It’s been nearly a month and a half since I left Semester at Sea. In that time span I visited two extra countries (U.K. and Canada!), tried desperately to sift through my pictures to get them down to a number where people would maybe be inclined to look through them quickly, binge-watched Orange is the New Black season 2 in a weekend, dabbled in the swing dancing scene of Minneapolis, and started an internship at Target Corp. as a sourcing services intern.
I also intentionally ignored writing this post.
I don’t think it was because I was scared of facing reality of my trip of a lifetime being over; I actually had a pretty easy transition back into being a normal person again. I think maybe it’s because I’ve been waiting for the right time to come up with the right things to say. Any time I’ve thought of writing this post my brain has just suppressed the idea because how on earth can you sum up a trip like Semester at Sea? The answer I’ve come up with: you can’t.
So now I’m sitting on my bed eating strawberry pie with a pile of clothes around me trying to decide what to wear tomorrow, so I figured this is as good of time as any to write this!
This post is designed for people looking at Semester at Sea. And for those who are too lazy to read this post in its entirety let me sum it up for you: go on Semester at Sea. Do it.
Now for those seriously considering it but need more convincing, let me expand.
I think SAS has a reputation for being a party boat that lacks educational value. I’m here to disprove that. However, some people could still call it a party boat and be accurate. Like every study abroad experience, it’s exactly what you make of it. Semester at Sea does a fantastic job at maintaining a sense of professionalism in their program, considering it’s a cruise ship with students packed on it for four months. For worried parents: SAS limits drinks to 3 per “pub night,” and the glasses are far too small and far too expensive to tempt your son/daughter to go crazy.
I learned so much this past semester. I attribute that to the fact that my classes corresponded with each of the countries I visited. I remember detailed facts about each religion we learned about in my world religions class, and it’s just because I was able to see these religions in person. How cool is it that I got to learn about Buddhism while visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar? Or visit a Nissan factory in Japan for my international business class? I learned about and discussed apartheid in my religion and conflict class a week before we got to South Africa (Desmond Tutu was supposed to visit but he was on a cruise of his own. It’s okay, Desmond. We’ll getcha next time.)
I’ve always been told that the world is my classroom. Never has that been more true. Semester at Sea gives students the rare opportunity to compare and contrast countries from firsthand experience within weeks/months of one another. Other programs don’t provide that. Sure, if you’re based in Europe you have accessibility to other countries to visit on the weekend, but SAS makes it so you have an equal amount of time in each place. It’s truly amazing. I never realized the heaviness that comes with poverty until I contrasted it with immense wealth. I never appreciated the diversity that comes with languages until I was forced to learn a couple phrases from each place we went to. I never understood how important clean, American water was until I got diarrhea from drinking water in Cambodia.
Beyond the opportunity to broaden your global lens and have a better understanding of the world, SAS gives you the opportunity to bond with friends/professors/peers in ways I could never imagine.
On Semester at Sea, everything extraordinary is ordinary.
My friend Chips once pointed out how weird it was that we can approach each other and be like, “hey remember that one time we did karaoke in Japan?” “Oh my gosh I haven’t seen you since we went to the Taj Mahal, how are you doing?” “I already have travel plans in Ghana but let’s hang out in Morocco!” On Semester at Sea, everything extraordinary is ordinary.
Traveling together binds people in those memories forever. Living on a ship with the same 600 people for four months inevitably creates an amazing community. Viewing professors as peers reveals how they all provide a wealth of knowledge and passion for teaching. I will never be able to replicate an experience as amazing as this (you know, until I go on SAS for their 100th reunion. What up 2064!)
So if I have convinced the students reading this to do SAS, then let me give you a brief rundown on the DOs and DON’Ts of Semester at Sea that I wish more people would have told me before I went:
-Buy a really, really nice camera. Prioritize that over buying anything else. You will not regret buying and bringing it.
-Bring an additional duffel bag filled entirely with snacks, and then as the snacks deteriorate refill the bag with souvenirs to bring home. A lot of people bought suitcases in Vietnam, but my snack bag was perfect and I didn’t need to spend additional money.
-Take out tons of cash; don’t rely on your debit card. International charges are really expensive!
-Befriend the crew. They’re amazing. They want to get to know you.
-Bring fun sized candy in bulk for ice cream. The ice cream on the ship is amazing. It’s even better when you bring candy to smash up and mix into the ice cream.
-Bring pre-made signs for pictures! You’ll see “thanks mom/dad for giving me the world” everywhere online, and you don’t want to scramble to make them on the ship.
-Expect fluctuations in your weight! I gained 15 pounds abroad. It’s normal I swear!
-Bring Costco-sized toiletries (they will run out by the end anyway. And if they don’t, there is a crew donation.)
-Bring clothes you will throw away/donate! More room for souvenirs!
-Be a smart traveler. Be cautious. Be aware. Have fun.
-Expect to make your best friends within the first few weeks of the trip. People have a tendency to get comfortable and stick together, but branch out! I met some of my best friends in the middle of the voyage.
-Plan everything in advance. Things can change within hours of each other. Embrace the spontaneity! Everything will be okay.
-Buy drinks on the ship. Total waste of money (except during the alumni ball). Save the money for when you’re in the country.
I loved my experience on Semester at Sea. I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful it is. I love and miss every shipmate I had.
Now this blog is transitioning into a normal blog (aka probably just pictures of wherever I’m visiting at the time) so I would unsubscribe for those who original subscribed for interesting stories/pictures. From here on out it’s just going to be normal livin’.
Thank you to all who followed my adventures abroad!