During the summer of 2018, three undergraduate students spent two weeks in Bali, Indonesia on a language and cultural immersion program sponsored by the Julia and Ken Gouw Centennial Scholarship for Study Abroad in Indonesia.

Compiled and edited by Dennaya Nadhifa (UCLA, 2019)


With the help of the generous endowment by Julia and Ken Gouw and a match by the Chancellor’s Centennial Scholars Fund, three undergraduate students Jason Hibono, Amanda Norman, and D'neice Mason participated in a study abroad program and gained hands-on experience in learning the Indonesian language and culture in Bali, Indonesia. Their 2018 summer language and cultural immersion program did not only consist of classroom instruction. For two weeks, their days were also filled with site visits, volunteer work at local schools, universities, NGOs, community groups, and living with their homestay families. Jason, Amanda, and D'neice reflected on their motivation for participating in the study abroad program, the uniqueness of the language and culture that they encountered in Bali, as well as their desires to develop their knowledge about Indonesia.

Re-connecting with identity

Jason described himself as "a first-generation American-Indonesian who grew up in the United States of America, whose only connection to Indonesia was from his immigrant parents." He explained that during his childhood, he "suppressed his identity in the fear of being different from the rest of his community" thus depriving him of the ability to "know or appreciate Indonesia for what it was." However, with his experiences of traveling around the Indonesian archipelago and participating in the program, that point in his life now seems like "a faraway past time of another life".

Exposure to the uniqueness of Balinese culture

D'neice stated that "after language lectures, Pak Nyoman [their instructor] gave Balinese culture lectures" such as Bali's geography, religion, and gender roles." Ngurah Rai University also arranged for several outside cultural excursions as well as the observation of a traditional Hindu worshiping prayer," she reported. 

Amanda said, "I learned a lot of valuable cultural information, especially about Bali." She observed, "Bali is so unique in terms of its cultural and religious practices compared to the rest of Indonesia." For that reason, she was glad that her "training went into depth about topics like Bali geography, the naming traditions, and Hindu religion."

Jason shared his views on the difference between Bali and the rest of Indonesia. "It is chaotic, touristy, and much more English-speaking than the rest of the country," he explained. However, he was able to immerse himself into the local Balinese culture through the language and culture training. Jason said that the language and cultural training enabled him to go on "occasional excursions to a temple, or pura, to village Desa Penglipuran, one of the cleanest villages in the world, or to local warung Mujair Nyat-Nyat Pak Bagong," where he was taught how to properly eat cuisine with his hands by his professor.

Interacting with locals through volunteering

Jason, who taught English at a local high school, "helped students speak, write, and present and observed how classroom management was run and how disciplinary measures were administered." In addition to that, he learned about "the meaning of Tri Datu yarn, the three colors of the bracelet representing Brahma, Wisnu, and Siwa respectively in the Balinese Hindu religion."

Amanda, on the other hand, "spent a week at Bali TV editing English translations and recording voiceovers of those translations to be laid over news segments." She added, "I got to visit one of their filming sites for Bali Tourist Channel and even got to be filmed for the segment." During her internship in Bali TV, she also "got to learn a little bit about how an Indonesian news station operates."

Like Amanda, D'neice also volunteered at Bali TV. Although she is grateful for the opportunity to finally experience working in translation, she expressed her struggles. "Translating was actually a lot harder than I thought," she said. "There are so many different ways to express a single thought and since I was translating on someone else’s behalf, I was not sure how much creative freedom I had to change a sentence’s structure," she explained.

Reflecting on future plans

D'neice, Jason and Amanda expressed their desires to maintain and develop their knowledge about the Indonesian culture and language skills in the future. D'neice said that she "would like to return next summer to continue to develop [her] Indonesian skills and expand [her] cultural awareness." Likewise, Jason stated, "Indonesia's collectivism, relaxed nature, familial priority, and generosity are things I want to return to at some point in my future career." Meanwhile, Amanda expressed her aspiration to share the knowledge she obtained through this program with friends "so that they, too, can appreciate the rich Balinese culture instead of spending all their time in Kuta at foreign-owned beach clubs."





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Published: Monday, October 22, 2018