South Pacific Study Abroad Program Overview
Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences Texas A&M University
The mission of our South Pacific Study Abroad Programs is to nurture and foster a global citizenry. This rests on a respect for the diverse cultures and environments of the world in which we live and belong. More specifically, through engagement in these programs, we anticipate that our students will be better prepared to use this global knowledge in their home community with both short-term and long-term implications. This objective is accomplished by creating a learning environment that:
- Is accessible to a diverse body of students by providing affordable programs for a range of majors;
- Emphasizes a global knowledge, connectivity, and understanding of human – environment interactions (from multiple disciplines and geo-cultural perspectives);
- Promotes service-learning opportunities and student peer-learning;
- Encourages faculty-student interactions;
- Supports faculty collaboration and networking;
Is at the forefront of redefining study abroad as not only a valid academic enterprise, but an extraordinary one that far surpasses the impact of traditional campus-based instruction. As such, to provide intellectually and personally challenging academic experiences for students and faculty that foster a body of future scholars and leaders equipped to work in a global society.
In part, our mission is achieved through a service-learning, community-based approach which combines classroom instruction (with faculty from various prestigious universities in the South Pacific including University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, James Cook University, University of Queensland, and the University of the South Pacific) with field excursions and cultural activities (ranging from half-day to multi-day/week experiences) including guided outdoor activities (refer to field destinations in the syllabi and itineraries),family homestays, and directed/applied field work (refer to field modules).
All programs focus on a mix of social and environmental sciences. More specifically, they relate to the theme of “Sustainable Development - Sustaining Human Societies and the Natural Environment” and utilize a combination of classroom-based study with field coursework. This model is academically demanding, yet also maximizes the potential for learning in a foreign culture and environment. Students enroll in summer session 1 (RENR400: Study Abroad In Natural Resources – 6-9 credit hours). The South Pacific programs are run in May-June each year.
Tropical North Queensland, Australia (Summer 1: 6 credits): This 3.5-week program uses the theme of sustainable development to explore the relationship between people and their natural environment. The program is based of Townsville at James Cook University (JCU). Students spend about 70% of their time in the field studying the region’s national parks, forests, wildlife reserves, coastlines, and islands. Supporting lectures are provided by field guides and faculty from the University of Queensland, James Cook University, and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
Fiji (Summer 1: 3 credits): This ten-day program explores the complex relationships between Fijian cultural practices (both indigenous and Indo-Fijians), conservation of the natural environment, and eco-tourism. The program includes two days of introductory lectures at the University of the South Pacific, followed by a six day field study which includes several days exploring the coral reefs of the Mamanuca offshore islands and a two-day homestay at a Fijian village. Some additional pre-departure directed reading and independent study is also required. This program is run in conjunction with the Australia and New Zealand programs for a total of eight credit hours.
Sydney, Austalia/New Zealand (Winter: 6 credits): Similar to the Australia program, this 21-day program uses the theme of sustainable development to explore the relationship between people and their natural environment. The program begins with seven days in Christchurch, followed by a 2-week field study of the South Island. A typical itinerary includes Mount Cook, the west coast, Kaikoura, a guided kayak of Abel Tasman National Park, a guided hike on Fox Glacier, a sheep farm visit, a visit to a Maori marae, and a boat cruise on Milford Sound. Like all of our programs, our experiential education focuses on learning through guided action. Students spend about 60% of their time traveling the national parks, forests, wildlife reserves, coastlines, and islands of the Pacific. The remaining time is spent in the classroom with supporting lectures from leading experts at New Zealand universities (Lincoln University and the University of Canterbury), government departments (Department of Conservation), Maori tribes, and research centers (Landcare Research).
Marine Protected Area Management - Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia (Summer II: 3 credits):
The benefits of our programs are wide-ranging for the students:
Personal Growth: Students completing the programs universally comment on the program being a “life-changing experience”. To this point, we have not received any feedback implying that the program is failing to meet its goals.
Intercultural Development: As noted, one of the goals of our study abroad programs is to train future global leaders to be more effective, respectful of other cultures, political, and economic systems, and be willing to take a stand for the world’s welfare, not just what benefits a specific country. Our program evaluations indicate that these programs are succeeding in this regard.
- Education and Career Attainment: Participation in these programs also increases students’ employability. These programs encourage the development of life-long learning skills that help them compete for positions in an increasingly diverse and international workplace.