Exotic study-abroad experience awaits MTSU student...

Exotic study-abroad experience awaits MTSU students in Fiji

The clear blue waters off the coast of Fiji await MTSU students who will examine the area’s marine biology on scuba diving excursions during their study-abroad trip May 22-31. (Photo courtesy of

The lush island nation often called “the crossroads of the Pacific” is the destination for a new faculty-led MTSU study-abroad excursion.

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Jan. 29 is the deadline for students to file scholarship applications with the university’s Office of Education Abroad to help fund MTSU’s first 10-day program to Fiji, which is scheduled for May 22-31.

A group of more than 300 tropical islands scattered across 200,000 square miles of the South Pacific Ocean, Fiji is home to some 837,000 people. It lies about 2,100 miles east of Australia.

Students will explore the main island of Vitu Levu as well as Beqa Island while gaining a thorough understanding of the country’s culture, religion, education and economy.

Ray Wiley, associate director of campus recreation, will lead the course, which is titled “Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Leisure and Tourism” and listed as course number LSTS 4850/6850.

Ray Wiley

With tropical temperatures in the 80s during the day and in the 70s at night, “getting credit for this class toward your degree is a bonus,” Wiley said.

Wiley will be accompanied by Kevin Varney, an adviser for the Office of Education Abroad and an experienced scuba diver.

“This course will allow us to dive in some of the most beautiful waters imaginable,” Varney said. “I’m thrilled to scuba dive in waters known for unparalleled marine biodiversity. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me!”

Since the class is scheduled for five days of morning dives and one night dive, Wiley said students who sign up for the course must become scuba-certified. They can accomplish this either through classes at the Campus Recreation Center or through Campus Rec’s partnership with a local scuba shop.

“The night dives are absolutely phenomenal,” Wiley said. “Everything looks different at night.”

In addition, students will witness the village elders perform rituals such as walking on hot embers and making an herbal beverage called kava from roots. Wiley said it is considered an honor to be invited to the kava rite.

“To go there and participate and have meaningful dialogue with the villagers there is going to be such an enriching experience,” said Wiley.

There will be afternoon excursions to Fijian schools, churches, national parks and waterfalls, as well as a 17.5-mile bike ride through the highlands.

The clear blue waters off the coast of Fiji await MTSU students who will examine the area’s marine biology on scuba diving excursions during their study-abroad trip May 22-31. (Photo courtesy of

“The Office of Education Abroad is extremely excited about the first MTSU faculty-led education abroad program to Fiji,” Varney said.

“With many remarkable excursions and activities, this is an amazing opportunity for MTSU students to learn and experience the Fijian culture.”

With such a full agenda, the students will have little time to sunbathe as they gather information for the blogs each of them will write during their stay in Fiji. They also will write papers geared to their specific majors.

Scholarships that can be applied to the trip will be allotted based on grade-point averages, faculty recommendations and application essays.

In addition to the financial aid deadline of Jan. 29, the students must turn in their applications to enroll in the course by March 7. Each student must submit a $500 deposit upon registering for the course and pay the balance by March 17.

The overall cost of the trip is $3,600, which includes food, lodging and transportation to and in Fiji. It does not include transportation to and from Los Angeles International Airport, tuition, education abroad fee, insurance and Divers Alert Network fee. All participants must have valid passports.

For more information, contact Wiley at 615-898-5701 or or Varney at 615-494-7638 or

— Gina K. Logue (