13 Weeks • 12 College Credits
Immerse Yourself in The South Pacific
Verto Education’s South Pacific semester is designed to explore the complex relationship between human actions within the environment and animal populations across a variety of ecosystems. Students will examine environmental management practices, critical issues in environmental conservation, the relationship between organisms and their environment, and species conservation and management.
Travel to a stunning and remote portion of Fiji’s Yasawa Islands and dive into fieldwork exploring Fiji’s marine ecosystem and the impact climate change has on this fragile habitat. Learn about the various strategies in place to protect, conserve, and restore Fiji’s marine environment and participate in a community-run marine habitat restoration project on Somosomo Island.
Midway through the semester, travel to New Zealand where you’ll learn to surf in Raglan before visiting the world famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves and travel to Rotorua, famous for Maori culture and boiling mud pools. Whitewater raft the Kaituna River, and try luging, zorbing, and agrojetting.
Next, make your way to Australia where you’ll explore the intricately connected ecosystem of the Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest surviving rainforest, see firsthand the impact of climate change on the great barrier reef system, and partner with the Australia Zoo for field research. Students spend twelve weeks abroad, including six weeks in Fiji, two weeks in New Zealand, and four weeks in Australia.
The Semester At-a-Glance
Upcoming Program Dates
September 6th – December 5th, 2019 – Fall 2019 Semester
February 3rd – May 3rd, 2020 – Spring 2020 Semester
Fiji & New Zealand
WHAT YOU’LL BE LEARNING In Fiji & New Zealand
Ecology and Species Conservation
This course examines the interactions between living organisms and their environments within ecosystems.
Students will explore population structure and growth, species interaction, energy flow through a population system, and environmental management. Through field work and seminar, students will also discuss relevant current ecological issues in the field, including the effects of habitat fragmentation and loss, invasive species, and pollution. Students will perform ecological experiments in the field to study animal behavior and population ecology. This course is intentionally designed to compliment the sustainability and environmental studies course so students develop a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between human actions, ecology, and environmental conservation.
Arrive in Fiji
Week 1: Orientation
Spend the first week orienting yourself to Fiji and and your new cohort. Get up to speed on how to stay safe and healthy in Fiji, spend time building your sense of community, and begin diving into the complexities of culture and ecology in the South Pacific. This week you’ll live together with your cohort at a local Eco-Lodge in Momi Bay on Fiji’s western coastline. Here you’ll have a chance to swim, snorkel, and relax at beautiful Natadola Beach.
Week 2: Village Homestay
Travel to a Nausori village deep in the Fijian Highlands. Spend time living with homestay families to experience the unique Fijian culture, building bonds with community members, understanding the perspectives and lifestyles of the local people, and participating in centuries-old customs and ceremonies.
Week 3: Highland Ecology
Staying in the highlands, your cohort will move to Nagado village to learn about the relationship between people and the local ecosystems. Get your hands dirty working on a local farm, and visit a local dam to explore the ways in which human influence impact the native flora and fauna. Living here is fairly rustic, so be prepared for cold showers and starry night skies with no light pollution.
Week 4: COASTAL ECOLOGY & CULTURE
Travel down to the coast and get comfortable living together as a group again back at the Momi Bay Eco-Lodge. Venture into the local community to conduct field research about the role that the marine environment plays in sustaining the local economy and underpinning the coastal way of life.
Week 5: MARINE ECOLOGY ON SOMOSOMO ISLAND
Take a four-hour boat ride through the breathtaking Yasawa Islands to get to Somosomo island, your home for the next week. Explore the white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush surrounding hills as you continue to focus on marine ecology. Spend time exploring and contributing to projects throughout the marine reserve established near your island home. Study the ridge-to-reef ecosystem while working on grassroots projects that focus on the distribution, diversity, formation, ecology, and conservation of the coral reef and surrounding environment.
Week 6: NGO CASE STUDIES AND LEGACIES OF COLONIALISM
Returning back to the main island, travel east to Suva, Fiji’s capital, where you’ll experience the most developed part of Fiji and gain insight into the contrast between urban and rural Fijian life. Experience the creeping modernization occuring in Fiji, and explore the role of international and local NGOs in preserving Fiji’s culture and environment through site visits and guest lectures. Visit museums and government offices to gain greater context for Fiji’s rich history and understand the legacy of colonialism in this small island nation.
Week 7: Fiji Wrap-Up
Close out your time in Fiji in the stunning beach resort of Pacific Harbour. As you explore the beautiful beaches and marine life in the mornings, you’ll spend afternoons in discussions and group sessions with your cohort to put your Fijian experience into perspective before departing across the South Pacific to New Zealand.
