Fostering Unity through Siswa Mengenal Nusantara

That afternoon, the atmosphere at Lampung Radin Inten II Airport appeared to be a little different from usual. A group of teenagers wearing grey jackets came out of the arrival door singing and shouting yells. Other passengers who had just arrived smiled at the group, and even some captured the moment with their gadgets.

The group with the grey jackets consisted of high school, vocational high school and SLB (special needs school) students from Lampung Province who have completed the Siswa Mengenal Nusantara (SMN) or Students Getting to Know the Archipelago program in North Maluku for 9 days. They returned safely to Lampung on Thursday, August 22, 2019. Although they looked tired from traveling from North Maluku back to Lampung, but they always keep smiling.

In the evening, the 23 students participating in SMN program gathered with their accompanying teachers and the BUMN as organizers. They shared their experience visiting and blending in different cultures.

One Lampung student, Tubagus Fajar, shared his experience during the SMN program in North Maluku. The student, who was called Tebe, was initially surprised because he had to live together with the local residents in moderate conditions. He also said that he was afraid when he first arrived in North Maluku because he was worried about the cultural differences.

However, Tebe admitted that he was gratified because the family where he lived during the SMN program in North Maluku was very nice and helped him adapt. Furthermore, cultural differences did not become a barrier between him and his foster family. The cultural differences made him and his foster family even closer instead.

"Even when we were about to go home to Lampung, we cried because we had to part. At first we were scared because we thought the people there were tough, but apparently not so. They were very nice to us and we were treated like their own children instead," he explained.

Salsabila, another Lampung high school student, told the same thing. She said that joining the SMN program was a valuable experience for her. This was the first time she traveled far from home and visited a place with a different culture. Almost every night she helped her foster family peeling the nutmeg. Not only that, Salsa also saw personally the hundreds years old clove trees which were the natural wealth of North Maluku.

With this SMN program, students could get to know Indonesia deeper through its diversity. Also with this program, students could eliminate negative stereotypes about other cultures. As the students experienced the cultural differences directly, hopefully the SMN program could foster sense of brotherhood and unity in Indonesia.