Best money I've ever spent
I studied at Jamu International Spa School for 3 months and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. In a nutshell, I learned how to do the most popular treatments offered at spas.
• Cost Effective: I took the Spa Therapist training package. Three months of training: Ten different subjects plus two weeks of review. $3,500 USD and extra $100 for CIBTAC certification for Balinese Massage. Just for comparison- When I was looking into becoming a massage therapist in USA, it would have cost me $14k. The lowest price I heard was from a friend who got it in community college for $6k.
• Free Lunch and Uniform: The school gave us a free buffet lunch and a freshly laundered uniform EVERY DAY.
• Teachers like Family: My teachers were so NICE and PATIENT. I’m an energetic person who tends to move very quickly. They helped me break certain habits and slowly polished me into a calmer, more heartfelt spa therapist. They were always kind in their criticism and constantly encouraging.
• Useful skills: I found it worthwhile to know more about how to take better care of myself physically and mentally considering how active I am. On the flip side, it is also a marketable skill + potential source of income.
• Being a Model: A “Model” in the context of spa school is a human body we practice our skills on. We sometimes practiced on people from outside, but MOST of the time we practiced on each other- and my gosh, this is truly one of the greatest fringe benefits. In a week, I’d get on average 2-4 facials, massages, hair cream baths and/ or body scrubs. People pay money to get this stuff done as a treat, but for me, it was all part of my “learning experience”.
• High Quality Ingredients: Everything we used was PURE and/or FRESH. Always use the good stuff, especially for massage oil. 100% pure almond or coconut oil, none of that KY silicone BS. The slip lasts longer and absorbs more cleanly into the skin. We would blend our treatment products from scratch. Ex. Grinding up candlenuts, straining the milk. The grounds were used as scrub and milk was mixed with honey to use as cleanser.
• My Classmates/ New Friends: There were three Japanese girls who were there for the same duration of time as I was. We didn’t really talk because of the language barrier but they were the sweetest things and their response to anything I said was laughing in unison. Sia was Indonesian but from the Netherlands. She spoke English and became my best friend during my stay. She’s the bubbly personification of a fluffy princess cat.
• Great pick up line: Telling people “I’m currently learning how to give massages at spa school.” is usually met with the response “If you need someone to practice on…” accompanied with a sheepish look and smile. There are different iterations of the conversation but it’s a great way to break the ice and people become a lot friendlier.
• Start at 9am. On most Mondays, we would get ginger tea and cakes in the morning. New students would be introduced to everyone else. A paper with a character trait would be handed out and discussed such as ENTHUSIASM or DISCRETION etc. Teachers would be matched with their students for the week and we’d start class. Mondays were the most fun for me because it was the beginning of a new subject.
• The teacher goes over the theory of whatever we are learning that week such as the history, ingredients used in product and how to blend them, how the treatment affects different parts of the body, terminology, indications and contraindications, and sequence of how to administer the treatment.
• A human model comes in and the teacher demonstrates the treatment on them.
• We break for lunch around 12p. We have an hour break but most of us finish lunch in 30-40 minutes. So I, along with most of the other students, would find an empty massage table in one of the classrooms…and take a nap. I love how chill the teachers were about it.
• Start class again around 1pm and the students practice on each other. Oftentimes slowly, with many mistakes and help from the teacher.
• Done with class by 4pm. Sometimes we’d finish earlier or later.
• Tuesday- If the sequence is particularly long, we learn Part One on Monday and Part Two on Tuesday. Teacher gives us guidance on refining our technique.
• Wednesday- We practice the whole sequence through once in the morning and once in the afternoon, per person. *Class sizes are generally 2-6 people so it’s easy to practice on each other. It’s on this day when I mentally panic because it’s all too much and I don’t know how I’m going to pass the exam on Friday. But on Wednesday night, I buckle down, write out the sequence in shorthand and study it repeatedly.
• Thursday- This is the pre-test. We practice the sequence without using the book and with minimal help from the teacher. Teacher gives us last minute advice on technique, timing and any other issues we have.
• Friday- Exam Day. We do the practical exam first in the mornings. Break for lunch. The teachers give us time to nap and study before the exam. After lunch, we start the theoretical/ written exam at 2pm. The teachers give you your grades on the spot, so you don’t have to wonder.
• At 3p, we have Graduation. Most students are only at the school for a week so anyone who’s leaving recieves their certificates and we all get juice plus cake.
Below are the courses in the Three-Month Spa Therapy Training Package and my experience in each:
Anatomy and Physiology: This was my least favorite class of the bunch, but still necessary information. Thankfully, it was first on my schedule so I got it out of the way. I learned about the human body and the functions of the different parts. We had a quiz after every section. Something that made me laugh- for the True/False questions, the multiple-choice answers would sometimes be:
Maybe?! I mean, it could be maybe if you think of it this way…And then I’d start second guessing myself. Why you gotta do me like that? LMAO.
