USIPP Discontinued?

It is with great sadness that I announce this—US-Indonesia Partnership Program (USIPP) will be discontinued this year…

Before continuing your reading below, please read my story on USIPP here (if you haven’t already, and I assure you it is not a clickbait ad).

A few weeks ago, a fellow USIPP exchanger said that her university’s faculty had announced that there will be no USIPP exchange for this year. Jen, our travel leader from the US session, had told us beforehand of this possibility, but now it just sunk to me that this is real. The funding from Institute of International Education (IIE) had been stopped and that means no US-Indonesian students discussing intently on religions and pluralism in any part of the countries.

From my personal perspective, it is a shame that the program could not be continued. As I said before, USIPP was different from any other exchange programs. It does not dwindle around of participants’ differences, but rather breaking through the walls directly by touching sensitive topics in heated discussions. It is not as popular, the participant number is limited, and targets very niche community, but the impact is real.

I wil never be able to understand on the Holocaust and how it reaches to each American personally s I was in the program by simply touring or conversing with an American there. I would not be able to understand what it is about being American without my Islamic background clouding. I would not be able to see that the suppression based on racial difference there is as extreme as the difference in religious beliefs in Indonesia. I would not know about the strong familial bond Islamic community shares in the US and would still consider it as an extremely liberal and barbaric country. I would not be able to see that liberalism can be translated into many versions—including following one’s own beliefs and to be perfectly content with conservatism. And, I would not be able to understand that all of us are perfectly similar, and carries the same essence and principles of a human being, even when faced with tought-provoking issues such as Holocaust and other racial or religion-rooted issues.

It’s just a shame that there will be no other people who would get to see that in the same light as I did.

For me, the exchange was not only about learning on the US part, but also to understand better of our nation’s condition. One of the most terrifying disease that caught Indonesian youths nowadays are the incapability, or rather total disinterest, in seeing and understanding their own country. I’ve seen it in the streets, in my class, in my friends, and even myself at times. The total disinterest had led us to see only a part of what is to be tought as Indonesia and translate it judgingly as the whole truth. But sometimes, most of the times, it is not as simple as that.

During my USIPP exchange, there had been times when I really had to battle the urge of wanting to slap some of my fellow Indonesian exchangers. Some of them bluntly pictured the country as a barbaric region with most of us wanting to kill of one another. I still remember that in one of our discussions on Islamic communities, my fellow Indonesian exchanger told the forum in a knowingly manner, that Indonesia’s Islam is divided into two sects—NU and Muhammadiyah. And those two, as he said, are continuously in conflict, barbaric ones, with one another. The other Indonesians just looked and nooded understandingly, while I, who was raised by in an NU community through and through just could not stay silent. He failed to understand that Indonesia’s Islam goes beyond the two—even failing to understand that the two of them are not sects—but judged everything harshly from one point of view.

There are numerous like-minded Indonesian, or rather global, individuals like him—who love to learn about global culture while shutting their eyes and ears from Indonesia’s conditions. Believe me that in every exchange program you will find that most people would have similar traits as him (God, I feel bad talking about him like this, but this is just an example to prove my point). USIPP is there to force them to think and really understand more about their own country—something deemed as uncool by some people.

I really hope that IIE and other stakeholders will reconsider their decision of discontinuing USIPP for the next years.

Lintang Cahyaningsih

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