Students on the Move

Sarah Ragsdale

Sarah Ragsdale is a second year UNMA student with undergraduate studies in economics, music, and Spanish. Since her enrollment into the program she has done the European Summer Institute study abroad in Germany and held an internship at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Her final internship project focused on research for a website of the historical timeline of violence against women (www.globalfeministjourneys.com). Currently, she is working as a musician on cruise ships while continuing her studies. We asked her to share these cultural experiences (including her visit to the home of Bob Marley and playing the family piano):

Studying while travelling to so many different places and working in an international environment has given me new perspective on so many things. I am in a working environment where only about 1-2% of the crew and staff are American. It has been interesting to learn of the personal stories and sacrifices that so many make to be able to work on these long overseas contracts to support themselves and their families. The experience has also been educational in terms of learning about maritime law and standards set by the IMO. I have now undergone various environmental, safety, crowd management, and crisis trainings in accordance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, STCW 1978.

Travelling to various locations in the Caribbean and Central America has been an eye-opening experience. I have learned first-hand about the fusion of native, African and European peoples, and their languages and cultures in places such as Belize and the Bahamas. Visiting the ruins of ancient Mayan civilizations on the Yucatan Peninsula (such as UNESCO World Heritage Sites Chichen Itza and Uxmal), and the burned buildings of the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt has provided powerful historical insights. The Panama Canal was an incredible feat of engineering to witness, and had a personal connection as that is where my grandfather was stationed in the Navy in World War II. I explored the Veragua Rainforest in Costa Rica which hosts research and conservation projects for declining species due to negative human impact on the environment. While the waters are crystal blue and the sands pristine white in Grand Turks and Caicos, increasingly intense tropical storms damage the marine reef life and leave homes destroyed. It is difficult for the impoverished islands to rebuild, yet the effects of global warming may mean having to deal with these storms more often. Climate change can clearly have dramatic and detrimental environmental and economic impact in the Caribbean.

One of my favorite cultural experiences has been visiting the home of Bob Marley. The home place called ‘Nine Mile’ is a remote spot high in the mountains of Jamaica. While the house is small and humble, it is on a green lush camp with beautiful views. Several buildings surround the house including Bob’s small one room retreat hut, a place for worship, and a small mausoleum where he is buried. I learned about Rastafarianism: its influence from Judeo-Christianity, focus on natural living, and its central role of Ethiopia to the African diaspora. I had the chance to sit on the rock where Bob would supposedly get inspiration for his songs, as well as play the piano in the house (Marley songs of course!). Visiting the very modest home of this internationally known musician and political change-maker helped me to understand his background and vision for peace and ‘one love’.