Continue on to New Zealand
Week 8: GEOTHERMAL ECOLOGY IN ROTORUA
Fly into in Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island and travel down to the lakeside town of Rotorua, stopping along the way at Raglan beach for an afternoon of surfing and a morning exploring the world famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Learn first-hand the ways geothermal energy in the region is being harnessed by the city to meet the needs of its population. Examine the ecological impact a growing city has on the surrounding natural environment while getting a taste of Maori cultural traditions.
Week 9: MAORI CULTURE IN THE BAY OF ISLANDS
Head to Kaituna River for a weekend of breathtaking whitewater rafting. Head north to the Bay of Islands where you’ll visit the Waitangi Treaty grounds and learn about the history of New Zealand’s relationship with the British Empire. Engage in traditional Maori ceremonies and observe the ways in which Maori culture and heritage is preserved and celebrated in New Zealand.
Continue on to Australia
WHAT YOU’LL BE LEARNING During your time in Australia
Sustainability and Environmental Studies
This course examines the processes and values that impact sustainability with relation to food systems, production, consumption, and pollution.
Through fieldwork with local farmers and investigations of consumption and pollution patterns in the South Pacific, students observe systems in their cultural, economic, political, and human contexts. Texts and seminars challenge students to examine the core assumptions and values that share various perspectives on environmental policies and resource management strategies.
Arrive in Australia
Week 10: DAINTREE FOREST AND GREAT BARRIER REEF
Touch down in Cairns and head north to Daintree Rainforest where you’ll explore the intricately connected ecosystem of the world’s oldest surviving rainforest. Visit the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park to learn more about aboriginal history and culture in Australia and build on your cultural anthropology skillset from Fiji and New Zealand. Take a tour of the great barrier reef to see first-hand the effects of climate change on the world’s largest living organism, and learn how local actors are organizing and mobilizing to protect this important resource.
Week 11: Wildlife Conservation
Head south to Brisbane and work with our partners at Australia Zoo to understand what wildlife conservation done well looks like. You’ll live with your group this week as you spend time working on different initiatives within the zoo. Explore the sunshine coast, and spend the weekend in Brisbane for a taste of Aussie city living in Queensland’s capital.
Week 12: INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY
Fly to Western Australia to spend a week in the bush with an aboriginal community. Learn about the history of colonial settlement of Australia, and the ways in which aboriginal people continue to face marginalization and discrimination in society at large. Study the rich customs of aboriginal society and learn how different groups are striving to preserve their cultural identity.
Week 13: Capstone Retreat in Coral Bay
For the final week, travel to Coral Bay where you’ll work on your Capstone project in the culmination of your experience abroad. Live with your group by the beach and reflect on your semester, pulling together the most influential moments and experiences into your final Capstone project. Celebrate everything you’ve done this semester as a group, and participate in workshops facilitated by your Program Leaders to help get ready for the transition back home and onto campus.
Get Ready to tell some stories
Semester-long academic focus
Semester-long Academic Focus
In addition to the two country-specific courses offered in this semester, students will also complete two additional courses that span the full semester :
Rhetoric and Composition for the College Writer
This course is designed to strengthen students’ writing mechanics and prepare students for the demands of academic writing.
This course has been designed to develop writing and rhetoric skills by leveraging core content explored through other Verto courses and immersive fieldwork. Students will use essential questions for other courses taken during the semester to contextualize the importance of strong academic writing, develop strong academic prose, and explore the relationship between language and rhetoric.
Identity, Politics, and Equity
This course challenges students to critically analyze how identity — as defined by others and oneself — shapes culture, politics, and the distribution of power.
Drawing from media, texts, and intercultural experiences within homestays and fieldwork, students reflect on the dynamic roles of ethnicity, gender, nationality, and socio-economic status in shaping relationships within communities. Students will leave the course with critical understanding and inquiry tools to serve in creating greater equity in relationships ranging from the interpersonal to those between nations.
CORE SEMESTER ABROAD PROGRAM COMPONENTS
In afternoons, students participate in seminars that are related to the topic that they’re working on in the morning. So if they’re working on farms in the morning, in the afternoons they’re doing readings, watching movies and having discussion related to that.
Mentorship & Support
Each student is assigned a Program Leader as a mentor who helps student set goals for the program and meets with the student regularly to provide feedback and support around the challenges associated with being abroad. There are significantly more support and investment in the student-staff relationship than your typical freshmen student who may have an RA and then office hours for professors.
While Program Leaders provide holistic support for the students, they are not with them at all times. There are built-in opportunities in the program for students to learn and grow together as a group with an emphasis on peer relationships and teamwork.
Students live in pairs with host families in each country to give them insight into a different culture and a different way of living. Students spend the mornings working with local professionals and experts who are engaged in working to address local issues. Hands-on experience and getting outside of the classroom is essential to reigniting a passion for learning.