One component of the Mission of the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) is to promote awareness of Samoa and the Pacific, while one of the College’s Institutional Learning Outcomes is that students acquire proficiencies as Global Citizens. A recent project by the ASCC Alpha Epsilon Mu chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honor society combined both of these goals when PTK students opened their homes late last month to 17 visitors from the School of International Training (SIT), a USA-based institution which offers on study-abroad programs that take place in different parts of the world, including the Pacific.
The visiting students are enrolled in the SIT course Samoa: Social and Environmental Change in Oceania, which touches on the social, cultural, and environmental aspects of life in these islands. For most of the course, which began in late January and will conclude in mid-May, the SIT group is based in the Independent State of Samoa, with accommodations at the National University of Samoa (NUS). To give them a “big picture” historical and cultural perspective of Samoa as a whole, the group also spent a week in American Samoa, where 17 members of the ASCC PTK volunteered to each host an individual SIT student.
SIT student Vasthy Maurival, 20, an anthropology major from Cedar Park, Texas, stayed with ASCC student and PTK member Francine Iopu, an experience she described as “a complete blast. Francine made me feel welcome from the moment we met until the day I left, and her family was so loving and so accommodating.” For Maurival, her week in a family environment came as a welcome change from the dormitory at NUS. “I liked how for the first time in months I felt like an actual college student as opposed to a researcher.,” she reflected.
Maurival also took careful note of American Samoa’s blend of indigenous and western culture. “The whole concept of ‘American’ Samoa is related to my area of study,” she explained. “As an anthropology major, we look very closely at cultural practices and the histories that formed them. I noticed how different Samoa and American Samoa are right off the bat, due to the immense US influence. American Samoa is a perfect blend of Samoa and the US, and I find that very interesting. I am also eager to understand why American Samoans don't want independence from their colonial past.”
Contributing to the SIT students’ understanding of the many aspects of American Samoa were a number of academic and cultural authorities who gave lectures, presentations and tours. These individuals included Kelley Anderson Tagarino, Evile Feleti, Dr. Micah van der Ryn and Kuki Tuiasosopo of ASCC, along with the students of Art instructor Regina Meredith-Fitiao. They also heard a presentation on the military in American Samoa from LTC Clint Seybold and team, and a talk by Dr. Daniel Aga of the American Samoa Office of Political Status.
The SIT students’ visit concluded with a luncheon and gift-giving ceremony, with both visitors and hosts taking turns sharing how their experiences have led to the formation of lifelong friendships. “For the PTK students at ASCC, hosting an SIT student gives them an opportunity to share some of the culture of the outside world with someone their own age,” said PTK advisor Tuiasosopo. “For the SIT students, they get to experience how for us ‘family values’ are a living, thriving thing rather than some outdated notion. I’m sure the hospitality they experienced made a very strong impression, not just of their hosts but of American Samoa in general.”
For more information on ASCC, visit the College’s web page at www.amsamoa.edu.