Experience report semester abroad in Bali

from Michael
Study in Bali

Michael's semester abroad in Bali

University: Udayana University
Location: Bali, Indonesia
Program: Bali International Program on Asian Studies
Organisation: Asia Exchange

Home University: University of Applied Sciences, Economics and Culture Leipzig
Field of study: International Management (Bachelor)

Studying in paradise | My semester abroad in Bali

Foreword - How to study in Bali ?!

The first reaction when people heard about my project was always the same: a slight smile and the word "semester abroad" was immediately rewritten into "leave semester". But who should blame them, Bali is associated with beautiful beaches, brown-tanned tourists and crunchy surfers rather than elite universities and ambitious students. It would certainly have been similar, if I had not dealt with the topic of studying in Bali before.

Speaking of elite university, I studied at Universitas Udayana in Denpasar, the capital of Bali. It is the largest and most modern University of Bali and has about 22.000 students. Of course, this university is not to be regarded as an elite university and I did not initially know what level of study will expect me there, but personally the experiences and experiences that can be collected abroad were much more important to me than the taught content.

The semester abroad was organized by the exchange organization Asia Exchange, the beginning of my studies was the 01.09.2015 and offered 153 international students from 16 countries the opportunity to take a variety of English-language courses at the university.

I signed up for the following modules:

  • Economy and Business of South East Asia
  • Business Law and Legal Tradition on Trade and Investment
  • Indonesian Language
  • International Business
  • Global Marketing
  • International Accounting and Finance


The first days in Bali: Eat, Pray, Love - or something like that!

If you only know Bali from the movie or from travel catalogs, as soon as you arrive at the airport in Denpasar, you will get back to earth quite quickly. Because the first thing you see are not the beautiful beaches, the magnificent temples and the beautiful rice fields. On the contrary, a seemingly endless sheet avalanche, consisting of scooters, cars and trucks, the smell of exhaust fumes, smog and burned garbage, coupled with the high temperatures and the extreme humidity have hit me like a slap in the face. The good, old culture shock has not stopped in front of me. Totally exhausted from the flight, I just wanted to come to my accommodation, the taxi driver knew the way fortunately. All further communication attempts failed because he barely spoke a word of English and so we made our way through the night and the traffic chaos to my accommodation in silence, but always smiling: "Here you really want to study 4 months !? Anyway, sleep first, tomorrow will be better! "

Said, done - after 10 hours of sleep, I was fit again and first explored my new home. I lived in a small resort in Jimbaran, depending on traffic about 40 minutes south of the capital Denpasar. There are bungalows, chic rooms and small villas, as well as a Warung (Indonesian food stall) and 3 pools. Most of the guests were students or tourists, but also a few locals, so it was not difficult to make the first new acquaintances.

The culture shock was already overcome after 2 days and since then I liked it better and better. Next, I rented my own scooter because, as they say, "No Scooter - No Bali!" It's just the quickest and best way to get from A to B and it's also great fun exploring the island on your own. But it is also quite dangerous, especially for people who have never driven scooters. First there is the left-hand traffic, but you get used to it quite quickly. Much worse is actually the chaotic traffic itself, but one gets used to after a few days. One day, on the way to university, a whole family consisting of 2 adults, 3 children, a chicken and a small dog passed me on the sidewalk, grinning and honking - Welcome to Bali. 🙂

Studying in Bali

Naturally, the everyday life was also completely different than in Germany. With four days of lecture per week, I was already one of the more "diligent" students. Many of the classmates had only 3 days of lectures, depending on the course choice, and their free time was therefore not too short. The quality of the lectures was quite different. Some professors were really trying to convey the material exciting and varied, while others spent the whole time reading off the loveless PowerPoint presentations and the biggest concern was that the battery from the smartphone survives the seemingly never-ending lecture. But as I said, you can not all shuffle, even in Germany there are "good" and "bad" professors.


I personally enjoyed the lectures in Business Law and Legal Tradition on Trade and Investment and learned a lot about Indonesian laws, history and investment opportunities in Southeast Asia. Otherwise, the organization of some professors sometimes seemed to me like a kind of improvisational theater, lecture and excursion plans kept changing, short-term power failures had to be bridged and lectures were replaced by housework. In order to be admitted to the final exams it was necessary to have at least 75% attendance over the whole period, which was also strictly controlled and thus ensured that the students also regularly attended the lectures. With the numerous distractions that lurk in pretty much every corner in Bali, I consider this approach to be quite legitimate and necessary action. The excursions, which usually took place on Thursday afternoons, were usually very interesting. For example, we visited another campus and were able to communicate better with the local students, we looked at traditional buildings and temples, learned a lot about the traditions and history in Bali and Indonesia. Even at a high-ranking village member's funeral we were allowed to attend, which was a pretty impressive experience as people deal with death differently.


By and large, I was very happy with the lectures and the study program itself. The quality of teaching and the level of education in Indonesia are a bit lower than when studying in Germany. However, that was already clear to me before and in my opinion should not deter one from spending a semester abroad in Indonesia. Nevertheless I learned a lot during my studies and also outside the lectures, both professionally and for my personal development.

The student life in Bali

In addition to studying Bali offers countless opportunities for recreational activities of any kind. One of the most popular among the students, of course, was surfing, for which Bali is finally world famous. But everyone else got their money's worth. Together with my friends, I did something different almost every weekend. Among the highlights were: the ascent of Mount Rinjani on Lombok, snorkeling with sea turtles and Manta rays, visits to countless, beautiful waterfalls and a white water rafting tour through the jungle.


We were especially honored to visit the "Banyuwangi Ethno Carnival" on Java, to which we were invited by government officials of the region and even performed in traditional costumes at the parade, in front of about 20.000 spectators. Otherwise, Bali simply shines through its indescribably beautiful nature, picturesque rice fields, beaches and waterfalls, coupled with the serenity and friendliness of the Balinese, make the island of 1000 temples one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited in my life. The more grateful I am that I spent so much time on this beautiful island.

Not to mention: the countless epic villa parties and dined nights in well-known locations such as SkyGarden, LaFavela and SingleFin, which have brought us some unforgettable hangovers, but also unforgettable memories.

My conclusion

Four months of adventure, new friends from all over the world, villa parties, beautiful beaches and unforgettable cultural impressions. But even in paradise the sun does not shine every day and that's not just the weather during the rainy season. Poverty, corruption and pollution have pretty quickly brought me back to the bottom of the facts.

I would not want to miss the time in Bali, it does not change the corrupt police, which has stopped me so many times to pull the money out of my pocket, although I did nothing wrong. Here, however, the obligatory Indonesian lessons in the university usually saved me from higher fines. A friendly: "Saya mahasiswa di Universitas Udayana" (I am a student at Udayana University) and a little small talk in Indonesian often saved me from an unjustified fine. Students are relatively highly regarded in Indonesia, and officials are likely to deal with more or less friendly travelers who do not speak Indonesian. Soon, that level of corruption was simply a solid (but ugly) part of island life in Bali. Anyway, I quickly realized what one of the professors meant at the beginning of the first lecture when he said with a grin, "There is no corruption in Bali, it's all part of the culture."

With that in mind, head to Bali and experience probably the best time of your life!

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