Sam O'Brien is an alumnus of the 2018 Indonesian Summer program in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Sam O’Brien was a participant on the inaugural NSLI-Y Indonesian program in the summer of 2018. Last summer, 2019, Sam traveled back to Jakarta, Indonesia, after he received a grant to intern with the Strategic Review, an Indonesian foreign affairs journal.

The Strategic Review is a foreign policy journal that seeks to give an international platform to Indonesia's top academics, government officials, and businesspeople. During his internship, Sam was responsible for social media rollouts and web content, as well as working on a long-form article he published. The journal publishes a print edition every quarter with selected essays that analyze developments in international relations, especially as they relate to Indonesia. The former Minister of Trade, Gita Wirjawan, created the Strategic Review with the intention of spreading awareness about the increasingly important role that Indonesia, and Southeast Asia in general, has in the international system. Sam has found it exhilarating to work in a country where the political and economic systems are quickly developing.

sam poses with an orangutan

Ironically, Sam’s internship at the Strategic Review, an English language journal, is the place where he spoke the most English. That said, he used his Indonesian language skills daily, with interactions with coworkers, emails, text correspondences, and going out for meals.

Sam would periodically get out of the office to interview for field pieces. During these interviews, he used his language skills to traverse the busy city of Jakarta (easier said than done!), and interview non-English speakers. One of his most memorable experiences took him to a small village on the island of Komodo to work on a story about stunted child growth, completely in Indonesian.

sam poses with his host family

Returning to Indonesia a summer after his program, Sam was fortunate to spend quality time with his NSLIY host family, who he had a strong bond with on his program, “I'm extremely happy to have the opportunity to see them again so soon after my NSLI-Y program. My host sister was 18 months old last summer and seeing the way she's grown was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! My host parents also do an amazing job supporting me and I'm super lucky to have that.”

Now back stateside, Sam is in his second year at Dartmouth University. While Sam’s university does not have a dedicated Indonesian program, he keeps up with his language skills by utilizing online resources and remaining in touch with his host family and friends, “sometimes you have to maintain your language skills through creative methods, but it has been crucial for me to continue my communication skills through conversations with my host-family and friends in Indonesia.”