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Beginning with orientation in Honolulu, you will consider the impact of westernization and globalization on values and social structures of Pacific Island communities and engage with social change and development issues in societies in transition. Continue to explore these themes through interdisciplinary coursework, field study, and independent research.
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
The SIT Samoa program will introduce you to the physical and historical factors that have shaped life in the Pacific and the region’s diversity and rich cultural traditions. You will experience firsthand the vulnerability and resilience of Pacific communities as they continue to respond to economic and social changes in an ever more globalized world.
The semester begins with a weeklong orientation in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa’s East-West Center (EWC). Orientation in Hawai‘i will help you transition between mainland United States and Pacific cultures, politics, history, and social change. You will examine the diverse challenges Hawai‘i currently faces, including having a tourist-based economy that has commodified traditional culture and made it dependent on food imports. Indigenous Hawaiians currently face a rising cost of living, sovereignty issues, and social and economic struggles.
During your time in Hawai‘i, you will hear lectures from Hawaiians, Samoans, and other Pacific Islanders with extensive experience in the Pacific; tour a traditional taro plantation; visit the renowned Bishop Museum; and spend a day touring Oahu to experience some of the diversity in landscape and activities in an island environment.
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, the last region to be settled in the Pacific. In 1962, Samoa was the first Pacific Island nation to achieve independence.
Educational excursions within Samoa include rural Samoa and Savai‘i, Samoa’s largest Island, as well as the Pacific Island nations of American Samoa and Fiji. These will provide opportunities to observe and discuss issues with Pacific Islanders themselves. You will be encouraged to compare and contrast issues in 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 program typically include:
For the majority of the program, you will live with students from Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tokelau, Kiribati, and other islands on the University of the South Pacific Alafua campus. This arrangement will allow you to interact socially and form personal relationships with Pacific Islanders about your own age. This will assist you in understanding the issues young, educated Pacific Islanders face as they return to their respective countries to contribute to development and address issues of social change. A series of homestays and university living experiences will provide a broad perspective on life in Oceania.
In the final month of the program, you will complete an Independent Study Project (ISP) in which 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:
The program’s thematic seminars provide students with a broad understanding of contemporary life in Samoa and of the physical and historical forces that have shaped the Pacific Islands region at large. The courses focus on the interplay of social change, climate change, and development and examine 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 gives 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, the environment and climate change, 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 the National Park of American Samoa.
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 cities in the Pacific and experience firsthand the multiculturalism of Fiji during homestays with both indigenous and Indo-Fijian families.
Travels around the island of Viti Levu will be an opportunity to see some diverse landscapes and a number of smaller local towns. Visits to a traditional mountain village whose livelihood is eco-tourism and an Indo-Fijian settlement near the renowned Sigatoka Sand Dunes will round out the excursion. The visit to Fiji pushes you to think critically about the impact of westernization, development, and environmental change on Pacific Island nations.
Jackie Fa‘asisila has a BA in education and an MA in history from the University of Missouri at Kanas City. She first went to Samoa in 1972 as a Peace Corps volunteer. In addition to working 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 SIT in Samoa for several semesters before becoming the academic director in 1996. Ms. Fa‘asisila resides in Apia with her family, including four children and seven grandchildren. Jackie started writing poetry in 2012 and published her first collection Endless Circles: South Dakota to Samoa in 2015.
Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio, a full professor at the Kamakakokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i, teaches classes in history, literature, law as culture, music, and indigenous research methodologies for and from indigenous peoples. As an activist and advocate for Hawaiian self-determination, he has attended and organized protests and demonstrations that oppose American or other forms of imperialism. 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 Hawai‘i’s cultural diversity. 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 at 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 in 1988.
Brian Alofaituli is currently a PhD student at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa’s Center for Pacific Island Studies. His background includes 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 MA 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. It 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. His PhD dissertation explores religion and social movements in Samoa.
Gerard A. Finin is currently the director of the East-West Center’s Pacific Island Development Program. 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, currently a lecturer at University of Hawai‘i’s Oahu West and the Center for Hawaiian Studies, 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, and University of Auckland, and she 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 BS 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 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: a seven-day village stay in a rural community in ‘Upolu, a four-day stay with an American Samoa student, a two-night stay in an indigenous eco-tourist village in Fiji, and two nights with an Indo-Fijian 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 university in Samoa.
You will experience a seven-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 in 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. You will stay in an isolated inland village without access to electricity or shopping facilities. You will also spend two nights with Indo-Fijian families near the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, where you will be introduced to new tastes, customs, and religious beliefs. The homestays allow you to experience the diversity of Fiji and understand more about issues in a multicultural society very different from the homogeneity in Samoa.
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 most likely share a room with another SIT student, but you will live near Pacific Island students. Housing situations have varied from long dorms with shared facilities that open to a common veranda, small six-bedroom houses with other Pacific Island students, or a three-story lodge with en suite bathrooms shared with another SIT student. Actual living situations will be determined by USP staff based on availability and other considerations. In any case, you will be able to 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.
Program Arrival Date: Jan 26, 2017
Program Departure Date: May 12, 2017
The dates listed above are subject to change. 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: Nov 3, 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.
Visa Expenses: $ 140
Books & Supplies: $ 100
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.