Examine the social, economic, and political impacts of globalization, westernization, and climate change in Oceania.
Enjoy a weeklong orientation in Hawai‘i.
Orientation in Honolulu, at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa’s East-West Center, will help you transition between mainland United States and Oceana. Indigenous Hawaiians currently face a rising cost of living, sovereignty issues, and social, economic, and environmental struggles. Other challenges include a strong military presence and a tourist-based economy that has commodified traditional culture and made Hawai‘i dependent on food imports. Orientation will include lectures from Hawaiians, Samoans, and other Pacific Islanders; a short work experience at a traditional taro lo‘i; a visit to the renowned Bishop Museum; and a day tour of Oahu to experience some of the diversity in landscape and activities found in an island environment.
Hear diverse perspectives on the human dimensions of climate change and social transitions in the Pacific.
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 and climate change.
Study in the cradle of Polynesian history and culture.
The program is based in Apia, the capital of Samoa. Traditionally considered the cradle of Polynesia, Samoa was the launching point for the wider human settlement of Polynesia, the last region to be settled in the Pacific. In 1962, Samoa became the first Pacific Island to achieve independence as a sovereign nation-state.
Experience a breadth of Pacific Island life through four unique homestays.
Spend seven days in Fiji, where you’ll stay with indigenous and Indo-Fijian families and learn traditional cooking, weaving, and dancing. Here, you’ll also visit Suva, Fiji’s cosmopolitan capital. You’ll also stay in a village in ‘Upolu, an American Samoa student’s home, and an indigenous eco-tourist village in Fiji.
Spend significant time interacting with young Pacific Islanders.
Your home base for the program will be the Alafua campus of the University of the South Pacific (USP), a regional institution administered jointly by 12 Pacific Island countries. USP students hail from Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tokelau, Kiribati, and other islands. During the excursion to American Samoa, you’ll spend five days with a host student from American Samoa Community College. These interactions will introduce you to the issues young, educated Pacific Islanders face in their countries.
See the effects of climate change and tourism on Pacific communities and landscapes on a variety of excursions.
The program will take you to diverse landscapes, including lava flows, waterfalls, sea arches, and sand dunes. You’ll hike the National Park of American Samoa with park rangers and observe the Samoan tourism industry during a weekend stay in a beach fale.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Climate change, vulnerability, and resilience In Oceania
- Changing values and perspectives on wealth, poverty, and social class
- Economic, social, and political challenges for Samoan women
- Education and social change
- Varying perspectives on communal, individual, and human rights in Samoa
- Freedom of religion and how it plays out in a predominantly Christian society in the Pacific
- Social, economic, and health issues youth face
- The role of authors, artists, and poets in contemporary social and environmental issues
- Changing land use patterns and the development of indigenous business in an era of global development and investment capital
- The changing matai system and the rule of law
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. 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.
The following syllabi are representative of 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.
- Pacific Communities in Transition – syllabus
- (ANTH3010 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course explores challenges Pacific Island communities face as they transition from traditional societies to more modern globalized ones. It focuses on culture and values and examines how small island Pacific states have adapted to development, westernization, and, more recently, climate change. The course examines key aspects of traditional Pacific societies as well as the physical and historical forces that have shaped the Islands region of Oceania at large. Lectures are complemented by excursions in Hawai‘i, Samoa, American Samoa, and Fiji.
- Climate Change and Resilience in Oceania – syllabus
- (PACI3020 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course examines the relationship between climate and environmental change and social issues in the small island developing states of Oceania. The economic, social, environmental, and cultural impacts of tourism and other aspects of development are also examined and refracted through the new lens of climate change. Homestays in American Samoa and Fiji allow students to see and discuss these issues and examine mobility, urbanization, and poverty, in particular. Lectures and discussions are conducted in conjunction with the University of Hawai‘i; the East-West Center; the National University of Samoa; the University of the South Pacific in both Alafua, Samoa, and Suva, Fiji; and American Samoa Community College, with additional support from local professionals.
- Samoan – syllabus
- (SAMO1003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- The Samoan language course emphasizes beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Everyday communication forms the foundation of this course. By the end of this course, students should be able to engage in everyday Samoan conversations that facilitate interactions during the Independent Study Project (ISP). Bilingual surveys can assist with data collection during ISP.
- Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course introduces students to learning across cultures and field experience, which prepares them for their Independent Study Projects. Topics include cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. Students also develop contacts and find resources, practice observation and information gathering skills, organize and communicate research findings, present a mini-ISP, and maintain a work journal.
