Thursday, January 29, 2015

[276a] Warm waters, cordial natives await MTSU study-abroad students in Fiji

MURFREESBORO — MTSU has scholarship money available to send interested students to the warm tropical paradise of Fiji.

But the cold, hard deadline of Wednesday, Feb. 4, looms for submitting scholarship applications to the university’s Office of Education Abroad.

The second annual study-abroad excursion to the Pacific island nation is slated for May 28 through June 7. Students will learn about the cultural, culinary, religious and recreational life of the country.

Ray Wiley, associate director of campus recreation, teaches the course (GS3200) for the MTSU Global Studies and Cultural Geography Program. He said the 21 people who made up last year’s entourage felt right at home.

“We really got immersed in the culture,” Wiley said. “We got a chance to embrace the people and they embraced us back by inviting us into the village, by making us a part of their lives for the time we were there.”

Students will visit schools, churches and a spa where clients receive open-air massages and are covered in Fijian mud to exfoliate the skin.

Kava rituals also are part of the course. Tribal chiefs welcome newcomers with a ceremony in which each individual drinks liquefied kava root from a coconut shell.

“It’s got a very earthy flavor,” Wiley said. “It’s very different. It has to be put into a sifter and it’s put in a bowl mixed with spring water.”

Students are advised to prepare for their Fiji experience by being active for at least an hour three days each week. While temperatures are expected to be in the mid-to-high 80s with a water temperature between 79 and 82 degrees, the students will be very physically active.

They also must become qualified in scuba diving or be very comfortable in the water so they can participate in snorkeling when they visit the ocean reefs. The next class at the Campus Recreation Center is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 1.

“You just have to know the location and be well-educated,” Wiley said of the underwater part of the class. “We go diving with some of the most experienced staff members there are in the business.”

Students will be given five articles about Fiji to read and are required to perform “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analyses of various places they visit.

One of Fiji’s major benefits is the wealth of delicious food, including organically grown fruits and vegetables, fresh fish and free-range chickens.

In addition to being environmentally conscious, Fijians are more concerned with the overall welfare of their tribes than with individual concerns, said Wiley, and they imparted those values to the students.

“You really don’t have to have all these gadgets and gizmos to be happy,” said Wiley. “What you need is close ties to your friends and your family and a deep sense of appreciation for the quality of life that you have.”

The $3,750 cost includes everything except airfare from Nashville to Los Angeles and back and a $40 diving insurance fee.

For more information, contact Wiley at 615-898-2104 or

No comments: