As college students, we are expected to broaden our horizons and become more acquainted with the world around us. Most of us accomplish this through our studies, soaking up different cultures through textbooks and lectures. But a lucky few get to do something even better – they get to live it.
The difference between the two can be life-altering. Just ask Anish Doshi, junior seven-year medical student, who spent 100 days last spring traveling the world during his Semester at Sea.
While Semester at Sea is an option available to all students interested in spending time abroad during their career at the College, it is not generally encouraged by the office of Undergraduate Global Programs because its hectic touring schedule does not allow students to become fully immersed in the cultures they visit, Doshi said.
Still, Doshi feels that his experience taught him more than he ever imagined.
“It’s true that Semester at Sea won’t give you an enriched view of all the different cultures you visit,” he said. “But we are so boxed in our American culture. I wanted to broaden my horizons. I learned more in the seven days that I spent in each country than any professor, class or textbook could ever have taught me.”
During his 100-day journey, Doshi visited Canada, Hawaii, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and Venezuela.
Doshi traveled with hundreds of other students on a cruise ship.
“The ship was just like a college campus, except for the beautiful view of the ocean 24/7,” he said.
Doshi and his fellow travelers spent about two to three hours in class each day. The curriculum was based around the countries that they would be visiting.
“The classes were so diverse,” Doshi said. “They ranged from African drumming to cross-cultural psychology.”
Perhaps the best part of the learning experience was the close relationships Doshi developed with his professors.
“There is 100 percent contact with the professors at all times,” he said. “We would have great dinner conversations about these countries. For example, we would talk about dowry, genital mutilation and the Vietnam War. These were all issues that were touched upon daily. Your professors are the people you’re in class with, eating with and even partying with.”
While the Semester at Sea program did offer planned trips for the students to participate in, they were optional. Students could spend their time however they liked when they arrived at a new country.
“I had never traveled this way before,” Doshi said. “I was always afraid of doing something on my own and having it go wrong. But that’s another thing you learn about yourself on this trip – how independent you can be.”
Although Doshi was hard-pressed to choose his favorite country, ultimately he said he found Vietnam to be the most eye-opening.
“Vietnam struck me as such a friendly country with so much history,” he said. “Their perspective on the war was so different from what we are taught here. We’re fed American propaganda. It was eye-opening to see the destruction and catastrophe we caused there.”
While Vietnam was one of the more educational stops on Doshi’s journey, he said the variety of his trip was what made it truly special.
“My experience was so broad,” he said. “It ranged from visiting Nelson Mandela’s cell in South Africa and learning about apartheid to skydiving in Hawaii.”
Although Doshi has had nearly a year to reflect on his experiences, he is no less in awe of how he grew and changed as a person.
“I’ve learned so many lessons,” he said. “It’s really incredible. You think on the first day that you won’t change, but you come back a completely different person. I thought I knew what poverty was until I was mobbed by 60 children wanting a piece of my cookie in India. I thought I knew hospitality until a woman without anything invited me to her small house, fed me on her nicest chinaware and offered me the only framed picture of her family she owned. I thought I knew what the the world was like – but really, we’re stuck in this little box. We think the world is okay, but we don’t realize that so many people are living in misery.”
So, would Doshi recommend Semester at Sea to others? The answer is a resounding yes.
“At the beginning of the trip, my goals were to visit each country and get a cool souvenir from it,” he said. “But I have come out of the trip gaining so much more. The values, morals, cultures, education, people, ideas and worldviews that I came back with are priceless.”
For Doshi, this experience was merely the beginning of his globetrotting plans.
“I want to travel as much as I can,” he said. “I’ve already been to six of the seven continents, so I’d say that’s a pretty good start.”