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On Ship Lectures Lead To Success In India

India 2_960As I travel with the Spring 2015 voyage of Semester at Sea, I have the unique opportunity to travel to 12 countries in 112 days and circumnavigate the globe, an undeniably impressive triumph for many students who are still college-age. One of the most integral parts on SAS is the integration between classroom-based learning and in-port learning that takes place throughout the voyage, a feature that makes the voyage a truly exceptional experience. This process of integration becomes especially apparent in between ports, where syllabi are regularly tailored to integrate broader class themes with real-world examples, and where inter-port lecturers and students embark the MV Explorer in order to better prepare students to go ashore and explore a given country for a significant period of time.

The prospect of this integration was apparent for many students in the week leading up to India, during which Explorer Seminars, Spotlight Seminars, documentary screenings, and discussions, both in and out of classrooms, were shifted to focus on issues and events pertaining to India. Nisha Agrawal, CEO of Oxfam India and interport lecturer for India, attended three of Semester at Sea student Ariel Gleaner’s classes. Ms. Agrawal spoke to Ariel’s global health class about malnutrition, detailing how as a society, India is struggling to lower its high rates of infant malnutrition. She recalled a recent discovery in a low-income G46A2010neighborhood, where investigating what a mother with a particularly healthy baby was doing differently in the upbringing of her child, that revealed a short-term remedy in infant malnutrition. Reflecting on the week leading up to India Ariel revealed, “As a student studying public health and nutrition, I learned an important lesson about how solutions to public health can be most effective when the cultural context is taken into consideration. The solution isn’t going to be going into a country and imposing Western remedies, but rather it is often going to be about working within the infrastructural capabilities of a country or village to begin improving public health.”

Although my interests and area of study differ from Ariel’s, the resources available to me on the ship before arriving to India were just as plentiful when it came to preparing for port. The material on my syllabi intersected seamlessly with other opportunities on the ship to introduce important contemporary social issues. For example, interport student Aishwarya Ramarajan attended my Systems of Inequality class to couple our assigned readings with personal experience and address some of India‚Äôs own systems of inequality, including caste and gender discrimination. As a result, I felt better prepared in port to make informed observations and more importantly, to ask informed questions. Having learned about different facets of Indian society, I felt confident engaging in conversation with taxi drivers, shop owners, and other local residents, making sure to be culturally sensitive but also willing to ask about different local customs. After a conversation with our tuck tuck driver, Rashid, about local Cochin traditions, he took it upon himself to bring my friends and me to a Cochin elephant festival, and spent time with us there while we all participated.

While we are only able to skim the surface of our interests as they pertain to the countries we visit, being provided with the opportunity to learn about a port before disembarkation, and then to continue to expand on what we learned through our own observations, creates a sincerely comprehensive learning experience. It’s precisely because students have limited time in port, that it is so critical we enter into a country ready to learn as much as possible. I feel lucky to travel around the world, knowing I will be able to return to the MV Explorer and carry on learning about each country.

  • Culture
  • Education
  • Life on Land

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