Seven hundred students. Twelve countries. Four months. One ship. Countless new friends and unbelievable memories.
At 21-years-old, Jane Henrikson, a film major, has experienced the world in a way most people can only dream of. Henrikson spent four months traveling the world through the study abroad program Semester at Sea in the Fall semester of 2010.
Students in the Semester at Sea program are housed on the MV Explorer, a passenger ship that had been transformed into a floating university.
“I always knew I wanted to study abroad,” Henrikson said. “I wanted to go to a lot of places and Semester at Sea offered that because I went to 12 countries in four months.”
During her global adventure, Henrikson spent 50 days at sea and 59 days on land with 700 other students from all around the world.
Henrikson and the other students attended class everyday while at sea. She took 12 units. Her classes included two film classes, a writing class, an introduction to anthropology class and a global studies class.
“You have class everyday, while you’re at sea and there are no weekends. But then when you’re in the countries, there is no schoolwork, you can just travel and do whatever.”
In four short months Henrikson submerged herself in the different cultures she encountered during her travels. She met locals from the countries she visited, which allowed her to experience what it’s like to live in countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Vietnam and India—just to name a few.
“It wasn’t like traveling leisurely. I stayed in hostels and peed in squat toilets everywhere. It was more cultural. I just wanted to meet people and blend in with the cultures I was in, rather than stand out as an American. I just wanted to learn about the places I went to.”
This once-in-in-a-lifetime experience was an eye-opener for Henrikson. Most people never get to see firsthand how people in some of the poorest countries live or care enough to want to make a difference.
“You see commercials on TV about starving kids and it’s different for me now because I’ve met those kids. I can tell you names of kids that are so poor and live in the poorest places ever.”
For four months, Henrikson made a new family, her friends on the ship. Living in such close quarters and going through so many new things together made the ship community very close. Henrikson said everyone knew each other on the ship.
“You get close, really fast because you do experience crazy things together in the countries you visit.”
Aboard the ship, Henrikson experienced one of the most liberating days of her life. Neptune Day is a day of celebration as the ship passes through the Prime Meridian and the equator simultaneously, literally the center of the globe.
One of the traditions during Neptune Day is to get your head shaved. This is completely optional, but Henrikson wanted to partake in this tradition. She had always had long hair, so this decision was difficult for her to make. In the end, Henrikson decided to go for it and shaved all her hair off.
“I have no hair! And believe me, it feels great! Ironically I have never felt more beautiful. With nothing to hide behind, I feel like I walk a little straighter and taller. It’s a wonderful feeling, and I recommend that every woman try it sometime in their lives,” stated Henrikson in an e-mail she sent to her friends back home.
Experiencing so much in such a short amount of time has made an impact on Henrikson’s life. The people she met and the places she visited helped her realize that she wants to travel and help people throughout the world.
“I’m a compassionate person and I love people, so I think I want to do something where I can travel and help people and I can do that in the film industry.”