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This program encourages you to explore processes of change in Samoa and other Pacific communities through interdisciplinary coursework, field study, and independent research. You will consider the impact of new and different values on Pacific Island communities and social structures in light of development and globalization pressures and acquire diverse perspectives on social change and transition in the Pacific context, learning from Pacific Islanders.
My time in Samoa with SIT changed my life forever. And almost 10 years later, I’m still close with the students and professors from the program.
Haynes R. Contee, BA, Trinity College, JD, George Washington University
On the SIT Samoa program, you will gain a broad understanding of the physical and historical factors that have shaped life in the Pacific, an appreciation for the region’s rich cultural traditions, and insights into how Pacific communities historically have responded to and continue to respond to a myriad of social changes caused largely by external forces.
The semester begins with an orientation in Hawai‘i at the East-West Center (EWC). Lecturers from EWC and the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa share their in-depth understanding of and passion for Pacific issues. Orientation in Hawai‘i serves as a transition point that shows links between US culture, politics, and history and Pacific culture, politics, and social change. You will examine the diverse challenges Hawai‘i currently faces as a Pacific Island, including having a tourist-based economy that has commodified traditional culture and made it dependent on food imports. Indigenous Hawaiians currenly face a rising cost of living, sovereignty issues, and social and economic struggles. The orientation in Hawai‘i includes lecturers from the Center for Pacific Island Studies, a visit to a traditional taro plantation at the Center for Hawaiian Studies, a visit to the renowned Bishop Museum, and a tour of Oahu, which illustrates the diversity in landscape and activities in an island environment. Lecturers include Hawaiians, Samoans, other Pacific Islanders, and professionals with extensive experience in the Pacific.
The program is based in Apia, the capital of Samoa. Traditionally considered the cradle of Polynesia, Samoa was the launching point for the wider settlement of Polynesia, which was the last region to be settled in the Pacific. In 1962, Samoa was the first Pacific Island nation to achieve independence.
Educational excursions in rural Samoa, Savai‘i, American Samoa, and Fiji will expose you to social change in the Pacific. Excursions encourage you to compare and contrast Pacific Island communities and to connect meaningfully with a wide array of individuals. You will hear diverse perspectives, particularly in relation to social change.
Topics for consideration on the SIT Samoa program typically include:
By living and interacting socially on the University of the South Pacific campus with Pacific Islanders from Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tokelau, Kiribati, and other islands, you will form personal relationships with Pacific Islanders near your own age. Through this engagement, you will learn more about the issues young, educated Pacific Islanders may face as they return to their respective countries following their education and begin contributing to the development of these nations. Through both homestay and university living experiences, you will gain a broad perspective on life in this region of the South Pacific.
In the final month of the program, you will complete an Independent Study Project (ISP). You will pursue original research on an issue or topic of particular interest to you. The ISP is conducted in an approved location in Samoa appropriate to the project. You will work with advisors who have expertise in your chosen area of study.
Sample topic areas include:
The program’s thematic seminars provide the student with a broad understanding of contemporary life in Samoan culture and of the physical and historical forces that have shaped the Pacific Islands region at large. The courses focus on culture and social change and examine some of the impacts of westernization and globalization on small island states. The Research Methods and Ethics course introduces culturally appropriate, ethical field research methodology, in preparation for the Independent Study Project (ISP). Language study opens a window into Samoan culture, aids in field projects, and allows students the opportunity to engage more fully with their homestay families.
Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.
The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
While in Samoa, I learned important skills about living abroad, communicating with diverse populations, and conducting field research. Studying abroad in Samoa was one of the most influential, memorable, and positive decisions I have ever made.
Dani Karnoff, University of Pittsburgh
Excursions are an essential part of the SIT Samoa program, directly complementing thematic coursework and language instruction. On excursion, you will 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, rural development, social change, environmental issues, and the impact of tourism. Excursions also allow you to experience the Pacific’s exceptional beauty.
The weeklong excursion to Savai‘i will introduce you to the natural history and beauty of Samoa’s largest island. You will learn more about plate tectonics and the formation of volcanic islands before visiting the most recent (1906–1911) lava flows and blow holes. You will 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 five-day excursion to American Samoa, you will observe the prevalence of fast food restaurants and 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.
You will be hosted in the homes of American Samoa Community College students with whom you will 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 you 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, you will also visit sites in America's newest national park.
The weeklong stay in Fiji allows you to utilize the cross-cultural skills and competencies you acquire in Samoa to compare and contrast South Pacific Islands. You will visit Suva, the current capital of Fiji and one of the most cosmopolitan cites in the Pacific, before taking a ferry to Levuka, the traditional Fijian capital on the island of Ovalau. Levuka has recently been designated a World Heritage site, and it allows you to compare and contrast the traditional and the modern. You will continue your journey around Viti Levu on the King’s Road with an opportunity to visit a number of smaller local towns. You will spend two nights in a traditional village whose livelihood is eco-tourism. The visit to Fiji pushes you to think critically about the impact of westernization and development on Pacific Island nations.
