After spending two weeks in Indonesia, eight university students — four Indonesians and four Americans, who have been selected to attend the US-Indonesia Partnership Program (USIPP) for Study Abroad Capacity, are set to have another two weeks, this time in America.
During their stay in Indonesia, the students visited Jakarta, Yogyakarta and the Central Java town of Magelang to learn about religious plurality, democracy and multiculturalism directly from the community.
Two Indonesian students are from Gadjah Mada University (UGM) and two are from the University of Indonesia while the American students all come from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
In Yogyakarta and Magelang, the participants were taken to visit different religious and cultural communities, Islamic boarding schools, a Buddhist monastery and Christian and Catholic Churches.
They left for America on Sunday and visits to several cities have been arranged, according to Zafira Rahmania Nur Shabrina of the Yogyakarta organizing committee.
“It’s now their second day of stay at the University of Michigan,” Zafira told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Their next stop will be Pennsylvania.
It is the second time UGM has hosted the program since it was launched for the first time last year.
“We hope the program will be able to be sustained for as long as we want it to go,” UGM executive secretary Djoko Moerdiyanto told the participants of the program during a dinner reception at UGM campus over the weekend.
He said the program had served as one of several cultural bridges between the two countries.
He also expressed hope that participants would be able to connect with one another so that upon completion of the program they would be able to maintain connections even after holding future positions in the community.
“This is important because our future depends very much on our younger generations,” Djoko said.
Lloyd Steffen of the Lehigh University said that through the program, which takes “Religious Plurality, Democracy and Multiculturalism” as its theme, the participating students were expected to learn about how democracy contributes to peaceful and respectful religious diversity.
He said the program came out of an agreement between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and President Barack Obama signed a couple years ago. “It’s all about friendship and collaboration. It’s about two countries getting to know one another better,” Steffen said.
He added the program was a great learning experience for participating students of both countries, in which Americans would find out more about Indonesia, Islam and other religions and how they operate in Indonesia. Indonesians, likewise, would learn more about the US.