Ariana Cacoulidis - 2015 Program Participant

Balinese dance lesson in Indonesia

Learning the Balinese Dance

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I decided to apply for an international program because I wanted to gain a new perspective on a culture I knew very little about. I hoped to be a part of a service project that would make a difference in this community.

Why did you choose Global Leadership Adventures? 

I chose my specific program because it was designated a GLA flagship program, which meant it had the recommended amount of time to optimize cultural immersion and community impact. I chose Bali because I knew very little about Bali, let alone Asia. I wanted to learn more about this culture and become connected to the people, culture, and the arts.

What was your favorite part about Bali?

My favorite part about the location was the nature of the people that lived there. Balinese culture is mainly organized around relationships with the family known as the banjar and the gods, which is completely unique from where I live on the east coast. I loved the willingness the people had to share their culture with positive and friendly attitudes.

What aspects of your program made it unique?

What made the program I participated in unique were our service and excursion opportunities. Our service was integral in the community we were based in because we were directly interacting with students and Balinese people. The Balinese temples were also unforgettable as we got to admire their magnificent architecture and participate in rituals distinct to Bali's culture. I also loved our excursions, such as the elephant park, scuba diving, and whitewater rafting, as they added a sense of adventure to our trip.

This trip was completely unique because of its combination of service, culture, and adventure in every activity that bonded our family together.

Volunteer teacher in Indonesia with Balinese students

The Balinese children we had the opportunity to teach

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff supported us through our program by making interactive group sessions on Balinese culture and what it means to be a global citizen, both at home and abroad. Our staff was always watching out for us and making us feel one with Bali's culture as they explained norms and brought excitement to our trip. Our staff were mentors in our journey of self-discovery and cultural discovery, and I truly valued their insight in every activity again. The involvement of the staff truly made our GLA group a family because of their personal connection to each student and amazing attitude in sharing their culture with us.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

One thing I wish I could have done differently was to take more notes and make journal entries on my experiences. Then I could've reflected more on my thoughts and feelings in the moments of my trip.

Scuba diving in Amed, East Bali, Indonesia

Scuba Diving in Amed

Describe a day in the life of your program. 

A day in the life in our program would include us waking up relatively early to teach at the elementary school. After a brief breakfast, we would take about a 10 minute drive from our home-stay to the school to teach for the day. Each day there was a rotation of a lesson that we would teach: classroom, games, and art. For each lesson, our groups consisted of three to four people who would work on vocabulary and come up with fun activities to do with the children to make English learning fun.

After our day at the school teaching and playing with the children, we would eat lunch and the rotating leaders of the day would lead a reflection on our progress in the classroom. Each group was able to collaborate on ideas that would be engaging and fun to teach the children more each day.

Upon returning back to our homestay, we had an hour and a half break to rest or hang out with others. We would then either have a GLA session or collaborate with our school groups for the next day's lesson, gathering our materials and making a translated lesson plan. In this time we would also have an evening activity which could include going to the beach, the market, or the hot-springs. Each night we had a general curfew of 11 p.m. for quiet, otherwise we could spend time with our roommates and friends.

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program? 

My favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule is when we gathered at night for a bonfire on the beach. Everyone sat in a circle singing and dancing to songs that we all knew the words to. In those moments I felt the purest connection to the people around me and a connection with the love I have for Bali. Although none of us could sing or dance well, we gathered as a group and felt like one singing both English and Balinese songs with the locals, a connection of the two cultures.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

Our accommodations varied from each place we visited. In Ubud, we lived in a traditional homestay, where each pair of roommates had their private room and bathroom in a bungalow type setting. In Singaraja, we stayed in a university dorm where each pair of roommates had a private room and bathroom on a communal floor. In Amed, we stayed in nice straw bungalows on the beach with private rooms and outdoor bathrooms. What I liked best was that in each place we had a communal space to hang out as well as private rooms.

Elephant riding in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

The elephant park in Ubud

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

This program has impacted my life because I value my relationships at home so much more. The mantra "time is relationships" really impacted how I treat my friends, family, and others. I make sure to let my peers know how they impact me and that I appreciate them in my life. The presence of community support in my life has become so much more significant as I make more of an effort to maintain and value my relationships.