Higher Ed on the High Seas
As Ohio Northern University students were savoring the last days of summer, senior psychology major Jessica Short was flying to San Diego to meet her new university: a 630-student ship ready to circumnavigate the globe.
Short, a native of Cardington, Ohio, is spending a "Semester at Sea," a program dedicated to exploring the world and connecting those experiences to the classroom. Between ports, Short lives onboard and studies oceanography, natural history and world art - subjects she's also experiencing first-hand.
While Short had always planned to travel extensively, before August 27 she had only been outside the United States once. "When the day came to meet the ship, I couldn't believe it was real. I couldn't believe I was really going around the world," she remembers.
When she returns on December 7, she can add Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Egypt, Turkey, Croatia and Spain to her list of countries visited.
So far, the most intriguing places she's been include Hiroshima, Japan; the Royal Palace in Bangkok, Thailand; the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; and Varanasi, India, a pilgrimage city where Hindus go to bathe in the Ganga river to purify themselves from sin.
"Visiting Hiroshima gave me the other side of the story, the Japanese perspective," said Short. "Whereas the Taj Mahal and the Thai Royal Palace were absolutely stunning - the pictures don't do them justice."
But nothing compares to India, which Short describes as the most physically and mentally demanding experience of her life.
"Someone once told me that whatever you say about India, the opposite is also true. I could never make sense of the statement before, but now it seems the only way to describe it. India both defeated me and built me up at the same time."
In addition to tourist destinations, some of Short's best memories include conversing with people from all around the world, haggling with street vendors, riding elephants, petting full-grown tigers and learning to appreciate the diversity of the world's people.
Between destinations, however, Short's life on the ship is similar to college life. Classes resume while onboard, but with a gym, a library and 600 other students, Short is never bored. She even has an adopted family, a political science professor and his wife, who keep her company on the ship.
To record her adventures, Short keeps an extensive travel journal, including her plane, train and admission tickets. But for those who want a taste of her daily life, she posts an online journal appropriately entitled "The Journey is My Home."
"My experience has made me appreciate things I used to take for granted, namely my parents, clean water and bathrooms, personal space and the opportunities I have for education," Short explained. "But mainly I've learned that stereotypes about countries aren't true if you're willing to look a little deeper."
Perhaps the greatest thing Short has learned is to be patient and open-minded.
"When you're traveling, there is a lot that is just out of your hands, you have to learn to go with the flow and enjoy the moment."
Written by Autumn Steiner
Junior, professional writing
To read Jessica's online journal, visit http://jessicaatsea.blogspot.com/