Visiting ports from Dakar to Salvador, Professor Adrian Howkins sailed on CSU’s inaugural trip of Semester at Sea. He sought out the opportunity for many reasons. It was a chance to travel and chance to teach a variety of students. More importantly for him it was a chance to teach history of Latin America while visiting Latin American ports.
The value for him and for students was what Howkins called the “blast of information and experience” that Semester at Sea added to the context of his classes. He watched students develop over the course of the semester as they encountered other cultures through port visits, homestays and dinners with families. For example, students who had never traveled to a Muslim country, after 5 days in Morocco had a more complex and richer understanding of the culture there. On a school tour in Brazil, students got a sense of growing up in Salvador. And seeing the fishing industry in Dakar showed students a whole community engaged in aspects of food production and distribution. With these experiences, students and faculty could have far more sophisticated discussions about history, politics, economics, and daily life.
Howkins taught three classes on food history, global environmental history, and modern Latin America. Each class included a field class that brought students off the ship and into new environments. In Rome, Howkins’ food history class learned about the slow food movement and took a cooking class. In Monteverde his global environmental history class visited the cloud forest. His modern Latin American class took a tour of art museums and archeological sites in Lima. As they visited each place, Howkins asked students to think about how Incan iconography was used by colonizers and how it became Peruvian? After their tours they had written and physical evidence to consider Latin America as a palimpsest.
He and his wife, Alison, found the trip personally rewarding as well. While they enjoyed seeing wildlife in the Galapagos, Semester at Sea provided opportunities to dine with families in Morocco and Brazil, which they found more interesting than any of the tourist-oriented packaged events. They particularly enjoyed speaking with a Salvadorian family about the emergence of the legal property rights in the favela in which they lived. Howkins would recommend Semester at Sea to History students and faculty.