I did not expect my exchange in Fiji to be like it was. But when I think about it, I really didn’t have any expectations. I spent a lot of time deciding where to go for a year, and I have absolutely no regrets about choosing to spend that year in Suva. I had an amazing time at the University of the South Pacific.
I’m really glad that I went for two semesters. It gave me enough time to experience and embrace the culture, make friends with locals and internationals, see the country, get better at sailing, hiking and diving, AND learn in my classes.
Being able to share my experience with my dad, Kate, Katrina, Mary Ellen, Paul, Helenka and Lauren was great too. It’s nice to have what feels like two different lives fuse together.
The classes I took were really varied. I took 3 direct transfer courses, Human Resource Management, Marketing and Managerial Accounting. Human Resources was far worse than I would have gotten at SFU, but Accounting was a lot better. Marketing was about the same. I took two political science classes (Managing Change and Ethics & Professionalism) which were useful – I really got to learn about current issues in the public sector in the South Pacific and it made me really interested in foreign aid and international development. Working for the UN might be a goal in the near future! My Health Psychology lecturer, in terms of teaching ability, was the best professor I have ever had. And to finish up, I did both of my Science credits, Earth Science (not a fan) and Marine Biology (very interesting, learned a lot, but a difficult class for me).
There were great moments: Playing cards at the top of Mt Korobaba. Getting befriended at my first paddling practise. Getting yelled at by my hobie coach. Falling on every single hike. Diving for the first time. Meeting people in my lab classes. Diving in reefs that look better than pictures in the National Geographic. Drinking kava with my Marine Science class. Eating pizza every Tuesday night. Learning how to make palusami. Knowing everyone in the dance club on Thursday nights. Watching every possible movie. Watching rugby 7s with my entire hall. Eating curry for breakfast. Camping on the beach footsteps away from an expensive resort. Colo-I-Suva, every time. Menz from Bureta visiting in Suva. Night, shark and manta snorkelling in the Yasawas. Watching and screaming at any show, social or sports event. Celebrating Diwali for a month. Hanging out with the expats in Suva. Taking the bus by myself from Buca Bay to Savusavu. Standing on top of a sand dune. The incredible food and missing the incredible food back home. Giving up on umbrellas and raincoats.
I really look forward to seeing everyone I met again.
A thin sheet sewn in half so you don’t have to worry about dirty sheets or bed bugs.
To bring from home:
All clothes and footwear you need – It’s a bit hard to find the right sizes here
One sweater – It gets chilly at night sometimes
Spice pack– Oregano, basil, cayenne… just a few spices when you want to cook something that tastes like home
Keep your eye out for Air Pacific Sales. All flights were 50% off for a couple days in August!
All MHs and a lot of corner stores have cheap ice cream bars that are between 50 and 95 cents. So delicious.
Try the Maggi Curry instant noodles. They are the most spicy instant noodles I have ever had.
The juice outside of the market in the big containers is fresh and delicious! A cup ranges between 30 and 70 cents.
Try the Indian dried snacks that come in small clear packages. I like all the chevda’s. These are very sodiYUM and full of lovely things like MSG (mmm).
If you get sick, or need xrays, go to the Suva Private Hospital.
Advice – Yasawa’s:
Water is significantly cheaper on the flyer, stock up because you can’t drink the water at most resorts.
If you end up at a resort with hot water, cherish it.
Bring snacks, most resorts are on 3 meals/day and you’ll get hungry.
Stay places that are locally owned. Spend your money where it matters. You’ll have a better time and avoid the crowd.
Bring your own snorkel gear, you’ll save about $10/day/person.
Pick a way to travel, either South to North or North to South.
If you’re unsure about a place, just book one night and then decide whether you want to stay extra days or not.
The Bula Pass allows you unlimited travel
You can either book ahead through Awesome Adventures, just get the Bula pass and see how things go or go directly to the resorts. Advantages of booking ahead through AA: nothing to worry about, no boat transfer rates, easy. Just Bula Pass advantages: Flexible to go where you want to go depending on weather/who you meet/if a place rocks. Booking direct advantages: Probably the cheapest, the only way to camp, more chances the resorts get more money directly.
Rivers Fiji River Rafting: Picturesque and super fun. Try to go when the water is high. Be prepared for a big hike up a hill after the trip. One of my favourite things I have done so far.
Suva: Ride a bus, go to the market, go to the clubs, eat a chicken pie from the Hot Bread Kitchen, see a movie at the cinema and eat a lot of candy, go to the Hibiscus Festival (August), eat rotis, try a Hobie if you can.
