Jackie Jorgensen, the Eagles Abroad marketing intern, writes:


I never knew 23 days could change my life; in just 23 days my perspective on this world was greatly enriched. After seeing New Zealand and Australia, I’m not sure how the world could ever get any more incredible. These countries offer vast jaw-dropping landscapes, and a beautiful culture centered on sustainability.


My name is Jackie Jorgensen, and I am a junior at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.  This winter I went on the Eagles Abroad Sustainable Business program to New Zealand and Sydney and this year I am the new marketing intern back at UWL.


New Zealand opened my eyes to treating our planet with the care and respect it deserves.  Never in my life have I seen such clear blue waters, luscious greenery, and clean streets.  Growing up in Milwaukee, I have been exposed to the city pollution, and carelessness for the streets.  It was extremely refreshing to be exposed to a culture that takes such care of their environment.


While abroad our group completed several incredible hikes such as Aoraki/Mt.Cook and the Routeburn Track, we went sea kayaking, freely explored foreign cities, and dedicated a few days to a home-stay where I was placed with an incredible woman from the United Kingdom. A major highlight was traveling to the beautiful coastal town of Kaikoura, where we were able to swim with about 400 wild dusky dolphins!


Jan 16 167Alongside our adventuring and traveling, we also heard about concepts of sustainability from some truly inspiring Kiwi and Australian businessmen. They spoke about methods to leave less of an environmental footprint while still reeling in a solid profit.  It was truly refreshing to hear a non-Americanized business perspective.


New Zealanders truly value their land and society, which I found to be incredibly admirable.  Sustainable business is something every country needs to focus on and with this experience behind me; in the future I hope to be able to make a difference in how the citizens of the world do business.


Caroline Gilmore, the Richmond Down Under marketing intern, writes:

On the North Queensland program our guides led us through different habitats and ecosystems, teaching us about the land they knew so much about. Their stories about the outback, Daintree Rainforest, and Great Barrier Reef were engaging and kept us informed as we made our way around the region.

file3661291126590Our classes used experiential learning, allowing us to travel the land and see first-hand the flora and fauna we were learning about. Working with the Center for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation (C4) we heard about the importance of the cassowary and the ways in which they are essential to protecting the rainforest and coastal ecosystems. Many people don’t know that cassowaries carry the seeds of trees and distribute them throughout the rainforest. If this did not happen many tree species would go extinct.

After our lecture on our way to a hike, we saw a cassowary, an independent and solitary bird, walking down a main highway completely unprotected from the passing cars. It was after this sighting that we were all able to better understand the challenges that we inflict on our natural ecosystems.

In a normal classroom setting, it is hard to make these real life connections, for instance I still don’t know how linear algebra relates to my day-to-day life. But seeing the cassowaries made me understand some of the challenges in modern day Australia and made me want to make a difference, and that is something you don’t often get in a classroom.

Victoria Robertson, 2014-15 Fiji International Tourism for Development student blogger, writes:

Photo Four (1) Studying abroad in Fiji has been one of the most influential trips of my life. I made new friends, learned new customs and took more from the experience than I ever thought possible.


I zip-lined through the rainforest, kayaked down the gorgeous Navua River, went horseback riding along the beach, snorkeled around a coral island, and was welcomed into a Fijian family’s home.


From Kula Eco Park to the many hotel visits, my Fiji program was the most real, wholesome experience a traveler to Fiji could get.


Photo One (1)What took me by surprise was that such a short two-week trip with my university could have such an impact on the way I perceive things around me. Looking back at my initial thoughts on studying abroad, I’m glad I ignored the doubts and took the chance to step out of my comfort zone. Even if that meant learning to live with bugs.


We all walked away with stories to tell, including the highs and lows of our experiences. To any students who are wondering if they should step out of their comfort zone, I strongly recommend it. The memories I gained will last a lifetime.

Photo Three (1)Photo Two



Ashley Carlisle, the Florida Down Under marketing intern, writes:

Blog 1, Carlisle 02

Though I had waited years for the opportunity to study abroad, I still had reservations about having limited communication and not knowing anyone else. But I knew I could not forgo such an amazing opportunity because of a little apprehensiveness. I jumped in at the deep end and was so glad I did. Here are a few tips to help others who may be struggling with anxiety before going abroad for the first time:


  1. Socialize with new friends: When we departed LAX to fly to North Queensland, I knew no one, but by the first night at Bungalow Bay, I had already made five new friends with my bunkmates. I often consider myself introverted but on the program I found it surprisingly simple to make friends as everyone was open and welcoming to new friendships. Try to be social and talk to anyone and everyone on your program.
  1. Immerse yourself in the program: Whether working on course modules or exploring new surroundings, we were always kept very busy. I thought I would be spending a lot of my free time phoning home, but I found myself opting to visit local markets or hike nearby trails instead. The busier you are, the less you will have the chance to be homesick. Studying abroad is a great chance to focus on the present and enjoy the trip of a lifetime!

Blog 2, Carlisle

  1. Keep a journal: Writing down my thoughts and describing my adventures to tell my family about later helped to alleviate my homesickness. Plus by journaling I also had a detailed recollection of all the amazing places I experienced abroad. Bring a small journal in your daypack to record your journey – the Smash book is a great way to keep things together as you’re going along!
  1. Stay Connected: It is easy to take effortless communication for granted with low-cost data coverage and unlimited Wi-Fi in the U.S. Knowing that my communication would be limited for days or weeks at a time seemed daunting at first, however, staying connected was definitely not impossible. FaceTime, iMessage, WhatsApp and Skype are great for video chat and free texting when you have a Wi-Fi connection. And if this isn’t enough you can always look into local SIM cards and international plans too.

