BHSU Student Visits 10 Countries in 1 Semester: "Along the Way"

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A student at Black Hills State, traveled to ten countries and 4 continents all during 1 semester studying abroad.

She is a self proclaimed 'farm girl, rodeo girl' who grew up on a ranch in North Dakota.

And she did her traveling aboard a ship.

Keely Kleven grew up in Williston North Dakota, competing in rodeo in both high school and then 2 years here at Black Hills State University. But this past fall, she hopped on a ship for a whole different type of wild ride, a whirlwind semester of learning, through a program called 'Semester at Sea'.

"The whole thing took about 106 days, 26-thousand nautical miles. 5 thousand pounds of Peanut Butter," BHSU student Keely Kleven says.

106 days, and an education beyond textbooks and technology, that will likely last a lifetime. Their journey began last September and ended in December.

Kleven can show us their route on a map, but her pictures take us along for the voyage. Their traveling college campus, is a ship named the MV World Odyssey.

There were about 530 students from around the world on board she says, and about 180 faculty and staff. They were sailing across multiple seas including the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, traveling to places many of us will never go.

"We started up in Germany and went to Spain and Ghana, South Africa, India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Japan," the BHSU Senior tells us.
"I mean we got to see all these countries from anywhere between 4 to 6 days in country," she says.

All this, while taking college courses at the same time aboard the ship.
"I actually decided to take an 8 am on this voyage which was not a good idea as we went through 19 time changes, so I lost 19 hours of sleep," Keely says.

This German ship formerly used for cruises, now leased by 'Semester at Sea', is being used as a moving college campus.

Their biggest classroom Kleven says was a big auditorium with plush red chairs, big enough to hold everybody on board which could be divided into multiple classrooms.

She adds, "All of our dining rooms did become classrooms. So you'd eat between 7 and 8:15. And at 8:30 that was a classroom for someone."

And they weren't traveling to ten countries, just to sight see. Keely took took 4 classes, totalling 12 credits.

One required course for every student, was Global Studies.
She says it taught them 'how to's' in each country, and the histories of each one. They are places far different than America.

"So we kind of learned about cultural sensitivity and ethnocentrism, you know you go into some of these countries where they drive on the left side of the road and it's really quick for us to say, ;'Oh they dirve on the wrong side of the road'. They don't. They can look at us and say the same thing. It's just different," Keely says.

BHSU recently signed an agreement with 'Semester at Sea' based out of Colorado State University in Fort Collins with Keely's credits transferring smoothly to BHSU.

"I'm from North Dakota where it's landlocked so I was amazed by the ocean. You get up and see whales or sharkes. I mean so many different things for wildlife, flying fish, dolphins," she remembers.

While there was beauty there was also reality.

"Having never really been around the ocean I was never aware of how much garbage is in the ocean. And so, that was sad, you know. You'd be watching these magnificent animals surface next to you and then go down and come back up next to a pile of trash the size of a car," Kleven says.

There was also the reality of a small country she went to, named Myanmar.

"They're currently going through an ethnic cleansing of the Rohinga. So more than 800-thousand people have fled from Northern Myanmar into Bangladesh," Kleven says.

Some realities revealed ironic results.

"You go to these countries and you see one kind of bread on the shelf, one kind of coffee. These people, they have so little in our eyes in our comparitive Western eyes but are so happy," Kleven explains.

The biggest impact on Keely has to do with things we all have in common..

"I would say the kindness and the similarity between people, you know. I think we are so easy to judge difference based on skin color, religion, race, ethnicity, all of those things. But at the end of the day, so many people want the same thing. They want their kids to get an education. They want food on their table. They want a roof to protect them," she says.

It was 106 days, and an education beyond textbooks and technology, that will likely last a lifetime.

She graduates from BHSU this weekend.
Her next stop is law school at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

She says she hopes to use that degree to bring help to people across the globe, like victims of sex trafficking or hunger.
And someday, she wants to travel with 'Semester at Sea' again, maybe down the road as a professor.

If you've met someone cool "Along the Way" please call us or e-mail me at to let me know.

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