SUMMARY OF YSEALI ACADEMIC FELLOWSHIP-FALL PROGRAM 2016
Written by Albert Christian Soewongsono, VDMS Alumnus from Nusa Cendana University (UNDANA), Kupang
The other twenty fellows from Myanmar, Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand I met in this program have inspired me much for what they have done and are planning to be accomplished to their communities. Taking as an example, my friend from the Philippines, Yob, he wants to increase public awareness about mental health in his home country since there is no mental health law in the Philippines yet. Another example to be more emphasized, my fellow Indonesia, Kiki, he works for an institution that teach mentally retarded kids in Batam. Making change in community does not need to be conducted in a large scope, even simple things. Doing social media campaigns like my Malaysian fellow is currently doing or providing direct guidelines about youth opportunities is enough for a community to be empowered. I was so blessed and thankful for the opportunities to be able to present my project about mentoring youths in Eastern part of Indonesia in front of lecturers and staffs at NIU, YSEALI people at the State Department, and Indonesian Ambassador in Washington D.C From my observation and my own experience during the program, I saw and experienced brainstorming sessions with other fellows to create a powerful and impactful project. I can consider that as one of the turning points in my life and perhaps to each other’s lives as well. This bond of friendship we created during the program is similar to what existed in the past where Dr. King and his fellows created movements that changed the U.S. and world. To all of you who are reading my article, I want to emphasize that being a youth is the right time for you to create impact in your communities and to expand your network.
Creating the best of your life (Experiencing students’ life in America)
One of the unforgettable moments I got from this program was studying at an American University. Located in Dekalb, Illinois, Northern Illinois University (NIU), in my opinion, is a very diverse university. We can easily find students coming from Asia. In addition, the university holds a largest collection of Southeast studies in the United States. During my study there, I met some Indonesian scholars who are either studying or doing researches at the university. One day in the afternoon, my Indonesian fellows and I visited Gamelan class at the university’s music department with around 20 American students enrolled the class. Pak Ngurah, the Gamelan lecture, has been teaching Gamelan class for around three years after his retirement as a staff at Indonesian Consulate in Chicago. During our time at the university, we did cultural exchange quite a lot. We had some days to spend together with our American Ambassadors who actually are students at the university. My American Ambassador has experience living in Indonesia where he was an exchange student in a high school in Semarang. From my conversation with him during lunch at a famous Italian-style restaurant in Dekalb, I found him as someone who admires Indonesia’s culture a lot. For example, he loves wearing Batik (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batik) and eating Indonesian food, so as an Indonesia, we also must be proud of our cultures and preserve them.
Lessons to be brought back to Indonesia
Apart from things that I have mentioned before, I want to look back on few positive things that I think can be implemented in my country, especially to my hometown.
1. Access for people with disabilities
Disability rights were one of our lecture sessions we learned at the university. On this lecture, we were taught about the rights for people with disabilities, how they view the world and non-disability people view them as well as how the surrounding environment adjusted for them. The concept of Universal Design is a concept of creating an environment that not only matches with people with disabilities, but also with non-disability people. The university where we studied is a disabled-friendly building as can be seen by its facilities for disabled people. During our trip in Chicago, we visited a non-profit organization, called Access Living, works to equip people with disabilities with skills to overcome social barriers in their lives. In addition, they had applied the concept of universal design in their office building. In Asia, providing proper access for people with disabilities is still a major problem. For instance, we rarely see people with wheelchair or other related stuffs walking around place here. What I observed there, people with disabilities, they want others to view them as people and they also can do things like what people do, but again, proper facilities are needed.
2. Appreciation to nation’s history
I think, American people really appreciate their nation’s historical figures based on how they preserved the history. When we traveled to places in the South, such as Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery, we saw how museums there are not boring places. The exhibits are beautifully and creatively displayed to attract visitors and boost tourism.
Sharing – Volume 3 | I | 2017