The 'Semester at Sea' programme of the University of Virginia, USA, takes students to 12 countries over an almost four-month-long voyage.

The m.v. Explorer set sail from San Diego in January this year and docked at Cochin Port on Sunday. Aboard the ship were students representing 15 countries who are part of the Spring 2014 ‘Semester at Sea’ programme of the University of Virginia, USA. Soon after the ship weighed anchor, a bunch of students set foot in Kochi, excited to explore India and learn more about the country.

“I have been outside the U.S. before, but this is my first time in India. I’m very excited to be here,” says Abigail, a business management student from Pennsylvania.

554 students

Abigail is among the 554 students from 280 colleges and universities who were selected for the ‘Semester at Sea’ programme. The programme takes students to 12 countries over an almost four-month-long voyage. The students take classes on board the ship and during ‘field labs’ in the cities where they dock.

Travel plans

The ship arrived at Cochin Port after a voyage touching Hawaii, Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Burma. The team will be in India for six days. The programme also gives students the chance to schedule their own travel plans for the countries they visit.

Abigail has decided to spend her time in India in Kerala itself.

“I’ve heard a little bit about Kerala and that it is very different from the rest of India. I’m staying at a homestay in Kollam because I want to learn more about the local community,” she says. First up on her itinerary, though, is a trip to the Punnathur Kota elephant sanctuary at Guruvayur.

Several other students and faculty members have made plans to visit the world-famous Taj Mahal and the pink city of Jaipur. Among them is Megan from Chicago. “The journey so far has been an eye-opening experience. It’s a fast-paced trip and we get to see so many places in so little time,” she says.

The Center for Public Policy Research in Kochi conducted presentations for a few of the students on Sunday.

The presentations covered topics such as marriage and family in India, and the debate over genetically-modified crops.

The m.v. Explorer departs for Port Louis, Mauritius, next on March 14.

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