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Shipboard Interview with Jihane

By Caroline Park

Me and Jihane in India...

            After our class was let loose like sheep in a pasture to find our own grass, I wandered around the sixth deck feeling slightly nervous.  How should I approach my interviewee, wait, first of all, who should I approach?  After a brief stroll to the library and computer lab area, I decided that people fixated upon their monitors would not be great candidates.  So I did a U-turn and headed for the outside deck.  That’s where I found Jihane.  With her legs stretched out leisurely and donned with sunglasses she was reading the Global Issues book.  I don’t know how I decided to “target” her but I quickly approached her (before anybody else in my class could…) and asked her if she would mind a brief interview for a class.  She said she didn’t mind and when I showed her the release form, she smiled and groaned at the same time saying she was a journalism major and she hated those “stupid release forms.”  Nevertheless she willingly signed the form and our interview began. 

            I asked the basic questions first and found out that she was from Miami and went to Seton Hall University which is in New Jersey.  When asked about previous travel experiences, she informed me that she had been mostly around the Bahamas and Carribean area and also disclosed that it was because she was half Haitian and half Cuban.  Getting into the discussion about SAS, she said she first learned about the program from a casual acquaintance who had been on the 2004 spring voyage.  Intrigued she had looked into the program and decided to experience it herself.  Even though she had not known a single soul when she boarded the ship in Ensenada, Jihane had already found a group of friends that she knew she would be friends with long after the voyage.  These new friends had “set the bar higher” for her.  She had never met such motivated, intelligent, and ambitious African-American women before and she said that they would often get together in someone’s room and talk and talk and talk.  About what?  I asked.  “About everything! Politics, religion, race…”  Even though she had “dumbed” herself down back at home in order to seem “normal,” here Jihane revealed that she could be her own self as she has met like-minded friends who shared similar ambitions. 

            Then she told me about how she went to her school’s dean’s office to get her credit transfer approval form signed.  Previously the dean had refused but Jihane boldly marched into his office and told him she was doing this voyage and was not going to accept not getting credits for it just because some guy didn’t want to sign some papers. And she got it signed and approved.  When I heard this story I was blown away.  It was clear that my interviewee was no ordinary girl.  This told me a lot about her personality; that she was determined and never took no for an answer in something she believed in.

            After this anecdote, I began to ask her questions about why she had chosen to do SAS.  She said that she felt SAS was perfect for her since this trip is all about adapting to the various countries and cultures we are to encounter.  She declared, “SAS is not stationary and is the perfect fit for me.”  Of course I asked her how and she recounted her multiple experiences of moving around and having to adapt: From Cambridge to Miami and within Miami alone she had enrolled in 16 different schools before high school. Her mom always wanted the best for her and whenever an opportunity for a better education arose, her mom moved her to the best schools. “Was your mom supportive of your decision to do SAS?”  “Oh, very!”  It seemed to me that Jihane had an extraordinary resume of adjusting and adapting. No wonder she already felt at home on the ship with great new friends.

            “Which country are you most excited about?”  When I asked her this question she immediately replied Egypt and India. “Especially India because before I came I saw a documentary called…” I knew what she was going to say and we finished sentence in unison “…Born into Brothels!”  I found out that we both had a great love for the documentary and admiration for the woman who had made it. When I asked her if she wanted to do something like that later on she replied with great candor, “I’m a very selfish person.”  But she also said that if something like that did come her way that kindled her passion she would definitely change her mind.

            Jihane also told me that she was very interested in people, their lives, and their culture.  Though she had previously thought that everyone was very different, she now believes we are all very much alike.  “People are all the same in many ways. We all laugh, we all smile, we’re all human.  Things are bigger than we are, I want to see that.  I also want better understanding of the world.  All and all I hope to come back a better person.”   She also commented about her soon-to-come adventures, “if you’re not afraid to talk to people, you could learn so much from them.”

            She certainly didn’t seem the type to shy away from the people that we’ll meet.

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