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Female empowerment at sea and in India

Evora (eighth from right) celebrated Diwali in India with local students at and fellow voyagers.

Life onboard the MV World Odyssey is a unique living experience—a magnified version of a college campus, with a diverse group of students sailing around the world together. Voyagers come from all over the globe to share their experience and learn from one another every day.

The leaders of those students—the members of the shipboard community who empower voyagers to explore and take the lead on issues they care about—are the Resident Directors aboard the MV World Odyssey.

Jessica Evora, who prior to the Fall 2017 Voyage worked at UCLA as a Residential Director, is an RD onboard the MV World Odyssey and the leader of Red Sea. Like many voyagers, Evora has experienced an awakening during her time at sea. Despite being a leader on her home campus when it came to social justice issues, Evora says she never thought of herself as a feminist until setting sail.

“We‚Äôre fortunate to have a very diverse group of students on this trip, and they all contribute something, and they all come from very different backgrounds. Support looks different for each student, and I think because of that it raises my own awareness of issues I need to address with students, as well as issues that I‚Äôm passionate about. It reminds you of what you‚Äôre passionate about and where your work lies, and for me equality in general is very important,” Evora said. “I find myself more vocal when it comes to advocating for my students than I normally would be on my land campus, and it‚Äôs brought out what being an advocate is for me. And for me it‚Äôs being a feminist, because feminism is just equality for all genders, and that‚Äôs something that I want to make sure I work on here. And because everything is magnified here, it‚Äôs brought that out in me, the realization that I am a feminist.”

Evora’s self-discovery was further cemented during her time in India when she and a group of voyagers met local students from St. Teresa‚Äôs College, an all-female university in Kochi, India, as part of Semester at Sea‚Äôs University Welcome Reception program. During the field program, students from St. Teresa’s put on traditional dance performances, taught voyagers how to wear a sari, and over dinner and conversation, invited Evora, another Resident Director, and a few students to their college for a Diwali celebration.

‘It was just beautiful to see a group of strong women who want to be leaders, and not only that, I thought it was beautiful to see how encouraging they were,” said Evora of her time celebrating in India. “To see female student leaders aware of the disparities and opportunities for women in India, and taking advantage of those opportunities, I loved it. It reminded me of the power of unity and of women coming together and supporting each other, and what we can do when we do that.”

That same attitude Evora has embraced has been reflected onboard the MV World Odyssey. A recent Women Leadership Seminar featuring staff, faculty, lifelong learners, and students addressed the obstacles women continue to face in the workplace and in cultures around the world, while giving members of the shipboard community the opportunity to ask questions and share their own personal stories of empowerment.

That combination unique to Semester at Sea—the ability to combine relationships formed at sea and in-country to create a entirely new perspective—is something Evora sees reflected in her day-to-day interaction with students, and in a new way of thinking about what she is passionate about.

“At my age, at 29, you already realize how you‚Äôre growing as a person. You start to become your true self.¬†So as that‚Äôs happening, I‚Äôm also just getting to talk to so many different people from all walks of life going from Spain to Ghana to South Africa and so on. I‚Äôve met people who I know I will keep in touch with and that I‚Äôve had true authentic connections, and what I would call friendships now, and they just have me looking at life so differently.”

  • Culture
  • Life at Sea

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