U.S.P. Samoa Campus students miss home but push on

Three Ni-Vanuatu students currently studying at the University of South Pacific’s Samoa Campus have spoken of the challenge of not seeing their families back home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The three students Richard Narinan, Sharon Alick, and Evana Kalsong – who are all second-year bachelor of agriculture (majoring in applied science) students – told the Samoa Observer that it was a struggle being away from loved ones at the height of the pandemic but they are pushing on with their studies despite the challenges.

Mr Narinan, 34, said when he travelled to Samoa to begin his academic journey, he didn’t think he would be away from his wife and two children for too long.

“It's a challenge seeing my children grow up without me there, it’s also challenging seeing my wife do everything when I cannot but this makes me strong,” he said in an interview with this newspaper. 

“I know that although there are many difficulties faced now in this time, I will see these difficulties as opportunities to keep me going forward.”

As for Ms Alick, 21, her studies at the U.S.P. Samoa Campus has been fun thus far, but she says it is her absence from her family in Vanuatu that continues to make the journey a struggle.

“I have been more homesick than ever before. It's now been a year and a few months since I’ve been home, although I try to keep optimistic,” she said. 

And she has already made a few Samoan friends during her time in the country, who she says “taught me a fair bit of the language and introduced me to the local food…and it’s just like home.”

In hindsight, Ms Alick says the pandemic has also taught her to become more independent and determined in what she wants to achieve, while using her stay in the country to discover more of its beauty.

“A few of us had been going out places like The Tosua Trench, Faufau Beach, Piula and during this time I had found a great liking for the taro leaf creamed in coconut delicacy (palusami),” she added. 

“I think this has been a great experience, despite the challenges I won’t say I haven’t enjoyed myself just a little!”

As for Ms Kalsong, 22, she said she had culture shock when she first arrived in Samoa, as it was different from Vanuatu and the language barrier became problematic.

But it is her absence from her daughter back home which is a challenge that she continues to grapple with.

“I have a little girl and because of the pandemic I was not able to celebrate her first birthday with her,” she said.

According to the U.S.P. Samoa Campus Student Welfare Officer Ronna Lee all regional students currently studying at Alafua were given the option by their governments to return home on chartered flights or remain in Samoa to complete their studies.

“The three Vanuatu students you have interviewed chose to remain in Samoa because they didn’t want to run the risk of not being able to return for their studies if they had chosen to return at the end of last year,” she told the Samoa Observer.

“They are comfortably accommodated and they receive accommodation and living allowances from the Vanuatu Government every semester.”

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