Stay in a village (my experience): If you can work it out. You’ll have fun and probably drink lots of grog.
Levuka: If you are already on Ovalau, you could stop by, but I think I would rather spend more time in Suva.
Coral Coast: Nice beaches and average snorkeling. Weather is variable.
Mango Bay Resort: Has snorkeling right off the beach. You can surf here and they have a lot of activities but nothing amazing. The staff is really friendly and there a lot of young folk around on the nights that FeeJee Experience stays there. Definitely more backpacker/flashpacker geared. I stayed in the 8-person dorm.
The Beachouse: Has snorkeling, but a little farther out (when I went we took a kayak out). They have more activities going on. A young folk place as well. They have a kitchen. I usually recommend Beachouse over Mango Bay to fellow backpackers. I stayed in the 6-person dorm and it was clean.
Nadi Airport: Murky water. Hot weather.
Smugglers Beach Resort: Not much to do. A lot of people stay here before/after flying. I stayed in the 34-person dorm (surprisingly well set up and not too noisy).
Nanuna-I-Ra: A beautiful, small island with lots of snorkeling! More on the dry side of Fiji, but definitely on the border.
Safari Lodge: Small, home-y and Aussie. I really liked it here, they treated you really well. The food is all home-cooked and tasty. Everyone eats their meals together. They also have a kitchen, but no fridge. Make sure you pay the $45 to snorkel in the outer reef. If you have time/feel up to, hike over the island to the North side and snorkel there. You will be by yourself and it’s amaaaaazing. They have windsurfing and kiteboarding here, definitely a place where people are looking for adventure. I stayed in their 4-person dorm (right beside the kitchen so you better be an early riser). I had friends that stayed at another place and they didn’t like it as much.
Recommended Activites (by other people)
Shark Dive by AquaTrek in Pacific Harbour
Snorkel on Mana Island
See the manta rays (one group I ran into recommended Barefoot Lodge over Manta Ray Island)
See the dolphins at Moon Reef
Stay on Leleuvia Island, you’ll probably be the only people there
Snorkel and stay on Beqa Island
Go to Taveuni and go on the natural rock slide
Coral Sun – Most expensive. If you pre-book, you should have a guaranteed seat. Stops at all the resorts along the way.
Sunbeam – Maybe a few dollars more expensive than Pacific, but stops way less.
Pacific – The cheapest. It’s possible that it will break down, but it’s the cheapest. You’ll get there eventually. It stops a lot and for long periods of time.
Only 13 more days until I leave for Fiji! Seems so soon! The first week looks pretty good.
I arrive on Saturday the 14th really early in the morning and am planning to spend two nights at a backpackers resort -ahem- hostel. Since almost every city or town is coastal, I think I have to call it a resort. I’ve had recommendations for three places, two along the Coral Coast near Koralevu (south side of the main island in between the airport (Nadi) and where I’m living (Suva)), but also looking into Natadola (a little more west). I am bringing my full-on snorkelling gear, so I am thinking I should choose a place where I could snorkel the first day I am there!
I will arrive in Suva on the Monday and then we have international student orientation Wednesday to Friday. And then (!!) from Friday – Sunday, all the international students go with USP on a two night trip to Levuka.
Then school starts on the Monday! It’s been a long time since I have taken classes. I have signed up for Human Resource Management, Marketing, Accounting II and Physical Geology. That will change if there are any conflicts.
I will be meeting up with the other two SFU students, Sarah and Cindy, at USP!
Yay, my conditional offer turned into an official offer last week! I have been busy with medical preparations for the past few weeks – scoping out health insurance, getting vaccinations and chest x-rays. Next step is firming up those details and buying flights! It looks like I will be flying out on or very close to July 14th. This is a bit earlier than I anticipated, but that should be okay!
We’ve had a good solid week and a half of warm weather and sun in Vancouver and it’s been glorious. (The bike ride from my new house to work is awesome!!) Rob is leaving for Bella Bella, BC at the beginning of June for a summer job [:(] to study whale song [uh, 🙂 x a billion] so we have been squeezing in lots of fun adventures. A visit up (more) North may be in store for later in the summer.
At last, I have re-started blogging! It will stay with me on my adventures in the next few years as I study abroad and go through my degree at Simon Fraser. I’m hoping it will be a place where I can share my future stories and thoughts with a few tossed in from the past year.
I will be leaving this July to study abroad at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji for a year. I can’t deny that I am excited for the wild ride of an exchange! Having so many family members and friends study abroad, it feels neat knowing that my time has come to go on my own trip. I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a while… since I was 15 and got my first job! (Okay, that was only four years ago…)