USIPP 2013: Kesan & Pesan

Surabaya, July 18, 2013- When i looked into the calendar this morning, I realized that it has been two weeks since the last day of USIPP 2013 when I with other amazing participants had the greatest day to celebrate the Independence Day of USA in Washington DC. I still remember clearly how fantastic it was on that sunny day, we went out together to see the Independence Day Parade in front of the American History Museum, had lunch in the park nearby and relaxed on the grass enjoying the breeze under the shades of the trees, then went back to Clark Hall to have our “farewell” while also waiting for the evening to come for the epic annual DC fireworks near the White House. That day was just too unbelievable to be true for me because I never thought that I would go to US, celebrating fourth of July in DC with people that I myself have considered them as my new family, yet at the same time also sad because it was very near to the time when I had to say ‘see you later’ to them. But even so, that day has given me a lot of memories that I won’t and don’t want to forget.

That is one among many things that made me always feel grateful to be part of USIPP. Every single day during the program means something valuable for me and many aspects in my life. That is because it is not only the people I spent the five week program in Indonesia and USA with that give me unforgettable moments and the sense of togetherness, but also the lessons learnt from the activities such as the lectures and discussions with inspiring persons, field trips, and voluteering that give the experiences from the program educational meaning and a precious value worth to get.

I am very happy to say that the program has helped me to understand much about things I am studying and interested in. That’s why I was very glad to be in every place we went, especially DC. When I was at the Lincoln Memorial, I just could not believe that I could be in the place where Martin Luther King, Jr., by his speech called I Have A Dream, changed the history of the US and the world to bring an end to racial discrimination. It also gave me the same feeling when we visited The Supreme Court where the lives of US people are being struggled. I surely think our coming there was in the right moment knowing that days before going to DC, the Supreme Court has decided to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and gave freedom to people to choose who they want to marry with. The tour to the Capitol has also taught me how actually there is a similarity between Indonesia and US that both countries have the same motto which is essentially to unite its diverse people. In the US, they call it ‘E Pluribus Unum’ which means Out of Many, One while in Indonesia, we call it ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ which comes from Old Javanese Language meaning Unity in Diversity. But the tour to Holocaust Museum that gave me the most chills and eye-opening experience since this historical event is not openly taught to Indonesians in most schools and history books. So, seeing how powerful the impact it brought to the life of humankind, I feel like I have the duty to tell to the people in my country the importance to believe it (since unfortunately some do not), to remember, and to take the lessons that this kind of event must not happen again in the future and respecting each other is very needed in coexistence.

After joining this program, I feel I have become a person with more open point of view towards the diversity of human life. I think every human has their own unique personality and we have to appreciate for who they are. Living in a plural society means that we have to be tolerant and embrace the differences between us. So that, respecting each other is essential as well as maintaining peace to create a better life for us all. Sometimes, I think that there are still many things we have to do in Indonesia in order to achieve this dream. But, I am optimistic that Indonesia is on their way to that point in creating equality to its people, even though I believe that, as what Mr. Dino also said, we would have different path than the US . Lastly, I hope from the experiences I got from USIPP 2013, I could be one that contributes for a better Indonesia in the future. So, thank you for every single of you who has made this program happen and successful. This program has given me a life-changing experience that I will always remember, learn, and love to share to people around me. I am sure that everything that I got from it is very useful and meaningful to help me reaching what I have been dreaming for. So, thank you once again.

Last but not least, I forgot to say this on last day of our program that I am very sorry if I have done any mistakes to any of you during the program. I say this because this is actually a general expression for Moslem Indonesians before and after the coming of Ramadhan to purify themself from any mistakes done to people so that their prayers in Ramadhan could be wholly accepted. But, most Indonesians, regardless of their religion, also usually say it after meeting people in order to make long-lasting peaceful relations with the others.

Feel free to contact me anytime and let me know if you have any plans to Indonesia. I just made a picture of us which is basically a compilation of our individual photo for the cover of my report. Keep in touch! Sampai jumpa!


Reza Laksmana.

USIPP 2013: A Life-Changing Program and an Amazing Opportunity

Maybe you are an avid reader of this blog or maybe you just discovered it today.
Perhaps you are one of the many that have helped to support us financially or one of an even greater number of individuals that provides support in other forms, whether it be your time, knowledge, hospitality, or kindness.

Regardless of who you are, I feel that it is important to emphasize that this program would not have been possible without a great deal of support from an extensive network of individuals. As a participant in this program, I can hardly fathom how much time and effort went into every aspect of this five-week experience. In comparing my program to several of the others offered, I have found that the United States Indonesia Partnership Program (USIPP) is unparalleled. The opportunities we received throughout our journey are some that most people can only dream about.

