By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Ross Waycaster has climbed the Great Wall of China, watched Brazilian sunsets and been chased by Indian monkeys.
Now the Tupelo native is back home preparing for his junior year at Mississippi State University.
Waycaster, a 2010 Tupelo High School graduate, spent the past spring traveling the world as part of the Semester at Sea study abroad program. Setting sail in January on a cruise ship with 700 other students from across the United States, Waycaster visited 12 countries in 105 days and earned 12 credits through the program, which is administered by the University of Virginia. He returned last month.
While the ship was sailing, he studied “entry strategies in emerging markets,” “globalization through film,” “introduction to world music” and “global studies.” When it was in port, he spent time in Brazil, Ghana, South Africa, Cambodia, India, China and Japan, among other places.
“I’m still processing it,” he said. “I saw a lot of poverty, and it makes you appreciate what you have here.
“In America, we are free to do whatever we want. We can ride our bike down the street and not worry about being kidnapped.”
Among his favorite stops was India, where he took a boat ride through the Ganges River as the sun rose. He saw people bathing and others holding burial ceremonies in the same waters.
“I really liked India because it was so diverse, and the culture was so different,” he said.
He also visited the Taj Mahal, which “looked like a picture.” It was there that a monkey chased him after mistakenly believing Waycaster was trying to steal the animal’s juice carton.
“It was scary,” he said. “I got away, but they told us several people have gotten fingers bitten off by monkeys in the past.”
He visited killing fields where genocide occurred in Cambodia and watched great white sharks feed in South Africa.
Back in Tupelo, he’s working on several business ideas. The trip gave him time to think and also exposed him to labor conditions and foreign markets.
“I saw manufacturing in different areas. Like in China, labor is so cheap, but it is not the best working conditions. In Ghana, there were street vendors everywhere.
“I saw several products in different countries I thought would be good in America.”