Around the world in 104 days

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March 25, 2011

Meg Bleeker ’12 is taking classes in eleven foreign countries this semester, but she isn’t studying abroad – she’s studying afloat. Through Semester at Sea, Bleeker and Lauren Benton ’13 are cruising around the world on a 104-day voyage that features stops in the Caribbean, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

The ultimate multicultural experience, eleven port visits give the 750 students enrolled in Semester at Sea this spring immersion opportunities in cites across the world. Aboard the MV Explorer, a former cruise ship turned floating campus, the students take classes in a range of academic disciplines. Bleeker is a communication major at Bradley, but out at sea she’s studying African history, Buddhist art, Indian signing, and biology. With prestigious faculty, extra-curricular activities, and organizations to keep the students engaged, in many ways the experience is much like a semester at Bradley.

“My general biology class is pretty much what you’d expect of a biology course, except we can see the animals in the wild that we study in class,” Bleeker said. “I just finished a project on the Amazon river dolphin, its habitat and phylogeny, and included pictures of myself swimming with dolphins in Brazil.”

Meeting a rubber farmer in Brazil, chatting with Ghanaian women about their role in government and their communities, and learning about the connections between Islam and Christianity from a Mauritian imam are just a few of the varied exchanges that have allowed the students to attach human faces and voices to their studies. Though the program is dubbed a “Global Semester,” the experience is giving Benton and Bleeker a worldly perspective sure to impact their lives and careers indefinitely.

“Recognizing global diversity and the expanding need to think globally are vital in understanding and communicating in today’s multicultural world,” said Betty Jane Lawrence, associate dean of the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts. “This unique exposure to cultures around the world will expand Meg’s depth of knowledge of intercultural communications and will open doors to a vast array of career options in the field of communication.”

Bleeker is keeping a blog throughout the journey, but said the one comfort of land she misses most is regular Internet access. Access to Semester at Sea email on the boat is free, but other Web surfing comes with a charge, so most students rely on port visits and Internet cafes for extended use.

If you are interested in spending a Semester at Sea, visit Bradley’s International Programs Office for more information. The program is not directed by Bradley, but Dr. Christine Blouch, director of International Programs, encourages students to consider it among the many study abroad options available.

“Semester at Sea is a wonderful venue for cultural and comparative studies, and we’re happy that Bradley students are aboard,” Blouch said.