Photo of a student standing next to camels in Morocco. Her left hand is petting the neck of a large camel.
Visiting a camel farm in Morocco, as part of the Impact Cohort, where we learned about food systems and sustainability. (Photo Credit: Sophia Mares De Juan)

Sophia at Sea: Travelling Through Words and Stories

"Aggies Abroad: Sophia at Sea" is a blog series chronicling undergrad Sophia Mares de Juan’s journey as she travels, by ship, around the world studying abroad for a semester. Sophia is participating in the Semester at Sea program and will be blogging here from September 2022 through February 2023—sharing advice, photos and reflections along the way. Read Sophia's first blog post.  Read Sophia's second blog post.

Studying abroad is challenging. It is an amazing experience, for sure, but it is not always easy, especially when you are on a ship with 500 people. Since I got on the Semester at Sea ship, I have been questioning what my role in this place is and why I decided to embark on this journey in the first place. After studying abroad in different places, I feel I belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

I remember the first time I left Mexico; I woke up and realized that I wasn’t home. I didn’t even know what home really meant to me anymore, and that was just the beginning of redefining what home is to me.

Student holding up a Global Aggies sticker in front of the Parthenon in Greece.
Learning more about the Parthenon in Greece. Photo credit: Sophia Mares De Juan

Institutions and people are the ones who make us feel more like a part of society; they help us belong. It’s the sense of belonging that stems from being part of a place or relationship. A place, however, is not the only way of traveling.

I have decided that in this voyage I want to travel through people's stories. For me, people are what home feels like.

With time, I have learned and felt that home is where my friends and family are. The more we travel, the more stories we get to hear. It isn’t the places that I visit that make me feel special, but the people I meet and their stories.

Traveling through people's stories is one of my favorite things! Every time I sit in a new place and meet someone, I am not only getting to know the country or city, but I am also deepening my understanding of the people that live in those places. Having friends from all over the world has taught me that, through their words, I can travel to countries without leaving one.

While being in the U.S., I have traveled to different countries through my friend's stories. I have learned about political, historical and cultural situations in India, China, Lebanon, Japan and Puerto Rico among many others. All without ever physically visiting those places. Don’t get me wrong; I would love to visit all these places and learn about them with my own eyes, but I love and feel that I already have a glimpse of them in my head through the stories that people shared.

Every time you meet a new person, from today on, I encourage you to think about how you can travel through their words and stories; feel how the world seems smaller. We must be careful, however, to not think that the people we meet from other countries are the only stories that exist, but at the same time we must have open ears and hearts as they have important things to say. That is the only way in which we will have a more compassionate and just world. When people start seeing faces on maps instead of lines and drawings, that is when real change happens.

What is your story? Share it with others and let them travel with you.

The Global Aggies Blog is where students have the chance to share their experiences with fellow Aggies considering a global learning program during their time at UC Davis. Submit your Global Aggies Blog profile to be considered for a web and/or social media feature (InstagramFacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and YouTube).

About the Global Learning Hub at UC Davis

As a part of Global Affairs, the Global Learning Hub aims to inspire global curiosity, understanding, and engagement.

Through the Global Learning Hub, every UC Davis student can find global learning opportunities available on campus, in the region, virtually and internationally. The Hub offers global learning programs, workshops and resources that enhance all UC Davis students’ academic and career pursuits through four broad areas of opportunities: Community Engagement; Global Skills and Leadership; Internships and Research; and Study Abroad. UC Davis is committed to preparing the next generation of global problem solvers and change makers. As such, we aim to prepare our undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to solve global challenges collaboratively, equitably, and sustainably.

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