Three UT Students Spend Semester at Sea

Published: Jun 7, 2012
Samantha Rosenbaum ’13 taught children rescued from slavery at City of Hope Refuge in Ghana.
Samantha Rosenbaum ’13 taught children rescued from slavery at City of Hope Refuge in Ghana.
Hannah Bouchillon ’13 made it to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.
Hannah Bouchillon ’13 made it to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.
Kellie Hale ’14 said the Taj Mahal in India is breathtaking.
Kellie Hale ’14 said the Taj Mahal in India is breathtaking.
Samantha Rosenbaum ’13, Hannah Bouchillon ’13 and Kellie Hale ’14 spent the spring semester in a classroom that lolled back and forth. Their books slid across the tables on occasion and their classmates suffered from seasickness.

The three were studying abroad on the most unique of campuses — the 590-foot MV Explorer ship that circumnavigates the globe in 105 days with the Semester at Sea program.

While at sea, the more than 700 undergraduate students on board studied and wrote research papers about their next ports of call, 11 in total, which included Brazil, Ghana, Singapore and Mauritius. They swam with penguins in South Africa, climbed the Great Wall of China, took a Shinkansen high-speed train around Japan and marveled at the grandeur of the Taj Mahal.

Bouchillon said the constant flux of time changes and movement of the travelling campus made the semester a whirlwind.

“You didn't have much time to miss Vietnam, because next thing we knew, we were in China,” said Bouchillon. “Semester at Sea gives you a crash course to the world.”

Rosenbaum was impacted by the perspective of witnessing vastly different cultures sequentially.

“Through Semester at Sea I was able to witness the direct effects of communism on Vietnam while the lasting effects of apartheid on South Africa were still fresh in my mind,” said Rosenbaum.

While immersed in their studies, being aboard the ship meant doing something revolutionary — unplugging. On the ship, the students had no cell phone connection and available, but expensive, internet service.

“We were forced to listen to each other when we talked and form real relationships,” said Rosenbaum. “I think there was real value in being disconnected from technology for such a time. It made the experience genuine. The friendships I was able to forge in just a few months are some of the strongest connections with people I have made in my entire life.”

Hale, an international business and management major, said she looks differently at the world now.

“It is hard not to after visiting so many places and learning so much about yourself and the world in such a short span of time,” she said. “The world seems so much smaller now that I’ve been all the way around it.”

The students lived within 500 feet of the entire academic community. They might be in class with a professor during the day and eating with his entire family during dinner. The students earned transferable credits from the University of Virginia for the semester. Bouchillon said she appreciated the truly experiential aspect of learning on the ship.

“I took global music and while crossing the Atlantic we learned about Ghanaian drumming and how it reflected the traditional and modern cultures of Ghana,” said Bouchillon, a marine biology major. “Then when we got to Ghana, we participated in a traditional drumming and dance workshop presented by Ghanaian drummers.”

Rosenbaum said the four months were the most intense experience in her life. It stretched her outside of her comfort zones and gave her new perspective.

“Although it was extremely uncomfortable and strenuous at times, I found that there is no better way to learn then to be pushed into these different and challenging situations,” said Rosenbaum. “I spent time with people living in extreme poverty, children that can't afford to go to school and parents that can't afford to feed their children. I was also able to visit countries with large amounts of government corruption or governments that do not allow their people even the most basic freedoms such as speech.”

“Semester at Sea allowed me to surround myself with people who are always setting huge goals and doing more,” said Rosenbaum. “The experience made me realize my potential and challenged me to push myself farther, dream bigger and to try new things.”

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