Indonesian exchange students embrace Canadian culture and share theirs

Group of students smiling

From left-right, top-bottom: Sayyid Muhammad Faaris, Hedi Yusuf, Phebe Andrew Hugan, Felice Elena, Diah Yelita Butarbutar, Shalva Djoeli Aurelia, Jessica Anastasia, Nuragny Mustika Putri Sekar Arum, Rifda Annisa, Syifani Ihfadza Aliyah

Ten Indonesian students recently spent the fall term living and studying at Western as part of a new Indonesian government initiative aimed at developing global leaders. 

The Indonesian International Student Mobility Awards (IISMA) is a scholarship program developed by the Government of the Republic of Indonesia to fund high achieving Indonesian students to study at top universities overseas. Selected undergraduate students spend a semester experiencing the host country’s culture, taking courses and developing cross-cultural and intercultural skills. 

While at Western, the students also embraced opportunities to showcase Indonesian culture, in addition to learning about Candian culture. In October, they organized an Indonesidan Culture Day event where fellow students in residence could try traditional food. They also participated in Western’s International Week in November, performing a traditional dance at the Cultural Showcase event.  

Students in a circle taken from below“It is wonderful to share our culture with others. We actually cooked our traditional food in our residence room to bring to the event and people loved it,” said Syifani Ihfadza Aliyah, one of the program participants who is currently in her fourth year of a physics degree at the University of Indonesia. 

“I’ve seen other perspectives from my roommate, or my new friends, or my teacher, and really everyone here. I realized you really have to go abroad to open your perspective. You can see the world through other people's eyes, and the way they experience life differently from you. It’s been such an eye-opening experience,” she said. 
“Hopefully, when I go home, I can contribute back, because that's all that I'm thinking about...and, I want to show Canadians things about Indonesia, too. It’s so important that we have cross-cultural exchange,” she said. 
Program organizers hope to encourage participants to become more open to different viewpoints, as well as to increase their confidence and enable them to grow their global networks. 

“The program is driven by the urgency to prepare future global leaders - because in the future the challenge of competing will be not only in national or regional scope, but it is unavoidable that global competition will occur in all aspects of life,” said Lulu Farida, the program’s coordinator for America & Canada with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology for the Republic of Indonesia. 

Hedi Yusuf is another student who received an IISMA scholarship to attend Western this year. A fourth-year digital business student at his home university in Indonesia, he says going abroad to study has been a longtime goal of his. 

“Coming to Western for the semester is the perfect opportunity for me to start that journey to get some reference of what it is like to live abroad. It's basically my dream come true,” he said.  
“Money has always been an issue for students like me in Indonesia. Scholarship programs like this make it possible for students who are incapable financially, but have a great capability, good English-speaking skills, and good adaptability, to be able to develop themselves.” 
Hedi says he enjoyed adapting to Canadian university life and experiencing Canada, in general.  
Group of students posing “I had so much fun visiting Montreal and meeting so many people. This has really affected me as an individual in a short time,” he said. “The academic system and the lifestyle in Canda are very different than in Asia. I have a respect for the work-life balance here.” 
In addition to the creation of positive international learning opportunities for the student participants, the program is also beneficial to Western as an institution, says Eunjung Riauka, director of international learning at Western. 
“Western is proud to participate in the IISMA program and to offer these exceptional students a home on our campus and learning opportunities with our incredible faculty members. As a global institution, we value collaborations and partnerships with universities around the world and we know the impact intercultural learning and different perspectives can have on future leaders.”