Xuanyan Ouyang, 2014-15 Fiji International Tourism for Development student blogger, writes:

Life-changing means you have experienced something different that alters life circumstances or outlooks in a substantial way. The day and a half we spent in Votua Village, short yet eye-opening, was just that.

Students and a villager wearing sulus

Students and a villager wearing sulus

The homestay experience helped us learn more about the true Fijian lifestyle and the impact of tourism on the villagers, and as a result, made us realize how blessed we are.

Villagers in Votua Village wore traditional sulus, a skirt of sorts worn by both men and women. The fabric can be either below-knee or ankle-length and is wrapped around the legs and secured by twisting at the waist. So, before we arrived, we put on our own sulus.

The first thing we did when we arrived at the village was have a kava ceremony.

Students listening to locals' introduction of the kava ceremony

Students listening to locals’ introduction of the kava ceremony

Kava is a traditional drink and is made using the roots of the plant, which are then ground and combined with water for drinking. We sat in a circle with some of the villagers to hear from them about the kava ceremony before sharing in the drinking of the kava.

Xuanyan spending time with village youngster Caroline

Xuanyan spending time with village youngster Caroline

After the ceremony, our homestay families picked us up and showed us to their homes, which would be our home for the next day. My homestay sister showed me and a few of my classmates around the village. Most of the time, we played with the kids in the village, as it was their school summer break during our visit so they were at home.

We also enjoyed some incredibly tasty food made by our homestay parents. Our homestay mom made coconut eggplant, chicken curry, and sausage with Chinese noodles for one meal.

Homestay meal

Homestay meal

Those experiences are not what made this experience life-changing, but it’s the fact that the living conditions are so drastically different and more challenging compared with that in the U.S. However, the villagers are still satisfied with what they have and are happy and optimistic about their lives.

My family did not have running water except for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. This means no flushing the toilet or using the sink whenever desired. With no air conditioner or fans in the house, the house is the same temperature as it is outside. They had a limited amount of income and are heavily dependent on tourism.

UI students and villagers

UI students and villagers

While it was a short period in a Fijian village, my homestay definitely brought me more than just the experience of a new lifestyle, knowledge of local Fijians, and academic reflection on tourism’s impacts. It brought me a new outlook. After this program, I think life is not about the constant pursuit of material fortune but rather about the mindset to be content with what we have, treasure it and share this attitude with others.

Xuanyan Ouyang, 2014-15 Fiji International Tourism for Development student blogger, writes:

Bula! As with every study abroad program, academic study was not the only thing that we were doing. Our program combined activities and cultural interactions to enhance our learning in an experiential way. Two of my favorite program components were our kayaking and ziplining adventures.

Group photo alongside the Navua River

Group photo alongside the Navua River

Kayaking the Navua River

After hearing from the Rivers Fiji team about the company and its eco-tourism practices, we headed off for a day on the river. Though some of our group didn’t know how to swim, after donning life jackets and helmets, none hesitated to participate in the kayaking. We spent the day kayaking on the middle portion of the Navua River and also visited a remote village named Wainaduri.

Paddling along the Navua River

Paddling along the Navua River

Passing through inland villages and farmlands, the scenery is so amazing that I even thought we were in a movie! Plus, we had the opportunity to take a break from paddling and walk to a stunning waterfall.

Stunning waterfall beside Navua River

Stunning waterfall beside Navua River

But what pleased me the most was not the beautiful scenery, but the people that we met. There were kids playing around and in the river. They were very friendly and said “Bula!” to us, as most of the Fijians had greeted us thus far. When we finished our kayaking, the kids even followed the boat that we were in – it was such a moving moment.

Young boys playing in river

Young boys playing in river

Ziplining through the rainforest

Youyou Zhang, me and the tour guide preparing to zipline

Youyou Zhang, me and the tour guide preparing to zipline

This was my first time to go on a zipline tour, and I could not have been more excited. First we heard the operator Zip Fiji’s perspective of their business operations and also discussed some environmental issues affecting their operation. Then, we ascended into the canopy for the ziplining excitement.

We traveled along eight different ziplines through the rainforest canopy and stopped at viewing platforms along the way to appreciate the amazing views and learn about the local area.

Do my photos make you excited about traveling to Fiji? I hope you will visit the country one day.

Michael Brummer ziplining

Michael Brummer ziplining

I still have many fun stories and pictures to share, so I’ll talk to you in the next post.

Victoria Robertson, 2014-15 Fiji International Tourism for Development student blogger, writes:

Going into my study abroad program, living with a homestay family was something I dreaded. Even while in Fiji, I couldn’t help but be nervous for what was to come. Looking back now, I wish I hadn’t been this way, as this was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

Meeting homestay familyMy homestay family immediately made me feel as if I was one of them, and to connect with the children on the level I was able to was absolutely incredible, to say the least.

Myself and another student stayed in a house with two twin girls about 8 years old. While taking our initial tour of Votua Village, each twin held our hands as if we’d known each other for years. From this point on, they were constantly attached to us, asking us to play games with them or watch them dance, amongst other activities.Homestay children

We also quickly learned how connected the community is, as well as how much communal living plays a part in the lives of the villagers. Throughout our stay, there was a constant flow of people in and out of the house, almost to the point you weren’t sure who actually lived there.

Village neighbors
While staying in someone else’s home can be a bit intimidating, especially if it happens to be abroad while you’re learning not only about a new family, but about a new culture as well, I suggest students embrace it without holding back.

If your experience is anything like mine, you won’t only have a fantastic time with some of the most interesting people you’ve ever met, but you will also leave feeling like family.

And to know that I have a family thinking about me back in Fiji is priceless.