Vulcan Voyager: UH Hilo student travels the globe

Lindsay Johnson expresses her excitement at being part of the 2018 Spring Semester at Sea program and tells how she got there.

By Karl Reid.

Lindsay and friend stand on the Great Wall of China
Lindsay Johnson and fellow traveler at the Great Wall, China. Courtesy photos, click to enlarge.

One University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo student has just embarked on a trip around the world with the Semester at Sea (SAS) program, and has received a SAS scholarship of $16,533 to participate in the Spring 2018 voyage.

Lindsay Johnson, a junior majoring in Environmental Science, is currently experiencing an around-the-world voyage that will provide educational visits to 15 cities in 11 countries. She will have visited a total of four continents by the conclusion of the 102-day voyage.

The  Spring 2018 Voyage Around the World began on the fifth of January, embarking out of San Diego, California, proceeding to Honolulu, Hawai‘i, then to Kobe, Japan, followed by Shanghai and Hong Kong, China, then to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Johnson is excited about the impact the program has already had.

“So far, we’ve stopped in Hawai‘i, Japan, China and Vietnam,” she says. “I’ve already learned important lessons about traveling and life itself. I feel a lot more independent and I’m certain now that we can all do anything we set our minds to. The experiences I’ve had and the beautiful people I’ve encountered that have helped me in numerous situations have already changed my outlook on life. I’m the happiest I have ever been.”

Lindsay on a moped with temple in the background.
Lindsay Johnson in Myanmar.

The UH Hilo Semester at Sea Scholarship Program is a cooperative partnership between UH Hilo and the Institute for Shipboard Education. The program’s aim is to provide a unique learning experience and broaden a student’s global perspective to create leaders for the future.

Johnson spoke directly to the SAS program’s impact with respect to the program’s goal of broadening student’s global perspectives and on the program’s impact on her personal studies within her major of Environmental Science.

“Aside from traveling in these countries, I’m taking classes on the ship,” she says. “Some are related to my major and some aren’t, but I’m learning valuable information in all of them. It’s great because we get to learn about different aspects of these countries, and then go experience it all first-hand. It has been the most rewarding and eye-opening semester I’ve ever had.”

Johnson tells of how she was introduced to the program.

“My mom was the first person to introduce me to this program,” Johnson explains. “She is always helping me look into various opportunities, and she came across it on UH Hilo’s website. At first, it seemed like a distant idea that I probably couldn’t or wouldn’t go through with. But then my good friend, Dan DuVarney, proved to me that it was possible. He went on the fall 2016 voyage and came back with amazing stories and a changed life, which inspired me to look further into this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

One of the challenges that Johnson has faced has been the severing of connection from the world she left behind. Notably the automated reply that is sent back to all who try to reach her via email:

Hello! This is an automated reply.

I’m currently studying abroad through Semester at Sea, and will not have reliable Internet access until … I can send and receive an unlimited number of text-only messages, but I am unable to receive photos or attachments. I will respond as soon as I can.

On these dates, I will be in-country and will likely have Internet access. Every other day, I will be at sea!

These changes do bear some amazing fruit, for when Johnson does have “reliable Internet access” she is able to tell of her amazing adventures.

“Right now, I’m on the ship traveling down the Mekong Delta, away from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I just spent the last 6 days in Hoi An, Vietnam, exploring various markets, villages, homestays, and making wonderful Vietnamese friends,” she says.

Though the around-the-world trip is not near completion, Johnson is already aware of the gravity that her Semester at Sea experience will have on her life beyond the program.

Lindsay Johnson and friend in Myanmar.

“The trip is almost halfway over, and I’ve already learned so much about myself and have new ideas for how I could make a positive and meaningful impact on some of the places I’ve visited and people I’ve met,” she says. “I did know that in the United States, as a developed country and one of the most powerful ones, that we are privileged in many ways. Until visiting small villages and seeing the lives that other people on our planet live, I don’t know if I truly understood on a deeper level. I’ve been totally grounded by these experiences, and all I know is that I want to do what I can in my lifetime to bring happiness and try to help the people, in some way, who are less privileged than I am.”

The 2018 Semester at Sea voyage will make way still to Cochin, India; Port Louis, Mauritius; Cape Town, South Africa; Tema and Takoradi, Ghana; Bay, Namibia; Casablanca, Morocco; and finally disembarking in Hamburg, Germany on April 19.

Even with almost half of the voyage to go Johnson is already confident that the Semester at Sea program will help in her field of focused study, in her transition beyond school, and in knowing who and what she desires to help.

“I think this experience will be truly life-changing, and it’ll give me a more accurate and well-rounded perspective of the world and the people living in it,” she says. “Semester at Sea will keep me grounded, grateful and appreciative for what I have in my life, and clarify what is truly important. As a result, it will also help me sort out what career path I want to follow with my environmental science degree and how I can help people and the environment.”

Lindsay Johnson and friend with arms in the air with large hot air balloons rising in background.
Lindsay Johnson and friend watch balloon launch in Myanmar.

To learn more about global education opportunities at UH Hilo, visit the UH Hilo Study Abroad website.


Author: Karl “Lee” Reid is a senior majoring in history with a minor in English.