The United States-Indonesia Society is dedicated to expanding understanding of Indonesia and of the importance of the United States-Indonesia relationship. As the world’s third largest democracy and the fourth most populous country, Indonesia is one of the United States’ most important partners on trade and security issues. Despite its great importance, most Americans know little about Indonesia. The USINDO Summer Language Studies Program has, for more than 15 years, worked to educate young Americans about Indonesia through in-country language and culture training in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
The USINDO Summer Language Studies Program fills a large gap in funding for in-country language studies. Language study is an integral way of introducing and interesting Americans in Indonesia, a country important but often overlooked in the United States. Studies of Indonesia in the United Statesare vibrant but limited to very few academic institutions. Mainstream media offers glimpses of Indonesia generally limited to bylines of terrorism and corruption. As a result of this limited and biased exposure, American students and young professionals rarely turn their attention to Indonesia in a constructive way. The inauguration of a U.S.president with roots in Indonesia brings welcome attention to the significance of Indonesia at the policy level, but more attention needs to be paid to what undergirds policy: the people-to-people relationship.
Educating Americans about Indonesia is essential if we are to prepare our next generation of leaders for the global issues that lie ahead. In-country language study such as that provided by USINDO is critical: it provides needed incentive for Americans to become interested in Indonesia, and raises awareness of the importance of Indonesia and of the Indonesia-United States relationship. Currently, USINDO is one of very few programs bringing Americans to Indonesia for language study.
The program is designed to give our American students the skills – language, political awareness, cultural sensitivity – they need to engage with the country in a constructive and mutually beneficial manner. It also engages Indonesian students through tutoring sessions and other activities, exposing them to a part of the United States– its students – with which they rarely have the opportunity to interact.