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Archive for the ‘2014-15 Student Blogs’ Category

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

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Joe Bagazinski, 2014-15 New Zealand and Sydney Sustainable Business student blogger, writes:

DSCN0740After hearing about the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes I was not sure what to expect when visiting the city, but it turned out to be one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever had. I never knew the old Christchurch, but as I walked through the shadows of what the city used to be, I felt a mixture of despair and hope. From the city blocks and infrastructure, you could tell there was so much tradition and life within the city that had moved away. Many parks and public spaces still remain, but almost everything else vanished followed the natural disaster. Blocks and blocks of buildings were destroyed in the earthquakes and gravel lots now stand in their place.

DSCN0726After initially seeing only the destruction, it was after having been in the city for a few days that I realized that Christchurch is as special as it ever was. Sure, many of the buildings have been reduced to piles of rubble, but the effort and drive of the residents is clear. Christchurch is a city rebuilding, and there is no hiding that fact, but it’s also one of the most unique cities I have ever visited. Everywhere you look, there is a pop-up organization or shopping place, such as Re:START, doing good to help the city. As a group, we visited a makeshift dance floor in the middle of the city, a few urban farms, and volunteered pulling weeds in gardens where buildings once stood.

Dec 24 1071During our time in Christchurch, I realized that a city is not made up of buildings and physical structures. A city is made up of individuals and spirit, and no matter what happens to the buildings, the spirit of Christchurch is evident in the heart of the city.

Christchurch is an extremely special city, and with the influx of new innovators and young people willing to put many thankless hours into improving Christchurch, there’s no doubt in my mind that it will be one of the most unique places on the face of the earth.

I never knew the old Christchurch, but I cannot wait to get to know the new one.

Dec 24 1074

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

Ever need to get away? To prove to yourself you can be independent in an environment foreign to you? Ever want to immerse yourself in a new culture completely?

I know I had all of these feelings when I first applied to study abroad in Fiji. And if I’m being completely honest, all I knew about Fiji was that it tends to be a fairly popular vacation destination. Oh, and it hosted Survivor one year.

Photo Source: Wikimedia

But in further research and multiple excited reviews of my program’s itinerary, I learned that it is so much more than that. Fiji offers an abundance of plant and animal life to be explored, the undeniable beauty of the South Pacific Ocean to absorb, and diverse customs and culture foreign to my own from which to learn.

Yasawa Islands, Fiji

I can’t wait until I can take pictures this beautiful of my own!

And hey, isn’t that exactly what studying abroad is all about?

When I first submitted my study abroad application, I didn’t think I had a chance. I didn’t think an English major belonged on a program focused on studying tourism and its impacts. I couldn’t have been more wrong and am thrilled that I ignored this thought and applied anyway.

The bottom line: study abroad is all about taking in something new. You step out of your comfort zone and experience what the world has to offer as you never have before. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

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

 

QingdaoFor me, to travel is to discover something new, something that will surprise me about myself. During each journey I find out who and what I am. My name is Xuanyan, and I am from a city named Foshan in Southern China.

My feet have stepped into 20 cities in China and since choosing to study abroad in the United States, I have had many more opportunities and visited 12 cities across the U.S. I have often traveled with my friends and family, but the first time I traveled on my own was to Qingdao. In another experience in Orlando I was able to live with a host family for the first time and experience a real Christmas.

 

 

IMG_8497When I was little I think my mom and dad always let me walk by myself and pretended not to care and that’s why I love exploring now. I imagine this kid walking farther and farther, but his parents are always watching him behind. They are my home, where I can go back and have a rest during my journey in this world.

 

 

IMG_4268

 

During my study abroad trip to South Africa, I expanded my horizons. As the only international student in our group, I found out what it was like to experience culture shock and realized that I could survive. On our way to a football game, I took photos of these lovers with a South African flag. It was just a short moment, but it made me see that love is always amazing.

 

 

 

 

DunhuangWith a career goal of being a visual media producer, I want to continue to tell stories by taking advantage of the power of multimedia. My next stop is Fiji, a paradise for winter break. Want to see awesome photos of scenery, food and people? Then don’t forget to check out the AUIP student blog. Want to know more stories behind the images of Fiji? Follow my blogs; let’s begin the show!

 

 

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