The excursion to Fiji allows you to see many of Fiji’s diverse landscapes and peoples, including the port town of Levuka and the indigenous mountainous village of Abaca. The drive from Nadi to Suva will take you through Fiji’s sugarcane fields and pine forests and includes stops in the bustling local town of Sigatoka. You will have an overnight stay at a mission site called Compassion for Children near the town of Rakiraki and visit a multi-ethnic school. The site is located in an Indo Fijian sugarcane settlement and provides some opportunity to understand both social and ethnic issues in Fiji.
Jackie Fa‘asisila received both a BA in education and an MA in history from the University of Missouri. She first went to Samoa in 1972 as a Peace Corps volunteer. In addition to her work as a teacher trainer, Ms. Fa‘asisila has been associate Peace Corps director and cross-cultural training manager in Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Niue. She taught social science and educational studies at Primary Teachers’ College and Secondary Teachers’ College, respectively. She was also the orientation coordinator for Australian Volunteers International and UN Volunteers in Samoa and served as the language advisor/instructor for several SIT Study Abroad Samoa semesters before becoming the academic director. Ms. Fa‘asisila resides in Apia with her family. She has been the academic director of the Samoa program since fall 1996.
Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio is a full professor at the Kamakakokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i and a scholar of Hawaiian nineteenth-century political and social history. He teaches classes in history, literature, law as culture, music, and indigenous research methodologies for and from indigenous peoples. His book, Dismembering Lahui, details the colonization of Hawai‘i as a slow process that heavily depended on Hawaiians being converted to the rule of law. As an activist and advocate for Hawaiian self-determination, he has attended and organized protests and demonstrations that favor Hawaiian language immersion schools and land protection from military abuse and oppose American or other forms of imperialism. He tendered a submission to the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues at the UN calling for decolonization in Hawai‘i. He thinks the Hawaiian sovereignty movement will ultimately produce a nation and government devoted to peace and disarmament, careful management of Hawai‘i’s lands and waters, and protection of the cultural diversity that has defined Hawai‘i as a place. He is also a composer and singer and has recorded Hawaiian music since 1975.
Dr. Mayer is an associate professor of Samoan as well as chair of the Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literature at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. He founded the Samoan language program at the University of Hawai‘i in 1976. He was a Peace Corps volunteer and trainer in Samoa from 1970 to 1976. He holds two Samoan chiefly titles, Fepuleai from Savai‘i and Lasei from Manono; an MA in ESL; and a PhD in linguistics. He is a charter member of the International Samoan Language Commission formed in 2000.
Terence Wesley-Smith is director of the University of Hawai‘i Manoa’s Center for Pacific Islands Studies. A political scientist with degrees from Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Hawai‘i, he is editor of The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs. His recent journal articles have addressed conceptual issues associated with self-determination and “failed states” in Oceania. Dr. Wesley-Smith is co-editor (with Jon Goss) of Remaking Area Studies: Teaching and Learning across Asia and the Pacific (University of Hawai‘i Press 2010) and co-editor (with Edgar Porter) of China in Oceania: Reshaping the Pacific? (Berghahn Books 2010). He obtained his PhD from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa 1988.
Brian Alofaituli entered the MA program at the University of Hawai‘i Manoa Center for Pacific Island Studies with a background that included environmental studies, Peace Corps experience in Jamaica, a master’s degree in intercultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, and experience as a director of Christian education in the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa. His thesis “Language Development Curriculum within the Samoan Congregational Churches in the Diaspora” explores the potential role the Samoan Congregational Christian Churches can play as language and cultural educators in the diaspora. The thesis addresses the problem of language loss among Samoan youth and explores the Samoan language curriculum currently in use as well as ways this curriculum might be modified. Brian is currently a PhD student in Pacific history at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.
Gerard A. Finin is currently co-director of the East-West Center’s Pacific Island Development Program and has served as the center’s deputy director since 2004. He conducts research on contemporary social and economic issues in the Pacific Islands region, with ongoing projects focusing on governance and globalization. He has a PhD in urban and regional planning and Southeast Asian studies from Cornell University. His related publications include One Year into Fiji’s Fourth Coup; Artifacts and Afterthoughts of American Colonial Policy; Coups, Conflicts, and Crises: The New Pacific Way?; and Small is Viable: The Global Ebbs and Flows of a Pacific Atoll.
Joshua Cooper has taught political science courses focused on nonviolence, ecology, human rights, and social justice at numerous higher education institutions in Hawai‘i. He also teaches journalism courses focusing on media literacy. He has presented original research papers on the environment, women’s rights, and indigenous peoples’ rights at university symposiums, community forums, and global conferences around the world. He speaks regularly at the United Nations and various NGO assemblies in relation to human rights policymaking.
As a human rights advocate, he engages with global and regional mechanisms that work to ensure fundamental freedoms. He has attended the main human rights treaty bodies where he has spoken on issues related to civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and racial discrimination; women; torture; children; migrant workers; disabilities; and disappearances. He served on the UN sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, a commission that links human rights to climate change in Pacific and Asia states that face cultural extinction as environmental refugees. He also engages in human rights advocacy with Pacific Island governments such as Tuvalu to protect and promote human rights in the various treaty bodies.
