Samoa, OUM's Home

Samoa is a peaceful country of warm and friendly people. They gained their independence from New Zealand in 1962, celebrated every year on June 1. While the diving is great, the nightlife and entertainment are quite different from those available in Australia, New Zealand, or other urban areas. Since the medical school is operated in close cooperation with the Samoan government, its future is secure.

The following websites provide helpful information to students and prospective students:
Government of Samoa’s official web site: www.govt.ws
Samoa tourism site: www.visitsamoa.ws
US Department of State: www.state.gov/p/eap/ci/ws

LOCATION

Located in the South Pacific, just south of the equator and to the east of the International Dateline, Samoa is hot and humid. The country’s population is approximately 181,000. There are two main islands: Upolu and Savaii. Two-thirds of the population lives on the largest island, Upolu, which is also where the capital, Apia, and the school are located. A city of nearly 40,000, Apia is the government base, the business commercial centre and the main national port. It has numerous shops and restaurants, plus a hand full of nightclubs and cultural amenities. OUM is in the village of Motootua, a suburb of Apia.

CLIMATE AND DRESS

The climate is tropical, with an average temperature in Apia of 28.5C. Relative humidity is high, and the average yearly rainfall is 290 cm and occurs during the wet season from November to April. Umbrellas are advisable, as short, sharp rainstorms are frequent throughout the year.

Dress is light and casual. Local Samoan custom dictates that women wear clothing that extends to or below the knees. Students are expected to wear a name badge while doing patient rounds. Short shorts, short skirts, tank tops or other very casual dress are neither appropriate nor acceptable anywhere on the campus. Students coming to Samoa for clinical rotations are advised to bring their own scrubs as this is the recommended dress code for medical students.

LOCAL CUSTOMS

All students are given an orientation to local customs, including “dos and don’ts.” In general, Samoan culture is very traditional with a strong Christian element. It is important for visitors to respect local customs, especially when travelling to villages and rural areas. Many villages have an evening prayer time that lasts for about 20 minutes. There are about ten church denominations in Apia, all within a 20-minute walking distance of campus. Service times are listed outside each church and a listing will be on campus, as well.

FREE TIME AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

Samoa is a paradise for outdoor lovers. Students have opportunities during their spare time for swimming, hiking, snorkelling, diving, fishing, and more. Impromptu sporting activities typically take place daily around the dinner hour - volleyball at the court between OUM and the TTM nurses' residence; soccer and touch football at Maroon Boys Corner restaurant, about 100 meters from campus. There is also a gym located near campus with reasonable per visit and monthly fees, as well as a squash court is also located near campus. Rugby (Super 14) is well supported and followed in Samoa.

There are several internet cafes in town and a movie theatre. Movies are released in Samoa after the US premier dates but before Australia - and the theatre is air-conditioned. Television news generally includes Australian ABC news and NZ One News at 8 pm daily, if they aren't interrupted by Rugby Union telecasts.

CURRENCY AND BANKING

The official currency is the Samoan Tala (SAT). Foreign currency services are available at the airport and several banks. Normal banking hours are Monday-Friday 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. New students are advised to arrive with adequate spending money either in the form of cash that can be exchanged, or secured with an ATM card that is authorized to withdraw cash from foreign terminals. Foreign accounts are available, mostly in US, Australian, or New Zealand dollars. The ANZ and Westpac banks have branches at the airport in Apia and on Savaii. ATMs are found in and around Apia and on Savaii.

ELECTRICITY

Electric current in Samoa is 240 volts, 60 cycles AC (the same as Australia.) While the electricity supply at some hotels is 110 volts, AC transformers and adapters are generally needed. Students are strongly advised to bring adaptors and have surge protectors for all electronic equipment.

HEALTH INSURANCE

OUM does not provide health insurance but requires students travelling to Samoa to obtain an appropriate international health insurance policy in their country of residence. Upon acceptance, students travelling to the campus must provide proof of health insurance coverage with international benefits. It is also advisable to obtain evacuation insurance in case of a medical emergency. Evacuees typically are taken to New Zealand. Healthcare for minor problems is, of course, available to all students at Samoa’s National Health Complex.

VACCINATION, IMMUNIZATION AND PRE-EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITIONS

Before travelling to Samoa, students should discuss their vaccination and immunization status with their personal physician. Since medical students are regarded as healthcare workers, applicants must furnish a health certificate that documents his/her current immunization status.

The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following immunizations: mumps, rubella, pertussis, varicella, and hepatitis B, as well as a booster every 10 years for diphtheria and tetanus. Medical students should have an annual influenza immunization, along with an annual TB test. Students travelling to Samoa should include additional immunizations for hepatitis A and typhoid. Students also will have to document compliance with CDC standards prior to beginning clinical rotations. Additional information regarding travel immunizations can be found at www.cdc.gov/travel/studyabroad.htm.

In addition, students should discuss with their doctor any pre-existing conditions that may place them at risk or preclude them from studying medicine. Students will be asked to sign a “hold harmless” statement indemnifying OUM in the unlikely event the student contracts a communicable disease during attendance at the University.

AUTOMOBILE TRANSPORTATION

Driver’s licenses from most countries are accepted, although local endorsement of licenses is required. All traffic drives on the left, as in Australia and parts of Europe. Car rentals or purchases are widely available in Samoa, and taxis are both readily available and inexpensive. Information on an international driver's license is at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/tips_1232.html#driver_license.

TRAVEL TO SAMOA

Flights into Samoa arrive from Sydney, Brisbane, Honolulu, Auckland, Fiji, Tonga, and American Samoa. Polynesian Airlines, Pacific Blue, Air Pacific and Air New Zealand are the recommended carriers. Further information may be obtained from travel agencies. OUM students travelling to Samoa are required to notify OUM of their arrival details at least one month prior to arrival.

STUDENT VISAS

Current immigration legislation requires that all international students hold a valid passport and have a student permit before entering Samoa. There is a SAT$300 (approximately AU$147) fee for processing a student visa. Upon payment of tuition for courses or clinical rotations to be taken in Samoa, students will be sent information on obtaining a visa. Permits are issued for a six-month period. Admission to OUM does not guarantee that a student permit will be issued, but there is generally no problem. Detailed information about obtaining a permit to study in Samoa can be found on the Government of Samoa Immigration website www.samoaimmigration.gov.ws.

 
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