Being a representative from Eastern Indonesia in this year’s YSEALI Academic Fellowship was such an amazing experience. But I intend to make sure that this experience will not just be a benefit for myself, but also for my communities back at home. This five-week program of learning and seeing new things has taught me to be more equipped on how to realize what I can do for others. I was so blessed to able to learn about America’s social movements from the amazing teachers at the Northern Illinois University. Coming from a scientific studies background, I had only a little knowledge about the U.S. past social movements, but like a wise man once said: It’s never too late to learn new things; Indeed, I have been so inspired about influential figures in the civil rights movements, such as Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and Congressman John Lewis led people to fight for shared goals. At the end, what all of those leaders had accomplished made them become a part of history. During our study tour to places in the South, such as to Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery, we visited museums, parks, sculptures, and other historical places dedicated to these great people. These statues symbolized how the current generations remembered and commemorated the result from their works for communities. These legacies have had profound impacts on the U.S. for example, the Selma-Montgomery march in 1965 led to the freedom of vote for colored people in the U.S. to Sit-ins action and bus boycott leading by the freedom riders to end the segregation among white and colored people in the state.
My five-week journey in the U.S. was not only about learning about what had happened in the past, but also about learning from fellow delegates and seeing how things work here. I do hope that these thoughts that I am going to share with you can influence you to be a leading agent in your own communities.
Watching an American Football Match at the University Stadium
Takin A Selfie Picture with Our American Ambassador After Lunch
Group Photo After Volunteering at Feed My Starving Children in Sycamore, Illinois
Taking Photo with the Director of Northern Illinois University during the Closing Ceremony
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 be 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 which 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 equipment accessing different places here. In contrast, I observed there,- was that people with disabilities wanted to be viewed as normal people and they also can do things like what normal people do, but again, proper facilities are needed.
After the Group Tour at Access Living, Chicago
This Photo Shows that Mentally-Disabled People Can Also Be Productive like Normal People (Opportunity House, Sycamore)
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 a boring place. The exhibits are beautifully and creatively displayed to engage visitors. One day in Birmingham, we were walking around 16th Baptist Church and Dr. King’s park where we came across with a guy who suddenly approached us and started telling us a story about events happened on that area in the past. I think, if we didn’t cut the conversation, that guy would keep telling us story for a long time. He earns money by doing that, and what makes me mesmerized was, he really knew about the history in a great detail. One of the benefits of preserving history is, it can boost tourism. For example, when I was in D.C, I saw tons of visitors taking photos or relaxing in places like Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, or around Smithsonian Museums. In each of those places, souvenir shops are available for visitors that want to buy authentic goods from those places. To be more emphasized, in the city centre, buildings like President Lincoln’s assassination site and the house where he died are still preserved up until now.
One of the Popular Tourist Spots in D.C. : Lincoln Memorial
Another Example on How This Nation Appreciates its Past Leaders: Jefferson Memorial
Dr. King’s Giant Sculpture in Washington D.C.
Replica of President Lincoln and His Family Being Displayed in Lincoln’s Presidential Musum in Springfield, Illinois
The Statue of President Roosevelt and His Dog
To conclude this story, I intend to say that this 5-week program has taught me with lots of new things and experience. In the next few weeks with my organization, MITRA, we will launch our mentoring program to provide direct access for young people in Eastern Indonesia about youth opportunities, such as scholarships, soft-skill developments, and exchange opportunities. Like most people already know, creating impacts must start from your own communities. (MITRA Mentoring’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MITRAMentoring/)
P.S. Further references about YSEALI can be found through these links: