Semester at Sea Fall 2006 Voyage banner


Crossing the Globe (Vietnam & Spain)

By Julia Hursh

I have had the opportunity to both learn about and see many signs of migrations in my voyage around the world. Semester at Sea has opened my eyes to new topics of people and culture all around the globe. I have learned about human migration in both migrant-sending and migrant-receiving countries. Then I was given the opportunity to go into the country that I studied to find signs of human migration pertaining to the topics discussed in class. While in some countries it was difficult to find signs of human migrations, other countries had very apparent signs of migrants.

It was particularly interesting for me to see signs of migrations in other countries around the world and compare them to what I have seen near my own home in San Diego, California. There are many Mexican migrants that cross the border into the United States everyday. Unfortunately there are many people that perish in their attempt to cross the border. According to Stephen Castles and Mark J. Miller in The Age of Migration, an average of one Mexican migrant dies everyday attempting to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. This is a topic that I encounter in the newspapers and on the nightly news in San Diego on a regular basis. In my travels and studies I realized that this is a common problem for migrants around the world.

Although products are a very different topic from humans, we also studied the flow of goods from one country to another and more importantly the effect of western influence on eastern cultures. I was surprised by the amount of American brand names that I saw in many of the countries that we traveled to on our Semester at Sea voyage.

The projects listed on this website are just some brief examples of the signs of human migration and western influence of products that I saw in the countries we traveled to. The following is a comparison of migration between Asian and European countries.

Click the following links to review the research papers that are discussed in this analysis.

The country that I saw and learned the most about migration in was Vietnam. I met a few separate people that had stories of family members that had migrated to the United States. This reminded me of the many Vietnamese people that inhabit both Minnesota where I grew up and San Diego where I live currently. Just down the street from my house in California is a hair and nail salon. It is owned and staffed by all Vietnamese people, many who are related to one another. They have all come to the United States in the last four decades, some of whom originally came as refugees after the Vietnam War. According to Castles and Miller, over 3 million people fled Southeast Asia following the Vietnam War, one million of them settling the Unites States. The authors go on to mention  “In 1979 Vietnam introduced the ‘Orderly Departure Programme’ to permit legal emigration, particularly of people with relatives overseas, that was considerably stepped up in 1989” (p. 173). I think that this may be the reason that many Vietnamese people are found in the United States and it may be the case behind the business at the end of my street run by Vietnamese people. According to the Overview of South Asian Diaspora, a large percentage of Southeast Asians who migrated to the United States were professionals. The publication also said that California and New York have the largest populations of Southeast Asian migrants. When I travel home I plan on talking with the Vietnamese people that I know in San Diego to find out the stories of their migrations.

It is an interesting dynamic to see Vietnamese people living in America and then travel to Vietnam and meet people who have family members living in the United States. I feel fortunate to have been able to experience both ends of the spectrum. After traveling to Vietnam I have a better understanding of the reasons people migrate to the U.S. and how it impacts the lives of those still living in Vietnam.

Another country that I found signs of human migrations in was Spain. In Spain the migrants that I encountered were most commonly from Morocco. There were some from Algeria and other African countries as well. According to the article Migrations and Mobility in the Euro-Mediterranean Area: A Problem for Governments, a solution for Populations? By Philippe Fargues, 20% of Moroccans have the intention to emigrate, many of who plan to immigrate to Spain. Most of the Moroccans that I talked to in Spain did not mention how they traveled to Spain or for that matter if they were legal immigrants or not, but they did mention that the level of poverty in Morocco is very high and that is why many people migrate to Spain. Unfortunately the story for Moroccan migrants is similar to that of Mexican migrants, many perish while trying to cross borders.

In both countries, weather it be Vietnam in Southeast Asia or Morocco in North Africa, people are trying to find a better life. War is what pushed many people out of Vietnam and poverty and civil unrest is what pushes many people out of Morocco. However it is important to realize that these are only two reasons that people migrate. People migrate to find work, to escape war, to find religious freedom, to avoid political unrest and sometimes because they are trafficked. These are just some of the reasons that people leave their country for another one. Whatever the reason may be however, migration is an important aspect of every country that we traveled to. The globalization of migration will continue, but hopefully as Castles and Miller mention, it will do so with “the hope of increased unity in dealing with the pressing problems which beset our small planet” (p. 290). Migration affects the economies, cultures and populations of every country that we saw and will continue to have an impact on those countries for a long time.

In conclusion, migrations class changed the way I experienced each country. It also influenced my thinking of the cultures and the people that I encountered. Rather then just focusing on the country that I was visiting, I found myself focusing on the impact and influence that other countries have on that country. I did this by looking for the flow of migrants in and out of the country and also by noticing the western influence of products, stores and restaurants. At times it was difficult to find signs of migration, but as I spent more time looking it seems I could always find an American store or someone who had a story of human migration. I left each country with a better understanding of peoples struggles to find a better life, even if it meant leaving their country for a different one. I also saw the immense impact that western culture has on the economies of eastern countries. I learned a lot in my travels and truly feel that Semester at Sea was a voyage of a lifetime.

Return to course home