People travel for leisure, but a group of students from Griffith University, Australia, are in Samoa for a totally different reason.
Apart from enjoying Samoa’s natural scenery and friendly hospitality, these students are here to study Samoa’s health sector and culture.
“The trip is a study tour; the students are all health students at Griffith University, some are bio-med science, health science, exercise science, public health and nutrition and diabetic,” Lecturer, Neil Harris, said.
“The idea of the tour is for them to go somewhere that’s not where they live, somewhere quite different and to experience the culture of that society.”
“The core of why we’re here is to look at the health of Samoa, what is the health status and what are the determinants of Samoan health and what is being done in Samoa to try and improve health.”
“We’re working with the Ministry of health and the National University of Samoa.”
“So we visited N.U.S. where there were some lectures and history of the development of Samoa.”
“We also visited the Ministry where we were given some lectures on what is being done, what is being done, what are their programs, what are some issues in Samoa.”
“We will also visit some N.G.O’s, Samoa Cancer Society, the U.N, W.H.O, Australian High Commission, we’ll visit some N.G.O’s working directly with the population to try and improve Samoan health.”
Away from that, the trip to Samoa provides the students with a different experience.
“Australia is a highly industrialised nation and completely versatile, and they just think everybody has that, and they think that our health system is not very good, until they come to somewhere like Samoa to see how you’re living, how you’re working and how you’re dealing with your issues.”
Volunteering on behalf of the 17 students to speak of their experience are Emma Norton, Julia Shuker, Emma Hay and Esther Dancewicz.
“This is our first time to Samoa,” the ladies said.
“We’ve tasted the food during the S.T.A. culture tour, and dancing was my favourite part,” Emma said.
“The weather is hot, it’s beautiful and the people are just so lovely, culture and food, everything is just so lovely,” Esther added, saying the coconut cream was just so nice.
“So far we’ve loving our stay, but I wanna come back,” Julia said.
“We’re here with the Griffith University for a Public Health Study Tour,” Emma explained.
“We’re here to observe Samoa’s health, the public health, health challenges and compare it to other countries and look at their health systems. So today we visited like a few hospitals in the sub centre and it’s also interesting to see how it’s different to Australia.”
The students also noted the difference between their country’s health sector and Samoa’s.
“There are very different health systems. The hospital was like outdoors for starters,” Emma Hay said.
“The way the funding works and people’s attitude towards healthcare,” Emma said.
“I like the way the Ministry is putting in a lot of effort to address and incorporate both the traditional and medicinal health,” Esther added.
“To improve the local health sector, they need more resources I think, people, staff; apparently there was not enough medicine, not enough ambulances, more funding,” Emma added.
They were also amused at the level of interaction between Samoa’s Ministry of Health and the local community.
“I love the way they are incorporating the community women’s committee to promote healthy living and healthy habits; I think it’s just powerful,” Julia said.
“We have practices that are similar, but it’s just like more doctor services and not community based,” Emma added.
“We don’t just use regular people.”
The students, apart from understanding how the different health system works and Samoa’s culture, they look forward to experiencing some good island vibe.
“I think Samoan culture is amazing, it’s just amazing to see how it’s still so strong, a lot of countries have lost it because of colonization and migration, but you guys have kept it going so well,” Emma said.
“It’s nice and beautiful. I don’t know why most people don’t come here,” Julia said.
“I think it’s stunning. I’m going to tell everyone to come to Samoa, it’s so beautiful,” Esther added.
“The greenery and the cute little houses, the people are lovely,” Emma Hay said.
“We’re looking forward to snorkeling, canopy work and everything,” Emma added.
“Everyone has just been so welcoming and so nice, and we’re like still in awe because when we wave at people they just wave back at us and it’s never like that back at home to see how happy it is,” Julia said.
Also sharing her experience was lecturer, Ernesta Sofija.
“Samoa is a beautiful location. We’ll spend three days in Savai’i, that’s when we really experience the beauty of Samoa, because everyone who’s been talking say that if you don’t go to Savai’i, you haven’t been in Samoa, we’ll enjoy beach fales,” Ernesta said.
She also had a taste of the local food during the tour and it was nothing less than perfect for her.
“It’s my first time to try local food, it’s not bad, very nice and it’s my first time to be eating from something like this.”
Referring to Samoa’s tourism sector, Neil said: “I think it’s up to the people of Samoa what they want. It’s still a very natural location, and it’s all about the natural beauty of the island. As a tourist place, I think they should maintain it; it’s such a beautiful place.”
Ernesta adds one thing she will take with her home is the friendliness of the locals.
One thing is for sure, Samoa will be seeing these students again, and this time not on a study tour.