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Teenage Girls Find Confidence Sailing the Open Sea

Chile's President Gabriel Boric gestures, after being sworn in at the Congress, in Valparaiso, Chile.
Chile's President Gabriel Boric gestures, after being sworn in at the Congress, in Valparaiso, Chile.

Pink from the sun, unshowered and barefoot, the 17 teenage girls scarfed down fried chicken sandwiches after seven days at sea.

“I used to be a very anxious person, and I would let my anxieties hold me back from doing stuff that I felt I need to do,” Waverly Kremer, a high school junior, told VOA as she waited to board the Liberty Clipper.

And that was the point of the voyage arranged by their small private school in Charleston, South Carolina: Return confidence to girls at a time in life when it traditionally starts to wane.

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Teenage Girls Find Confidence Sailing the Open Sea
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​The Offshore Leadership Program at Ashley Hall School aims to boost the confidence of girls aged 15 to 17 — a time when studies show girls can lose up to 30 percent of their confidence.

Roscoe Davis, the classics teacher at Ashley Hall, created the yearlong program 10 years ago. The boat trip is what he calls the “capstone” of the program, which involves identifying failures in leadership in reality television shows, and reading Greek philosophy that empowers women.

Kremer said she was excited and nervous at the beginning of the trip. Like most of the girls, she had no sailing experience.

“My biggest fear is just kind of being away from home so far away 20 miles offshore,” Maura Mooney, a junior, said. “I guess just I miss my dog. I miss my family, but I’m really excited to get to know everyone. So hopefully, I won’t get too homesick.”

One of the girls’ dog and niece eagerly awaited her arrival on the dock.
One of the girls’ dog and niece eagerly awaited her arrival on the dock.

“I like to talk about the Oracle of Delphi, whose injunction was, ‘Know thyself,'" Davis told VOA. He explained that the girls get to know themselves on a deeper level when faced with the challenges of being on the boat.

“They identify their own weaknesses that they think are holding them back from the persons they need to be, the leaders they need to be, and they work on those weaknesses,” he said.

When the girls docked in Charleston — having shed their duck boots after realizing bare feet were more practical — they said the trip had been more challenging and rewarding than they had anticipated.

“I learned — beside the terminology — how to be confident in things that I do outside of my comfort zone,” Celia Smith, a senior, told VOA. “Once I committed myself to really embracing everything it had to offer, I knew I was going to get the most out of this experience.” She showed her parents around the stern, explaining the steering and navigation systems.

The girls described cold weather, long nights and physical challenges.

“I’m over here by myself pulling at one of these lines, and toward the end, it was absolutely my full body weight to pull this thing down,” Waverly said, describing what she called her toughest challenge on the ship — raising one of the sails.

The girls were required to journal regularly as part of the coursework to increase their self confidence.
The girls were required to journal regularly as part of the coursework to increase their self confidence.

“It was cold and windy, like really hard manual labor,” she said.

The other challenge the girls said they faced was the vast amount of downtime — being disconnected and feeling so far from everything they knew.

“For so much of it, we were literally just in the ocean, and the ocean looks the same a lot of the places where you are,” Smith said. “There were a lot of times when we were not feeling so great because the waves were so rough. Or because it just looked like the sun wasn’t going to come out that day. But in the end, we’d make it through, and we’d see how far we had gone. And that was just so rewarding,” she said.

And though the main lesson was introspective, some of the girls fell in love with the sailing itself.

Mooney “never ever” thought she would want to sail again after satisfying the requirements of the academic program.

Now, she’s considering taking a gap year before college to spend more time at sea.

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Xi wants more exchanges between US, Chinese universities

FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not seen) at the Great Hall of the People, on April 26, 2024, in Beijing, China.
FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not seen) at the Great Hall of the People, on April 26, 2024, in Beijing, China.

Mutual understanding between China and the United States can be improved by having more university exchanges between the two countries.

According to Bloomberg, Chinese President Xi Jinpin told Xinhua News Agency that exchanges could develop young ambassadors who understand both countries. (June 2024)

Students learn protests can affect job prospects

FILE - Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25, 2024.
FILE - Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25, 2024.

Some students in the U.S. are learning their public stances on the Israel-Hamas war are having an impact on job prospects.

Financial Times reports that protest activities are turning up in background checks, and employers have revoked employment offers to students as a result. (June 2024)

UCLA names new chancellor as campus is still reeling from protests over Israel-Hamas war

Dr. Julio Frenk, the next chancellor of UCLA, listens to questions at a news conference, June 12, 2024, in Los Angeles.
Dr. Julio Frenk, the next chancellor of UCLA, listens to questions at a news conference, June 12, 2024, in Los Angeles.

The president of the University of Miami was chosen Wednesday to become the next chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, where the retiring incumbent leaves a campus roiled by protests over Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.

Dr. Julio Frenk, a Mexico City-born global public health researcher, was selected by regents of the University of California system at a meeting on the UCLA campus, where there were a swarm of security officers.

Frenk will succeed Gene Block, who has been chancellor for 17 years and announced his planned retirement long before UCLA became a national flashpoint for U.S. campus protests. This spring, pro-Palestinian encampments were built and cleared by police with many arrests, and again this week, there were more arrests.

Frenk has led the 17,000-student University of Miami since 2015 and previously served as dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and as Mexico's national health secretary, among other positions.

In a brief press conference, Frenk said he was approaching the appointment with excitement and humility.

"The first thing I plan to do is listen very carefully," Frenk said. "This is a complex organization. It is, as I mentioned, a really consequential moment in the history of higher education."

Frenk did not comment on specific protests at UCLA this spring or the current administration's response, which initially tolerated an encampment but ultimately used police to clear it and keep new camps from forming.

During public comment in the regents meeting, speakers criticized UC administrators, alleged police brutality, complained of a lack of transparency in UC endowments and called for divestment from companies with ties to Israel or in weapons manufacturing.

Speakers also talked about experiencing antisemitism on campus and called for an increased law enforcement response to protesters.

Later, about 200 people rallied, including members of an academic student workers union and the Faculty for Justice for Palestine group as well as students from other UC campuses. Participants held signs calling for charges to be dropped against protesters who have been arrested.

Block departs UCLA on July 31. Darnell Hunt, executive vice president and provost, will serve as interim chancellor until Frenk becomes UCLA's seventh chancellor on January 1, 2025.

In previous roles, Frenk was founding director of Mexico's National Institute of Public Health, held positions at the World Health Organization and the nonprofit Mexican Health Foundation, and was a senior fellow with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's global health program.

Frenk received his medical degree from the National University of Mexico in 1979. He then attended the University of Michigan, where he earned master's degrees in public health and sociology, and a joint doctorate in medical care organization and sociology.

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FILE - People line up outside McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.
FILE - People line up outside McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.

Experts predict the U.S. will enroll nearly 1.8 million international students by 2034, ICEF Monitor reports.

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Read the story here. (May 2024)

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FILE - The UCLA campus on April 25, 2019.
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An international student will lead the Undergraduate Students Association Council at UCLA for the first time.

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Student newspaper the Daily Bruin has the story here. (May 2024)

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