Dear Future Voyagers of Semester at Sea,
around the world and seeing so many cultures in such a limited time has
one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I signed up for this voyage believing I would
go out and experience the world first hand and come back having learned
assimilated into each and every society we visited.
As an anthropology major I should have known
that this was unreasonable. You can’t
comprehend an entire culture in the five days that you are staying in a
country. While doing multisited
ethnographic research I was overwhelmed with both the differences and
similarities between cultures. I would
trying to approach this voyage with no expectations.
As an Indian woman wisely told me “Expectation
reduces joy.” Don’t assume that you will
easily assimilate no matter how culturally wise you may consider
because it may not even be you that keeps you labeled as the outsider.
When trying to come up
with a multisited theme for my comparative ethnography project, I
found it took a while to discover what I was interested in. I
found that a theme eventually presented itself in one of my individual
country ethnographies. Deciding on a topic too early can limit
your perspective while in port. My advice is to wait until after
a few ports before choosing. While doing fieldwork, don't expect
to be able to
instantaneously observe from the viewpoint of the culture. It
may be the
locals that keep you at a
distance and it can be difficult to break that barrier.
On the other hand, you can’t take a
pessimistic attitude while traveling in port. Take
risks. That is where the
most memorable experiences come from. Even
if it is a horrible experience they are usually the
best stories to
share when you get back home. Besides
no expectations, my other piece of advice is to constantly remind
where you are. No matter how sick or
tired or grumpy from your travels, if you remind yourself of what you
and what you are seeing you will begin to love your pains as an
of your experience.
Jessica Von Wendel