Bali is a dream travel destination in Southeast Asia. It features terraced rice fields, beautiful temples, stunning beaches, and a wild nightlife. So imagine being able to live and study on this tropical island, immersing yourself in Bali’s laid back island lifestyle and interacting with friendly locals.
Too good to be true? Well it’s not. Although it’s not your most common study abroad destination, Bali offers opportunities for students to study abroad -- particularly for those interested in Bahasa Indonesia, the national language of Indonesia. Have we got your attention? Then read on...
Unlike the rest of Indonesia, the main religion practiced on the island of Bali is Hinduism, and this results in many spectacular temples scattered throughout the island. It also means that there are less strict dress standards than on the other islands, although if studying at a university you should always dress respectfully. In fact some universities have a dress code of collared shirts, long pants or skirts and closed in shoes.
The Balinese are known for their smiles and their deep generosity and are warm and welcoming people. Sit and chat with the locals to gain an insight into their culture and to exchange jokes. You will never be short of friends in Bali as the locals love to meet new people so build a local social network to really immerse yourself in local life.
Planning Your Trip
Accommodation in Bali is also cheap and with plenty of options. If you really want to immerse yourself in the Balinese culture consider a homestay where you live with a local family. If you want your own space, consider a ‘kost’ a boarding house style set up where you rent a room. Here your neighbors will also be locals so you can have all the benefits of cultural immersion but while having a bit more personal space.
Culture shock and support system
A common practice in Indonesia is for the host university to provide a pendamping or ‘buddy’ for an international student. Your buddy will open up a whole new world you didn’t know existed and will show you all of the best places to get a cheap coffee. It will also open up an immediate social circle as Indonesians love to make new friends.
Bali is a well known tourist destination, but if you travel to one of the villages or to the outer islands be prepared for lots of curious stares. Try not to feel to uncomfortable, for some people it may be the first time they have ever seen a foreigner. Making sure you cover your knees, shoulders and chest when going into rural areas is a sign of respect and should be adhered to.
Where to Live
Kuta is the main tourist destination for people traveling to Bali to party, so if you are looking for a wild night out it’s the place to go. For this reason, it is not the best place to live. Instead, try Ubud or Sanur for a more laidback and relaxed living atmosphere.
The only way to get around Bali is to have your own transportation. If you plan to stay for a long time consider investing in buying a jeep or a motorbike. Make sure you have an international license as police often pull foreigners over to check. If you have not ridden a scooter or motorbike before take some lessons before you arrive. The helmets they sell in Bali do not normally meet international safety standards so consider bringing one from home.
Health and Safety
The security situation can change rapidly in Indonesia and Bali, make sure you register your travel with your embassy. Avoid demonstrations and if an atmosphere starts to build in the streets try to leave as soon as possible.
To stay healthy, make sure you get all required vaccines before departure. Once there, always drink clean, bottled water and be careful when eating out at the start as your stomach gets used to new food. Refilling your water bottles is a cheap way to keep up with this habit.
To study in Indonesia you will need a sosial/budaya (social/cultural) visa. These can be obtained by most nationalities if you have a sponsor (usually your university or educational institution). Sosial/budaya visas are generally valid for three months and are extendable. They must be obtained from an Indonesian embassy or consulate before you travel. It's always worth checking the current visa regulations because they can change without notice.
Costs & Funding
In terms of cost, Indonesia is one of the more affordable places to travel and study abroad. Bali is a cheap place to study abroad, but as a major tourist destination you can easily blow your budget if you’re not careful. Try to avoid spending too much time in the tourist areas and instead eat local, shop local, and live local. Not only will this help your budget, but it also lets you try out your awesome new language skills.
With Asia becoming a bigger player on the international stage, learning an Asian language is more attractive than ever before. Many governments offer scholarships to study abroad with some offering these scholarships for study in Asia. So have a look to see what is offered from your home country.
- The Fulbright scholarship program is open to students from the United States of America studying in Indonesia.
Written by Morgan Pettersson
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