The Adaptation Process of Pesantren Students in An Exchange Program to the US: Case Study of KL-Yes Alumni Program



Despite the fact that students from pesantren, or Islamic boarding school, were inexplicably affiliated to the exclusive life of Islamic education, the students themselves possess curiosity on religious diversity to which they were exposed limitedly. Kennedy Lugar YES Program, a scholarship grant exchange program sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, aims to bridge understanding between Muslim world and the American society, where the pesantren students could provide their best contribution related to their knowledge on Islam. The program was established after 9/11 tragedy which has caused bad reputation towards Muslims in America. Using descriptive qualitative-based, in-depth interview and utilizing Co-Cultural Theory by Mark Orbe, the researcher discovered a pattern of communication outcome carried out by the students during their programs as part of their adaptation process. Initially pesantren student have had curiosity regarding religious diversity which triggered them to know, participate and involve themselves in other religions’ rituals and activities existing in American society. The students’ background on Islamic education supported by intercultural experience they went through, have sucessfully produced several great life changing perspectives on religious diversity that the students have never gained inside pesantren. The students whose mindsets were taught not to celebrate other religions’ rituals and celebrations during their pesantren education, were able to alter their point of views in order to show respect and religious tolerance as part of their adaptation process. They realized their positions as minority needed bargaining position to make them as part of the society.

Keywords: intercultural communication, co-cultural theory, pesantren,
adaptation, exchange students