Balinese Massage: (60 min) This is the bread and butter, the foundation of everything. It’s the massage equivalent of Gracie Combatives class in Jiujitsu. Once I learned Balinese, the other massages were just iterations or extensions of that…with the exception of Thai. *Note: EVERY treatment has some form of a massage element. This week was challenging because it was all new and I hadn’t figured out the most efficient way to study yet. I made a friend and we physically practiced sequence on each other for the first two days which was exhausting (5-9 each night). Once I learned the sequence, my issue was doing the movements too quickly. Slowing down was a consistent critique and something I continued to work on during my entire training.
Natural Facial Treatment: (60 min) Half of the fun is making the facial product from scratch. We’d mush bananas with egg yolk for a facial, blend cucumber skin with lemongrass water for toner, grind candlenuts for scrub and cleanser. We had different recipes for facials depending on your skin type. Fun fact: Papaya mask smells like POOP- we found this out the hard way. For the face massage, geez I didn’t realize you could cram that many movements onto a face!
Body Scrubs and Wraps: (60 min each) These are two different things but they are whole body. Scrubs are more difficult in terms of physical exertion and a more complex sequence of movement. Wraps are cute because the client is bundled tight in a blanket while the product absorbs into the skin and I tell them they’ll emerge as a butterfly after the treatment. While they are wrapped, I do a face massage which is challenging because it is SO…DARN…SLOW. I have to stretch a short sequence of moves over 20 mins. I’ve learned to enjoy it by taking a micro nap and catching my breath. Part of the treatment is a Flower or Spice bath. I became particularly close with one of my classmates this week. We decided to take a bath together because we were models for our classmates and there was only one tub. We sat there naked in the warm water with petals floating around, not staring at each other but giggling the whole time.
Thai Massage: (90 min) This was the most challenging week for me. Thai massage is different from Balinese massage because it does not use oil and the client keeps their clothes on. Thai massage is normally done on a mattress on the floor whereas Balinese is done on a table at waist height. Balinese uses a lot of strokes. Thai massage involves thumbs, pressure points, and moving my body as well as the client’s body into different positions. It’s definitely more “work”. But what made it most difficult is: The sequence is not linear. I’d have to go from inside one leg, to outside and inside the other, then up the back and something with the arm, then do the hokey pokey and turn myself around, then back track to the other side and then alternate chunks of steps between legs. Don’t forget the ankles! Ughhh…it confused the hell out of me and by the end of Thursday class, I still didn’t understand. I pulled a Hail Mary though and passed on Friday.
Warm Stone Massage: (90 min) This is my favorite massage to receive. It does require more tools, however, so it’s not something you can perform on a whim. The Basalt stones used are black, round, hefty and smooth. The massage sequence is easy and repetitive. The challenge is holding the stones and making sure they don’t slip out while still providing adequate pressure.
Aromatherapy Massage: (90 min) This felt like such a long sequence. It was my first massage sequence where the book didn’t have pictures. It was just words. Always a new challenge in spa school! My teacher let us mix our own essential oils together which is fun in theory and in practice…but my efforts to make a bright citrus scent with warm vanilla undertones ended up smelling like feet. I found the Theory portion of this class to be the most interesting. There is so much work, energy and materials that goes into making a TINY bit of Essential Oil!
Traditional Hair Creambath: (60 mins) Throughout the entire course, my teachers would remind me to slow down, but this was the first class where I really thought I wouldn’t finish on time. It’s a 60 min treatment but my first three days, I was clocking in at 2 hours or 90 mins. Things I struggled with were efficiency in rinsing the hair, providing stronger pressure during scalp massage, not getting water on the client and remembering to change the hot towels. Something I will never forget: Saying “The Cream is cold.” is worth 7 points on the exam.
Waxing, Manicure and Pedicure: (60 mins) This was the easiest week for me, but I have a funny story. This week, I was the only student in class while the girl who is normally in classes with me was taking Warm Stone Massage- and she was alone in that class. So by default, we used each other as models the entire week. On day one, I learned waxing. I got an incredible massage from her…and from me…she got a Brazilian wax for the very first time. I ripped off this poor girl’s pubic hairs on a Monday. And she didn’t have much choice in the matter. She went through the whole thing like a champ. Fair is fair, so of course I got one too, because the therapist is supposed to know how it feels. OMG, I screamed and cursed with every rip. It HURT like a MF. Why the hell do women do this to themselves? And the girl was sweet and supportive the entire time, holding my hand and cheering me on. God I love her.
Reflexology: (60 mins) This is my least favorite treatment. It’s all thumbs and maintaining a strong, consistent pressure with the thumbs. Straight up, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t very good at it. For me to be good at it, I would have to exert so much more strength to the detriment of my physical comfort. I’m not opposed to that, but it would have been a case of diminishing returns and the effort would be better utilized in other areas such as full body massage, instead of just focusing on the foot. The theory of Reflexology is interesting in the same way Astrology is, but also as credible- IN MY OPINION. I welcome arguments to the contrary. *Again, I still find it interesting and I am glad I learned it.
All that being said, this is the best money I've ever spent and I had so much FUN. You're learning marketable skills with a nice and supportive staff. Do your research and look into other options from all over the world. I did, and THIS is defintely the most bang for your buck.