Fall 2014
Once in a lifetime

Traveling abroad during college is a life-changing experience

Fifteen countries, three months, one trip around the world.

Semester at sea-3Junior Anthropology and Archeology major Elizabeth Straub of Allegan, Mich., experienced all of that as part of the Semester at Sea program. Elizabeth embarked on her trip around the globe during spring semester and visited exotic locales such as Mauritius, Japan, China, Vietnam, Burma, South Africa, and Singapore.

“We lived on a ship,” says Elizabeth, “and we took classes, just like every one else. However, we got to see what we were learning applied in real life.”

Usually on a study-abroad trip, students from different backgrounds come together in one foreign city to learn and explore. But with Semester at Sea, students live on a ship (usually a renovated cruise ship) that takes them from port to port. They take traditional college classes that relate to their major, in addition to field labs that take place in the cities that they visit. They also take courses that focus on the art, music, religion, politics, environment, health, or other aspect of the countries they visit.

Catching the travel bug

Elizabeth had never seriously considered traveling for school, but then a poster changed her mind.

“I was walking around UIndy and I saw a poster on the wall advertising Semester at Sea. I thought, ‘I need to learn what this is,’ so I found the website and decided that I absolutely had to do it.”

Semester at sea-5Living on the ship was an experience that was new and exciting for Elizabeth. Complete with a student union, wireless Internet, 9,000-volume library, and many of the amenities you’d find on a land-based campus, the ship functions as both a traveling university and residential home.

“It’s a really small community,” Elizabeth says. “We got to know each other and became really close because we were far from home and in a new place. It taught me the value of human interaction and connection.”

Life on the ship was just a small part of the journey, of course.

“One of my favorite places to visit was Morocco,” she said. “It was a really different experience for me. I had never been anywhere outside Europe, so seeing the way that people live in non-Western societies is really different. I got to go to a mosque and talk to a lot of people about their daily lives and what issues they’re dealing with.”

They also visited Africa, which was an eye-opening experience that altered her perspective on life.

“Ghana was really different,” she said. “I had never really seen poverty before. I feel like we think we see poverty on a decent scale [in the U.S.], but the scale of poverty there is unimaginable. It was an interesting lesson on what people can and do deal with and how people’s lives can be different from our own.”

Pack light, travel often

Semester at sea-2Many students return from their travels saying that their time overseas led them to learn more about themselves as individuals and about their place in a global society. Spending time in another country allows students to develop cross-cultural skills and insights that benefit them as they navigate an increasingly complex world.

Elizabeth recommends that all students try to take advantage of a study-abroad experience or program such as Semester at Sea. Students can start, she says, by visiting UIndy’s Office of Study Abroad.

“UIndy offers a lot of opportunities for people to travel,” she says. “I want people to understand that travel is important because it introduces you to new cultures and broadens your horizons.”

“It doesn’t have to be this big, expensive, impossible thing, but rather something that everyone should do, even on a small scale.”

—Robbie Hadley ’17