Classrooms come in all sizes and shapes from small, intimate spaces to large lecture halls, but, perhaps, none is as unique as the one found by College of Saint Elizabeth senior Diana Mora, who spent the spring 2011 semester aboard a cruise ship.
Yes, a cruise ship.
The communication major participated in a unique study aboard program called Semester at Sea that took her to 13 countries while she also took a full course load of classes. Beginning her journey in the Bahamas, the Elizabeth, N.J., native circumnavigated the globe, visiting Dominica, Brazil, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Singapore, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Hawaii, before docking in San Diego, Calif.
Mora found the program when searching the study abroad bulletin board in Santa Maria Hall and was intrigued. “I felt it was a unique program because you could travel to as many different countries that I felt I couldn’t do realistically on my own.”
Each of the approximately 700 students had to sign up for two field trips per class, but otherwise they were free to explore on their own. Mora’s favorites were Ghana and India. “The people were so friendly and welcoming in Ghana, and in India, the Taj Mahal was breathtaking. It was something I always wanted to see.”
It wasn’t all fun and travel. Mora found the courses challenging. Even the professors had to meet a certain criteria. They had to have traveled to at least one of the countries the group would be visiting. Mora explained, “They were able to bring an interesting prospective of their experience in the country and related it to their lesson plans. That was an enriching experience.”
Although Mora has many exciting memories of the places she visited and the people she met, some of her recollections are more poignant. “When we went to an orphanage in Ghana, it was a very emotional experience to see children with shoes and clothes that were torn and old,” she says. “It made me grateful for all I have, and I want to work to give back to that orphanage someday. One of the girls really left an impression. Without knowing me, she really attached herself to me. It was hard to say goodbye.”
Encounters like that can teach lifelong lessons that make travel such an important teaching tool. “Travel helps you to be more open to people and not judge them because their culture is different from yours. It taught me to see the world from a different prospective, to be more culturally sensitive. It was very impactful.”