Samoa: Pacific Communities and Social Change

Oceania is home to some of the world's most remote habitats and today encompasses more than 20 island nations. For millennia, Pacific communities have interacted with outside forces and have survived the challenges of whalers, traders, missionaries, and colonial powers. Over time, Pacific communities have incorporated some external practices, technologies, and ideas and rejected others. The Pacific Human Development Strategies, a document formerly produced by the United Nations Development Programme but since 2006 written by the countries themselves, states: "The challenge facing Pacific people is to carry forward the strengths of their cultures, at the same time adopting and adapting as they interact with other cultures and as they inevitably integrate more fully into the world political economy." The Samoa: Pacific Communities and Social Change program explores this multifaceted challenge.
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“My academic and cultural experience in Samoa completely revolutionized the way I perceive the world and the way I pursue knowledge. As an International Studies major, I find that island-nations provide fascinating insight into the phenomenon of globalization. SIT Samoa is a challenging and completely eye-opening program.”

-- Jane Manchon, Vassar

Examine the social, economic, and political impacts of and responses to westernization and globalization in the Pacific Islands.

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Through interdisciplinary coursework, field study, and independent research, students explore processes of change in Samoa and other Pacific communities. Students consider the impact of new and different values on Pacific Island communities and social structures in light of development and globalization pressures.

Topics for study in the context of the Pacific include:

  • Impacts and incorporation of Christianity
  • The shift from a subsistence to cash economy
  • Introduction of human rights into a communal society
  • Migration patterns and the role of remittances
  • Social changes resulting from globalization, migration, and development in Samoa, American Samoa, and Fiji
  • The current "coup culture" in Fiji

Learn from local academics and university resources.
Utilizing SIT's strong in-country partnerships, students enjoy access to local academics and university resources while at the program base in Apia, Samoa, as well as during the orientation period in Hawai'i and on excursion in American Samoa and Fiji.  Academic resources include the University of Hawai'i and East West Center, the University of the South Pacific (USP) in both Samoa and Suva Fiji, and the American Samoa Community College (ASCC).

Live with host families and learn Samoan.
Through Samoan language instruction and homestays with host families in several Pacific island communities, students are exposed to diverse perspectives on social change and transition in the Pacific context, learning directly from Pacific Islanders.

Experiences include:

  • Working in the lo'i talo, or taro patch, and learning about the challenges indigenous Hawaiians face, both as Pacific Islanders and Americans
  • Living with families in rural Samoa where students experience subsistence living firsthand as they see the growing, harvesting, and preparing of food on a daily basis
  • Participating in academic, cultural, and artistic exchanges with students at American Samoa Community College
  • Staying in the eco-tourist village of Abaca in Fiji where students observe the impact of tourism on a small indigenous village
  • Living with an Indo-Fijian family, which provides a firsthand look at the similarities and differences in the values, beliefs, and practices of one of Fiji’s two major ethnic groups

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Apia

Language Study: Samoan

Prerequisites: None


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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