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    Posted May 5, 2013 by
    Hamden, Connecticut
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Student voices in journalism

    More from kobrien28

    The Power of People


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     kobrien28, a twenty-year-old rising senior at Quinnipiac University, struggled to formulate into words just how wonderful and inspiring her spring semester abroad was. She became intrigued with the idea of Semester at Sea after hearing about it from a sorority sister, and eventually found herself aboard the ship for the spring 2013 semester.

    The voyage spanned two continents, and Morocco was one of her favorite countries out of the twelve that she visited. She says that while it was 'one of the biggest culture shocks, it was also one of the most welcoming places.' Before debarking, she and her fellow students were advised on safety measures to follow while in the country, which she says made her slightly nervous, at first. However, her anxiety was quickly put to rest as she walked the vibrant, bustling market streets of Marrakech and interacted with locals. 'A lot of people spoke English and were willing to talk to us and were so nice. It was one of those experiences where people completely smashed stereotypes to pieces.'

    One of the experiences that she will never forget was an orphanage visit in Vietnam. Through a Semester at Sea sponsored service trip, she and several other students spent the day at an orphanage in the city of Ho Chi Minh. This particular orphanage, she says, was unlike one she had ever heard of. 'You can't adopt children from there. Parents often drop off their children there because they're too much to handle or have a mental or physical disability, but they can visit their child.' This heart-breaking factor didn't prevent her from enjoying the time spent there with an eight-year-old girl, only known to her as 'Wi' or 'Wee', shown in picture #9. 'She was so cute, just amazing, a wonderful little girl with so much spirit, even though there was a language barrier it almost didn't matter.'

    kobrien28 is pursuing a major in print journalism and an anthropology minor. After graduating, she hopes to find a career in photojournalism in order to continue her passion for traveling.
    - jne2013, CNN iReport producer

    Dharma Sari is a Buddhist nun living in Sagaing, Myanmar who, after living in the United States for a number of years, moved back to Myanmar to join monastic life and escape the injustices of the United States. Momma Mpumbie is an older woman from the Thambo Township in South Africa who cares for her 12-year-old great niece, Uwetu, so she doesn’t have to share a bed with three other people. Prince, a 27-year-old from Ghana, sells his canvas paintings on the side of the road to passersby to make ends meet.

    These are just a handful of people I met over the past four months.

    This semester I participated in a study abroad program called Semester at Sea where I took college classes on a “floating campus” that circumnavigated the globe. The campus was a converted cruise ship with desks instead of slot machines and dry-erase boards instead of endless buffets.

    We sailed for 106 days, visiting 12 countries and 14 cities, leaving from San Diego, across the Pacific Ocean through Asia and across the Indian Ocean to Africa.

    Meeting people like Dharma Sari, Momma Mpumbie, and Prince, make the world seem a little bit smaller. Although some cultures may seem literally worlds away, people are more similar than we think. Individuals across the world want to be treated with respect, talk and laugh together, but most of all, people want to learn.

    We often have the same misconceptions about each other and it stems solely from the fear or misjudgment of the unknown. A simple, friendly conversation can sometimes be the difference between a mutual understanding of cultural differences and a lifetime of ignorance.

    To some, it may seem as though I’ve seen a lot. However, only after traveling to places with cultures so different from my own did I start to notice that there’s even more that I haven’t seen and don’t understand about the world.

    Now that the semester is over and I’m finally home, the things I’ve learned seem so simple. Gross generalizations about a group of people, good or bad, benefit no one. Most of the time, it’s the people we never thought we would end up talking to who teach us the most.

    My stories and the lessons I’ve learned are only my own. The people I’ve met had stories that were their own and were willing to share. Go on an adventure, talk to the person standing next to you, you don’t have the travel the world to learn something new about someone. You never know what their story could be.
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