Honors College student Jared S. Brickman spent fall 2010 traveling three oceans and visiting 12 countries on four continents. Packaged as a Semester At Sea study abroad experience, the 109-day adventure proved a turning point for the (then) junior from Baker City, Oreg. In Portland, he says, a brief pre-sailing get-together with his friend Kelly became…“a meeting which served as the last memory of my old life.”
He travelled with 600 other students aboard the MV Explorer, with its crew of 100. In addition to 100 teaching faculty, the special guest lecturer on board for the entire semester was Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Their 15 ports of call were in Canada, Spain, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Singapore, Vietnam, China, and Japan; the ship stopped also in Hawaii.
In addition to attending classes on board, Brickman participated in service activities on land. He helped feed a noon meal to school children in Khayelitsha, South Africa and built a school teacher’s cinder-block house in Ghana. He visited elementary, 8th grade, and tech college classes in India, the nation that presented his “largest culture shock.” He said he tried at least one local dish in each country: “I had the misfortune of experiencing snails” in Morocco, whole fish—eyes and all—on sticks in Vietnam, “French fries everywhere,” and “the decadent churros con chocolat” in Spain.
During Brickman’s around-the-world voyage, his experiences included “surviving terrifying rope bridges at Kakum National Forest in Ghana,” living in the home of an Indian family, and meeting a Muslim man in the medina of Marrakesh who reminded him (as an American) that “You know, we are all one people.”
A compulsive writer, Brickman emailed family and friends updates about his journey, kept a journal, and wrote two required short stories for class. He also took hundreds of pictures. “In a way,” he says, “those photographs serve as memories, but still lack the movement and feeling of a moment.” To more clearly capture the multitudes of experiences and human observations on his trip, he did what came naturally to him—he expanded his writing into a book.
“The World in a Suitcase,” self-published in 2011, runs just over 200 pages and is a collection of fiction describing “what I saw and telling the stories of others…and feelings…the interconnectedness of a global community.” There is one chapter for each nation Brickman visited, given intriguing names such as “Spain: Fading Dreams,” “Vietnam: Butterflies,” and ”Singapore: At the Cost of Creativity.” The short-story elements are there—settings, characters, conflicts and points of view, plots, and themes—all presented with a vividness that transcends any two-dimensional photo in the author’s scrapbook.
“Suitcase” also served as the focus of his Honors Thesis project, in which he considered many sources on the genre of short stories under the guidance of mentor Rebecca Goodrich, senior instructor of English. The thesis earned a “Pass with Distinction” rating in Honors.
The book also earned Brickman a $250 first-place prize at WSU’s inaugural Showcase for Research and Creative Activities 2012 (SURCA) in the arts and design category, and a $500 first-place prize from the WSU faculty’s Emeritus Society’s annual undergraduate research competition.
Brickman calls himself a “dreamer” in the introduction to “Suitcase,” but he accomplished much during his undergraduate years, both in classes and beyond. A just-for-fun athlete “playing anything with a racquet,” he blogged for a senior writing class using the name “Jared Tenniswriter Brickman.” He wrote for the website of WSU’s award-winning “Washington State Magazine” and was on the communications staff for both the Honors College and the University College at WSU. He served on residence hall student government as president of Orton Hall, and he remains a long-time volunteer on the WSU Parking Appeals Committee.
An active member of the Honors College at WSU, Brickman co-taught 15 freshmen in an Honors 198 seminar. He also acted as a camp counselor for the inaugural “Summer of Excellence” and traveled to the Western Regional Honors Conference (WRHC) to present about these Honors programs and his thesis.
In fall, Brickman’s life will change once more. Having graduated in spring 2012 in journalism with an English minor, Brickman will enter WSU graduate school in communication, with plans to become a professor. He hopes to focus on teaching while writing on the side.
“The World in a Suitcase” is Brickman’s second published book. The first, “A Town Called Mayhew,” was released in 2008.
“The World in a Suitcase” can be purchased online.