Sailing across cultures

Building bridges across the seas and understanding people - the S.S.Universe group in the city.

Building bridges across the seas and understanding people - the S.S.Universe group in the city.  

THEY WERE a group of 600, multi-racial, multi-lingual, effervescent youth from around the world, berthed in Chennai, to explore the country they have heard about. The Taj Connemara on Monday saw a colourful function where a meeting was hosted by the Rotary Club of Chennai East Rajah Annamalaipuram to welcome the 30 students from the Semester-At-Sea who got aboard the S.S. Universe Explorer.

Rotary representative, Om Ahluwalia, who returned from the inter-port scholarship along with Alamelu Charanya, summed it up. "I had such a great time on board, but reality hit us when we reached Bangkok", he said. "If I asked the taxi driver for a supermarket, he took us to a Nokia showroom. But Bangkok's Buddhist temples, its holy men and people reminded us so much of our own country."

Telling it all back home on how the Chennai-duo had quite a time updating students from other countries about India, Mr. Om said, "Not that their thoughts about India are wrong, but just a little behind". Ms. Alamelu narrated her experience and expressed the great pride and confidence she felt when she spoke about her country as a cultural ambassador aboard the ship.

For Dean Koci from California, US, it was literally a "moving experience" on the ship. "It was amazing to be surrounded by water. About 600 of us from Greece, Canada, China, India, it was a wonderful community", he exclaimed. He also recounted their experience in visiting refugee camps and orphanages and was thankful for the opportunity the study offered in seeing how people lived in other countries. Co-chairman of Semester-at-Sea, Nandu P. Wadhwa said the ship was run by the University of Pittsburgh and travelled to 10 countries, including South Africa, Brazil, Mauritius, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan. The sailing was for one semester consisting of 100 days.

Rotarian past district governor, C.S.R. Ramachandran, past president, N. Krishnan, who was instrumental in bringing Semester-At-Sea to Chennai, S. Krishnaswamy, past district governor, Rotary district governor, Sv.Rm. Ramanathan, and president, Rotary Club of Chennai East, R.A. Puram, N. Ramanathan, were among those who spoke.

By Akila Dinakar

Photo: N. Balaji

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