Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Groningen, The Netherlands
Encouraged by strong bonds with fellow countrymen, Indonesian students in Groningen, the Netherlands, have maintained to unite among themselves through the formation of a local students association.
From just six members during its inception back in July 1998, the Association of Indonesian Students in Groningen (PPIG) may possibly be the largest and most active Indonesian student association overseas.
The association has around 150 members ranging from undergraduate students to doctorate candidates from various ethnic and religious backgrounds.
According to Salahudin, one of its founders, the setting up of PPIG was initially driven by the need to unite Indonesian students and seek representatives to attend various events in the Netherlands and those organized by the Indonesian embassy there.
""PPIG was a medium at that time to communicate activities internally among the students and externally with other organizations or institutions. It is also aimed at assisting Indonesian students in adapting to their new surroundings,"" said Salahudin.
He also explained that the association was also active in providing future students of Groningen with useful experiences of past students, strengthening bonds with local people and with other Indonesian students in other cities around the Netherlands.
PPIG is now known as a fairly powerful lobbyist for Indonesian students in relation to administration affairs with the education institutions in Groningen -- the Royal University of Groningen and the Hanzehogeschool of Groningen.
""PPIG is the voice of the Indonesian students in Groningen. It is also a forum where students from various ethnic, professional and religious background can be united,"" said Joko Tirto Rahardjo, current chairman of the association.
The chairmanship of PPIG is fostered through a democratic annual election by its members.
Aside from providing new students in Groningen with helpful information about daily life and how to adapt to a new environment, PPIG also organizes several major events, such as Groens Cup, an annual Idul Fitri gathering and group travel.
Aside from its website (www.ppigroningen.nl) with comprehensive information about living whereabouts in Groningen, the association also has an Internet-based radio station dubbed Invogro (http://radio.ppigroningen.nl), which features Indonesian music ranging from mainstream pop to traditional music.
Information from association members is passed through an e-mail group (firstname.lastname@example.org). Aside from functioning as a discussion forum, the members can also share tips for looking for cheap second-hand bicycles, housing, halal food and cool spots to hang out.