Campbellsburg student to see the world for a semester

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

When you think of a 750-student co-ed college cruise, what comes to mind? A lot of hard studying and modest clothing, right?

Okay, maybe not. But Cameran Smith of Campbellsburg said that is exactly the kind of cruise she will participate in this fall, although the semester-long international cruise wasn’t on her radar until June 10.

Smith already had her fall courses and housing lined up, but fate came knocking with an offer she couldn’t refuse — she received a letter from the honors program, giving students a first shot on international studies.

Initially at a cost of $35,000, the program’s price tag was whittled down to the cost of a semester on campus making it a real bargain. “We found out we could use our financial aid, KEES money and a grant,” she said.

Since 1963, Semester at Sea has sent more than 45,000 college students around the world to study abroad, but Smith’s mother Tina Smith said scholar in residence Professor Bernard Strenecky remembered the program from his days at the University of Virginia. She said Strenecky asked if WKU students could participate and was offered 35 slots on the MV Explorer for the fall semester.

“Normally you have a year to prepare,” Tina Smith said. “We had from June 10 until now. It has almost been the summer from hell.”

Cameran Smith said it was a whirlwind. “I’m still in shock that I’m doing this,” she said. “I spent the first couple of days just thinking about it.”

Then she sprang into action.

Smith already had a passport from a previous missions trip to Mexico. But her to-do list remained hefty: Visas, financial aid, orientation and a complete physical and vaccinations. Smith was inoculated against yellow fever, hepatitis, polio, typhoid and even sea sickness. “It’s during hurricane season that we’re going,” she said.

The 25,000 ton ship will embark from Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Aug. 28. Stops include Spain, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa,  Mauritius, India, Vietnam, China and Japan.

There are nine classrooms on board and a full range of coursework offered. Smith said round tables with chairs and a white board are typical. “They’re classrooms, but not the typical desk and chair arrangement,” she said, “and the professors are from all over the world.”

Smith will take “The World in Poetry,” “Introduction to Psychology,” “Global Studies” and “The West and the World” for a total of 12 credits, but anticipates that what she learns from visiting different countries will be equally important.

Smith intends to parlay her major in religious studies and minor in dance into a vocation. “I want to do mission work and incorporate dance into it,” she said. “This opportunity to see the world will help me see where I want to serve first.”

Some of the things Smith looks most forward to are visiting the Taj Mahal, trekking through a rain forest in Ghana and riding a camel across part of the Sahara Desert. An overnight stay with a Japanese family also intrigues her. “I want to learn a little of the language,” she said.

Life on the ship is not all work and no play.

Smith said the ship is set up like a university and offers many opportunities for socialization. “There’s a Christian Fellowship and Hip Hop Dance Club,” she said. Smith said there also is a formal Ambassador’s Ball.

About the modest clothing.

Smith said because some of the countries visited have different views and religions, students are expected to err on the side of caution in regard wardrobe. “We were told to dress as plain as possible,” she said, “ out of respect for other cultures.”

Smith hasn’t had time to think about future homesickness, but dad David helped put her absence into perspective. “He says he’s going to take my bed out and put up a pool table,” she said.

Smith hopes to take thousands of pictures and share them and a blog with friends and family over the next several months. She is scheduled to return in December.

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