Monday, April 01, 2013

Shelley S. - Semester at Sea - Spring 2013

I finally made it! After doing research and filling out countless forms and applying for numerous visas, I’m finally aboard the MV Explorer.  It was completely surreal to think after watching video after video of previous students on Youtube I would finally get the opportunity to circumnavigate the globe on my own voyage.  I’m happy to say that I was, in my opinion, more than prepared for the sort of things that most aren’t ready for when coming on a trip like this.  The prep course with Alice was most helpful with my preparations and speaking with a family friend who also sailed on a past voyage helped to prepare me mentally for things I would encounter.
My voyage started in San Diego, California and will be ending in Barcelona, Spain.  On our way we will be stopping at 12 different ports: Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, and Spain! Most people view this trip as a party cruise around the world, and I’m not going to lie, that’s what some students treat it like.  However, the majority of us, myself included, are here for the experiences and adventures that are sure to inevitably change our lives.  As our academic environment is onboard a ship, there are countless differences in the way our semester is structured.
We do not have any classes while the ship is in port, which in reality makes the school work more vigorous/rigorous than I imagined it would be as there is such limited time on the ship.  We are all required to take four classes which, depending on the course, are placed on either A or B days, this way you do not have four classes every day.  Although, we do have one day for each class at one of the ports where we are required to attend what’s called a field lab (which is like a mandatory field trip) and accounts for 20% of the grade, work included.  No one here babies you when it comes to academics or documents, you are responsible for keeping your things safe and getting yourself where you need to be on time… that includes being back on the ship before departure time or else they WILL leave without you.
It’s been hard for me because I tend to like to settle into a groove at school after the semester starts, but here we bounce around so quickly that any chances of that get thrown out the porthole pretty fast.  So it has been a challenge because we are so tired from our independent traveling and adventures while in country that all you really want to do is recover for the next one… unfortunately, all our school work is waiting for us back in our cabins and classes start right back up when the engine does.
I am very pleased to say that even with all the stress and work this trip requires I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for a semester anywhere else!  I have met so many amazing people that are sure to be lifelong friends from not just all over the US but all around the world.  The cultural experiences I am sharing with these people are more valuable than anything I could possibly learn from a book.  For example, we have the honor of traveling with Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and have had the pleasure of hosting guest speakers such as Hunter Lovins and representatives from the Nike Foundation.
For anyone hesitating or second guessing their decision to study abroad DON’T!  Even if you’re half considering it I would highly encourage you to go as this is, believe it or not, a once in a lifetime opportunity.  No matter where it is you’d like to study the likely hood of you having the time or money to go there ever again is slim to none… that may sound harsh but it is more true than most people have the heart to admit. I would rather regret having done something than regret not having done it at all…
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog post and I wish the best to all of you already planning their own adventures abroad! Still thinking of EC often, Go Bluejays!


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