However, there is a more pressing attraction for many students: the environment. Fiji is home to the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD). The South Pacific is the front line of the climate crisis and the ideal place to study ecology, climate change, marine biology, and more.
Fiji is also at the heart of the Blue Pacific, a collective of the Pacific Island countries and territories that make up the world’s largest oceanic continent. The collective is innovating towards sustainable management and conservation of the ocean and its resources.
This combination of fascinating, vital work and unique lifestyle goes a long way to explaining why students are drawn to complete their degree in the South Pacific. Let’s take a closer look at studying and student life in Fiji.
Live the adventure
Daily life on the islands is more mellow and ‘old-fashioned’ than in most busy western cities. For example, instead of picking up your groceries at a supermarket, you will likely head to one of the fish markets for your fish, pick up your vegetables at a roadside stand, and get back to a pace of life where Amazon and eBay don’t answer your every whim. There is much traditional cuisine; Fijian seafood, curries, and earth-oven cooking will change the way you think about food forever!
English, Fijian, and Fiji Hindi are the three official languages of the islands, so you can communicate easily even as you learn to live a Fijian lifestyle. (This will come in handy at those markets, where haggling is always a possibility.)
Leisure time is dominated by beach life, whether that means books on the warm sand, surfing, or swimming the clear blue waters. The temperature is in the high eighties most of the time, dropping to the sixties around the middle of the year.
Study the environment
With all that incredible water around, it’s no wonder marine biology is a popular study subject in Fiji. Diving with trained staff offers the chance for a guided tour among rare and endemic fish, as well as sea snakes, rays, and sharks.
When you get down to the nitty-gritty, your inner marine biologist will thrill at the minute life of the Fijian Pacific, too: nudibranchs, flatworms, and crinoids are plentiful and offer an inspiring way into the topic. Marine biology and conservation require more than a swim in the ocean, and there’s no better place to complete underwater surveys, map coral reefs and marine environments, and develop and share environmental awareness programs.
Fiji’s most valuable lessons, however, may be in climate change study. The nation produces a tiny fraction of the world’s emissions but is among the "first and worst" to suffer the direct and indirect consequences of rising waters. From immediate survival issues to socio-economic reverberations, the plight of South Pacific states illustrates threats faced all over the world as the climate crisis intensifies.
This is the place to identify the problems and solutions for the international community and directly impact the welfare of this beautiful region. It is also the place to lead the cultivation of sustainable and thoughtful ways of living and working, such as recycling and going plastic-free.
A Fijian university
The University of the South Pacific (USP) is a regionwide institution whose 12 member countries and 14 campuses and centers are located within the world's largest ocean.
“I don't understand why there are so few students studying in this tropical paradise,” says USP exchange student, Miranda Needham. “I am completing a Bachelor of Education, and I was pleased with the content in all of the courses I took. I visited Fijian schools and spoke to teachers, and USP has exceptional online learning facilities.”
Fiji is home to USP’s School of Marine Studies. The school’s academic interests include marine affairs (Law of Sea, ocean governance and policy, economics, management), sustainable fisheries, conservation biology, aquaculture, coral reefs and marine biodiversity, coastal management, atolls and small islands, and oceanic societies. Its outlook embodies the principle of acting locally, thinking globally.
Studying at USP takes a lot of unnecessary strain out of the student experience, so you can concentrate your energy on learning and enjoying your surroundings. The cost of living is relatively low, the quality of teaching is high, and a robust technical set-up empowers students to distance-learn where necessary and to complete assignments using campus infrastructure.
Your research will be valued locally and internationally. USP “is committed to being the foremost research university in the Pacific Island Region,” according to the school’s stated aims, “and meeting the needs and aspirations of Pacific Island communities.” USP’s research priorities are to value and utilize its unique Pacific Islands location and to support the development of the people and countries in the Blue Pacific region.
Study in paradise
“The university itself is a stunning campus in Suva,” continues Miranda Needham. “The staff were friendly, and they made you feel welcome. By the end of your stay, you felt like you had a new family. I loved the experience and had the best time getting to know people.
“The best thing I returned home with was my PADI Rescue Diver certification, which I completed on Kadavu Island. There is also much to learn about Fijian culture that is not mass-produced for the tourists. The real Fiji is incredible, but you just have to look a little harder to find it."
The student experience in Fiji is like no other student experience and no other experience of these islands. What's stopping you from studying in paradise?
Article written in association with the University of the South Pacific.