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Past field schools

Browse for a taste of the field school experience

Many students have participated in short-term field school programs throughout Southeast Asia. See where our students have travelled, and plan your trip now.

18 undergraduate and postgraduate students travelled to northern Thailand to participate in a SSEAC-funded interdisciplinary field school to research issues surrounding land and land rights in the rural areas surrounding Chiang Mai. University of Sydney students studying Medicine, Geography, Asian Studies and Anthropology collaborated with students from Chiang Mai University (CMU) under the guidance of Emeritus Professor of Human Geography, Phil Hirsch. 

The first few days consisted of induction, site visits and lectures from the hosting centre, the Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development at CMU, NGOs and government entities, before the students were placed with local hosts from ethnic-minority villages to begin their multidisciplinary research projects. The field school allowed students to experience immersive study by collaborating with the people and groups that their research addressed. It also gave students an understanding of how an interdisciplinary approach is often necessary to solve complex issues. 

"The field school ultimately gave me insight into the global issues occurring today and made me realise that solving matters such as land rights require multiple actors and many pieces of the puzzle from different bodies and institutions, in order for the problem to be appropriately addressed and for change to occur."

Stella Hendrawan, ThaiLANDfield school participant

In December 2017, 14 students spent two weeks in Jakarta and Yogyakarta Indonesia researching disability and inclusion on a field school with funding from the New Colombo Plan. The students from History and Philosophy of Science, Psychology, and Humanitarian Engineering met with NGOs that worked on mental health awareness, practical assistance for people with physical disabilities, urban inclusion and protection for women and children with disabilities. They also connected with researchers from Atma Jaya Catholic University and Gadjah Mada University. 

Following this, the students worked alongside Indonesian students to develop and complete a research project focusing on an area of disability and inclusion of their choice. The field school gave students practical experience working on real-world issues.

"My recent field trip to Indonesia has provided an eye-opening experience that cannot be compared with anything else I have done at uni. We visited DPOs and NGOs which exposed us to people with different types of disabilities and worked in interdisciplinary groups, utilising different areas of strength and knowledge to conduct a research project."

Jessie Wang, Disability and Inclusion in Indonesia participant.

A cohort of students from Asian Studies, Political Economy, Geography, Indonesian Studies, and Work and Organisational Studies travelled to Indonesia to participate in New Colombo Plan-funded interdisciplinary field school, Women's empowerment in Indonesia in December 2017.

SSEAC partnered with the Empowering Indonesian Women for Poverty Reduction Program (MAMPU) – a joint initiative of the Australian and Indonesian governments – to engage students with issues facing women’s empowerment across Indonesia. In Jakarta and Makassar, students learnt about the position of women in Indonesian society, and the efforts of local NGOs to empower women.

Chloe Carter (Geography) had the opportunity to join this program and learn about women’s experiences in Indonesia, and the work of NGO's in the region. For her, it was a challenging, yet very rewarding experience.

"Working directly with MAMPU and their grassroots organisations broadened my understanding of the issues facing women’s empowerment in Indonesia. It was also a great way to experience the culture of Indonesia." Chloe said.

The Sydney Southeast Asia Centre secured funding from the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan short-term mobility program for a two-week field school in Indonesia. In this program, students from geography, Indonesian studies, political economy, and work and organisational studies came together in interdisciplinary teams to learn about women’s empowerment in Indonesia. The program involved input from the Empowering Indonesian Women for Poverty Reduction Program (MAMPU), which is a joint initiative of the Indonesian and Australian governments, and local partnering non-government organisations (NGOs).

Students spent the first week learning about the status of women in Indonesia and the efforts of the Indonesian government and aid agencies to empower women. They participated in a series of guest lectures and site visits in Jakarta, including to MAMPU, KOMNAS Perempuan (the National Commission on Violence against Women) and the Australian Embassy. Students visited field offices of local NGOs in Makassar, South Sulawesi, to learn about key women’s issues in this location. In the second week, students worked in multidisciplinary teams to complete a research task based on the work of one of the MAMPU local partners.

The University of Sydney secured funding from the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan pilot program to support a cohort of 20 students to participate in a short-term interdisciplinary field school in Laos.

The field school equipped students with interdisciplinary, field-based knowledge to investigate and address some of the key challenges rural populations face in ensuring food sustainability and security. Students learnt about the vulnerability of rural communities through a combination of in-country lectures, activities and site visits facilitated in collaboration with the National University of Laos. Students spent one week in the national capital, Vientiane, and one week at a rural field site, working in interdisciplinary teams to understand and analyse the influence of local practices, national government policy and the international community on rural livelihoods in Laos.

Architecture, art history, Indonesian studies, Asian studies and media and communications students explored the importance of creative industries in Central Java as well as strategies promoting these industries locally, nationally and internationally.

Focused on the cultural hub of Jogjakarta, students travelled to local historical sites, traditional artisans’ workshops, markets and shops where their products are sold and also to more contemporary and alternative creative spaces.

Students attended lectures at the National Arts Institute and met with people engaged in cultural industries and media promotion. Working in interdisciplinary teams, the students completed a collaborative, in-country project on this topic.

The University of Sydney secured funding from the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan program to support a cohort of 22 agriculture, anthropology, medicine, nursing, and history and philosophy of science students to participate in a short-term interdisciplinary field school in conjunction with the Agricultural University of Bogor, Indonesia.