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- The Independent Study Project is an opportunity to conduct independent research in an appropriate location in Samoa. Sample topic areas: sustainable agricultural practices and their impact on local villages; youth culture, social change, and globalization; the impacts of climate change on livelihoods, language and sustainable agriculture, microfinance, social networks, and local impacts; poverty, food security and hardship in Samoa; perspectives on religious freedom; human rights, law, and Samoan traditions; the role of coconut products in the Samoan economy; indigenous business development.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
On excursions, you’ll see the Pacific’s exceptional beauty. You’ll also observe firsthand the impacts of westernization, tourism, and social, environmental, and climate change on different Pacific Island communities.
During a week on Savai‘i, Samoa’s largest island, you’ll learn about plate tectonics and the formation of volcanic islands, then visit the most recent (1906–1911) lava flows and blow holes and hike across the 1906 lava flow. You’ll also see how siapo, traditional bark cloth, is made and spend a weekend at a beach fale (traditional thatched hut). You’ll also visit a volcanic crater to watch for flying foxes, swim at Olemoe Falls, and take a coastal tour that includes blow holes and sea arches. At Tanu Beach, you’ll see the impacts of climate change and adaptations to it.
You’ll stay with a host student from American Samoa Community College on this five-day excursion. Here, you’ll see how fast food restaurants and American products have affected Samoan health and learn about efforts to address drinking, drugs, teenage pregnancy, and suicide. You’ll also learn about the role of the US military from different perspectives.
Lectures will compare the two Samoas and the issues the two island countries face. Other lectures may examine climate change, uses of archaeology, and sustainable agriculture. You’ll work with a Samoan art student during an indigenous art workshop and have your own piece of art to take home.
You’ll take in the stunning scenery of a small island famous for its beautiful and strategic Pago Pago harbor. You will also visit the National Park of American Samoa head office and hike with some of the rangers.
The weeklong stay in Fiji gives you the chance to put new cross-cultural skills to use. You’ll experience the multiculturalism of Fiji during homestays with both indigenous and Indo-Fijian families and visit Suva, Fiji’s capital and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Pacific. The Department of Geography will host a morning seminar at the Laucala campus of the University of the South Pacific.
You will see diverse landscapes and local towns as you travel across Viti Levu from Nadi International Airport to Suva. You will be able to compare and contrast Suva with Abaca, a traditional mountain village where is eco-tourism is the primary industry, and with an Indo-Fijian settlement near the renowned Sigatoka Sand Dunes. The visit to Fiji is an opportunity to compare the impact of westernization, development, and environmental change on yet another Pacific Island nation.
Student Video: Complicating Paradise: Images and Interviews from Samoa
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Jackie Fa’asisila, Academic Director
Jackie has a BA in education and an MA in history from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. She first went to Samoa in 1972 as a Peace Corps volunteer. She has been a teacher trainer, associate Peace Corps director, and cross-cultural training manager in Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Niue. She taught social studies at Primary Teachers’ College and education at Secondary Teachers’ College. She was orientation coordinator for Australian Volunteers International and UN Volunteers in Samoa, and served as language instructor for SIT Samoa for several semesters before becoming the academic director in 1996. Jackie lives in Apia with her family, including four children and seven grandchildren. She started writing poetry in 2012 and published her first collection, Endless Circles: South Dakota to Samoa, in 2015.
Lise T. Higgs Tafuna, Student Affairs and Excursions Assistant
Originally from Savai‘i, Samoa’s big island, Lise migrated to Utah in her early teens. She has a BA in psychology from Columbia College in Missouri and has worked as a rehabilitation services counselor for troubled and at-risk youths in Utah. As a certified law enforcement officer, she conducted public awareness programs in cognitive restructuring, anger management, and cultural competency for law enforcement agencies. She volunteered with the American Red Cross and Salt Lake County Mayor’s Council on Diversity Affairs. In 2011, she returned to Samoa and has worked as a social worker/counselor at National Health Services and clinical counselor at Fa’ataua Le Ola, a suicide prevention organization. Lise is a member of the Alcohol and Drugs Court of Samoa steering committee, Samoana Jazz and Arts Festival, and GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). She has been working with SIT since 2015.
