games. The interactive presentations were brilliantly executed to allow both the UI and SMU students to participate actively and have fun both over Zoom and in the physical classrooms respectively!
Exploring Indonesian culture through group presentations
This project also allowed us to better understand the process of a consulting engagement and more importantly, we gained first-hand experience in solving real-world problems. Last but not least, we were able to truly appreciate working in a multi-cultural team as we learned more about each other’s cultural backgrounds, and our diverse backgrounds brought different perspectives to the table during discussions.
All in all, we had our fair share of fun, gained a whole lot of new perspectives, and developed an appreciation of Indonesian culture in the course of our virtual accounting study mission module.
To sum up how we feel about our Indonesian counterparts, here is a well-known Indonesian poem, or ‘pantun’:
Kalau ada sumur di lading (If there is a well in the field)
Bolehlah kita menumpang mandi? (Can we borrow it to take a shower?)
Kalau ada umur yang panjang (If we have a long life)
Bolehlah kita berjumpa lagi (Can we meet again?)
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