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Arts, Religion, and Social Change

Explore Indonesia’s arts, agriculture, and six officially recognized religions shaping sociocultural discourses on the side-by-side islands of Bali and Java.

At a Glance





Language of Study

Bahasa Indonesia

Courses taught in



Sep 10 – Dec 23

Program Countries


Program Base

Kerambitan, Bali

Critical Global Issue of Study

Identity & Human Resilience


Why study abroad in Indonesia?

Discover the astounding dynamics of a highly pluralistic society in one of the most visually arresting, culturally rich, and biodiverse parts of the planet. Bali, the program base, is known for its beautiful rice terraces, beaches, temples, and distinctive art forms. Attend classes in an ancient palace, Puri Kerambitan. Then travel to witness Bali’s arts and religious ceremonies, including purification under the sacred fountains, processions to the river or ocean, the making of delicate artistic Hindu offerings, and dance performances lasting late into the night. Explore Java’s religious sites, temples, and mosques; view street art with Javanese peers; and roam mountains. Java is the original home of tempe,  fermented soy beans, and batik textiles, so you will learn techniques from experts and produce a batik T-shirt. In a farming village in Bali’s Tabanan district, study the local agriculture and unique practices of the subak societies, which govern rice field irrigation. Plant rice, cook traditional dishes, and make a coconut bowl and coconut oil. Meet healers and make traditional medicines. Hear and play Indonesia’s peculiar and widely influential traditional gamelan music, which has distinct styles in both Bali and Java. Attend visual arts and ballet performances, as well as Hindu and Muslim ceremonies in Bali and Java.


  • Explore black sand beaches, temples, and the UNESCO-recognized rice terraces and other cultural heritage sites.
  • See how globalization is reshaping Balinese and Javanese arts, culture, and social networks.
  • Study six officials religions and indigenous beliefs; visit Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, and Confucian temples, unique churches, mosques, and bathe in the holy fountains.
  • Present and participate in an interfaith discussion to explore how people of different faiths and beliefs coexist in Indonesia.
  • Meet Indonesian artists working in textiles, music, the arts, and performance.



program map


History, Islam, and the Arts in Java

Dive deep into the arts and religion for three weeks in Java, the most populous island in Indonesia. In Java you will meet with local students of Gajah Mada University (UGM); create a batik shirt of your own design with the help of experts in Yogyakarta; visit and socialize with santri, the students of Pesantren Islamic boarding school; and visit Candi Borobudur and Candi Prambanan, some of the most famous ancient temples of Southeast Asia. In Solo, in central Java, learn about Confucianism in Indonesia.

In East Java, collaborate with students from University of Negeri Malang (UM) to present a topic related to a critical global issue such as gender equality, sustainability, or inclusivity in a symposium organized by UM. To contextualize the symposium topics, students will visit some related sites inluding Glintung Go Green village, where they have transformed a flood-prone village into a sustainable one. You will also visit Ngadas Village, located within the area of Tengger-Bromo-Semeru National Park about two hours from the city of Malang. There you will participate in a lecture discussion with three local religious leaders, representing the Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim faiths. Since 2018, the Indonesian government has recognized six “official religions:” Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism. Discussions will focus on the efforts to create harmony among a pluralistic community with members of different faiths, and how to protect the environment from being exploited through the implementation of the adat-istiadat, traditional laws and orders. Further learnings will include various social issues within Indonesia such as gender equality from our guest lecturers at UM, which students may choose to focus on for their Independent Study Project.

Tabanan District

Spend several days in a farming village with local students in the Tabanan district of Bali, a leading region for rice production. Test your own rice-planting skills, make coconut oil and coconut bowls, and prepare a Balinese feast. Create medicines after a lecture from traditional healers. Study how the arts are configured where religious activities are still closely tied to agricultural cycles and rhythms. Begin conducting interviews for a thematic seminar paper on a topic related to your Independent Study Project (ISP).

Around Bali

Trek along the northwest coast of Bali and visit a sleeping Buddha at a Buddhist temple on the way to Lovina, North Bali. This excursion takes you to Chinese temples, a Buddhist monastery, and a hot spring in Banjar village. Discover Bali’s geographic and cultural diversity in the mountainous area of the Bedugul Ridge, stop at Git Git waterfall, the highest waterfall in Bali, and visit Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, the main source of the irrigation system in Bali. Beratan is the second largest lake in Bali, where a scenic water temple can also be seen. Stops may also include Taman Ayun, Mengwi, a beautiful royal family temple surrounded by lily ponds.

Denpasar Area

After the excursion to Yogyakarta, plunge into issues of social change, current events, the changing environment, and tourism in Bali. Visit conservation projects and interact with Indonesian and Balinese students. Travel to urban Denpasar, exploring bookstores and the local businesses. Speak with various sources for your ISP, as well as journalists, intellectuals, and artists in the area.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Analyze the complex Javano-Balinese calendar system and its importance in performing religious ceremonies. 
  • Synthesize the differences and similarities between Hindu and Muslim communities and their religious life into written exams and discussions. 
  • Analyze traditional and modern art of Java and Bali and the complexity of the religious life under the umbrella of Pancasila, the National ideology of Indonesia. 
  • Reflect on the socioreligious interactions amongst many different ethnic groups that have contributed to the richness of the arts and shaped the national identity of Indonesia. 
  • Acquire basic, intermediate, or advanced proficiency level in Bahasa Indonesian and use the language to conduct basic conversation, communicate information about daily functions, or conduct interviews in Bahasa Indonesian.  
  • Analyze and process primary data gathered in the field and draw valid and ethical interpretations and conclusions.   
  • Synthesize the learning on the program in an Independent Study Project or internship experience paper. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Religion, society and arts on side-by-side islands of Bali and Java
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  • Foundations and non-governmental organizations
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  • Confucianism, Hindu-Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam
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  • Land, water, ethnic identity, tourism, and the environment in Bali
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  • Ancient roots and formation of modern-day Indonesia
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  • Research and interviews for self-designed, independent project

