Fiji is much more than white beaches, palm trees and spectacular underwater scenery. Its capital city Suva, the largest city in the South Pacific, is home to nearly half its population, with a concentrated mix of ethnicities and cultures from all the surrounding islands. Colonial buildings line its streets, along with modern shopping plazas and breezy esplanades. Enjoy the lifestyle on this fascinating chain of volcanic islands and study alongside a growing number of students from the Pacific region.



Languages Spoken:

English, Fijian

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION

The educational structure in Fiji is divided into primary, secondary and higher education. The primary language of instruction is English although a number of schools also offer Fijian, Hindi and Chinese language and culture classes as part of their primary school curriculum.

Entry into the secondary school system, which is a total of five years, is determined by internal assessments. Students follow a three-year course that leads to the Fiji School Leaving Certificate and the opportunity to attend senior secondary school or university. At the end of this level, they may take the Form VII examination, which covers four or five subjects. Successful completion of this process gains students access to higher education.

ACADEMIC CALENDAR

The academic year is based on the Southern Hemisphere calendar and runs from January to December. Semester one normally begins in February and ends with an examination period in June. Semester two normally begins in July and ends with an examination period in November.

TEACHING AND LEARNING STYLE

Classes are based on the British system of lectures and tutorials. Tutorials allow for question and answer sessions as well as presentations. Nearly all research is done in the library, as there are limited reference materials that can be checked out.

ASSESSMENT AND GRADES

Course grades are assessed continually on the basis of assignments, tests, discussions and a final examination. The grade scale is as follows: A+, A (Pass with distinction); B+, B (Pass with credit); C+, C (Pass); R, Aeg (Pass); I (Incomplete Results, or results pending); IP (In Progress); D (Work below standard required for a pass); E (Very weak performance or failure to complete to the satisfaction of the examiner).

Visa and Residency

STUDY/RESEARCH PERMIT

A study/research permit is required in order to study in Fiji. Please do NOT apply for your permit through the Fijian consulate. ISEP urges students to apply for their permit through USP (University of the South Pacific) International. Upon confirmation of your placement, USP will send you the required paperwork and instructions to guide you through the permit process. Those documents, along with your full permit fee payment, need to be submitted to USP International prior to your departure from the US. The deadlines for submitting documents to USP are extremely strict. You MUST meet all deadlines in order to successfully complete the process in time. Be sure to contact your host Coordinator through the contact information in your Institutional Information Sheet (IIS) if you don't hear from them once you are confirmed.

Common study permit application requirements

  • Completed Application form
  • Return air tickets/itineraries (with departure date indicated)
  • Police report: Provided by your local police department
  • Medical report: Provided by a general practicioner or doctor.
  • Bank Statement to confirm available funds with supporting cover letter:
    • Students submitting their own bank statements must submit a cover letter confirming that funds are available to cover all expenses aside from tuition fees, for the duration of studies.
    • Students submitting bank statements from parents or guardians must submit a cover letter from parent or guardian confirming their financial support to the applicant, to cover all  expenses aside from tuition fees for the duration of studies.
    • Official sponsor letters outlining sponsorship conditions and benefits should also be included
  • Four regular passport photos (white background)
  • Copy of passport Biodate page
  • USP offer letter
  • A notarized copy of your birth certificate
  • The permit application fee amount will be confirmed in paperwork provided by USP. It is advisable that you purchase a roundtrip ticket only when your place at USP is confirmed. As soon as you arrive at the University, you should hand in your passport to USP International so that it can be taken for stamping.
    Contact international@usp.ac.fj or 679 3232 743 for more information

For more information about your visa from USP, go to USP's Visa information page.

Culture

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

Time

Have you ever heard of 'Fiji time'? It is an expression that describes the pace of life in Fiji. While you can expect important events such as lectures and tutorials to begin on time, a more casual attitude is generally applied to other daily social activities. Do not expect the same level of service in most hotels and restaurants that you are accustomed to back home. The slowness is not slothful inattention; it's just the way things are done. Your drink and food will come in due course. Try relaxing and embrace the laid back Fijian lifestyle! On a more scientific note, time starts each day in the Fiji Islands, which is 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. In other words, Fiji is the first country to welcome the dawn of each new day.

