The World Is My Classroom!

The World Is My Classroom!

Today was the first day of class for Spring 2011 Semester At Sea, the 104th voyage of this floating University.  I awoke at 6:55 a.m. and needed to make my first class at 8:00 a.m.  Visions of Colorado State University, 1974 danced in my head and I knew I could make the class.  I pulled on my jeans and t-shirt, put on my “Skecher’s” pulled back my hair etc. etc., grabbed my notebook and took off to the Dining Hall.  There I filled my “food network” coffee mug, ate some pineapple chunks and got to class on time.

The world is my classroom!

Exhilaration is the feeling that rushed through my 57 year old body on the first day in the floating, world classroom. I took some time to silently express my gratitude for this incredible opportunity to be able to become part of a 700 member ship board community. To be able to learn how global issues can be assimilated and the lessons brought right back home to our own cities and towns.  It’s energizing to go   “glocal” Thinking Globally and Acting Locally.

The college classmates around me were laughing with each other about not getting their pictures for the first day at school and of course I could not resist and had to take the photo op. I do have pictures of my daughters first day of school from Kindergarten to Freshman at college… So these were fun photos for Tom and me!

Carra Riley first day of Class Semester At Sea

Juliana Acheson, PH.D is the dynamic instructor for Anthropology 3000 “Food and Culture.” She is traveling with her husband and two daughters.  I am hoping to work with her children on the Cosmic Kids e-workbooks and really have some great research on how the principles in Cosmic Cow Pie come together for kids.

Dr. Juliann Acheson

The “Food and Culture”  class is so popular it had to be moved to the Student Union to accommodate all the students wanting to learn about Food and Culture.  Instructor Acheson started out requiring the classroom be configured in a circle so everyone could see everyone else.  The students were way out of their comfort zone in re-arranging the room.  The effect of the activity was interesting as the results of the group coming together in a circle created an instant connection among the participants.  Leave it to an Anthropology instructor to show such a good example in human behavior and how to get people to engage.

The first question Dr. Acheson asked the group to share around the circle was “What is the most recent NEW food you have tried that you liked?

I had to take a few minutes to stop and think about my food habits.  Trying new things has been something that I have not consciously thought about for a long time. Pondering the question and thinking about my behavior, I have to say I have not been very adventuresome about trying new foods lately.  What a great blog post this can be for people to start conversation or even a fb update. The list of new foods the students had recently tried and “liked” went from blueberries, brussel sprouts cherries, an omelet, pomegranate, chicken masala to raw heart, squid ink pasta, conch, frog legs, buffalo, bear guiney pig, chocolate covered worms, citric ants, sea urchins, and monkey brains.  No joke, one young lady said monkey brains!  I thought the student might be taking a line right out of Raiders of the lost Ark but evidently in South America, where she had visited it is a delicacy and she tried it. The raw heart was something a lifelong learner had tried in Pakistan.  We had young students and mature lifelong learners sharing their food experiences and touching one another by stimulating the concept of adventure with food around the world. There were certainly some real “foodies” in this group and it inspired my thought to consider trying new food, culture and the countries we are going to be visiting with a different vision and attitude.

After attending school this morning, I signed up for a cooking class in Brazil. We will create our own dinner with a chef using local products!

Teaching and learning is happening all over this ship at all times of the day and night.

Last night we had our first group meeting to discuss the book “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson. The book is an account of how one man with a vision built 54 schools in Pakistan to help educate women and children. The discussion delved into why and how this man was able to do what he did with only a dream and a passion for helping others.

Discussion group talking about the transformation process of a trip around the world together

The entire ship population, including 66 lifelong learners and 598 students are divided into groups of about 20 participants.  The group will get together before and after ports to discuss what we expect and then after we return what we observed then later, how it manifested in our thoughts. The Semester At Sea vision is to create an “experiential” education event which can possibly transform the lives of those participating.

What did I learn today? I need to be open to trying new food options. Not sure if I am going to eat everything we are exposed to but I will be open and watch those who do! The big lesson is just being receptive to new concepts presented by different cultures with a respect for their values.

The world is my classroom and I am ready to learn!

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About Carra Riley

Fun loving classic writer who is a life long learner. Helping people connect the dots as a consultant for small business and real estate along with custom workshops and seminars.


  1. Ohhhh one of my last classes at CSU had a very unique Professor who also had us arrange ourselves in a circle so that we could all see each other. It was SOOOO odd at first! But I think it really helped with developing conversations and it was even interesting to see who, among us, would stay in roughly the same seat each day and who would hop around the circle.

    I still have friends from that class, though. 🙂 Whereas I don’t think I can really say that for many of my other classes… the only other folks I keep in touch with from CSU (aside from this awesome circle-sitting class) were folks in the Art Department—-so I had seen them for a number of semester already, lol.

    Look forward to hearing more about it! 😀

    • Becky ~ I took a 2nd class from Dr. A today and we again sat in the circle.. it really does make a difference and I will share your comment at the next class… you see that is what she teaches.. the behavior of humans.. sitting in the circle made a difference on who you connected with down the road! Fun!

  2. Overcoming being “Out of the Comfort zone” is huge for most people in food cultures. As a child I was a picky eater. I finally became more open as I became a commercial cook or chef, but there are still many things that are hard to swallow. AS you said.. visions of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The cooking show “Chopped” opens new culinary experiences. The other night they had to cook goats brains. I look forward to any comments on monkey brains…

    • No brain edible parts for me.. the instructor talked about how “intimate” we get with food.. think about it.. we ingest it in our bodies.. so since our bodies are temples.. better think twice about what we are putting in there… Great idea just came to me… give it to “mikey” he’ll eat it.. you have to be a certain age to “get it” but funny to some 🙂

  3. Hi Carra,
    Thanks for sharing! I am Becca Tepper’s dad and I created a very simple “master blog” to bring all of the Semester at Sea blogs together in one place…I will optimize this site and maybe this will bring more readers to all of the blogs that are referenced.
    Check out and let me know if you have any suggestions for improving it. Of course there are lots of things that can be done to make it a more sophisticated blog like yours, but my goal for the moment is to keep this a simple site which is little more than a “yellow pages” guide to all of the Semester at Sea blogs being updated and shared on this amazing voyage.
    I am envious…enjoy every minute!
    Rob Tepper