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After Trump: Keeping the American dream of non-Americans alive

Jakarta | Tue, December 6, 2016 | 03:54 pm
After Trump: Keeping the American dream of non-Americans alive Who doesn’t want to study in the US? (Shutterstock/File)

Not long ago I had a conversation with some of my friends about getting a scholarship abroad. One friend of mine was successfully admitted to a university in Korea, where then myself and my other friends became eager to know how she got through the admission process and become a scholarship grantee. One friend then said that she dreamed to study in the United States. 

It is not surprising to hear that many Indonesian students want to get a high-quality education in the US. According to UNESCO’s data on the Global Flow of Tertiary-Level Students, which was updated in 2014, 19.25 percent of 39,098 Indonesian students abroad were in US, placing it number two after Australia (24.29 percent) as top destinations for Indonesians who study abroad. On a global level, the US is a strong magnet for attracting international students, hosting 19 percent of total mobile students. 

My friend and I are just two examples of people who are willing to obtain education offered by American universities. There are probably thousands of people around the world who have the same dream. Who doesn’t want to study in the US? If you take your time and type the keywords “Why study in USA” on the internet, you will get hundreds of answers that all point out the US is a good choice as a study destination. 

Here, you see that although the American dream is US' national ethos, there are people who are not American citizens but have high hopes that their American dream will come true. An example of the American dream of non-Americans is to get a chance to study in prestigious and reputable schools in the country, regardless of their nationality, religion, race and ethnicity.  

In 1931, an American writer and historian, James Truslow Adams, said, “The American dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement". Some people are inspired by that spirit to strive themselves to get a better quality of life. We believe we have the same opportunity for success. For international students, spreading their wings by studying in another country is not only to gain prestige or an individual achievement, but also a community achievement. 

(Read also: The bittersweet symphony of 'merantau')

I live in a small town in Indonesia. I often witness how proud the people here when they realize their fellow townsmen is able to study abroad. It brings a sense of “community achievement”. All it takes is one person to make a difference. In other words, we reach our dream together with the hope that we can use things that we have learned to contribute to society. 

A dilemma arose when news that Donald Trump would become the 45th president of the United States, which spread like wildfire. As someone who lives in a Muslim-majority country, we are worried about the impact of Trump’s election. Some of my friends advise us not to choose the US as our study destination because they are afraid it might be difficult now for us to enter the country. 

When I share this story with the owner of a boarding house where I live, she said the exact same thing—not to go to the US. Everybody seems to be on the same page, but can you blame them? No one can forget how Trump promised not to let one single Muslim step on American soil. It is not only him that we are worried about, but also the aftermath of his election. News about a rise in threats and harassment toward minorities right after the presidential election have been widely reported in news and also on social media. 

I understand why Trump plans to do such things, which I call “extreme defensive actions” to maintain the security of the country, but with globalization and international corporations, I believe that the door will not be closed entirely, so there is still opportunity for many international students to enter the US and study there. 

If the entrance of non-Americans worries Trump so much, then maybe a report from NAFSA: Associations of International Educators will make him rethink his plan. NAFSA stated that international students contributed US$32.8 billion and supported more than 400,000 jobs to the US economy during the 2015-2016 academic year. International students also bring international perspectives into the classrooms, helping American students prepare for global careers. 

(Read also: Why pursuing a master's degree abroad is important)

Not only economically, letting people make direct contact with other people from different nationalities and cultures could combat hatred since people can get to know one another. This way, negative stereotypes, which often become the cause of hatred which lead us to conflict, will decrease, because people have a better understanding. 

Trump might seem to have crushed our “American dream”, make us hopeless and afraid. But will you give up your American dream just because of one person? Personally, I will not let my worries win. I was taught since I was a kid to follow my dream and work hard for it. When your purpose is pure, nothing in this world can stop you from reaching your goal, not even a single human being like Donald Trump. There is always a way, even if it seems difficult and impossible. 

Trump is a great businessman, no one doubt about that. He had been the inspiration for me and my father. I’m inspired by him. Indirectly, Trump encouraged me not to be afraid and to always work hard to reach my goals in life. I will take his advice and not give up on my dream to get a chance to visit the US and study there, even if that means I have to climb over a wall. As Donald Trump himself once said, “When you hit a wall, find ways to go under and over, but never give up”. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also said, “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough”. 

Donald Trump has not even been inaugurated yet. His days as the President of the United States will start on Jan. 20, 2017, yet we are worried about something that is yet to happen. We have to give him a chance to prove himself that he deserves to be the leader of the US and I hope he can lead the country with e pluribus unum spirit. (kes)


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

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