Climbing the steep stone stairs of Borobudur Temple, the world’s largest Buddhist temple and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Standing in the center of Times Square among millions of flashing lights and crowds. Participating in closed discussions with an ambassador, consul general, congressman, human rights activist, well-established lecturers, and relatives of presidents. Wearing hijab and finally comprehending why millions of women choose to veil. Standing, mouth agape in horror of what human beings are capable of in the Holocaust Museum. Tasting sambal chili sauce and desperately hoping you still have a tongue afterwards. Laying on the warm pavement in Washington, D.C. as the Fourth of July fireworks explode in the sky above. Holding pythons and petting Komodo dragons. Gathering around the television to hear the results of the Supreme Court in regards to DOMA and Prop. 8 unfold. Staying up late answering tough questions about American morality, support of Israel, and religion. Waving goodbye and crying as your family, comprised of all the new friends you have made, leave for the airport wondering when and if you’ll ever see them again.

I did not know what to expect from this program, but what I received was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. In five weeks, I have gained more knowledge about world religion, democratic society, and Indonesian culture than a year’s worth of classes could have ever taught me. More importantly however, I have gained a new perspective that appreciates the many forms of diversity. Before I began this program, I thought I knew what I wanted out of my college experience, but this program has carved an entirely different path for my future, and I will be forever grateful.

Thank you to everyone that made this program possible and supported us months before it began to the very last day. None of what I have said is an exaggeration, so please stop for just a moment to multiply the above comments by 12 to account for each of the participants. Then add the travel leaders. And everyone we had the pleasure of even spending a moment’s time with. And, of course, the two cohorts before us. Now you know how indescribably amazing this program is and the degree to which it has infectiously affected anyone and everyone involved.

~Danielle Hanes, “Mother Hanes”
Lehigh University, Class of 2016

USIPP 2013 : (not) final post

Completing USIPP 2013 has impacted on my perspectives especially when I learnt more about Jewish and Judaism. It was very enriching for me since I was born and raised into a strict muslim family backgroud with all the bad stereotypes attached to the Jewish people. Throught USIPP, I realized the importance of tolerance. I think it’s very essential in life so we can live in this society with kindness towards people’s backgrounds, cultures, and religions and I should not be prejudice and make a generalization towards someone just because of their background.

Furthermore, Living away from home for only 3 weeks, on the other side of the globe, has impacted me in many ways since we had a different culture, a different lifestyle, and a different language. I’ve become more independent, open minded, and confident in myself with the choice I make and not to judge things by their first impression, which i didn’t necessarily do before my exchange. And now, it’s my duty to pass on all of my new experiences and knowledges to my family, friends, and all people around me.

Last but not least, For all committees from UI, UGM, Unair, UMich, and Lehigh Univeristy, There are no words that say thank you enough for everything you have done to me. Thank you for a wonderful USIPP 2013 experience..Thank you so much…. :)


The End/DC Stuff I Should Have Blogged About Before but Didn’t

I didn’t have much time to blog about D.C. but I will say that I really enjoyed it.  I’ve been to D.C. before and have seen all the monuments, but going to places like the Holocaust museum really intrigued me.  I’m not extremely emotional when it comes to these things (I didn’t end up crying), but it really was moving.  I remember watching the medical experiments videos and really thinking about how inhumane that was.  I also find it disgusting to think that this wasn’t THAT long ago (relatively).  There are people that are still alive from Holocaust times and it just disturbs me that humans have existed this long and still believe in these things.  The fact that genocides still occur today really frighten me, but I guess that’s another reason that I feel thankful of my blessings.

Another aspect of DC I found interesting was going to Mt. Vernon.  Honestly, Mt. Vernon wasn’t all too interesting to me.  But the fact they made this humongous deal about Washington actually kind of disturbed me.  They essentially worshiped him in every aspect and it really made me realize how much Americans are told to love him in schools.  There was an intro video of him killing Native Americans and it made it seem like some valiant act because it made the Native Americans look like savages.  Don’t get me wrong, I do think Washington was a great guy and all, and if I lived in his time I would have probably praised him the same way since I’d probably be desensitized and stuff.  But really, they tried to play him off as someone who was progressive in the antislavery efforts when he really didn’t do much.  And just everything about the exhibits was a bit too much.  My favorite was an exhibit called “What did George Washington REALLY Look Like?!’ and had a bunch of people analyzing his old portraits and whatnot.  Honestly, why do I care?  We can’t be certain what anyone from back then actually looked like, why is he so special?  All in all, I found Mt. Vernon interesting in the fact that it changed my view of Washington and made it more negative.

