Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)


Puteri Paramita

Country: Australia

Name: Puteri Paramita

Company: Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane

Position: PhD Student

ITS Course: MSc Transport Planning, 2010

Prior to moving to Australia I was a Transport Planner in a worldwide multi-disciplinary consultant, AECOM in Singapore. I was involved in a "Travel Smart" Project, similar to a travel plan project in UK, but this was the first in Singapore and specifically dedicated for workplace based trips (commuting to and from the workplace). 

A year in ITS was truly rewarding. Indeed, it was demanding with many projects to work on both as a team or an individual. However, all the projects were actually serving as training for real-world problems. Most of the projects that I have been working on (for the past 2 years) are similar to or a bigger version of what I completed during my time at ITS. For example, we had to do transport assessment for Barnsley as part of the "sustainable and land use transport planning" module, where we had to assess the network connectivity, location and travel plan for the people living there. Since leaving ITS, I have created a traffic assessment of a residential area in Singapore and travel plan for staff of some companies.

Additionally, the Europe field trip that we did in summer 2010 was really fantastic experience. I got a chance to see different types of public transport across Europe and how it increased the connectivity among countries. Having had that experience, when I got back to Singapore I could share this information with colleagues and friends and emphasized to them that we should always appreciate a good transportation network, without it our day-to-day activities wouldn’t go well.

Frankly speaking, choosing my course at ITS was actually kind of miracle and unplanned, as I was originally planning to study in the USA for master of transport/ logistics degree. One day I came across this course ITS MSc. Transport Planning in ones of the scholarship website. I directly clicked on to the school website and was interested with all the modules they offered. I sent my application instantly and after a few weeks I received an acceptance letter.

Only after that I started browsing and talking to alumni as well as the ITS staff, to find that all the resources mentioned ITS is the best school to go if I would like to learn more about transportation. Based on those recommendations, I was strongly determined to study at ITS and met friends from all over the world and experience the British Education. Certainly, it wasn’t an easy journey for me to study in ITS. I was admitted there in 2008, however as I couldn’t get a scholarship and didn’t have enough funding, I had to postpone for another year. Luckily, ITS (University of Leeds) allowed that kind of method.  I used the extra year to earn enough money and finally moved to Leeds in Sept 2009.

It was crazy plan (as a lot of my friends in Singapore said), but it was truly rewarding and an unforgettable experience, studying in ITS, the University of Leeds and living in Leeds. I would say "it was an investment for my life in the future"

The student life, the teaching style and the culture are totally different from Singapore (where I studied for my first degree). But, somehow, it suited me better. It wasn’t the spoon feeding type of education but we were encouraged to give our opinions, ask questions and discuss within our lecture/class.

My advice to students interested in this course would be to go for it, don’t take too much time to think. If you are unsure, go browse and quickly scan the modules. You will get a better idea and assurance. No one said it is going to be easy, but it's truly rewarding for your life. You can always treat it as one year gateway to find your true self. It's what I believe. When I moved back to Singapore after getting my Msc I found a new me with new spirit for life and whole bunch of friends all over the world.

Back in 2013, I was considering different lifestyle choices and I chose the most unexpected; to pursue my life passion: a higher degree of study in Transport field. I dropped my comfortable life style and back to be post-graduate student with a very tight scholarship. I fell in love with Transport Demand Management, Travel Behaviour and Transit Oriented Development while I was working as Transport Planner/ Consultant for Aecom in Singapore. I was exposed to various real-life projects related to those and had experienced to works with the experts on those fields. At first I was accepted at both the University of Leeds in UK and Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane Australia. My heart wanted to be back in Leeds, but Indonesia to Australia is half the distance than Indonesia to the UK and I am currently living in Brisbane. Fortunately, I found a supervisor with a project that suits my interest. My current PhD topic is “Comprehensively Understanding Urban Transport Mode Choice: Integrating Socio-economic Profile, Revealed Travel Behaviour, Perceptions, and Stated Preferences”. In the simplest terms, I am studying the behaviour of urban travellers in relation to their choices of public transport modes and identifying the most influential factors to their behaviours.

PhD life is way more adventurous than I have ever thought before. It is not just about the research, it is beyond that. It transforms you as a person to a better one. Challenges are coming daily in different forms and sources. As a PhD candidate, I have to find innovative challenges on my own and sometimes take guidance from others. The university have provided with enormous facilities and activities that support my study and professional development. I just have be smart and pro-active enough to find out about them and make the best of them for both research and other transferable skills. The other thing that I learnt from a senior is that to be pro-active joining different kind of workshops, networking events, and filling up surveys within the campus. One time I was lucky enough to be invited on limited attendance 3-days teaching trainings simply because I filled in one of those long surveys.

Earlier this year I took a month’s leave and embarked on an impromptu solo journey to South America. Once again, my passion of transport saved my life. A couple years back I met a friend who kept telling me about their home town back in Colombia, the most dangerous city in the 90’s due to the infamous Pablo Escobar. I was told this city, Medellin, has the best public transport system that caters to the needs of people from different social status which has escalated the living conditions in the whole city. I was very sceptical, because throughout my Masters course I have never heard this city being mentioned in any lecture or text book. As the story being told over and over again, it sparked my curiosity. I started to look for articles, books and videos about the public transport in Medellin, to my disappointment all were in Spanish. Therefore, at the very last minutes, I decided to travel there just simply to prove what I was told.

On my own without any real Spanish speaking capability, I arrived in the beautiful city of Medellin. It was really amazing city with the most well connected public transport network, at least within the developing countries. I have never felt that safe being on my own venturing the city and trying all their metro cable car routes. The city is in the valley and as a result, cable car networks are built for the hilly areas and they are connected to the flat areas with monorails and metro rails, all of them are paid for using a one-time payment method. Additional bus routes are available to connect with different neighbourhoods around the metro stations and payments are separated. Every sign and notification are in Spanish, but it is easy enough to understand as graphs and pictures are available next to them. It was the most unforgettable impromptu journey I have ever been. I believe I have proved that Medellin deserves to appear in any transport text book and presented on in any transport related lecture. Maybe, one day, when I am able to master Spanish, I will get a chance to learn about how Medellin authorities manage to plan, build, and maintain the metro cable car networks after the death of Pablo Escobar. It is really interesting to learn and who knows what we can apply to other cities in the other third world countries.

I believe life will throw me another curve ball no matter where I am and how I am doing. And for that I have to be ready start another adventure. Just remember your passion when you are lost.