Ronna Lee, Program/Academic Assistant
Ronna is currently the regional campus coordinator for Pacific Technical and Further Education (Pacific TAFE) at the University of the South Pacific’s Alafua campus in Samoa. She also teaches Foundation Pacific History and Pacific Politics and presents local news for TV1 Samoa. Ronna returned to Samoa in 2011 after serving as head teacher of an international community school. She has led and managed diverse teams of teachers and taught a range of age groups from preschool to university and adults. Ronna has a bachelor’s degree in business (marketing and management) from Manukau Institute of Technology, New Zealand, and postgraduate diplomas in tertiary teaching and education from the University of the South Pacific. She has been a program/academic assistant for SIT since 2013.
Lecturers for this program typically include:
Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio
Jonathan, a professor at Kamakakokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i, teaches history, literature, law as culture, music, and indigenous research methodologies. An advocate for Hawaiian self-determination, he has attended and organized protests opposing American and other imperialism. He is a composer and singer and has recorded Hawaiian music since 1975.
John Mayer, PhD
John is associate professor of Samoan and chair of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literature at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. He founded the Samoan language program there in 1976. He was a Peace Corps volunteer and trainer and 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, PhD
Terence directs 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 edits The Contemporary Pacific journal. His articles have addressed self-determination and “failed states” in Oceania. Terence 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 received his PhD from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa in 1988.
Brian Alofaituli, PhD Candidate
Brian is a PhD student at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. His background includes environmental studies, Peace Corps experience in Jamaica, a master’s in intercultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, and serving as 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 Samoan Congregational Christian Churches can play as language and cultural educators in the diaspora. His PhD dissertation explores religion and social movements in Samoa.
Gerard A. Finin, PhD
Gerard directs the East-West Center’s Pacific Island Development Program. He conducts research on contemporary social and economic issues in the Pacific Islands region, including projects focusing on governance and globalization. He has a PhD in urban and regional planning and Southeast Asian studies from Cornell University. His 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 lectures at the University of Hawai‘i Oahu West and the Center for Hawaiian Studies, and has taught courses on nonviolence, ecology, human rights, social justice, and media literacy. He has presented papers on the environment, women’s rights, and indigenous peoples’ rights and speaks at the United Nations and NGO assemblies on discrimination, women, torture, children, migrant workers, disabilities, and disappearances. He served on the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, linking human rights to climate change in Pacific and Asian states. He advocates with Pacific Island governments to protect and promote human rights.
Afamasaga Faamatala Toleafoa
Afamasaga studied at Samoa College and holds BA and postgraduate degrees in economics and marketing management from New Zealand’s Otago University. He’s been an economist at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Noumea and in the Pacific Forum Secretariat (Suva), and spent 20 years in Samoa’s Foreign Service plus five years in Parliament. Afamasaga has consulted on child protection and child rights, village governance, reform and public policy, development, and public sector remuneration. He is a writer on public policy, 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 founder of Men Against Violence.
Penelope Schoeffel, PhD
Penelope has a PhD in anthropology from Australian National University, specializing in cultural transformation in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Samoa. She has collaborated with her husband, Lesasiolagi Dr. Malama Meleisea, on publications on Samoan history, including Samoa’s Journey 1962–2012 Aspects of History (2012). She taught anthropology and sociology at University of the South Pacific, University of New South Wales, and University of Auckland and was visiting lecturer at Thammasat University in Thailand and International University of Bangladesh. She has consulted on gender and social impact assessment for international development agencies. She lectures at the Center of Samoan Studies at National University of Samoa.
Warren, from Sydney, Australia, has lived in Samoa since 1982. He holds a diploma in gemology from the Gemological Association of Australia and a BS from University of Sydney in geology and agricultural chemistry; he studied geology in an honors year. He’s worked at oil fields in Canada and oversaw well site geology for Australian Oil and Gas. He’s done petroleum exploration in the Amazon Basin in Brazil, and has traveled extensively. Warren conducts educational tours for the Samoan Tourist Authority, emphasizing natural history, culture, and ancient archaeological sites. Warren’s acclaimed tours have been part of SIT Samoa since the program’s beginning.
My time in Samoa with SIT changed my life forever.
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.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
The program offers four homestays: a seven-day village stay in ‘Upolu; a five-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 Samoan fales (traditional open houses), closed Fijian bures (cabins) with outdoor toilets and showers, European houses where the family eats and sleeps in one large room, or houses with individual bedrooms. Each experience offers you a closer look into Pacific culture, customs, identities, and issues.
Other accommodations during the program include student housing at the University of the South Pacific’s Alafua campus.
