Sunday, July 26, 2009
Just a little over a month ago, the MV Explorer departed Halifax, Canada for a 67-day voyage that would be a trip of lifetime for many of its students. In just one month’s time, the students have formed strong friendships, tried unique foods, challenged their peers, and pushed themselves to move beyond being tourists to become travelers in the countries that Semester at Sea has visited thus far.
They have learned that time is warped on the ship. There are no weekends, or days of the week for that matter. Instead, the days are tracked by whether we are at sea or at port and how much time is in between. In the end, few students are happy about this experience ending. But most agree that they won’t forget it anytime soon. Read on to learn some of the students’ thoughts at the halfway point of this journey.
It's difficult to come to terms with our voyage already reaching its halfway point. My global perspective has expanded beyond what I could have imagined. The people I’ve met on the ship, as well as in each port, have shared their lives with me, creating a world that you can't even read about in books. Semester at Sea has provided me the opportunity to challenge my own thoughts and perceptions within these countries. I am anxious to see what these next few countries have in store. I know they will bring excitement and fun.
Many of my learning experiences have come from just being on this ship. I have struggled with understanding some students who, despite living in the same country, have perspectives vastly different than my own. I’ve learned that it is not simply a language or a government that shapes our vision of the world, but also our socio-economic class, family, and other experiences. …I think one of the most wonderful things about this program is that it enables students to transcend notions of class or culture and decide for themselves what a culture is really like.
To think that I got on this ship just one month ago blows me away. Already, I have created memories that will last me a lifetime. I can’t believe I have been to Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, and Turkey! I’ve learned so much and have become so thankful for things that I left behind in Colorado. I am now, more then ever, proud to be an American, but willing to accept others and where they come from. After being a "foreigner" and always asking people questions and directions I promised myself that I will always take time to help someone who is lost or needs help in Colorado. I’ve learned a lot about myself on this trip and I know I still have much more to learn. I can not wait to see what the future holds.
There is so much to absorb on Semester at Sea and, as we get further along in our trip, it just gets better and I learn more and more. The faculty, students, and lifelong learners have become my shipboard “family” from which I thrive and learn. The friendships and connections I’ve made aboard the MV Explorer are relationships I will have forever. The diversity, conversations, opinions, backgrounds, personalities and class discussions make this trip a much richer experience and would have been impossible to have if I traveled alone.
Each port has been so distinctly different and the interactions I’ve had with local people in these countries have been invaluable. We’ve coined the phrase, "try everything" and doing so gives us a taste of each country and a plan to return in the future. I’ve seen so many amazing places and I can't wait for what is in store in the next four weeks. This has truly been an experience of a lifetime!
I am truly blessed to have found such a program at such an influential stage in my life. The experiences I am gaining here have already begun to modify my views and behaviors. I have really enjoyed having conversations with locals, learning phrases in other languages, trying new foods such as bull cheek, and viewing historical sites such as the Acropolis. As a future physician, I have experienced how it feels to have a different cultural background, behaviors and language from others. Therefore, I will be more sensitive and understanding with patients. This voyage has made me bolder, more inquisitive, and has helped me to move out of my comfort zone more easily. I don’t think anyone can think of a better way for a student to spend a summer.
It boggles my mind that it has been a month since I started this journey. I feel like I have grown so much in that short amount of time. The experiences I’ve had thus far will forever be kept close and dear to my heart. Semester at Sea has given me the wonderful opportunity to expand my horizons and see the world in a different perspective. Not only did it give me the chance to learn about the world, but also about myself.
