Diversity Abroad – Blog

The first month (and a week…) at sea.


Getting adjusted to life on the ship took a lot longer than I anticipated. It has now been 41 days since I boarded the ship in Hamburg. Since then, I’ve met people from all walks of life, seen the sights of the Mediterranean, Morocco, and now Senegal. I’ve had mishaps, like getting off the train in Pisa, not Livorno and falling victim to the infamous “tannery scam” in Marrakech. One thing I definitely had not anticipated was the stress—for the first month, we would have two days of class, then five days in port. Going between the two environments was incredibly stressful—but totally worth it.

As for my classes, Global Studies is interesting in its own way. It has some issues—but at its core, the material truly focuses on how we perceive our world. Further, it also forces us to consider our place in the world, how we can seize control of our own destinies, and work together to change the world and promote world peace.

My Latin American literature class (Latin American Outlaws: Pirates, Maroons, Bandits, Guerrilleros, and Narcos) I absolutely love. It may be my favorite. I forgot how much I had enjoyed my previous literature and English classes. We spent the first part of the month looking at the history of pirates, reading primary sources, differentiating between fact and fiction, and then reading various interpretations of them in the book They’re Cows, We’re Pigsby Carmen Bullosa. Now, we’re on to maroon communities, the Haitian Revolution, and The Kingdom of this World by Alejandro Carpentier.

The History of Latin America Since Independence has been entirely fascinating. Initially, I erroneously believed it to be ridiculous, as it is clearly “since Independence”—yet we began with the Reconquista and the first interactions between the indigenous Americans and the Europeans. But I now understand it’s important to fully understand the implications of pre-independence Latin America to comprehend the meaning of those independence movements.

Finally, Diseases without Borders is another class I love. We spent the first unit discussing the Chernobyl Disaster and its effects on Greece, our first port. This may have also led us into a complete side-track where we learned basically how to create atomic weapons, so…that happened. Then we’ve discussed malaria (a bit more on that in a moment) and are now moving on to Ebola and Zika.

Why did I leave this class for last? Well today (October 21) I have just returned from our visit to University of Cheikh Anta Diop. We got to sit through lectures from a couple different people in Senegal: an associate professor of parasitology, a researcher with the Harvard Medical School, and a Peace Corp volunteer. All are working in conjunction with each other to combat malaria in Senegal. As Senegal is one of the few countries in West Africa with both the resources to study the parasite and is home to fairly homogenous strains, they have been at the forefront of combating it in Africa. This was my first field class, and my second is on the first day of Brazil (so stay tuned…).

It’s really an eye-opening experience to discuss these topics in class, thenactually go to a place where they are actively working to combat the problem. I feel as though I am getting a more complete education in four months of traveling the world than in my past two years of college. For example, in my history and literature classes, we’ve been discussing the slave trade extensively, particularly as we approached Senegal and are coming to Latin America. Now, I find myself increasingly intrigued by the impacts this horrific system had. We’re discussing the Haitian Revolution—beyond the context of the French Revolution and Touissant L’Overture. We’re discussing Dessalines, and why sailors would turn to piracy, and the cultural difficulties West Africa faced with the 2014 Ebola epidemic, and the flight of the Portuguese Court from Lisbon to Rio de Janiero.

This voyage is incredible so far!