Global Spotlight: Dr. Carol Saunders’ Semester at Sea

Posted: Monday, November 2nd 2015 at 9:22 AM

Study Abroad programs are often a draw for students entering college. There are endless possibilities for travel in education available to students worldwide. Dr. Carol Saunders, FCB research mentor, experienced a voyage at sea that opened her eyes to the exceptional experience a traveling classroom could give to students from around the world.

The voyage, called Semester at Sea, was a twelve-credit program offered out of the University of Pittsburgh, and after hearing about it through a friend who was a faculty member there, Saunders and her husband signed up to teach aboard the ship. Saunders taught a course in international business management.

The semester-long voyage traveled around the world. When in port, students would have the opportunity to go ashore, explore, and take tours of the port city, all while completing assignments related to their studies on the ship. Excursions to on-shore destinations included activities such as a trip to the Taj Mahal, a safari in Tanzania, and a bicycle tour of wineries in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

While experiencing these adventures, students were also looking at the way different cultures observed time, for instance, how quickly the citizens walked on a sidewalk, or how long it took to purchase a postcard stamp in post offices in different countries. Divided into groups, the students were responsible for creating a questionnaire that explored the perception of time in different countries along the route. In addition to their coursework, Saunders and her students also had to face the unique challenges of travel by sea.

The voyage was disrupted by a 60-foot wave that temporarily knocked out the navigation equipment. The ship was diverted to Hawaii, where the Semester at Sea participants boarded a plane to Shanghai, then Beijing, then Hong Kong, and eventually Ho Chi Minh City where they met the repaired ship again to continue their journey around the world.

The rest of the voyage took them to India, Kenya, Cape Town, Brazil, and Venezuela. Although most students on the voyage came from the host university and were American, a handful of international students shared the voyage with Saunders and her students. Interaction with these international students gave Saunders and the other students a unique view into their culture.

“We picked up a young Kenyan student in India. One of the things she said was that she did not speak her tribe’s language; nor did most of her friends. The language was being lost, and with it, her tribe’s culture. It was an interesting opportunity to see how she felt about that,” Saunders recalled.

Saunders recognized the importance of letting students on the voyage interact with the cultures in the ports they visited.

“You had to realize that the best part of the learning was derived from the students being on shore and absorbing the culture. You could help structure the experience through the exercises, but there needed to be flexibility in their schedules. The challenge was to let the students think about what they had seen and integrate it so that they could then have a view of what it meant to live in these different cultures,” she said.

When the ship wasn’t in port, students and teachers spent time together at sea.

“It was a very intense experience because the ship wasn’t a very large learning environment. It was a great way for the students and the faculty to interface and get to know one another,” Saunders said.

Also aboard the ship were a group of world travelers that the voyagers called “ancient mariners” who interacted with students.

“In the evenings we would have community sessions where people would talk about their skills and expertise, and that created a very rich environment for the students,” Saunders said. "It was a wonderful learning experience."

Saunders is pleased to hear about new study abroad programs operating out of The W.A. Franke College of Business and the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management. One is Discovering Gastronomy: A Study of French Terroir and Tradition in France, and others are an international business program (not specific to SHRM) destined for France and Morocco and a course in international management in Southeast Asia. She encourages students at NAU to study abroad, and hopes that others feel the positive effects of immersing themselves in various cultures.

More on Saunders HERE

This article is part of a series on FCB Business Division and SHRM faculty and staff to highlight the international experience within the college and to promote our globalization initiatives, including the launch of the Global Business Program (GBP). Information on this program can be found HERE.

Categories: 2015 fall 2015 dr. carol saunders research mentor global spotlight study abroad shrm fcb carol saunders global faculty spotlight