Exotic study abroad experience awaits students

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- The lush island nation often called “the crossroads of the Pacific” is the destination for a new faculty-led Middle Tennessee State University study abroad excursion.

The deadline for students to file scholarship applications with the Office of Education Abroad is Wednesday, Jan. 29. The scholarships will help fund the first 10-day trip to Fiji in late May.

A group of more than 300 tropical islands scattered across 200,000 square miles of the South Pacific Ocean, Fiji is home to some 837,000 people. It lies about 2,100 miles east of Australia.

Students will explore the main island of Vitu Levu, as well as Beqa Island, while gaining a thorough understanding of the culture, religion, education and economy of Fiji.

Ray Wiley, associate director of the campus recreation department, will lead the course, which is titled “Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Leisure and Tourism.”

With tropical temperatures in the 80s during the day and in the 70s at night, “getting credit for this class toward your degree is a bonus,” Wiley said.

Kevin Varney, education abroad adviser, will accompany Wiley.

“This course will allow us to dive in some of the most beautiful waters imaginable,” said Varney, who is an experienced scuba diver. “I’m thrilled to scuba dive in waters known for unparalleled marine biodiversity. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.”

Because the class is scheduled for five days of morning dives and one night dive, Wiley said students who sign up for the course must become scuba-certified. They can accomplish this either through classes at the Campus Recreation Center or through the partnership with a local scuba shop.

“The night dives are absolutely phenomenal,” Wiley said. “Everything looks different at night.”

In addition, students will witness the village elders perform rituals such as walking on hot embers and making an herbal beverage called kava, which is made from roots. Wiley said the people consider it an honor to be invited to the kava rite.

“To go there and participate and have meaningful dialogue with the villagers there is going to be such an enriching experience,” Wiley said.

There will be afternoon excursions to Fijian schools, churches, national parks and waterfalls, as well as a 17.5-mile bike ride through the highlands.

“The Office of Education Abroad is extremely excited about the first MTSU faculty-led education abroad program to Fiji,” Varney said. “With many remarkable excursions and activities, this is an amazing opportunity for MTSU students to learn and experience the Fijian culture.”

With such a full agenda, the students will have little time to sunbathe as they gather information for the blogs each of them will write during their stay in Fiji. They also will write papers geared to their specific majors.

Scholarships that can be applied to the trip will be allotted based on grade point averages, faculty recommendations and application essays.

In addition to the financial aid deadline, the students must turn in their applications to enroll in the course by Friday, March 7. Each student must submit a $500 deposit upon registering for the course and the balance by Monday, March 17.

The overall cost of the trip is $3,600, which includes food, lodging and transportation to and in Fiji. It does not include transportation to and from Los Angeles International Airport, tuition, education abroad fee, insurance and a Divers Alert Network fee. All participants must have valid passports.

For more information, contact Wiley at ray.wiley@mtsu.edu or Varney at kevin.varney@mtsu.edu.

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Education, Fiji, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Scholarships, Travel
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