Experience at sea offers lifelong memories

Instead of having classes in a large lecture hall or classroom in buildings like Doherty Hall, those that are involved in Semester at Sea have the advantage of studying aboard a huge cruise ship as part of a unique educational experience. Currently, there is one CMU student, Colin Hobday, a junior in ECE, who is enrolled in the program. Hobday was unable to comment due to communication difficulties.

Semester at Sea gives students around the world the opportunity to learn about different cultures and to travel. According to faculty member Paul Watson, roughly half the students' time is spent at sea taking classes and half their time is spent on land, touring. Watson claimed that the program is beneficial to people of any major, especially those that are studying the social sciences, business, law, and pre-med. Unfortunately for the majority of technical students on the CMU campus, Watson explained, Semester at Sea may be difficult to incorporate into their majors. How-ever, he feels that the courses and the experience will help students in the future because the marketplace is global; meeting new people and learning about their culture will help students of any major to practice being in a situation where they're working with people from other countries.

For former participant Lauren Ingram, a junior in modern languages and English, the Semester at Sea is something she would love to do again.

"If there's one thing I regret, it's not getting as involved in activities as I wanted," she said. In particular, she regrets not being part of a publications staff, such as the yearbook. According to Ingram, she did face some difficulties while on the trip. Due to language barriers, she once got lost in China and had a hard time finding directions and communicating with others. Fortunately, the police helped her rejoin her group. After her experiences in the Semester at Sea program, Ingram's perspectives changed immensely, she claims. She had a different understanding of politics, and even a different perspective on American society.

"When you live in America, you can't help but to see the American society's point of view," Ingram said. "You watch American media, buy American products, and even eat American food." After her visits to places like India and Vietnam, she claims to have attained a broader understanding of things. For example, she mentioned that one of the cities she visited was Hiroshima, Japan. After her stay there, her perspective on nuclear weapons turned around. Instead of resisting them, she now supports the production of nuclear weapons.

A non-CMU student feels that the trip has changed her as well.

"We have learned and experienced, seen and heard, felt, changed, and grown," said Monica Mitchell. According to Mitchell, the change has already taken place. "We will never go back to the people we once were." Although the voyage is physically over for her, she felt that the experiences and memories will always be a part of her.

The toughest part for Ingram was coming back. Once she returned from her trip, most people asked her how the trip was. She said that her experiences cannot be described in words and that others would never understand what she learned. Ingram also said that every part of the trip was outside the norm. The classes are easier than anything at CMU, she said, but remained challenging.

Watson added that Semester at Sea is different from studying abroad because students have the opportunity to visit multiple countries instead of one.

The spring semester of 2004 departed Nassau in the Bahamas on January 16, with 635 undergraduate students representing 234 colleges and universities.