SMU-in-Bali Program Immerses Students in Exotic Arts and Culture

Each summer, students have the opportunity to spend a month exploring the arts and culture of a unique Indonesian province in Meadows’ SMU-in-Bali program.

SMU-in-Bali students explore significant historical and artistic sites throughout the island, like this temple.
SMU-in-Bali students explore significant historical and artistic sites throughout the island, like this temple.

Study abroad programs typically conjure images of largely populated European locales like London or Rome, but Meadows offers students an opportunity to explore a unique culture outside of the typical “study abroad” scope. Meadows’ SMU-in-Bali program is a four-week arts and culture immersion experience that includes the study of traditional Balinese and Javanese music, dance, and yoga, as well as participation in curated courses to learn more about their host country’s culture.


The program was founded in 2006 by music instructor and director of Meadows World Music Ensemble Jamal Mohamed and, in 2014, was joined by professor of practice in dance Anne Westwick as the co-director and dance and yoga instructor. The objective of the program has been the same since its inception: allow students to fully immerse themselves in Balinese arts and culture.


Students learn Balinese offering rituals during their program.


Every weekday begins with outdoor yoga classes in the natural beauty of Bali, where students can get fit, flexible, and focused for the day, followed by two other daily courses. It is through these courses that students have the opportunity to learn experientially by seeing and doing, with the tropical island as their classroom and local experts as their mentors. One such expert is Wayan Rachman, a Balinese artist and Ubud native who provides our students with an enhanced experience by inviting them to local village ceremonies rarely seen by tourists.


“My favorite part of leading the Bali program is taking students to observe how music and dance is involved in these traditional Balinese ceremonies,” says founder and co-director of the program, Jamal Mohamed. “They get to see how the Balinese integrate the performing arts into their religious observations and everyday life, which is so different than the way we approach performing arts as purely entertainment.”


Though the program has an emphasis on the arts, it is open to SMU students of any major. This year, the program was comprised of students from a variety of majors, including advertising, English, history, and even engineering and business! The only prerequisite is that the students have a desire to experience a new culture and an adventurous, open-minded attitude.


Students interact with native species at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Bali.


In addition to the study of Balinese art forms, students learn about the culture and history of the country through excursions to temples and visiting significant historical and artistic sites throughout the island. This year, the scope of the course was widened to include workshops in Balinese cooking, local herb compounding, seminars in puppet making and batik painting, as well as visits to coffee plantations, UNESCO rice terraces, local villages and markets.


“Our program takes students to a place very culturally different from their own, and challenges students to participate in and appreciate that difference,” explains program co-director Anne Westwick. “Students come away from this interactive and experiential program with new perspectives and broadened appreciation for different ways of living and artistic expression.”


The SMU-in-Bali program fulfills UC and CC Curriculum requirements, while awarding six credit hours for three courses, and is one of many study abroad opportunities for Meadows students. Click here to learn more about all of the study abroad programs SMU has to offer.