UGM through the US-Indonesia Partnership Program for Study Abroad Capacity (USIPP) holds student exchange with a number of universities in the United States. The program this time raises the theme "Religious Plurality, Democracy, and Multiculturalism”. Previously, UGM held a similar program in 2011.
The event committee chairman, Heru Pramana Yuda, said that UGM this time collaborates with University of Indonesia (UI) and two universities in the United States, Lehigh University and University of Michigan. "This event is held for one month. Within two weeks, activities are carried out in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, while the next two weeks will be spent in Pennsylvania and Michigan," he explained on Monday (11/6) in Stana Parahita UGM.
Heru said the student exchange is followed by four students from Indonesia and four students from the United States. Indonesia is represented by Anggita Pramesti (International Affairs, UGM), Cindhi Cintokowati (Accounting, UGM), and Cut Nuri Hikmah Shabry and Soulaya Lestary (University of Indonesia). Meanwhile, the U.S. delegation is represented by students from Lehigh University, namely Elli McGuire, Shannon Cassidy, Angela Farren, and Theresa Meija.
In Yogyakarta all participants will take part in joint lecturing given by GPBH Prabukusumo, Amien Rais, and Alissa Wahid. In addition, participants will be invited to have discussions and stay in Tegalrejo Islamic Boarding School, Magelang, and Mertoyudan Seminary. "The uniqueness of this activity is that participants can directly experience how pluralism, democracy, and multiculturalism develop in the community through activities with a number of communities in Yogyakarta, such as Jogja Hiphop Foundation and Yogyakarta Hijabers Community," he explained.
Heru added that a number of young activists engaging in the religious field at UGM, such as the Jamaah Solahudin, Buddhist Student Association, Hindu Student Association, Catholic Mass Association, and Christian Student Fellowship, were taking part in this activity. "After the event in Yogyakarta, next Saturday (17/6) participants will attend a series of activities in the United States for two weeks," he said.
Prof. Lloyd Steffen from Lehigh University said that the student exchange program is the result of the initiative of U.S. President Barack Obama and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to strengthen relations between the two countries, one of which is through student exchange. "Through this program, American students are expected to learn firsthand experience about the role of religion in Indonesia. With nearly 90 percent of Muslim population, Indonesia can still implement democratic system," he said.
Meanwhile, Angela Farren, Lehigh University student, said during one week in Jakarta she has visited a number of government agencies and religious organizations, including offices of Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhammadiyah, Religious Harmony Forum, and the Constitutional Court. She saw that Indonesia is a country which has diversity like America. "President Obama stated that America is a country which is full of diversity, apparently it also exists in Indonesia," she explained.