20 June 2013

Imagine spending the night with Berber Nomads in the Sahara desert, till the sun rose, getting lost in a rickshaw in India or breaking down cultural barriers to the tunes of Justin Bieber and Britney Spears.

University of Queensland Primary Education student Claire Mulligan did all this and more during a four-month Semester at Sea study abroad program travelling the world on a seven-deck, 179-metre ship.

Claire said her decision to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who did the program in 1981, changed her life.

“I highly recommend that other UQ students apply for this program,” she said.

“It gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Students who participate in Semester at Sea get to experience things they never would have dreamed of, and everyone is eligible to give it a go.

“I never thought I’d convince somebody in one country that Costa Rican notes were an acceptable form of payment because of cute animals on the note, or that I’d be waking up at 5am to see the sun rise over Table Mountain in South Africa.

“I’ve played with a monkey on a leash in Malaysia, almost gotten into an accident in India to avoid a hitting a cow, and seen the damage Americans caused in the bombing of Hiroshima.

“I never thought gazing at the last sunset of the 100-day voyage would make me cry, thinking about all the friends I had made and the experiences I was lucky enough to have.”

Voyages range from 12-14 countries with opportunities for service projects, visits with Nobel Laureates and world leaders, Rotarian home-stays, language courses and other options.

“For the first time in my student life I could read about each country’s culture, geography, political unrest, language and religion through lectures and textbooks and then experience it first hand,” Claire said.

“Semester at Sea gave me the opportunity to interact with people from developed and emerging nations, learn about myself through service projects, develop a better awareness of my culture and other cultures and learn first-hand about issues and opportunities that challenge today’s world.”

Claire visited many schools on the journey, and her Semester at Sea cemented her dream to be an international school teacher.

“I would go to sleep in one country and wake up in another without stepping foot on a plane, buy something for five per cent of the asking price in a crowded Moroccan market, see “skin-whitening” cream sold in Vietnam, speak Spanish in Ghana, eat a full meal in Malaysia for $1, spend 30 minutes in fixation at the Terra Cotta warriors of Xian and meet the farmer who made the discovery,” she said.

“I felt the charged emotions in the streets, sweated in the desert, navigated the confusing railways of Tokyo, heard the call to prayer, spoke Spanish and wore wedding rings to avoid proposals.

“The world was my classroom for four months and I will never forget this experience.

“I am and forever will be a global citizen trying to make an impact, no matter how small or big I believe it to be.”

The University of Virginia sponsors the program and any university student can apply.

International scholarships are now available.

Visit Semester at Sea for more information.

Media: UQ Communications Officer Kate Bishop, 3346 7887, k.bishop3@uq.edu.au.