Nearly 5 months in the stunning South Pacific was quite the adrenaline rush in itself. Through my Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management major with a concentration in Tourism and Commercial Recreation, I intend on pursuing a career in the hospitality industry within tourism. Fiji was my match made in heaven. It was an immense lifestyle change and such an endearing cultural shift leaving the capitalistic and extremely developed familiarity of the United States and moving to a third world country where many of the natives do not even have bank accounts. Many people in Fiji do not have to work because they live in villages and the village and the Chief provide for them. And when they are at home in their village, they know they are taken care of. However, these people and these villages provide for the tourism industry. It is Fiji’s main economic benefactor. I was lucky enough to get to immerse myself into the culture and begin to attempt to understand the tourism-driven and perpetually happy and friendly way of life found in Fiji.
I was a fish out of water as soon as I stepped of that airplane on the other side of the oceans. I did not know a single person. I was away from all of my friends and family for nearly five months. And I was very identifiably a minority for the first time in my life. I was so far from home that native Fijians did not even know my accent or could tell that I was an American. It was assumed that I was an Australian tourist throughout the duration of my trip.
Akisi was my program advisor while I was in Fiji and she became my “abroad mother.” Akisi is a native to Suva, Fiji, the capital city and central location of my abroad experience. She brought us into and gave us the real insight and feedback of what it is truly like to be Fijian. Through field trips designed by my abroad program, Akisi took us to natives homes. We got to sit on their porches, participate in kava ceremonies in their living rooms, and eat traditionally prepared Fijian food with the families in their yards. We were given tours of their land and of the tourist destinations by the locals who owned them, getting to walk within their footsteps to discover and learn about the land.
One of the interesting things about Fiji is the way that their tourism industry is facilitated. Most of all of the land in the country is owned by individual villages and they have all of the rights to them. Therefore, when tourists visit, if they want to site-see something they found on trip advisor, or in their Fodor’s travel book, then they are going to be going into a village and participating in a traditional kava ceremony to become acquainted properly and then they are going to be taken to the “tourist destination.” Everything in Fiji is done with tradition and etiquette. The people genuinely want you to know how they live and to come into their home and just to talk to you. They love to hear about the United States. They are the most grateful and appreciative people. This is something they call the “Bula Spirit.”
Fiji has been known for how much they smile and the kindness that they provide for their tourists. Fiji is exotic, authentic, eccentric seeming, and beautifully friendly. Their way of life and service was so different from the western world. Sometimes it was endearing, and sometimes it was frustrating. It was extraordinary to be able to see my own habits and expectations while being a customer of the hospitality industry and how those norms change from area to area, yet remain similar in other aspects. It was an irreplaceable experience to have the opportunity to witness first hand tourism in the third world through a multitude of cultures eyes.
To read about the tourism and hospitality classes Emma took while in Fiji, click here.