As Caleb Larnerd ’17 wove his way through a bazaar in the ancient city of Marrakesh – surrounded by shopkeepers, dancers, snake charmers and henna artists – he had the overwhelming sensation he was dreaming. It was not the first time Larnerd had that feeling that week – or even that month. When he first arrived in Morocco, he traveled by camel to a desert near Casablanca, where he slept under the stars before making his way south. In the weeks before that, he kayaked along the coast of South Africa, within sight of a family of penguins; hiked 15 miles along the Great Wall of China; and traversed a narrow walkway 150 feet above a Ghanaian rainforest.
That was just the start.
The 102 days Larnerd spent taking part in the Semester at Sea – visiting 15 cities in 11 countries on four continents – changed him irrevocably. A biology major from Binghamton, N.Y., he applied what he learned in his classrooms at Le Moyne and aboard the ship to the world around him – literally. He tallied the fish and other aquatic life he saw while snorkeling near Honolulu, Hawaii, as part of a course in marine biology; he compared and contrasted energy conservation practices and biodiversity in the nations he visited during another class in environmental science; and he reflected upon the impact the Vietnam War had not just on Americans, but on that nation’s civilian population, during a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
Larnerd came away from this experience – in which he crossed the equator twice – with far more than college credit. As he visited locales both urban and rural, he improved his understanding of the world and its citizens. He also came face to face with some of the world’s greatest current challenges and historical stains, as he visited some of India’s most impoverished communities and explored part of Ghana that served as the heart of the slave trade in the 18th century. Much of Larnerd’s growth stemmed from the interactions he had with people he met on his journey, including the Buddhist monks who taught him to meditate in Myanmar, the kind, multilingual guide who led him on safari in Africa, and social rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who joined Larnerd and his classmates for part of their journey. Each played a role in helping him to grow intellectually, to challenge some long-held beliefs and reaffirm others.
Whether climbing the Le Pouce Mountains in the tiny African nation of Mauritius or navigating the busiest intersection in Tokyo, Larnerd was constantly inspired to think in new ways. Every port became a classroom in this spectacular, ever-changing environment. He learned “to shed his expectations of people, to be conscious of change and, yet, to accept it.” Even performing seemingly mundane tasks – such as reading an assignment – became thrilling from the perch of the ship’s deck, dolphins and whales on the horizon.
Far from feeling fatigued, Larnerd returned from the experience energized. He was inspired by all of the opportunities he saw to go back out into the world and put his education to work – whether by helping to build infrastructure, feed the hungry or combat disease. He also gained an appreciation for how much is left for him to uncover. That, he said, was the greatest revelation of the semester.
“I want to see more.”
Larnerd’s Semester at Sea was funded in part by The O’Leary International Travel Grants Program, which provides financial awards of up to $2,000 to help offset travel costs for students in Le Moyne’s College of Arts and Sciences participating in study abroad programs. This grant program is administered by the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences and funded by a gift from the estate of Dr. Harriet L. O’Leary, professor emerita of Foreign Languages and Literatures.