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Shipboard Interview with LR

By Wren Chan

LR portrait           On Tuesday, September 5, 2006 the class went off to complete its first shipboard ethnography by interviewing their fellow students about how their life experience led to their decision to join Semester at Sea.  I was able to find my interview target right away at the piano bar, a girl that was close to the area I can relate to, the dining room.  Perhaps I was a bit hungry or I preferred the isolation of that particular area of the piano bar for doing an interview.  My target was wearing a red tank top and a necklace dangling an object familiar to me, an ancient Chinese coin which reminded me of my heritage.  I nervously introduced myself and the purpose of the interview, which she agreed to right away.

           My subject was LR, a pre-med/English/Spanish major at Ohio State University.  Slowly and carefully, she recounted the advantages and disadvantages she had wrestled with before making the final decision to join Semester at Sea, perhaps thinking it over carefully to aid a fellow student.  Her listed disadvantages are the strains that attending Semester at Sea will have on her financially and academically.  The price for attending Semester at Sea drained her savings and meant leaving a highly structured medical program.  The advantages LR cited as if trying to convince both her listener and herself, are that she is traveling the world to understand other cultures.  As I quickly wrote down what she said, she glanced at my notes occasionally, perhaps curious on what I had written or worried that she had said something wrong.  She had traveled extensively in recent years having lived with hosts in Germany and stayed in hostels in London and Paris.  The interview had a great deal of emphasis on traveling; perhaps it was a familiar theme to Lindy since she had traveled to other places before.  She indicated that she expects to make the most out of the Semester at Sea program by seeing and learning about people and cultures rather than being a typical tourist.

           Upon completing the interview I reflected that LR and I are in the same situation, unsure of what we truly want to do and what life has in store for us.  As I thought back to my conduct during the interview, I noticed that I usually related to LR’s experiences easily. Anthropologist Eric Haanstad concluded the end of his paper, The Other City of Angels about his work with the Bangkok police, “Perhaps that’s all we ever find: ourselves watching ourselves knowing ourselves.”  In the same way perhaps when looking at LR, all that I was seeing was a glimpse of myself within her.

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