Learning Abroad in the Islands

Each year, SUU sends students across the globe to study abroad. In July, communications Professor Jonathan Holiman took five students to the islands of Fiji and Tonga. According to Madison Roberts, a junior studying communications, the trip was nothing shy of life changing.

“Little did I know that in the course of two weeks, I would gain insights to help me grow in every aspect of my life,” Roberts said. The group spent time zip lining through the jungle and hiking to waterfalls, they even went swimming with migrating blue whales. But for Roberts, her study abroad was much more than the awe inspiring views of the islands. While traveling, she loved creating connections with people that, “will last a lifetime.”

“Our group was also very lucky to experience the kindness of the culture in Tonga,” Roberts said. “From the moment our group got off the plane in Tonga, we were greeted in the most special way- We got giant hugs from strangers and they placed gorgeous leis around our necks.”


Roberts loved several of her adventures while abroad including Fijian people yelling “Bula” (which means hello), eating curry, drinking kava and comparing American, Fijian and Tongan culture. She describes the Fijian lifestyle as, “we will get to it when we get to it.”

Another part of Robert’s experience in Tonga is the chance she had to worship with the natives.“I could instantly tell the type of connection that these people had with each other and with God,” Roberts said. “ It was very inspiring to see how the people came together and were just grateful for what they have been given, even if it didn’t seem like much to me.”


The trip’s purpose was to study and participate in intercultural and nonverbal communication. “It is partly an immersion trip which means that part of the trip we stay with local people to have a better understanding of culture,” Holiman said.

Holiman hopes to revisit Tonga and Fiji next summer. Students are highly encouraged to participate.  “Study abroad should be a part of every student’s curriculum,” Holiman said. “I can teach intercultural in a classroom, but when a student gets to interact with culture it makes learning much more rich and rewarding.”

Students interested in studying abroad this summer can contact the Office of Learning Abroad at https://www.suu.edu/academics/studyabroad/.

Story By: Robin Nelson
Photos Provided By: Madison Roberts