Samoa: Pacific Communities and Social Change
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Homestays in the Samoa: Pacific Communities and Social Change program immerse students in the local culture and provide further context for language and thematic coursework. Through regular exchange and interaction with their host families, students obtain deeper insight into the daily life and customs of Pacific communities. The program offers four homestay experiences: a ten-day village stay in a rural community, a four-day stay with an American Samoa student, a two-night stay in an indigenous eco-tourist village in Fiji, and a two-night stay with Indo-Fijian families.
Families and accommodations vary considerably: they may include open Samoan fales, closed Fijian bures with outdoor toilets and showers, European houses where the family eats and sleeps in one large room, or houses with individual bedrooms. Each homestay experience offers students a closer look into Pacific culture, customs, identities, and issues.
Other accommodations during the program include student housing at a local university.
Students experience a ten-day village homestay in Lotofaga, a rural village on the southeastern coast of the island of Upolu. Families are typically large and extended, often including four generations. The majority of families live a subsistent life style, and many depend on remittances from relatives overseas. In the village, students experience a traditional way of life with little privacy and few material comforts, and gain an understanding of dependence on plantation agriculture.
During their time in Lotofaga, students observe and participate in the making of a Samoan oven, a customary, communal family activity. Students peel taro and breadfruit; feel the smoke in their eyes from heating the stones; make palusami, a Samoan delicacy, using three different kinds of leaves; roast and pound Samoan cocoa; and observe the slaughter, baking, and serving of a small pig. Students witness the amount of work that goes into food preparation and observe how well Samoan families utilize the resources in their environment. A typical Samoan meal can be prepared entirely with foods from local plantations, gardens, or the sea.
Visiting American Samoa grants students the opportunity to compare the two Samoas, one independent and the other an unincorporated, unorganized territory of the US. Students are able to see different approaches to development and also assess the impact of globalization firsthand. Students spend four days with a homestay family on American Samoa. During their time on Tutuila, the largest island in American Samoa, students attend lectures at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) and undertake excursions with ASCC students. They see for themselves the blend of American and Samoan cultures and are often surprised by some of the social and health issues that are a direct result. The role of the military and the opportunity it provides young Samoan men and women is eye-opening. Of all US states and territories, American Samoa has the highest number of soldiers per capita serving in Iraq and many ASCC students belong to ROTC.
Students spend the first two nights of this excursion with indigenous families in rural Fiji. The stay is located in an isolated inland village without access to electricity or shopping facilities. Students spend two additional nights with Indo-Fijian families, who introduce them to new tastes, customs, and religious beliefs. These homestay opportunities allow students to experience both indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian culture and to place these communities in the broader context of Oceania.
When not on excursion or at the village homestay in Lotofaga, SIT students live in student housing on the Alafua campus of the University of the South Pacific (USP). Students live in small six bedroom houses with other Pacific Island students or long dorms opening to a common verandah. They have the opportunity to interact socially with Pacific students on a daily basis and discover connections and differences among the islands through the relationships they form at USP. These interactions are also a key part of the educational experience of young Pacific students who may never have interacted with Americans.
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