Afamasaga was educated at Samoa College and holds a BA and postgraduate degrees in economics and marketing management from Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand. His career includes service as an economist at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Noumea and in the Pacific Forum Secretariat (Suva), 20 years in Samoa’s Foreign Service and five years in Parliament.
For the past 15 years, he has served as a freelance consultant on a range of issues including child protection and child rights, village governance, public sector reform and public policy, community development, and public sector remuneration. He is a regular media writer and commentator on public policy and currently a member of the Remuneration Tribunal, a board member of the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (Port Vila), Chairman of Samoa Farmers Inc., and a founding chairman of the Men Against Violence Advocacy Group.
Dr. Schoeffel has a PhD in anthropology from the Australian National University. Her academic specialization is cultural transformation in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Samoa, a topic on which she has many academic publications. She has also collaborated with her husband, Lesasiolagi Dr. Malama Meleisea, on a number of publications on Samoan history, including Samoa’s Journey 1962–2012 Aspects of History (2012). She has taught anthropology and sociology at the University of the South Pacific, University of New South Wales, University of Auckland, and was visiting lecturer at Thammasat University in Thailand and International University of Bangladesh. For the past 30 years she has also been a consultant for a number of international development agencies where her fields of specialization have been gender and social impact assessment. She currently lectures at the Center of Samoan Studies at the National University of Samoa.
Warren Jopling, a native of Sydney, Australia, has lived in Samoa since 1982. His education includes a two-year diploma in gemology with the Gemological Association of Australia and a BSc from the University of Sydney, with distinction, in geology and agricultural chemistry; he later studied geology in an honors year. His work experience includes practical oilfield experience in Canada; work with Pacific Petroleum Ltd., a Calgary-based company, drilling for gas reserves in the Peace River area of northern British Columbia; and oversight of well site geology of Australian Oil and Gas’s first exploratory well with rotary drilling in the Sydney Basin. He also conducted petroleum exploration in the Amazon Basin in Brazil for eight years. He has traveled extensively, including in Brazil, the Andean countries in South America, Central America, islands of the Caribbean, Europe, and West Africa.
Warren conducts educational tours for tourists, student groups, and the Samoan Tourist Authority. His tours emphasize Samoa’s natural history, culture, and ancient archaeological sites and have gained worldwide recognition. They are acclaimed in multiple South Pacific guidebooks in multiple languages. Warren Jopling and his tours have been part of SIT Samoa since the program’s beginning in the early 1990s.
Homestays in the Samoa: Pacific Communities and Social Change program immerse you in the local culture and provide further context for language and thematic coursework. Interaction with your host families provides you with deeper insight into the daily life and customs of Pacific communities.
The program offers four homestay experiences: an eight-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 an overnight stay with an Indo-Fijian pastor’s family.
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 you a closer look into Pacific culture, customs, identities, and issues.
Other accommodations during the program include student housing at a regional university in Samoa.
You will experience an eight-day village homestay in Lotofaga, a rural village on the southeastern coast of the island of ‘Upolu. Families here are typically large and extended, often including four generations. The majority of families live subsistence lives, and many depend on remittances from relatives overseas. In the village, you will experience a traditional way of life with little privacy and few material comforts. Through this, you will gain an understanding of dependence on plantation agriculture.
During your time in Lotofaga, you will observe and participate in the making of a Samoan oven, a customary, communal family activity. You will peel taro and breadfruit; feel the smoke in your 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. You will witness the amount of work that goes into food preparation and observe how 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.
The visit to American Samoa is a chance for you to compare the two Samoas, one independent and the other an unincorporated, unorganized territory of the US. You will be able to see different approaches to development and also assess the impact of globalization firsthand. You will spend four days with a homestay family on American Samoa. During your time on Tutuila, the largest island in American Samoa, you will attend lectures at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) and participate in social and educational activities with ASCC students. You will see for yourself the blend of American and Samoan cultures and may be 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 had the highest number of soldiers per capita serving in Iraq, and many ASCC students belong to ROTC.
You will spend 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. You will also spend one night at a mission setting in an Indo-Fijian area in northern Viti Levu. This stay will introduce you to new tastes, customs, and religious beliefs. This homestay opportunity will allow you to experience the diversity of Fiji and understand more about issues in different community contexts.
When not on excursion or at the village homestay in Lotofaga, you will live in student housing on the Alafua campus of the University of the South Pacific (USP). You will share a room with Pacific Island students in long dorms that open to a common verandah. Others may live in small six-bedroom houses with other Pacific Island students. You will interact socially with Pacific students on a daily basis and discover connections and differences among the islands through the relationships you form. These interactions are also a key part of the educational experience of young Pacific students who may never have interacted with Americans.
A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Learn what some of them are now doing.
The dates listed above are tentative. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.
Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.
Application Deadline: May 15, 2016
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.