Australia Awards in Indonesia

The Australia Awards are prestigious, transformational scholarships and short courses offered to emerging leaders for study, research and professional development in Australia

26 Jun 2024

Navigating School and Family: How Valentina Meta Srikartika Empowers Moms

Returning to school as a student-mom, Valentina Meta Srikartika, an Australia Awards scholar, has transformed her journey into a masterclass on resilience and multitasking. Describing the pursuit of her doctoral degree as a 'marathon', Valentina shares how she conquers the dual challenges of academia and motherhood with grace and ingenuity.

As a mother of three, Valentina faces daily household and childcare challenges that foster resilience and creativity, which are essential for overcoming obstacles in her doctoral research.

“Pursuing a doctoral degree isn't about being the smartest; it's about survival and consistency," remarked Valentina. "As mothers, we constantly multitask, balancing the needs of our children and families while studying. This experience teaches us invaluable time management skills."

She recalled an instance where she applied lessons learned from persuading her child to eat.

"Sometimes, I had to experiment with different methods. If one did not work, I would pause and try again with fresh ideas. This adaptive skill is invaluable in my studies. When faced with research hurdles, I step back and approach the problem from a new angle," explained Valentina, currently pursuing a PhD in Population Health at Curtin University in Perth.

Embracing a new perspective

This is the second time Valentina, who teaches pharmacy at Lambung Mangkurat University in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, has studied in Australia with the assistance of the Australian Government through the Australia Awards Scholarship.

In 2012, Valentina secured the scholarship to pursue a masters degree in public health at Curtin University. She noted that switching to public health offered her a fresh perspective, having previously studied pharmacy for her bachelor's degree.

"Throughout my five years in pharmacy school, the focus was primarily on curing diseases. However, my studies in public health introduced me to the importance of disease prevention through health promotion planning. This has allowed me to integrate a public health perspective into my pharmacy practice, which is an area of the field that continues to evolve and expand," Valentina shared.

Moreover, studying in Australia has profoundly benefited her by nurturing critical thinking skills, which have been valuable in proposing research grants and drafting syllabi.

After giving birth to and raising her first child, Valent was eager to pursue further studies, and Australia was her first choice due to her previous experience of studying there. A colleague studying at Curtin informed Valentina that one of her professors was looking for a PhD student who was experienced in research using Australian health data linkage. This professor’s requirements aligned perfectly with Valentina’s background, as she had completed her master's degree in the same research area.

Despite receiving a scholarship offer from the university, Valent preferred to apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship, which provided childcare support for recipients. Valentina was pleasantly surprised to discover she was expecting twins when she applied for the scholarship. She proceeded with the application and was accepted for the 2019 intake. However, it was only in 2022 that Valentina and her family could fly to Perth due to maternity leave and the travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Valentina credited her husband for the smooth transition of their move to Australia. He even decided to take early retirement from his job at a state-owned company to take care of their young children and prepare for their upcoming move to Australia.

In the first couple of months after arriving in Australia, Valentina’s husband took full charge of taking care of the children so that she could focus on preparing a proposal presentation. Fortunately, things gradually settled after she received daycare subsidies for the twins and enrolled her eldest child in school, which allowed her husband to return to work.

“I always discuss with my husband before making decisions that may impact our family priorities, such as pursuing my PhD. His support has been crucial for my studies,” she said.

Sharing tips through social media

At the start of her return to school as a student mum, Valent struggled with self-doubt, often comparing herself to other students who were single and had more time to study without household distractions.

However, as her studies progressed, she found that everyone faced their own challenges.

"Even student mums who don’t bring their families or not, must manage being away for extended periods," she said.

Feeling blessed to bring her family to Australia, Valentina shares strategies for student mums on navigating studying abroad with loved ones and her journey of applying for scholarships.

With over 28,000 followers, Valentina’s Instagram account is both uplifting and informative, offering tips on scholarship interviews, visa procedures for family members, and employment opportunities for spouses in Australia.

Popular content includes the types of work for students’ spouses and how she enrols her children in a private school at local fees, a benefit of the Australia Awards Scholarship.

"As an academic, I'm familiar with Australia Awards Scholarships, but many people I interact with have never heard of them. Some followers are even sceptical about their chances of studying in Australia, especially mothers with children," she explained.

In addition to her social media, Valentina has written a free e-book on succeeding in the Australia Awards Scholarship selection process, which has been downloaded over 4,000 times.

Strengthening Australia-Indonesia relation through joint research

After completing her masters degree, Valent engaged with the Curtin University Alumni Chapter Indonesia (CUACI) in South Kalimantan. Leveraging this network, Valentina has invited international speakers for seminars at Lambung Mangkurat University and facilitated student exchanges with Australian counterparts.

Looking ahead, Valentina aims to enhance collaboration with Australian academics through joint research projects in linked health administration data. She is intrigued by Australia’s comprehensive health data linkage system, which includes hospitals, health insurance, and population data, serving as a valuable research resource.

"Health administrative data linkage in Australia has developed significantly and provides evidence of drug utilisation that informs health policy decisions. I intend to apply the skills from my PhD, such as evaluating the impact of continuity of care from primary health services to prevent drug adverse effect-related hospitalisations, using Indonesia’s health administrative data to ensure patient safety and enhance clinical outcomes," Valentina explained.

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