All AIFS programs offer an orientation, but not all of them are in Fiji. If you are studying abroad in Australia or New Zealand, you can take part in the optional orientation and learn about Pacific studies through time in the classroom, and more importantly, a lot of time in the field.
When I arrived in Fiji I didn’t really know anyone, so it was the perfect opportunity to make new friends. I roomed with a girl from Washington, Phoebe. We had the morning free before we had any scheduled activities so a group of us decided to go to a mud bath/ hot spring. The entire drive there (only about 20 minutes) had gorgeous scenery and gave us all a chance to talk and get to know one another. Once there, we each had to cover every inch of our skin in mud and let it dry in the hot sun (apparently it’s good for the skin). We then got to go into a pool that was basically a big hole dug out of the ground and filled with warm rainwater (hot spring) to rinse off. It was the first of many bonding experiences. Later in the day we went to see a Hindu temple and explore the city of Nadi. 40% of the population of Fiji is of Indian descent, many having been brought as indentured servants under British colonial rule. The Sri Siva Subramaniya temple is one of the few places outside of southern India you can see this type of architecture, temples with pyramid-like towers.
On the second day we drove on a bus to the city of Suva. On the way to Suva we made a couple of stops: we stopped at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park and later went on the Tavuni Hill Fort hike where we learned about the history of Fiji (including of course the stories of cannibalism) and got to see some incredible views!
When we arrived in Suva, we met the host families that we would be staying with for the next few days. Mine happened to be the tour guide that was in charge of taking us around Fiji, Tulevu. His house was nice and his family was great! He lived with his sister and her two children, and that night had his other sister over for dinner along with her two adorable kids.
On the third day we started “lectures” about the history of the Pacific Islands. It was actually very interesting to learn about the history of an area that wasn’t the United States. The building where we had classes (the only university in Fiji) was filled with unique, local art.
After the lecture, a group of us went for lunch, which is incredibly cheap there. Our host dad had told me about a great place in Suva to go shopping, so I went there with a couple other girls and had a great time walking around the busy streets of Suva and getting our shop on.
Our tour guide/my host dad had been invited to go to the taping of Fiji’s version of “So You Think You Can Dance” because it was at the university and he knew the producer. He got me and a few others into the show for free and we watched as the dancers performed Bollywood dance routines. At the end of the show they interviewed our group (probably seeing that we were the only foreigners in the audience) so we probably ended up on Fiji television, no big deal.
EXAM DAY! It was not too stressful as we had learned a lot about the history of the Pacific through our lectures and field trips. After that we had no more learning left and got to have a day with our host families! Tulevu took Jessica and I rope swinging in the forest, and we dragged our friend Matt along with us.
It was a beautiful hike to get to the last waterfall and it was my first time ever rope swinging! You wouldn’t think it would be terrifying but it was! After the initial jump none of us could stop doing it though. Later that day, our host mom (Tulevu’s sister) took Jessica and I out to dinner at the local yacht club where we got to meet some of her Fijian friends and have a great dinner.
This was the day that we had to say goodbye to our host families. Each group had a different experience with their family, but they were all good. I got to try so many different foods that they made for us and experience things like crazy taxi drivers and super friendly Fijians; staying with a host family is the experience of a lifetime.
We went back to Nadi and had a relaxing day before we had our excitement-filled last day. We stopped to get lunch on the way back at a spot along the water, gorgeous just like everywhere else in Fiji!
Our last full day in Fiji. We caught a boat to one of the smaller islands of Fiji called Mana Island. It’s one of the more popular tourist islands and I could see why. There were all sorts of things to do from jet skiing to snorkeling to parasailing. Everyone in our group tried something. As for me and my friends, we decided to snorkel and go parasailing (which is way cheaper in Fiji than in the US, so wait until you visit here to try it out). It was an exciting last day and even the boat ride to and from the island was part of the beauty of it all because the beautiful scenery never ends.
It was sad to see the end of our journey in Fiji, but we were off to Perth for a new adventure!
They always served us Fiji water in Fiji!