Samoa: Pacific Communities and Social Change

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research
“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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Interdisciplinary coursework, field study, and independent research encourage students to 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:

  • Vulnerability, environmental security, and adaptation awareness
  • Challenges to women in political leadership
  • The church and social action in Samoa
  • Special education and social change
  • Understanding wealth and poverty in Samoa

Learn from local academics and university resources.
SIT Samoa utilizes strong social and academic partnerships at the University of Hawai'i and the East-West Center in Honolulu; the University of the South Pacific campuses in Alafua, Samoa, and Laucala, Fiji; The National University of Samoa in Apia; and American Samoa Community College. Local professionals also add their perspectives.

Live with host families and learn Samoan.
Students learn directly from homestay families in Samoa, American Samoa, and Fiji where they are exposed to diverse perspectives on social change and transition in the Pacific context.

Experiences include:

  • A chance to learn about the challenges indigenous Hawaiians face, both as Pacific Islanders and Americans; to see the diversity of Oahu; and to work in the Kanewai Lo’i taro patch
  • A family stay in rural Samoa and a firsthand look at subsistence living and opportunities to plant, harvest, and prepare food on a daily basis
  • Interactive peer learning through academic, cultural, and artistic exchanges with students at American Samoa Community College
  • A two-night stay in the village of Abaca, Fiji, during which students participate in eco-tourist hikes and village activities and evaluate the impact of tourism on a small indigenous village
  • Two nights with an Indo-Fijian family and a firsthand look at the values, beliefs, and practices of one of Fiji’s two major ethnic groups

Samoa alumna Acacia Cochise, a PhD in Pacific studies from the University at Canterbury and a postdoctoral research fellow at The University of Auckland, describes her academic achievements and her continuing exploration of different education and learning systems — particularly among indigenous and Western communities. Read Acacia’s story.

Alumna Hadas Yanay describes her study of food culture and changing global diets in Samoa and beyond.

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.

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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