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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



Jan 23 ‎– May 7

On Site Component

Jan 23 ‎– May 7

Program Countries


Program Base

Kerambitan, Bali

Critical Global Issue of Study

Identity & Human Resilience

Identity & Human Resilience Icon


Why study arts and religion 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. Then travel to witness Indonesia’s arts, including processions to the river, the making of tall and beautiful rice ornaments, 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 and batik textiles, so you will learn techniques from experts. 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 coconut oil. Meet healers and make medicines. Hear Indonesia’s peculiar and widely influential traditional gamelan music. 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.
  • See how globalization is reshaping Balinese arts, culture, and social networks.
  • Study Hindu and Islamic faiths; visit temples and bathe in the holy fountains.
  • Meet Indonesian artists working in textiles, music, the arts, and performance.




History, Islam, and the Arts in Java

Dive deep into the arts and religion for nearly three weeks in Java, the most populous island in Indonesia. Create a batik shirt of your own design with the help of experts in Yogyakarta; watch a ballet version of the Hindu epic the Ramayana; and visit some of the most famous ancient temples of Southeast Asia. In Solo, learn about Confucianism in Indonesia. In East Java, visit an Islamic boarding school. Finally, trace Hindu-Buddhist history from the dynasties of Central Java to an empire of East Java.

Tabanan District

Spend several days in a farming village 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 north, east, and sometimes west coasts of Bali. This three- or four-day excursion takes students to Chinese temples, a Buddhist monastery, a fishing village, and the mosque at Sangsit. Discover Bali’s geographic and cultural diversity in the mountainous area of the Kintamani ridge, stop at Sukawana, a Balinese village that observes an old form of social organization based on “age hierarchy,” and visit one of its major temples. Student may also climb Mount Batur, the second largest mountain in Bali.

Denpasar and Institute Hindu Dharma Negeri

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.



Access virtual library guide.

Coursework in this program focuses on the connections between contemporary Indonesian society, politics, and economy with the historical traditions apparent in everyday life—urban, village, or rural. Coursework offers historical context for Bali, especially regarding the late influence of Dutch colonialism, and Bali’s unique form of Hinduism. Through thematic seminars, language study, field studies, and educational excursions, the program introduces students to the historical, political, and economic (tourism, oil, international investment, and agriculture) conditions of everyday life in Bali, Java, and Indonesia.

Coursework also aims to assist students in understanding the personal and social orientations in the background of Balinese life. These include the relationship between the self and the geophysical world, social relationships, and the relationship to the calendar that determines rituals, an important part of Balinese life.

Students examine how the arts fit into these patterns. They explore the deep-seated Balinese notion of constant interplay between physical/visible reality and a metaphysical/non-visible world of energies, an interplay that often requires ritual or healing interventions.

Institutions the program works with include:

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
  • Foundations and non-governmental organizations
  • Confucianism, Hindu-Buddhism, and Islam
  • Land, water, ethnic identity, tourism and the environment in Bali
  • Ancient roots and formation of modern-day Indonesia
  • 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 Faculty of Letters of Udayana University, Universitas Pendidikan Ganesha, Universitas Gadjah Mada, 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. 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.

Course Options

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
  • Practicing the art of batik at Mustokaweni in Java
  • Protecting turtles with the Bali Turtle Conservation Project
  • Helping in an Islamic boarding school



After orientation, travel to the village of Kerambitan, a short walk from the program’s classrooms. 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 (Tabanan Area)

Stay in rural Tabanan 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, 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.

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

  • 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

Faculty & Staff

Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change

Ni Wayan Ariati (Bu Ary), PhD
Academic Director
Yudhistira Kazuhiro Budiono (Kazu)
Program Assistant
I Made Yudiana (Pak Yudi)
Language Coordinator
Ni Putu Dian Arisuci (Dian)
Language Teacher and Program Assistant
Edward Bayu Trisna (Edo)
Language Instructor

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

    See Full Breakdown

    Prepare for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Abroad! In-country conditions and resources vary by site. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact for more information.

    Accessibility Overview
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    SIT Study Abroad Bali

  • SIT Study Abroad alumna Chelsea Bhajan to address stigma around disability in Indonesia

    School for International Training and World Learning have named SIT Study Abroad alumna Chelsea Bhajan as the next Alice Rowan Swanson Fellow. She plans to return to Indonesia to help remove the stigma around people with disabilities.

    Learn More