During the two-week program, students learnt about jamu – traditional Indonesian medicine that has been practised for generations – from a range of different perspectives including plant biology, biodiversity, cultivation, as well the social, religious and ethno-medicinal significance of the practice.

Students took part in a series of lectures with local experts at the Agricultural University of Bogor as well as site visits to a herb garden, local health centres and local communities. Students also travelled to the cities of Bandung and Purwakarta.

The University of Sydney secured funding from the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan to support a cohort of 20 students to participate in a short-term interdisciplinary field school in June 2015 on the social, economic and environmental effects of large-scale migration to Batam, a special economic zone located on Indonesia’s border with Singapore.This field school focused on the effects of migration from other parts of Indonesia to Batam, with a special focus on its impact on the island’s physical environment, its social and economic structures, and the lived experiences of the migrants as workers and as citizens.

During the first week, students participated in field visits to government offices, employer associations and trade unions, and engaged with urban planners, developers and others who have contributed to Batam’s rapid development. In the second week, students worked in an interdisciplinary team to research an aspect of the impact of large-scale migration on the socio-economic and physical landscape of Batam, and on the lives of the people who live there.

The Sydney Southeast Asia Centre funded a cohort of 20 students to participate in a short-term interdisciplinary field school to Singapore. We drew students from architecture, business, political economy, and Asian studies, who spent two weeks working in interdisciplinary teams to understand and analyse Singapore’s housing policy.

The policy, established in the 1960s, has resulted in the majority of Singaporeans living in high-density public housing and experiencing the lowest levels of homelessness in the region. In recent decades, however, population growth and aspirations to own private property have increased housing prices to unsustainable levels. At the same time, the strict eligibility criteria for public housing exclude some of the most vulnerable.

In the first week, students participated in field visits, lectures and activities to help them learn about the housing policy. Academics from the National University of Singapore also contributed to the program. During the second week, students worked in small interdisciplinary groups to research a particular aspect of housing in Singapore.

The University of Sydney secured funding from the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan to support a cohort of 20 students to participate in a short-term interdisciplinary field school to Jakarta, Indonesia in January 2015.

The rapid increase in motorised traffic is a challenge for improving road safety in Indonesia. Major cities such as Jakarta face even greater challenges as the pace of population and vehicle ownership is much faster than changes to the structure of the urban environment.

The field school was an opportunity for students from engineering, occupational health, and marketing, to work in an interdisciplinary team to tackle the tough questions emerging from this real-world problem. Students spent the first week working together to understand and analyse the influence of transport systems on the wellbeing of vulnerable road users in Jakarta, and the second week engaged in discipline-specific fieldwork.

In this interdisciplinary field school, students engaged with the University of Sydney’s Greater Angkor Project, travelling to Cambodia in January 2015. The project focuses on better understanding the social and spatial organisation of the vast, low-density Khmer capital of Angkor, established in the 9th century and since abandoned, in what is now Cambodia.

During the two-week field school, students from archaeology, Asian studies, architecture and geosciences, were divided into teams consisting of one student from each of the four disciplines represented. In these teams they combined the characteristic approaches of their respective disciplines to investigate the nature of past urbanism in Greater Angkor and its significance for understanding the development and future of industrial-based, low-density urbanism within the context of climate change.

In the first week, students attended a number of talks and site visits intended to give them an overview of Greater Angkor. In the second week, they worked in interdisciplinary teams on a research topic of their choosing, and later presented to the group. The study drew on archaeology, palaeo-environmental analysis and the spectacular results of remote-sensing systems.

In January 2015, a group of postgraduate students focusing on business, engineering and sustainability travelled to Hanoi to spend 10 days working in interdisciplinary teams to understand social entrepreneurship in Vietnam.

Social enterprises have emerged as organisations in the social sector have moved away from a heavy reliance on donations and philanthropic funds to more sustainable income strategies. The sector has been recognised as a new organisational form that combines entrepreneurial activity, the use of business models to achieve a blend of social, natural, cultural and financial value and the aim of sharing value created with communities or individuals other than shareholders and investors.

Throughout this field school, each team worked with a Hanoi-based social enterprise to gain insights into how it might scale its operations and enhance its social impact. The action research projects focused on the following themes:

  • understanding the environment of start-up social enterprises in Vietnam
  • exploring the challenges of scale and financial sustainability
  • juggling the dual goals of financial returns and a social mission
  • enhancing knowledge sharing on best practices in sustainability
  • overcoming IT/engineering problems in the development context.

The Sydney Southeast Asia Centre obtained funding from the federal Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education for a staff and student mobility program with Universidade Nacional Timor-Leste (UNTL) in July 2014. Three students, one each from the Faculties of Medicine, Education, and Agriculture took part in a one-month professional experience in Timor-Leste, where students worked in interdisciplinary teams to study food security in the hilltop town of Maubisse.

Students participated in an interdisciplinary, community-based project for one week and engaged in joint teaching and supervision with UNTL staff and students. The health student explored nutrition issues identified through the clinics; the education student visited primary schools and participated in classroom activities; and the agriculture student spoke with local farmers and visited local marketplaces.

Singapore Housing Policy 2015