Multiculturalism

Fiji is a multi-cultural country with its citizens including Fijians and people of Indian, Chinese, Pacific Islander and European ethnicity. This has helped Fiji become a cultural melting pot of sorts in the South Pacific.  Fijian indigenous society is very communal, with great importance attached to the family unit, the village and the vanua (land).  A hierarchy of chiefs presides over villages, clans and tribes. Chiefly positions are hereditary; a deceased chief is invariably followed by a kinsman or kinswoman, though not necessarily his own son or daughter. This social structure and system of governance reflects Fiji's strong Polynesian influence, as Fiji's culture is strongly influenced by a combination of Melanesian and Polynesian cultures. These social structures developed within Fijian society long before the arrival of the Europeans, and so are well-rooted in Fijian society today.

Customs

If you are invited into a village or Fijian homestead, wear modest clothing and take off your hat (wearing one is an insult to the chief in a village). It is also insulting to touch someone's head. It’s recommended that women wear a skirt or a sarong (sulu) over their pair of shorts; men should wear a sarong as a show of respect. This isn’t so much a requirement in the urban centres or among some less traditionally-minded Fijian families. If in doubt, always feel free to ask someone about the appropriate attire and protocol.

If you are invited to drink kava, don’t ask, just do it!  Kava or ‘yaqona’ [yah-go-nah] is considered the national drink. In the past where it was used only in traditional ceremonies, it is now used as a social drink in almost every occasion. However, the significance of its meaning to the Fijians isn’t lost in the formal kava presentations. As an international student, you can expect to participate in traditional kava ceremonies or be invited to social gatherings where kava is the beverage of the day. For some kava is said to have a relaxing effect after a stressful day. When meeting Fijians, be prepared to answer personal questions about your life, religion, relationships and more.

 LANGUAGE

English is the official language of instruction in Fiji. Fijian and Hindustani are also widely spoken. You are highly encouraged to learn some of the basic vernacular. The most important word to know is "Bula", which is a a way to say hello, good day, goodbye, how are you, and much more.

English                                     Fijian                            Hindi
Hello                                         Bula                             Kaise
Good morning/Welcome      Yadra                         Namaste
Thank you                                 Vinaka                         Dhanyavad
Please                                       Kerekere                      -

See The Fiji Guide's language page to learn more of the language.

LIFESTYLE

Sport

Rugby is the national sport, but you can enjoy a variety of other sporting activities like tennis, squash, field hockey, paddling, soccer, volleyball and more. Sporting clubs also welcome new members and membership into the various USP sporting clubs is opened to all students.

Cuisine

There aren’t many restaurants that provide an international menu but rather a specialty; however, most hotels do because of their clientele. You can get a decent meal for under $10FJD at many diners in Suva. There are many fast-food outlets that will appeal to people on the go. International franchises like McDonalds and KFC provide a culinary link between international students and home. MHCC (major downtown mall in the Central Business District of Suva) is home to a variety of food outlets: Fijian, Indian, Asian, Japanese, American and Italian, that provides its patrons with dining options. Many upscale restaurants are located in the CBD providing a unique dining experience for all.

Entertainment

The nightlife in and around the major city centre of Suva is pretty active as there are quite a number of nightspots which stay open until the early hours of the morning. There is also a cinema complex in Suva which houses six cinemas and another in Lautoka which has four cinemas belonging to the same consortium. Around July or August to coincide with the school holidays, carnivals and beauty pageants are held in various centres around the country. The renowned Hibiscus Festival is held in Suva and this is one of the best times to experience great cuisine and cultural entertainment in addition to the carnival atmosphere, rides and general exhibition of what Fiji has to offer.

Daily Life

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

Time

Have you ever heard of 'Fiji time'? It is an expression that describes the pace of life in Fiji. While you can expect important events such as lectures and tutorials to begin on time, a more casual attitude is generally applied to other daily social activities. Do not expect the same level of service in most hotels and restaurants that you are accustomed to back home. The slowness is not slothful inattention; it's just the way things are done. Your drink and food will come in due course. Try relaxing and embrace the laid back Fijian lifestyle! On a more scientific note, time starts each day in the Fiji Islands, which is 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. In other words, Fiji is the first country to welcome the dawn of each new day.

Multiculturalism

Fiji is a multi-cultural country with its citizens including Fijians and people of Indian, Chinese, Pacific Islander and European ethnicity. This has helped Fiji become a cultural melting pot of sorts in the South Pacific.  Fijian indigenous society is very communal, with great importance attached to the family unit, the village and the vanua (land).  A hierarchy of chiefs presides over villages, clans and tribes. Chiefly positions are hereditary; a deceased chief is invariably followed by a kinsman or kinswoman, though not necessarily his own son or daughter. This social structure and system of governance reflects Fiji's strong Polynesian influence, as Fiji's culture is strongly influenced by a combination of Melanesian and Polynesian cultures. These social structures developed within Fijian society long before the arrival of the Europeans, and so are well-rooted in Fijian society today.

