By Grady Gillett, Opinions Editor
Joe Faullin was on the back of a school bus when he discovered that he had been awarded a study abroad scholarship in Indonesia from the U.S. Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad (YES) program. His life has not been the same since.
“My time in Argentina sparked my curiosity about more study abroad programs,” Faullin said. “Mar del Plata was really fun, so I thought I need to try to do this again.”
Faullin spent last summer in Mar del Plata, Argentina with the RJR Argentine exchange program.
“But [Indonesia] is completely different,” Faullin continued. “Other than the completely different culture, I have different responsibilities as a YES ambassador.”
Faullin graduated in the summer of 2016 in order to spend a year in Indonesia before he heads to off college. He was one of 65 in the nation to be awarded a YES scholarship, and is currently on month five in Indonesia. He has visited much of the country, including the cities of Bandung, Pontianak, and Jakarta.
“It’s a very naturally beautiful country, from beaches to mountains,” Faullin said. “Jakarta is a very, very sweltering city and when I got off the plane it felt like getting smacked in the face. Bandung on the other hand is very cool. They call it the Creative City and it has a very young population so I’m with a lot of people my age.”
Faullin’s responsibilities during his trip, which include participating in YES presentations with fellow ambassadors, will culminate in his capstone project, the YES equivalent of a senior thesis in college.
“It isn’t due for quite a while, but I have a few ideas,” Faullin said. “The coffee culture here in Bandung is crazy. Their coffee is probably the best in the world–so I was thinking about exploring Indonesian culture through different coffee shops.”
One of the biggest changes between Indonesia and the United States is the religious affiliations. Indonesia is 87 percent Muslim, and Faullin says that nearly all of day to day life there is influenced by it.
“Political parties here are in a way similar to how they are in America,” Faullin said. “The conservative party is the Islamic party, similar to how conservatives in America are often Christian.”
Faullin says the biggest impact Indonesia has had on him is how it has made him think more about his identity and who he wants to be.
“I got knocked off my high horse coming to Indonesia,” Faullin said jokingly. “I was very sure of everything in Winston, and now I am not quite as sure and I feel like I am building myself back up again.”
For those interested studying abroad with YES, the application can be found at www.yesprograms.org. Faullin said he absolutely encourages everyone to try to study abroad in some manner, and that it is life changing.
“Do not wait. Go for it,” Faullin said. “I am so happy to have been able to represent America here in Indonesia.”
Photo from Joe Faullin