Photo for UCLA students undergo cultural immersion...

During summer 2023, three UCLA undergraduate students took part in an immersive study abroad and volunteer program in Bali, Indonesia, funded by the Julia and Ken Gouw Centennial Scholarship.

UCLA undergraduate students, Rachel Kho, Jordan Tatang, and Hazelle Gunawan, received the Julia and Ken Gouw Centennial Scholarship in 2023 funded by the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies. The scholarship allowed them to take part in a two-week summer study abroad program at Ngurah Rai University in Bali, Indonesia where they stayed with host families, experienced Balinese culture, and further developed their understanding of the Indonesian language. The three Gouw scholars also volunteered at local schools, participated in cultural excursions, and observed sacred religious ceremonies.


Cultural Excursion and Integration 

Program director, Pak Nyoman Riasa, brought the students to Ubud to visit the temples, see monkeys, and eat good foods. Hazelle says, "My crowning achievement was being able to haggle for souvenirs at a local market in full Indonesian."

The students fondly reminisced about a memorable hike they did for Indonesian Independence Day. For this excursion, they hiked up Genung Batur, an active volcano in Indonesia, starting their arduous trek at 2 AM. By sunrise,  the group had reached the top where members waved their Indonesian flags and banners. Hazelle explained that even though the hike was excruciating, "when we were at the top watching the sun rise, the clouds dissipating for a brief moment so that we could have a clear view of the blue waters, it really struck me how beautiful this country is." Rachel also reflected on this a moment, saying "I felt immeasurable pride in my heritage at that moment, waving our banner as the sun rose." 

Volunteering at Local Schools

After the cultural and language training at the university, the Gouw scholars were placed on an internship volunteer rotation at a local school. They assisted instructors by helping the students on English-related subjects. The students had positive experiences with the school children. Rachel described the kids as always having "curious faces and eager smiles." Jordan shared that the children were intrigued by them, constantly asking questions about their lives in the United States. Hazelle enjoyed the exchange of culture and language, being able to share her experiences living in America in English and also converse with the kids about other topics in Indonesian. 


Exploring Interests Outside the Classroom

In addition to their time in the classroom, the students also explored personal interests. Rachel and Jordan visited a hospital in Udayana University to learn about Indonesian medical practices. Jordan observed the differences between the Indonesian and U.S. healthcare systems from education to treatment. Learning about medical care in Indonesia was insightful for Jordan who is a pre-med student at UCLA. "It was eye-opening to see a different perspective of healthcare," he shared.

One of Rachel's interests is preparing authentic Indonesian dishes. She took cooking classes to learn how to make her favorite dishes, ayam goreng and pisang goreng (fried chicken and fried banana), that she describes as "easily one of the best meals of the trip."

Embracing Heritage and Identity

The Gouw scholars expressed how this experience strengthened of their identities as Indonesian Americans.

After the program, Jordan visited his family in Jakarta and Bandung. "For the first time in my life, I was able to speak to my grandmother without my parents’ help. The language was no longer something that separated me from my family but instead brought us closer," he remarked.

Rachel also went to visit family in Jakarta. Despite not being fluent in the Indonesian language, she described that simply being able to communicate with her family and sharing stories of her time in the country made her to feel much more connected to her Indonesian identity. 

Hazelle noted how her host mom would introduce her to friends and relations, saying that she had just "been away for many years but had finally come home." She emphasized how this trip allowed her to form a deeper connection with her cultural heritage and appreciate what it means to be Indonesian.

Published Icon

Published: Tuesday, November 7, 2023