BEIRUT: “Is this it? Is this where we say goodbye?” recalls Liliane Angela Daou, author of “You’ve Changed,” as she stepped out from the ship she had called home for over a hundred days.
After learning how to find the sound of crashing waves on her bedroom’s window soothing and coping with a shaky bed, Daou found herself waving the sea goodbye. While she stepped back into reality, Daou marked the end of her unique exchange experience with Semester at Sea (SAS), a study abroad program where students take university courses on a cruise ship that sails around 11 countries in four months.
Although she never thought about publishing a book, Daou felt that she had a duty of sharing her experience. Thus, the 24-year-old decided to transcribe her journey into a story titled “You’ve Changed.” Published by Dergham, the book transports the readers into the author’s personal Semester at Sea journey.
“You’ve Changed” aims at shedding light on the importance of traveling.
“Traveling changes you to the better,” Daou told Annahar. “It is very important to travel but, it is also very important to learn how to travel in the right way.”
How it all Started
In fall 2017, Daou graduated from the American University of Beirut with a BA in electrical engineering. Before she headed into her career life, the new graduate had one dream she needed to fulfill: to complete a semester abroad.
“I heard about SAS a year before I actually applied from another AUB student,” Daou said. “Back then, I started the application but, never finished it because the courses did not work well with my major.” She eventually determined that the SAS would be the perfect fit for her gap program.
SAS brings together around 600 international students onto a ship. Students get to choose four to five courses to take over four months. Their time is then divided as follows: one week on the ship and the next, in one of the 11 countries where the program makes port. Students learn the theoretical part of their courses while in the sea and then, get to see the practical part of it in different countries.
“It’s a life-changing experience,” Daou said.
“Although it might sound scary to live in the ocean for this long, I never felt like my decision was wrong,” she added.
A glimpse into the pages of “You’ve Changed”
“After I came back, it took me so much time to readapt,” explained Daou. “Some days I couldn’t even sleep. Journaling my experiences was how I found my way back into my normal life.”
Noticing the amount of time she spent writing about her experience, her mother suggested that she actually turn her journal into a book.
“My friends used to jokingly suggest that my experience is worth writing about,” she said. “My mom’s support and having my friends constantly calling me a storyteller, made me decide to channel my trip in what can be readable to an audience.”
“You’ve Changed” starts where Daou’s voyage ends: in Germany.
“I told my parents to meet me at the last spot because I needed their psychological support,” Daou said, adding that “it was hard for me to go back to reality and having my mom by my side made it easier.”
The days they spent in Germany included Daou narrating to her mother all about her journey.
“The story starts from when my mom picks me up and asks me about my experience in Semester at Sea,” Daou told Annahar. “I open my journal for her and we start going back in time while stressing on different experiences I had in different countries.”
Each chapter is unique. While all of them reflect the author’s thoughts and memories, some focus on the cultural aspect of a specific country and the others mirror the personal experiences of Daou’s journey.
The book’s title was chosen to be “You’ve Changed” to emphasize the change travel brings about in a person’s life.
“Traveling is the best way of education,” Daou explained. “While we learn a lot from academia, the things we see when we travel can sometimes teach us way more.”
“I don’t say in the book what changed but I instead show the importance of change and learning,” she adds.
In one of Daou’s travelogues, the young Lebanese and her crewmates are in the Vietnamese city of Phu Quoc and encountered a dinner party in front of a house.
“Adventure is about not knowing what the next move is …….It was very heartwarming to see. It reminded me of how people back in Lebanon gathered around a table to have dinner together... Witnessing, first hand, a local family having dinner was the best way to confirm what my teacher told me about their respect for elders. No one started eating until the oldest family member did,” Daou wrote.
"We tried not to interrupt, but we couldn’t pass unnoticed ‘Hello my friends! Do you want to join us for dinner? Come on, don’t be shy.’ The family rejoiced in unison as we joined and the smiles on their faces were radiant, and their generosity was admirable..”
For Daou, though some of the change was intangible, the lessons of learning through adventure have continued.
“I am now more aware of the world around me. The experience made me realize how blessed I am,” she said.
Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations — Naya Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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