As one of its Institutional Learning Outcomes, the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) holds that its students should strive to become Global Citizens who are “prepared to participate in regional and global communities.” A dozen ASCC students in the Alpha Epsilon Mu chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honor society took the opportunity in late March to interact with visitors from beyond these shores when they opened their homes to students from the School of International Training (SIT), who spent five days familiarizing themselves with the people and culture of American Samoa.
This semester’s visiting SIT group consisted of 12 young women enrolled in SIT’s Pacific Communities and Social Change program, which examines the social, economic and political impacts of globalization, westernization and climate change in the Pacific islands. The 15-week program began with a late-January orientation at the East-West Center in Hawaii, and the students are currently based at the Alafua campus of the University of the South Pacific in Samoa. Their itinerary includes excursions to Lotofaga, Savai’i, American Samoa and Fiji.
The SIT group included Ms. Delia Brekken of Colorado Springs, CO; Ms. Rachel Duggan of Sharon, MA; Ms. Makynzie Horvath of Rossford, OH; Ms. Tieta Keetle of Sewanee, TN; Ms. Anissa Mendoza-Green of Denver, CO; Ms. Tracy Olson of Rancho Palos Verdes, CA; Ms. Olivia Primeau of New Orleans, LA; Ms. Coral Santos of Pawtucket, RI; Ms. Lilian Schafer of St. Paul, MN; Ms. Keara Sternberg of Shaftsbury, VT; Ms. Connie Tsai of Brentwood, TN; and Ms. Sofia Valbuena of Key Biscayne, FL.
While the SIT visitors’ itinerary included a number of sites on Tutuila, they used ASCC as a “staging area” for their daily activities, and also attended a number of presentations by College faculty on topics including climate change, sustainable agriculture, architecture, and local music. Regina Meredith-Fitiao of the Fine Arts Department organized a lively hands-on session focused on indigenous art, in which the SIT group collaborated with ASCC art students, followed by a presentation on Samoan tattooing by master artist Su’a Wilson Fitiao. Former ASCC faculty member and administrator Tapaau Dr. Daniel Aga, who now heads the ASG Office of Political Status, also returned to campus give his presentation on the Territory’s political relationship to the United States titled Understanding American Samoa.
Following each day’s activities, each of the visitors would join their respective PTK hosts at home to experience local family life. SIT student Keara Sternberg, who majors in Sociology at Skidmore College, stayed with PTK member Faasiu Faalata and her family, and expressed her appreciation for their hospitality. “Knowing that Faasiu and I had so much in common, even when we are from different ends of the globe, was refreshing and exciting,” said Ms. Sternberg. “This has been a great lesson about the value of conversation. I’ve learned so much about respective families and the Pacific at large by taking the time to sit down and talk with people -- that's something I could never quite learn in a textbook or through a computer screen. Also, with all of the lectures and activities I attended, I think I have a clearer idea of the social, environmental and cultural issues that are important to American Samoans. I liked being able to pair what I learned in the classroom alongside my own experiences and observations here.”
ASCC-PTK President Siamaotua Tuia, a resident of Aunuu, hosted SIT student Lilian Schafer, an experience she described as “a once in a lifetime opportunity.” “I learned many things from hosting Lilian,” reflected Ms. Tuia. “Since I’m the oldest, I never experienced having an older sibling, but with this program I got a chance to feel what that’s like. Before the SIT group arrived, our advisor Kuki Tuiasosopo provided PTK with all the information we’d need to accommodate our guests. We were responsible for their meals, so I applied what I’ve learned in class about managing money and hosted my guest for five days without exceeding my budget. Most important to me was learning from Lilian about her own major, goals, morals and principles, family, culture and beliefs. This was also a great opportunity for me to share the uniqueness of our culture.
The SIT group’s time in American Samoa culminated with a farewell luncheon hosted on campus by the PTK, which included each PTK member saying a few words about the experience of hosting a guest and the presentation of gifts. Having now returned to the Independent State of Samoa, the SIT group will prepare for a visit to Fiji during the first week of April. To learn more about the School of International Training and its program in Samoa, visit their web pages at: www.sit.edu.