Tessa Fryer visited the Australian coast during an exchange semester in 2015.


Grad immersed herself in global indigenous cultures

June 06, 2016

By Tyler Gallop

From a field school in Fiji and Tonga to an exchange semester in Australia, SFU graduand Tessa Fryer has travelled the world to experience cultures typically only read about.

Her love of different cultures developed in elementary school after she researched the interactions between European explorers and indigenous groups for an essay on the Canadian fur trade.

“I came to learn that I would have to look outside school curriculums to really learn about these cultures,” she says.

Fryer combined this interest and a passion for history, heritage and the outdoors to pursue a joint major in archaeology and First Nations studies, and a certificate in cultural resource management (CRM).

Graduating with a cumulative grade-point average of 4.19 out of a possible 4.33, Fryer spent almost as much time outside SFU classrooms as in them, participating in two field schools and spending a semester studying abroad.

During the field school in Fiji and Tonga, she spent most of her time recovering Lapita ceramics from the oldest known archaeological site in Polynesia. After falling in love with the area’s indigenous people and culture, she extended her trip, travelling to the island nation of Vanuatu, where she visited Efate and Tanna Islands.

“My stay on Tanna Island was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I lived with a very traditional community and made school supplies, jewelry, sports equipment and toys for donation. I stayed in a tree house and explored the island, which had amazing black sand beaches, caves and the Mount Yasur volcano.”

During an exchange semester in Melbourne, Australia, Fryer again took advantage of her time overseas and independently visited indigenous cultural sites throughout Australia and Tasmania.

She says these real-world experiences were a perfect complement to her studies, teaching her the importance of remaining consciously aware of her duties as a global citizen.

“My travels and real-life experience allowed me to understand the potential impacts that my studies and future work may have on the lives and heritage of people,” she says.

“The people I’ve met and lessons I’ve learned will stay with me for life.”