I’ve been home for 3 days already but it still feels weird.  I’m back to my regular home routines, but I can’t believe I won’t see everyone in our USIPP family again.  USIPP really did change the way I viewed the world, especially religion.  I wouldn’t really consider myself much of a religious person, but I was nevertheless intrigued with how much religion plays a part in everyday Indonesia.  One of my favorite parts though was learning about Javanese culture.  It’s really such a rich culture and it’s so elegant and beautiful to me.  I really do want to see a full wayang one day.  Besides that, I will never forget the hospitality and friendships the Indonesians (as well as the Americans, don’t worry I love you too) gave me.  Everyone was so kind to us.  Despite being from complete opposite sides of the world, I felt like I knew many of them for years.  I’ll see you all again sometime and won’t forget the life changing experiences I’ve obtained from USIPP 2013 :’)

Selamat Tinggal (for the last time)


An Educational Experience

However much it’s been said by other participants, this trip really did change my life. Though the trip focused on democratic society and religious pluralism, I feel like I learned more about myself, and the unbelievable people I spent five weeks with, than the sum of all the facts in all the information packets provided. I learned that the most average person can find common ground between people of other cultures. I learned that Indonesians are as accommodating and friendly as people can be, and that I can now safely call seven of them my close friends. Above all, I learned that though I may be apprehensive about leaving America and facing new cultures and peoples first hand, at their core everyone is the same. In conclusion, I learned that you can learn to love a group of people over such a very short time, and miss them for so long afterwards. 

I miss you all very much,


USIPP 2013 ForEver!

Today, finally I arrived at Jakarta. Back to my normal life.

I must say that this program has changed my life. Even though the program is about Democratic Society and Religious Pluralism, we not only learn about that. I also learn about lifestyle and life principle from my aboard friends.

I will miss this USIPP 2013. From morning until the time I sleep I always be together with all USIPP participants and two great travel leaders, Stacey and Pak Segoh. I am so sad to say good bye to this memorable experience. So instead of say goodbye, I will say “until we meet again”. I hope this USIPP program also could be felt by the others, because it is a life changing experience.

I should say “sorry” for all my mistake if I done them, but I really want to say “THANK YOU” to this program. I never imagine this program would be so impactful for me in seeing this world.

Thank you.


Holocaust Museum

For Indonesian, we not used to talk about holocaust. Maybe even there are people that didn’t know about holocaust at all. Holocaust refers to genocides that happened to the Jewish in World War II. I only know holocaust term from movies I ever saw.

But then, after I visited Holocaust Museum, I felt very sad to see all those discrimination to the Jewish people. They have very complete documentation when Jewish people were tortured, forced to work or maybe killed only because they were Jewish. You could feel their suffering through all senses that you have there.

I ever heard from others that holocaust was actually not that bad. It was only propaganda by the Western they said. But, when I visited the museum, I became confuse because the documentation were so complete, so you couldn’t believe that it was not happened.

Those discriminations begun because there were many people have hatred feelings to Jewish people. Maybe at that time there were also bad Jewish people who did dirty jobs. But it is not mean that all Jewish people are bad and could be blamed for something they didn’t do.

I hope there will no more discrimination and genocide anywhere in this world only because stigma or perception about race or religion. Because peace is actually want by people all over the world.    


Meet with Ambassador Dino!

It is a pleasure for us, USIPP 2013 to meet Ambassador Dino. First we were welcomed by Haryo Winarso, Education Attaché at The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, Washington DC. Suddenly, when we introduced ourselves Haryo came out to receive call. And then Ambassador Dino came! It was surprise for us, because we were told that he was in Indonesia. Feel honored, happy, and still cannot believe that we meet him. We had conversation with him, it was nice time. We talked about Indonesia and United States relationship and he also said many things for us as youth generation, as the future leader. He said we have to be adaptive to situation but keep our principle in the same time. I hope we will meet him again someday.


Monument Tour in Washington

In Washington DC, I felt very different with New York. In New York we could see the rush when people walking so fast, traffic are so packed, and the road is so full with people. But in DC, I felt very calm, maybe because it is a lot cleaner and quieter there. Even though Washington is also the city that people like to visit besides New York, we could see DC as more organized city.

In DC, USIPP participants visited The Mall, where we could see many monuments of American history. I am amazed of how America preserved their history and keep it accessible for their citizen in order to create their nationalism.

The highlight of this Monument Tour for me was when I visited U.S Capitol. There I could saw the founding fathers of United States and how they consolidate to make the country became something. Also I could learn how Freedom means for United States. Since United States was colonized by British before, freedom means everything to them. Individual freedom is their country basis for everything.

It is very different with Indonesia. In Indonesia, we felt that sense of community is the most important. So, even though we have freedom, we always consider how our freedom will affect the others. It is not good things if you use your freedom, but at the same time you will took freedom from others.