An inspiring journey to Timor-Leste
Civil engineering student Sarah Van writes about her recent study tour to Timor-Leste.
This past July, I was given the amazing opportunity to visit Timor-Leste with 30 other like-minded students and facilitators from UTS and RMIT for our multidisciplinary study tour. Hosted by Engineers Without Borders, the trip focussed on the promotion of sustainable development, health delivery and gender equality in a young, promising country.
Timor-Leste also known as East Timor is a small country mostly untouched by tourism about an hour’s flight north-west of Darwin. Gaining independence after the turn of the century, it is working to improve the population’s access to essential services. We studied the country’s rich history and culture, and explored how we could use our engineering skills in a sustainable development context.
During our time in the capital Dili, and at our respective homestays, we visited the United Nations, the Australian embassy, schools, hospitals, museums, various organisations and historical sites. We met some remarkable individuals along the way and gained further understanding into the people’s lives.
The National Hospital was particularly interesting. We met doctors and nurses who worked tirelessly to give the best care possible to patients despite daily challenges such as the lack of funding, equipment and infrastructure. We also spoke with biomedical engineers and technicians who were expanding their expertise to restore and service much-needed equipment such as monitoring devices, diagnostic equipment and neonatal incubators.
At a dinner with some of the country’s women in engineering and IT, I met Ania. She’s a civil engineer developing sustainable water delivery systems to provide people with access to clean water, and educate them on how water quality affects health.
We spoke about the uphill journey for her education and experience as a woman—not only in a male dominated engineering industry, but also within a patriarchal society. Through hard work and determination, she has influenced the attitude of those around her and gained the respect of colleagues, while they gained hers in return. We also discovered that she’s visited Sydney once before and would love to return someday, as she misses the meat pies!
Ania is just one of many women we met that night who are paving the way for young women to empower themselves and transform the engineering and IT industries in Timor-Leste and beyond. They were an inspiration to us all.
These are just a few examples of the selfless individuals and organisations working to better the lives of those around them. We have experienced and learnt so much during our trip. I’m sure I am not only speaking for myself when I say that this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. Without hesitation, I would recommend you go on any trip like this, given the opportunity.
Shape the future
An international experience can open doors to better career opportunities and give you an international perspective to your studies.