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Yap is the unusual setting for a unique type of study abroad

Dive right inYap is the unusual setting for a unique type of study abroad

Dr. Reed Perkins fell in love with Micronesia when he did graduate field work there.

Now he enjoys leading teams of his environmental science students at Queens to the small island of Yap which covers about 36 square miles off the Eastern edge of the Philippines.

It's not your everyday locale for a study abroad trip, he says with a grin. The tropical island is one of the prime scuba diving centers of the world.

 "And we're not just touring to see the sites or do research, rather we're doing ground level work to help locals meet locally determined needs," he says. "This is completely service driven."

Perkins leads about a dozen students who spend about 3-4 weeks living with host families in Yap. There they help locals with GIS computer mapping that helps the nation track and study its natural resources and identify threats to the ecological balance such as invasive plant species.

"We're traveling deeply, not broadly," he says. "I've been going back most years for decades and by now I know Yap better than I know Charlotte. While we're there we live a local lifestyle, shopping in the local markets. We're not living out of hotels. People know us on a first name basis."

Though Yap is a modern nation, traditional culture is revered.  On the island, which is home to just 7,500 residents, there are only a few restaurants and small hotels. Much of its infrastructure was built during World War II - runways, roads, and schools. Many residents have computers, but their computer skills have been limited, Perkins says.

"Yappis drive cars and eat frozen pizza, but they do it on their own terms," he says. "We're still learning to bridge our cultures so we can work with them in the ways that feel right for them." 


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