Samoa: Pacific Communities and Social Change
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Excursions are an essential part of the SIT Samoa program, directly complementing thematic coursework and language instruction. On excursion, students observe and examine the impacts of westernization and development on different Pacific Island communities. Themes and issues addressed during excursions include the economics of development, social change, environmental issues, and the impact of tourism. Excursions also allow students to experience the Pacific's exceptional beauty.
The weeklong excursion to Savai'i introduces students to the natural history and beauty of Samoa's largest island. During the excursion, students learn more about plate tectonics and the formation of volcanic islands before visiting the most recent (1906–1911) lava flows and blow holes. A discussion of Paul Cox's Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rainforest sparks debate on the environmental issues affecting Savai'i. During the excursion to Savai'i, students also observe the making of siapo, traditional bark cloth. Discussions with tourists of varying ages and from different countries often reveal how little engagement many tourists have with the contemporary issues facing small island developing states.
The excursion to Savai'i also includes a weekend at beach fales (traditional thatched huts), a hike across the 1906 lava flow, a visit to a volcanic crater to watch for flying foxes, a swim at Olemoe Falls, and a coastal tour that includes blow holes and sea arches.
During the four-day excursion to American Samoa, students observe the prevalence of fast food restaurants, American products, and resulting obesity levels; billboards addressing teenage suicide, teenage pregnancy, drinking, and drugs; and the role of the US military from different perspectives.
SIT students are hosted in the homes of American Samoa Community College students with whom they also have both educational and cultural exchanges. Lectures during the excursion compare the two Samoas and the issues, both common and distinct, that the two island countries face. Other lectures may examine archaeology, indigenous art forms, and ethnographic video productions.
A popular component of the excursion is an indigenous art workshop, which allows students to work with Samoan peers and to use traditional art forms in new ways. The American Samoa excursion includes the breathtaking scenery of a small island whose claim to fame has been Pago Pago, one of the most beautiful and strategic harbors in the Pacific. The tuna canneries, which have played a key role in the country’s economy, have recently come under pressure in a more globalized world. As part of the excursion, students may also visit sites in America's newest national park or a variety of archaeological sites, some of which were significant in the manufacture and trade of stone adzes.
The weeklong stay in Fiji allows students to utilize the cross-cultural skills and competencies they acquire in Samoa to compare and contrast Pacific Islands. Students spend two nights in a traditional village whose livelihood is eco-tourism. They also visit the main campus of the University of the South Pacific and hear Pacific Islanders talk about the political, ethnic, environmental, and developmental issues presently facing Fiji. A visit to the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies reveals the ways in which the creative artists allow performing artists to transform their work into contemporary pieces that use traditional movements and sounds as building blocks for new forms of music and dance. The visit to Suva, one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the Pacific, pushes students to think critically about the impact of westernization and development on Pacific Island nations.
The excursion to Fiji also takes students to remote settings including the mountain village of Abaca. A drive from Nadi to Suva takes students through Fiji's sugarcane fields and pine forests and includes stops in the bustling local town of Sigatoka. The Indo-Fijian settlement where the students are hosted by Indo-Fijian families is a short walk from the spectacular Sigatoka Sand Dunes, a well-studied Lapita pottery site whose reconstructed artifacts and numerous full skeletons are housed in the Fiji Museum, one of the best local museums in the Pacific.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Apia
Language Study: Samoan
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