Customs

If you are invited into a village or Fijian homestead, wear modest clothing and take off your hat (wearing one is an insult to the chief in a village). It is also insulting to touch someone's head. It’s recommended that women wear a skirt or a sarong (sulu) over their pair of shorts; men should wear a sarong as a show of respect. This isn’t so much a requirement in the urban centres or among some less traditionally-minded Fijian families. If in doubt, always feel free to ask someone about the appropriate attire and protocol.

If you are invited to drink kava, don’t ask, just do it!  Kava or ‘yaqona’ [yah-go-nah] is considered the national drink. In the past where it was used only in traditional ceremonies, it is now used as a social drink in almost every occasion. However, the significance of its meaning to the Fijians isn’t lost in the formal kava presentations. As an international student, you can expect to participate in traditional kava ceremonies or be invited to social gatherings where kava is the beverage of the day. For some kava is said to have a relaxing effect after a stressful day. When meeting Fijians, be prepared to answer personal questions about your life, religion, relationships and more.

 LANGUAGE

English is the official language of instruction in Fiji. Fijian and Hindustani are also widely spoken. You are highly encouraged to learn some of the basic vernacular. The most important word to know is "Bula", which is a a way to say hello, good day, goodbye, how are you, and much more.

English                                     Fijian                            Hindi
Hello                                         Bula                             Kaise
Good morning/Welcome      Yadra                         Namaste
Thank you                                 Vinaka                         Dhanyavad
Please                                       Kerekere                      -

See The Fiji Guide's language page to learn more of the language.

LIFESTYLE

Sport

Rugby is the national sport, but you can enjoy a variety of other sporting activities like tennis, squash, field hockey, paddling, soccer, volleyball and more. Sporting clubs also welcome new members and membership into the various USP sporting clubs is opened to all students.

Cuisine

There aren’t many restaurants that provide an international menu but rather a specialty; however, most hotels do because of their clientele. You can get a decent meal for under $10FJD at many diners in Suva. There are many fast-food outlets that will appeal to people on the go. International franchises like McDonalds and KFC provide a culinary link between international students and home. MHCC (major downtown mall in the Central Business District of Suva) is home to a variety of food outlets: Fijian, Indian, Asian, Japanese, American and Italian, that provides its patrons with dining options. Many upscale restaurants are located in the CBD providing a unique dining experience for all.

Entertainment

The nightlife in and around the major city centre of Suva is pretty active as there are quite a number of nightspots which stay open until the early hours of the morning. There is also a cinema complex in Suva which houses six cinemas and another in Lautoka which has four cinemas belonging to the same consortium. Around July or August to coincide with the school holidays, carnivals and beauty pageants are held in various centres around the country. The renowned Hibiscus Festival is held in Suva and this is one of the best times to experience great cuisine and cultural entertainment in addition to the carnival atmosphere, rides and general exhibition of what Fiji has to offer.

Health and Safety

https://www.isepstudyabroad.org/guides-and-tips/health-safety

Currency

CURRENCY

The Fiji currency consists of FJ$100, $50, $20, $10, $5 $2 notes and $1, $0.50, $0.20, $0.10 and $0.05 coins. Fijian notes and coins display a picture of Queen Elizabeth of England on one side. See Xe.com for the current exchange rate.

BANKS, ATMs, AND CREDIT CARDS

The general banking hours in Fiji are from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays with some of the major banks opening on Saturdays as well. Banks and ATM are easily accessible around the main city centres and towns and most credit cards are accepted in Fiji. Upon arrival, may want to consider opening a local account for your duration of stay in Fiji. Many local banks such as ANZ, Westpac and BSP offer student account options. Both ANZ and Westpac branches and ATM are conveniently located at USP’s main Laucala Campus as well. ATMs are less common in more rural areas of the country.

TIPPING

Tipping is discouraged throughout Fiji unless truly exceptional service has been rendered.

DISCOUNTS

Look into purchasing an International Student ID Card (ISIC) card from STA travel. It costs just $25 and can often get you discounts on travel, movie tickets and more. You should also research whether a monthly public transportation pass is available for purchase, and whether this is more cost advantageous than individual fares, which can add up quickly.

Sources of Information

Check out these great websites below to help prepare for your Fijian experience!

Fiji Government Online

Tourism Fiji Official Website

US Embassy in Fiji

Fiji Live Online

Fiji Village Online

Fiji Television Online

Country Watch

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