You will stay for seven days in rural Lotofaga, a village on the southeastern coast of ‘Upolu. Families are typically large and extended, often including four generations, but some are small single mother families. Most families live subsistence lives, and many depend on remittances from relatives overseas. You will experience a traditional way of life with little privacy and few material comforts and learn about Samoan foods, cooking, weaving, traditional agriculture, and entertainment.
You’ll participate in making a Samoan oven—a customary family activity. You will peel taro and breadfruit; get smoke in your eyes from heating stones; make palusami, a Samoan delicacy; and roast and pound Samoan cocoa. You can even observe the slaughter, baking, and serving of small pig if you wish to see the way Samoans do it. You will witness labor-intensive food preparation and observe how Samoan families use resources in their environment. A typical Samoan meal may be prepared entirely with foods from local plantations, gardens, or the sea.
The visit to American Samoa is a chance to compare the two Samoas—one independent and the other an unincorporated, unorganized territory of the US. You will see different approaches to development and assess the impact of globalization and climate change. You’ll spend five days with a family and, on Tutuila, the largest island, attend lectures at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) and meet and spend time with ASCC students. You will see the blend of American and Samoan cultures and may be surprised by social and health issues that are a direct result. 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’ll spend two nights with indigenous families in rural Fiji, staying in an isolated inland village without electricity or shopping facilities. You’ll 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 social and environmental issues in a multicultural society very different from the homogeneity of Samoa.
When not on excursion or in Lotofaga, you will live in student housing on the Alafua campus of the University of the South Pacific (USP). You will likely share a room with another SIT student, but you will live near Pacific Island students from many different islands states. Housing varies from long dorms with shared facilities that open to a common veranda, to small six-bedroom houses with Pacific Island students, to a three-story lodge with en suite bathrooms shared with another SIT student. Living situations will be determined by USP staff based on availability and other considerations. You will be able to interact with Pacific students every day, and discover connections and differences among the island cultures. These interactions are a key part of the educational experience of young Pacific students who may never have spent time with Americans.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
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 impacts and future of technology in Samoa
- Sustainable agricultural practices and their impact on local villages
- Attitudes of youth to tradition and change
- Resilience and adaptation to climate change
- Natural disasters and vulnerability
- Microfinance and the importance of social networks
- Impact of climate change on the Samoan language
- Poverty and hardship in Samoa
- Changing definitions of class
- Perspectives on religious freedom
- Human rights issues in Samoa
- The role of sustainable tourism development
- Indigenous business development
- Unemployment among Samoan youth
- Migration, remittances, and social change
Here's what alumni are saying about this program:
The first two months of coursework offer breadth and introduce you to new mindsets, with speakers who come from various, and usually very prestigious, backgrounds. Samoa is small, and it is not unusual to find yourself in the company of prominent UN officials, university directors, or the head of state.
Emily Gove, University of Richmond
Samoa is truly a life changing experience. It challenges you in ways that you never knew you could be challenged, and exposes you to experiences that you would never otherwise be exposed to. I would definitely recommend this program to anyone looking for an unconventional study abroad experience! Thanks!
Margret Doemland, St. Michael’s College
I learned more about life, culture, problem solving and human interaction in four months in Samoa than I did in my previous four years at college.
Joe Casale, Commander in the United States Navy in Hawaii, BS in Chemical Engineering from Villanova University, MA in International Relations from Salve Regina University
All kinds of students with all kinds of majors have studied abroad in Samoa. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect to their experience abroad with SIT.
Positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Peace Corps volunteers in Samoa, Fiji, and Madagascar
- Graduate student and East-West Center fellow at the Center for Pacific Studies, University of Hawai‘i, Honolulu, HI
- Independent filmmaker and director at Making Waves Films, a documentary film company, Honolulu, HI
- Intern doing human and indigenous rights work for a United Nations–funded project, Honolulu, HI
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Lecture and venue costs for the two Pacific seminars:
- Pacific Communities in Transition
- Climate Change and Resilience in Oceania
- Research Methods and Ethics and Human Subjects Review
- Language instruction in Samoan
- Orientation in Hawai‘i
- All educational excursions to locations outside of Apia, including Lotofaga village, Savaii island, American Samoa, and Fiji, including all related travel costs and meals
- Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $3,850
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Apia), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly or through a stipend provided to each student or through the homestay.
- All homestays (seven days in a village on ‘Upolu, Samoa; four days in Fiji; and five days in American Samoa)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
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.