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A cruise of international proportions

By Geoff Ash

Philippa Gosine, a second-year engineering student at Memorial, recently returned from an intercultural experience of a lifetime.

Ship for World Youth (SWY) is a cultural exchange program operated by the Government of Japan. The program sponsors youth from around the world to travel to Japan, live together on a ship for more than a month and sail to other countries to participate in multicultural and multinational activities.

"The atmosphere on the ship was incredible," said Ms. Gosine, who was among 11 delegates from Canada. "It was an amazing experience which I sometimes couldn't believe was happening."

More than 250 youth participated in the 24th SWY, representing 13 countries including Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, India, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Venezuela. The program presents a unique opportunity to gain first-hand experience in cultural exchange, explains Ms. Gosine.

"Instead of going to just one country and doing an exchange, there are 12 other countries on board and you're living with them in close quarters for five weeks. So you learn a lot about different countries and cultures."

Ms. Gosine says she received tremendous support from Memorial, including some branded swag and funding from Student Affairs and Services' Student Innovation Fund. Spanning half of a semester, she was grateful for the flexibility which allowed her to take advantage of the opportunity.

"I'm actually on a work term at the moment, so both the co-op office in engineering and C-CORE, who I'm working for, were both really helpful and flexible," she said.

The trip began with a two week stay in Japan, which included a homestay with a Japanese family. The participants then boarded a cruise ship for a five-week route that included stops in Singapore, India, and Sri Lanka. Activities took place in each port of call, and delegates were treated with visits from some high profile dignitaries including the Sri Lankan president, the Sri Lankan ambassador to Canada, and the crown prince and prime minister of Japan.

Not your typical vacation cruise, there wasn't much time for lounging on deck, says Ms. Gosine.

"We were busy all the time, and even when we had holidays, the delegates organized our own activities, so it was even more crazy than normal, in a good way."

The program included formal activities such as discussion groups, but Ms. Gosine believed she learned the most from day-to-day living.

"At the beginning, we were shaking hands with everyone to introduce ourselves. We thought this was a pretty universal gesture, but we learned later that most Bahrainis aren't comfortable touching someone from the other gender."

Doing her part to bridge the cultural gaps, Ms. Gosine, along with a fellow Canadian delegate, ran English lessons for participants.

"English was the official language on the ship, but there were very different levels, so sometimes it was still a challenge to communicate."

The program culminated in a national presentation from each country's delegation, where they got the opportunity to showcase the culture, history and issues of their home country.

To learn more about the SWY program, visit www.shipforworldyouth.org, www.swycanada.org or email futureprograms@swycanada.org.

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