Mustangs experience culture on semester at sea

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Many SMU students are lucky to spend a semester abroad. From London to Latin America, Mustangs venture to other countries gaining a unique understanding of international cultures. While a typical American teenager might spend Sundays watching football and Fridays tweeting about Jennifer Lawrence, teens in other parts of the world have never had access to the internet.

Nine SMU students experienced just that on a Semester at Sea voyage. The program is a multiple country study abroad program sponsored by the University of Virginia, but open to students from over 300 universities, to gain hands-on experience in over 20 disciplines.

“I saw how different socio-economic statuses of countries affects many aspects of people’s lives, including their sources of entertainment,” junior Jody Barnhardt said.

Barnhardt and her colleagues visited 16 countries in Europe, Africa and South America. Despite these countries’ lack of access to technology, they had a wealth of entertainment. According to Barnhardt, she and her peers visited Ireland during the Gaelic Football Finals and the experience was unforgettable.

“The amount of hype was comparable to that of the Superbowl in America,” she said. “It was interesting to see the similarities in sports enthusiasm.”

For junior Meredith Carey the sporting events weren’t the only activities that made her experience undeniably memorable. Carey’s mother went on a voyage decades ago, and she still cherishes the memories she made at sea.

“My mom voyaged in the ’80s and has such great memories from her friends, travels, and professors,” Carey said. “I wanted to experience the same.”

Carey and the other students at sea spent months without any access the Internet or other forms of technology. However, in Brazil they did have access to a movie theatre.

“A bunch of friends and I went to see the newest ‘Hunger Games’ film, ‘Catching Fire,’ which was being shown in English with Portuguese subtitles,” Carey said. Nonetheless, seeing the other teens react to the film the same way she and her friends let them know the only real difference between them and their Brazilian counterparts was their language.

However, even linguistic barriers didn’t prevent Mustangs from enjoying their
voyage abroad.

“I learned how to communicate when there is no traditional form of communication,” Carey said. “When you’re in a Moroccan bus station at 4 a.m. and no one speaks English, hand signs are the only way to go.”

In addition to learning about cultural acceptance, Barnhardt said the experience solidified the students’ appreciation for the the life she has in America.

“I gained a different world perspective that really showed me how privileged I am to live in America and have the resources that I do,” she said.

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