By Adriana Perrusquia, Foster Undergraduate who participated in the OMAD Tahiti program. Adriana was a GBC Study Abroad Scholarship recipient.
I hitchhiked for the first time during my study abroad in Tahiti, which is located South of equator in French Polynesia. This is something I would never do in the U.S.
The locals in Tahiti are one the kindest people I have ever met. I’ve never met a people more loving and welcoming than those on the island. I was trusting of strangers while I was during my stay there. Whenever we were walking in the street, complete strangers would greet us with a smile on their faces.
The day that I hitchhiked our class was tasked with a scavenger hunt. We were given a list of location names to find in Papeete, which is the largest city on the island. We had been shown how to take the local buses the day before. The day of the scavenger hunt we were put into groups, given bus money—5 French Pacific Francs—and told to get off in the city. We weren’t accompanied by instructors or any of the local folk, which made asking the locals in Papeete interesting because most of us knew little to no French. I remember saying bonjour to a friendly local while holding out a location name to indicate where I wanted to go. It was a wonderful experience because not once did the locals make fun of us for not being able to speak the language, which I know happens more often than it should in the United States. People who don’t speak English fluently are often looked down on in the states and it was refreshing to go to a country where the people do not have such a negative mindset about foreigners.
We went to various of locations to take a group selfie, which was required of the assignment. When it was time for us to travel back to the host family home, we asked a driver parked in a nearby lot for directions to the nearest bus stop. To our surprise, once we told him where we needed to go, he asked us if we wanted a ride there. We were happy for the offer because we were exhausted from walking in the heat for hours. We all piled in the back of his car and the ride took about 15 minutes. Everyone in the car discussed after the that we would have never done something like this, but due to the kindness exhibited to us, we were open to the idea.
One of my fondest & best memories, occurred in French Polynesia. My experiences range from hiking to waterfalls, visiting a nearby island, and swimming with sharks and stingrays. Studying abroad in Tahiti has definitely changed my life.