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Posts Tagged ‘Fiji’

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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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.

 

 

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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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Thomas Koller, the Lions Abroad marketing intern, writes:

When people ask me about my experience studying abroad in Fiji and North Queensland and Sydney, I hesitate. I hesitate not because I did not enjoy the experience (this would be a complete and utter lie); I hesitate because their question conjures feelings of joy, excitement, euphoria, bliss, and exhilaration.

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I immediately envision those breath-taking Fijian sunrises, the welcoming Votua Village, the boat rides along Fijian islands seeing the quintessential blue seas, the nights we gazed for hours at the clearest night sky, the little hot peppers that look harmless but leave your mouth begging for water even after gulping two bottles, the sunset over the Australian Outback, the sea turtle I swam with on the Great Barrier Reef, the true friends I made, the genuine people I met, and the perspectives to which the trip has opened my mind.

Maybe a better question to ask is something more direct. For example, “What did you do on the Great Barrier Reef?” Now this I can handle. On the Great Barrier Reef, my fellow students and I snorkeled for three days learning from local marine biologists about the health and future of the reef. The first day (being an introductory lesson to snorkeling) marked one of the most monumental days in my life, and here is why.

There is something mysterious—almost spooky—about the open ocean. It plays with the human desire of exploration of the unknown. We were sitting on the stern of the boat, fourteen kilometers offshore, flippers and masks on, ready to see the largest living organism on the planet. There is no explanation for the emotions I was feeling. We were given the signal to enter the sea and meet our finned friends and with no hesitation, I dove right in.

It took a few minutes of swimming to realize that I was hyperventilating and needed to control my breathing. I finally grasped my bearings and decided to free dive. During my first plunge a few meters under the water to say hello to a bumphead parrotfish munching down on some coral, I looked back up at the surface. And something special happened. There was a feeling of weightlessness. You know when you reach the peak of the roller coaster and begin to drop down the highest peak? Yeah, that feeling. The adrenaline only felt during those moments of euphoria. I saw the rays of sun beaming through the surface and onto the coral. I slowly floated back to the surface while saturating myself in the experience. And as I felt the gentle waves lift me up and down, I then understood—on a level unattainable in a classroom—the importance of interconnectivity, interpersonal relationships, and appreciation of the world we live in.

IMG_0461I understand the importance of learning in a classroom or reading a textbook or conducting controlled experiments in a lab. But I also think that everyone needs to apply knowledge taught in the classroom to the world we live in. In this way we can all reach the deeper understanding only attained from real life experiences and travel.

As humans, we cannot be ignorant enough to live in one place our entire lives and expect to grow to our full potential. Travel opens our minds to new perspectives and helps us go beyond our current capacity of appreciation while achieving a new level of comprehension.

So if you approach me and ask, “How was your program?” you may need to give me a few moments to reminisce and realize, yet again, how metamorphic the experience was. I urge you to experience study abroad for yourself. Stretch the limits of comprehension and open new perspectives never seen before.

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