Australia and Fiji 2004

For the Australia/Fiji study tour, Dr. Jane Sabes, professor of political science, and a group of 27 students departed for Australia on May 3, intent on examining that country's relationship with its indigenous population.

The idea for the tour grew out of a comparative politics class Sabes offered during the spring semester. That class studied the histories of various countries and regions--from Canada to Australia to Central and South America--and the relationships that colonists evolved with indigenous peoples. According to Sabes, the area of study "may seem to be a matter of small consequence when looking at Indians who constitute only 2% of the U.S., Canadian, and Australian census. But, given that first nation people constitute as much as 46% of many South American countries, along with their political activism, the issue of indigenous populations is yet a long way from being fairly resolved."

The three-week tour gave students an opportunity to meet with aboriginal guides, historians, government officials, and professors from the Australia National University. The tour of Australia also included a visit to the Australian national senate while it was in session.

According to Richard Sylvester, a student in the class, "a large part of this trip was looking for a different perspective, something more current and more rounded than what the books say." Dr. Sabes concurs, explaining that such study tours "expand the classroom, moving students beyond secondary sources and connecting them with firsthand accounts of issues of prime importance in this world of ours."

While in Fiji at the Vatuvonu School, students spent their time performing mission work that entailed painting houses, planting flowers, and constructing tables and other teaching implements for use in classrooms. The group was also invited to the Island of Kiowa by the island's tribal Chief, and while there, students were able to talk with native islanders about their way of life and government.

Sylvester called the trip "a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." Like his fellow students, he believes he now has "a better understanding and a deeper appreciation for another culture and that is quality time well spent."

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