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An Educational Journey in Timor-Leste: A Study Abroad Adventure

An Educational Journey in Timor-Leste: A Study Abroad Adventure


”The trip was during the mid-session break, so for an internal student like me I didn’t have to worry about missing classes.” Meet Marieke Hoelscher, current Agricultural Science student at Charles Sturt University here to to tell you all about her study abroad experience to Timor-Leste.

Written by Marieke Hoelscher.

Ever seen a pig on the roof rack of a van only tied on by one leg while driving along?

Neither had I until I went to Timor-Leste on a short-term study program to experience agricultural production in a tiny country in southeast Asia, that is one of Australia’s closest neighbours.

If you’ve never been or are a bit hesitant to travel, a short-term international study program could be the perfect opportunity to travel overseas as a group and learn a whole lot about the discipline you’re studying in that country.

This is a quick overview of the agriculture, forestry, and livestock education program in Timor-Leste.

Marieke meeting some agriculture students at an Ag college!

On the August 20 2023, 13 students from Charles Sturt University met up in Darwin to catch a plane to Dili in Timor-Leste.

Most of us are agricultural science students however we had two studying environmental science, one animal science and one agricultural business management student.

We were accompanied by our lecturer from our subject International Practical Experience. Before the trip we had to submit a pre-departure report to give an overview of the countrys context.

We researched the geography, culture, politics, religion and economics of the country and analysed how this relates to the agriculture and natural resource management in Timor-Leste.

During the first week of the trip, we stayed in Dili and visited the Australian embassy, the Ministry of Forestry, some museums and did some day trips to a carbon forestry project and large coffee growing region.

We had some local tour guides and mainly got around squished into two troopys!

We talked to farmers, visited the local university and got to talk to agronomy and animal health students to compare notes on our universities and degrees.

We visited a WorldFish hatchery, mushroom production site and organic fertiliser business.

We had one day of relaxing on Atauro Island and a Timorese cooking class.

As you can probably tell it was a very busy two weeks with hardly a moment to ourselves!

The second week consisted of some overnight trips to visit the Balibo House where 5 Australian journalists were killed in 1975, an agricultural high school, the first artificial insemination piggery in Timor-Leste (with illegally imported commercial breed pigs from Indonesia), a cattle fattening site, an agricultural high school, a cultural ceremony, and hike to a cemetery in the very high mountains.

All the locals we met were super friendly and everyone wanted our advice on how they could improve their farming systems.

Everything we suggested they already knew and all that was missing was infrastructure and money to make it happen.

Before we knew it, the day had come to head home, and after a whirlwind of amazing eye-opening experiences for someone that had never been to a developing country, it was a bit of a culture shock.

Agriculture students at UNTL

I know you’re probably wondering about the finances (after all we are poor uni students) and how much time and effort it takes to go on the trip.

Luckily our lecturer managed to get us New Colombo Plan funding which subsided about half of the trips cost!

Another option was to take out an OS-HELP loan which is very similar to HECS.

The trip was during the mid-session break, so for an internal student like me I didn’t have to worry about missing classes.

The subject itself is by distance and only consists of three assessments (one of which is completed in the trip itself) and no other lectures/time.

So, if you’re keen to jump on a short-term study program, make sure you keep an eye out on the Charles Sturt Global website and social media channels as well as your faculty noticeboards!

Useful Links

Charles Sturt Global

Study abroad & exchange.

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