A buzzing sound interrupted the humdrum silence of my evening. It was a text. From a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while. The text relayed news of a workshop by the ASEAN-Korea Centre, which offered students a chance to learn about forests in an all expenses paid trip to Soopchewon in Korea, and Jakarta and Yogyakarta in Indonesia. However, lying between us students whose ears perked at this opportunity, was an application form that required us to write two essays, a herculean task for us who were enjoying the feeling of doing absolutely nothing productive that entire summer of 2015. Something inside me summoned the determination to write the essays, which I miraculously finished in 2 days, aided by several cups of coffee (black, with plenty of sugar).

I considered it a small miracle, and an act of generosity that my application was accepted by the AKC, and that I got to not only take part in the in-bound program in Korea, but the out-bound part that took place in Indonesia as well. After attending their orientation, all I had to do was wait (and pack) until the awaited day came. Here I’ll note that so many events happened in the short span of 8 days, that it would be impossible to detail all of them. Instead, I’ll list the events most memorable to myself.

The first day of the workshop saw us all seated at the large auditorium at Soopchewon, waiting for the speeches Professor Hadi Pasaribu, the executive director of AFoCo, and Amb. Kim Young-sun, the Secretary General of ASEAN-Korea Centre had prepared for us. We were all making awkward small talk with our neighbors, which was the first step to the great friendships that would develop in the days to follow. An echoing tap resounded through the hall. It was the sound of the microphone being tested, and the opening ceremony began. It went as most opening ceremonies went, with a rare gravitas descending into the crowd of young adults who, as the speeches continued, were starting to realize how important an event they were taking part in. And as the speeches closed, the workshop began.

At the end of that first day, we were starting to find groups of friends that we were comfortable with, but, as with all things that go well, something inevitably comes along like a wrecking ball, bringing everything to the ground and me, socially, back to square one. We were sorted into groups. The biggest test that our group had to face was a UCC making competition that pitted us against the other groups. I was pleased that my group consisted of a diverse group. During the Korea part of the workshop, this group became the people we banded with for all our activities, and while our personalities did not always suit each other, we learned to work together well and we enjoyed the fruits of our labor, which was winning ‘Most Informative’ in the UCC making competition. That, I believe, was the highlight of the Korea part of the workshop for me.

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We first set foot in Indonesia in the bustling metropolis that was Jakarta. As a diplomat’s daughter who constantly moved from place to place, I was born but not quite raised in Jakarta, and I was just as new to our surroundings as the rest of the workshop, and I was a poor tour guide and translator for them. Apologies. The next day’s schedule was packed, as we had 2 places to visit: the ASEAN Secretariat, and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, where we had the chance to meet and obtain knowledge on forests from the leaders of ASEAN and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and it was then that we had to hurry back to the airport to catch the plane to Yogyakarta.

Yogyakarta was very different from Jakarta. While Jakarta held a certain similarity to other bustling metropolises such as New York, Tokyo, and Seoul, Yogyakarta seemed like a city with a quiet dignity, as it was part of the ancient and advanced Mataram Kingdom in the past. Its historical background also showed with its close proximity to the Prambanan and Borobudur temples. They were claimed to be the largest temples in Indonesia, and they did not disappoint. Their magnificence left most of us awestruck in silence. Except for the occasional camera click of someone taking a selfie with the temple as the background. While the closing of the workshop officially took place at Gajah Mada University the next day, I’m sure most of us felt that the workshop closed as we collectively watched the sun set on the Borobudur Temple that day.

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Everyone made unforgettable memories that day, but sometimes I think back to our last day and our tearful farewells and promises to one day meet again at the airport, and how I forgot to thank the true unsung heroes of the entire operation: the ASEAN-Korea Centre and AFoCo teams that accompanied us throughout those 8 days. Watching over all of us couldn’t have been easy, and you deserve thanks for making sure we had comfortable hotels and keeping all of us together.

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Nadira Syahputri, ASEAN-Korea Youth Network Workshop 2015 participant