Arts, Religion, and Social Change Seminar

Arts, Religion, and Social Change Seminar – syllabus
(ASIA3000 / 3 credits)

An interdisciplinary course conducted in English, with required readings, that draws connections between contemporary Indonesian society, politics, and economy with the historical traditions apparent in everyday life, be it urban, village, or rural. Students also explore the dynamic ways in which Balinese identity and traditional arts are changing, in response to the pressures of globalization and increased Balinese engagement with global networks. Lecturers are drawn from institutions such as the Udayana University, Universitas Negeri Malang (UM), Institute of Arts of Indonesia (ISI Denpasar and Jogjakarta), Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), and local NGOs. Educational excursions are an integral part of this course, and attendance at evening and weekend temple ceremonies and performances is sometimes required.

Bahasa Indonesia

Bahasa Indonesia – syllabus
(INDO1006-1506 / 6 credits)

Bahasa Indonesia – syllabus
(INDO2006-2506 / 6 credits)

Bahasa Indonesia – syllabus
(INDO3006-3506 / 6 credits)

Emphasis on beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Instructors are faculty of Udayana University in Denpasar. Classes are taught three to four hours daily. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes. Balinese or Javanese language instruction is available for students with full competence in Indonesian.

Field Methods and Ethics

Field Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

A course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience and an introduction to the Independent Study Project (ISP). Topics include cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a work journal.

Independent Study Project (ISP) or Internship

In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:

Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted at an approved location in Bali, Java, and other parts of Indonesia appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas: the ritual significance of gamelan music and Balinese dance; contemporary youth culture and street art; painting in the Ramayana tradition; the social-political relation of government and religion; environmental challenges of global tourism; the representation of myth in public art; traditional healing arts and modern medicine; the export of Balinese culture via tourism; traditional village life and governance; gender and economic change; irrigation management in rural Bali; the aesthetics of religious tradition in Bali; the role of women in contemporary Islamic communities of Java.

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Balinese rural women’s reproductive health issues
  • Local responses to illegal land  use
  • The social and ritual organization of “original Balinese” villages in Balinese highland areas
  • Street art and youth culture
  • The ritual significance of gamelan music and Balinese dance
  • Tourism and the environment
  • The export of Balinese culture via tourism
  • Modern arts of Java and Bali
  • Gender minority in Java
  • The role of women in contemporary Islamic communities of Java
  • Life at Pesantren, an Islamic boarding school
  • Balinese trans migrants on other islands of Indonesia
  • Local beliefs on other islands of Indonesia

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.


Internship and Seminar
Internship and Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a local community organization, research organization, business, or international NGO. The aim of the internship is to enable the student to gain valuable work experience and to enhance their skills in an international work environment. Students will complete an internship and submit a paper in which they process their learning experience on the job, analyze an issue important to the organization, and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization. A focus will be on linking internship learning with the program’s critical global issue focus and overall program theme. The internship course includes a module designed to help students build a foundation on which to engage in the internship experience.

Sample internships:

  • Assisting efforts to help street children at Yayasan Kasih Peduli Anak (YKPA)
  • Practicing the art of batik at Batik Museum in Java
  • Protecting turtles with the Bali Turtle Conservation Project
  • Helping with English in an Islamic boarding school
  • Assisting and observing monkeys’ behavior at Monkey Forest Ubud
  • Producing art form and guiding visitors at ARMA museum Ubud



After orientation at Puri Kerambitan Palace, students stay at homestays, a short walk from the program’s classrooms at Puri. Live with a tight-knit Balinese family and discover details of the Balinese home, including the family shrine. This will serve as your home base between excursions—about five weeks spread out over the program period. Balinese families typically live in “house-yards,” family compounds consisting of a variety of buildings with open space between.

Rural Homestay (Jembrana in Blimbingsari Village)

Stay in rural Jembrana in Blimbingsari Village for four to five nights and experience the area’s strong sense of community with its village families. Most homestay families will live in large compounds housing several families from a single group.

Yogyakarta and East Java

Live with a host family near Yogyakarta for 10 days as part of the group excursion to Java. Homestay families in Java are predominantly Muslim and are very welcoming to SIT students from the United States, as President Barack Obama spent part of his youth in Jakarta, West Java. While is East Java, you will stay at a guesthouse located inside the University of Brawijaya, Malang East Java. For a rural homestay, you will stay with families for a night or two while we have a discussion on the local beliefs of Ngadas, Bromo, before an early morning climb of Bromo mount.

Career Paths

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Founder of Bali Recycling, Bali, Indonesia

  • Founder of Children’s Art Museum, Nepal

  • Researcher at the Institute of Ethnology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany

  • English teacher at Madrasah High School, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

  • Fulbright fellow teaching English at Semarang High School

  • Producer for the National Geographic Channel

  • Professor and Chair of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Victoria, Canada.

Faculty & Staff

Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change

Yudhistira Kazuhiro Budiono (Kazu), MA bio link
Yudhistira Kazuhiro Budiono (Kazu), MA
Interim Academic Director
I Made Yudiana (Pak Yudi) bio link
I Made Yudiana (Pak Yudi)
Language Coordinator
Ni Putu Dian Arisuci (Dian) bio link
Ni Putu Dian Arisuci (Dian)
Language Teacher and Program Assistant
Edward Bayu Trisna (Edo) bio link
Edward Bayu Trisna (Edo)
Language Instructor

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