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URI Students in Indonesia during Winter J Term

Indonesia is half-a-world away from URI, but it became the classroom for a group of students who traveled there in January.

During J Term, our optional January mini-semester, twelve students, along with Geosciences Professors Thomas Boving and Anne Veeger  visited the Southeast Asian republic to study problems related to water and public health—and to examine sustainable technologies that may enable people in developing countries to escape poverty.

During their two-week stay, they immersed themselves in the daily life of both rural and urban Indonesians. The students observed what Professor Boving called both “the dirty underbelly and the glitzy side” of the country. The three-credit course also included collaborations with Indonesian university students on investigations into sustainable solutions and technologies for providing safe and reliable drinking water to all regions of the country.

One of the most important things I took from this trip is that solutions to the biggest world problems are possible.

The trip was an eye-opening experience, and a meaningful one, for the students, who made the most of the opportunity to learn more about the day-to-day problems faced by people halfway around the world. They visited wind farms, a rainwater harvesting project, a solar-powered water pumping facility, and a volcanic region where new agricultural practices are being tested. They even met with United States Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake.

The students called the experience “life changing,” and were awed by the natural beauty of the country and the genuine kindness of the people they met.

“It completely put everything in perspective for how I see the world,” said political science major Stamati Tsatsaroni. “I will always be in debt to the people of Indonesia for what they’ve taught me. This trip forced me to jump out of my comfort zone and learn about things I never knew were there.”

Senior Duncan Stiller agreed. Duncan’s area of interest is global and environmental health, and he hopes to return to the country. “I absolutely fell in love with Indonesia as a result of this trip,” he said. “The people are so kind, the food is unbelievably good, and the physical country itself is beautiful.”

For sophomore Victoria Caccamo, a geology and oceanography major, the experience was empowering. “One of the most important things I took from this trip is that solutions to the biggest world problems are possible,” she said.

Pictured above: URI students in Professor Tom Boving’s class visiting Indonesia during Winter J Term

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