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Student Photo Gallery: Myanmar

Myanmar is undergoing monumental changes in its political, economic, and social identity, and the Semester at Sea Spring 2014 voyage was able to get a glimpse of the country’s renaissance moment. Students explored lakes, temples, and cities and were time and time again greeted with wonderful hospitality from the local people. Here are some of the best student photos from our time in this magical country.

Ivy Guild from the University of San Diego visited the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. “As the sun descended people said their final prayers for the day, and a sense of peace and tranquility set in. This woman was paying her respect to Buddha in the form of prayer and candle offerings at one of the many shrines surrounding the pagoda.”
Tyler Bittaker from the University of San Diego captured the moment of lift-off for the sunrise balloons in Bagan. Between the 9th to 13th centuries the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later become modern Myanmar. Over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in Bagan during the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, of which over 2200 temples and pagodas still remain as part of the Bagan Archeological Zone.
Josiah Savig of Colorado State University took this photo at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. “Even late in the evening, thousands of people were gathered to pray at the enormous pagoda and the dozens of smaller pagodas around it. I walked past this man looking up at the central golden tower while praying with his eyes open. He smiled as I walked past, something no one else had done during the half hour before, so I smiled back and quickly snapped this photo.”
Ileana Yordan-Cuevas from St Edwards University had the opportunity to meet and learn about the day-to-day lives of a young girl and her mother in Myanmar (left). “From talking with the girl and her mother I learned that she is in third grade, and helps her mother make a living by selling clothing and souvenirs to visitors who watch the sunset on top of the Pyathada Paya pagoda. It was in meeting this small family I learned that traveling is not just about the places you go, or the things you see and do, but rather it is the people you meet and make connections with along the way that makes a journey worthwhile.” While traveling to Ngwe Saung beach with a Semester at Sea field program, Melissa Bak of Westfield State College was intrigued by the women carrying their goods to the market on their heads and snapped this shot of a woman in the early morning light (right).
Daniel Holperin of the University of Wisconsin Stout was amazed with the wide variety of architecture in Yangon. “It was really interesting to see the places that people call home and the divide that existed within the city. There were some really nice homes with gates and BMWs, side by side with apartment buildings that had no windows and appeared to lack the basic necessities; providing only a bare shelter. I spotted this colorful facade while getting breakfast from a street vendor in the early morning.”
While touring Inle Lake with a Semester at Sea field program, Maria Ferraz from the University of Sao Paulo was joined by a local fisherman. The local fishermen traditionally use conical or woven nets and a shallow-hulled wooden canoe, while paddling with their feet to keep their hands free. Once the nets are set among a patch of underwater vegetation, large wooden oars are used to slap the water and drive the fish into the trap.
Emily Bruksch, a student at the University of Wisconsin Madison, visited a small village in rural Myanmar. “All the kids lead such a simple life, but their smile radiated so much love and happiness. This boy in particular captured my attention.”
“The only way to experience Chinatown in Yangon is to explore the street at night,” says Kimberly Selinske from Colorado State University. “The entire street comes alive with music, people weaving in and out of stalls dodging flames and flagging down taxis, and the smells of charcoal-grilled meat patties and freshly sliced durians that lined every street corner. Although it is a very high energy and fast paced part of the city, the people were unbelievably kind and always willing to help someone out. The amazing thing was, we had just walked this corner an hour earlier but none of this was there – the entire nightlife scene popped up within an hour!”
Jake Molloy of York County Community College visited an elephant camp in Ngwe Saung as part of a Semester at Sea field program. “It was a privilege to see these beautiful and intelligent creatures up close as they navigated their massive bodies through the treacherous terrain of the jungle.” The elephants are paired for life with their handlers, who move with the elephants should they ever be relocated.
While on a Semester at Sea field program, Catherine Bronzo of the University of California Los Angeles found herself lost in a sunset on Ngwe Saung Beach. “I almost forgot where I was until two local women passed by, reminding me that home was far, but a mesmerizing and extraordinary culture was even closer. I thought to myself ‘don‚Äôt blink ‚Äî this is just too amazing!'”
Leonie De Jong of Cornell College took this photo while hiking from Kalaw to Inle Lake in the Shan district of Myanmar. “We walked through remote rural villages, over old bamboo bridges, past rice paddies and chili fields, and came across many of these buffalo carts. We spent the night in a Pa-O village with a local family in their bamboo hut. Most villages had no access to running water or electricity. People were poor but indescribably hospitable, which made for an unforgettable experience.”
Alexandria Kuntz from the College of Southern Idaho took this photo while walking through a village by Ngwe Saung Beach. “It struck me that even though these people have so little, they are sill the kindest and happiest people I have ever met. It really makes me think about what the most important things are in life.”
While on Semester at Sea’s Field Program to the world-renown archeological site of Bagan, Robert Slatkin from the University of Pittsburgh captured the sun setting behind the flag of Myanmar as he paddled down the Ayeyarwady River. The Ayeyarwady, the largest river in Myanmar, forms the backbone of its shipping industry as the country’s largest and most important commercial waterway.
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