TIMOTHY JONES II
Semester at Sea has been both a rewarding and a complicated experience. It is rewarding, clearly, for the opportunity to visit, explore and experience so many different countries and their cultures. It is complicated—and equally challenging—as an African-American man to realize how much people from my own country still have to learn about people of other ethnicities and races. As much as we as Americans are ignorant about other cultures, people, and religions of the countries we are visiting, so too are some of my fellow voyagers ignorant about other aspects of people in the U.S. who are different from them. But I have learned from some faculty and staff that this voyage is not about us vs. them. Instead, it’s about coming together to see the world beyond statistics and what we read in textbooks. It is about putting faces, stories, experiences, and fears into perspective and, as a shipboard community, opening our minds to educate ourselves and our peers to look beyond stereotypes and preconceptions and to truly learn about a person, a culture, a city, a country. Doing so requires a greater sense of compassion and responsibility. Dr. Martin Luther King said “We have flown the air like birds, and swam the sea like fish, but yet have we learned the simple art of walking together as brother [and sister]?” For me, the lesson on this voyage is that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Semester at Sea thus far has been an array of experiences. The MV Explorer and the Institution for Shipboard Education teaches me lifelong lessons every second. Analyzing our summer voyage theme, Human Rights and Social Justice in the Mediterranean World, and being from a diverse background, I find lessons that relate to the theme right here on the ship. A month into this voyage I am trying to figure out what I can do in this world so that my experiences don’t start and end on this ship. I hope the ports I am visiting are just stepping stones to push me towards bigger issues at hand. I certainly have realized that being true to myself and honest is the best way to start and finish my journey.
Being from Romania, I technically know of all these places and have been to a few of them, for instance Greece and Turkey. But it’s a totally different experience. For, Spain, Italy and Croatia, I only read about them, so actually to go and visit was just amazing. And I’ve met some really wonderful people. We’ve had a lot of great moments and a lot of great experiences. And, I feel that, we’ve grown to be more of travelers, less of tourists. I’ve met people on this ship who share my interests and with whom traveling is a great experience.
So far this experience has been cool. I didn’t expect the program to be as diverse as it is, which is nice, but I also wish it could be even more diverse with people from so many different backgrounds. But I’ve also met some really cool people. There are four of us who travel together and call ourselves “the quad”. Each week is a year on the ship and I tell them I feel like I’ve known them for five years. …I’m enjoying my classes so far. And, the crew of the ship are phenomenal and absolutely amazing.
Time wise I feel like I’ve been on this ship for years, but that’s a good thing. I’m sad that we’re halfway through and we have only a few more ports and I’m going to have to go back home and go back to reality. ….On this voyage, the days don’t mean anything anymore. I keep track by time and days according to the countries we are visiting and when we’re at sea. The only time I need to know is when lunch is and when dinner is to make sure I don’t miss it when we’re in port so I don’t have to go and pay for it..
Whenever you go off the ship, even if you run into people you’re not personal friends with but you know they’re SAS people, there’s a comfort. Everyone is friendly to one another and willing to help each other out, even if you’re not on a first-name basis. Just in the Grand Bazaar [in Istanbul], I was there by myself one day and I ran into a number of SAS people and they were happy to see me. …You never feel like you’re alone even if you’re in a big city.
The ship definitely feels like home. I went on an overnight trip recently and when I came back it just felt like I was home again. And it’s a really weird feeling; I don’t know what it’s going to be like when I get back to my actual house. The MV Explorer is a place where I can come back and see my friends. It’s a really good community.
I can’t believe it’s the half-way point already. A couple of days ago I was looking back on the first day and I thought it’s been a month. It’s almost like I have a second family here. I love it.
I noticed the other day that I’m crossing days off my calendar and it’s halfway gone. I still can’t believe that we’re on this trip. It’s a bittersweet time for me. I miss my family so much and so I’m excited to be going back to see them, but at the same time I don’t want this to be over. I know I’m going to be so sad on the last day. But it’s really neat, actually, realizing how many people I’ve met. I’ve watched all the slideshows about the voyage [on the SAS website] online and going through them I realize I know so many people now. So you can definitely tell that we’ve been on here for a long time, because the community does get stronger I think.
I do think it’s a great opportunity for me as an America students to come into a country and be a part of it—albeit for four or five days—and experience something that’s different than my rushed New York life. So, for me, the most rewarding part is how I’ve challenged my own biases and prejudices. Even though I consider myself so progressive, I realize through this experience that I do have biases and prejudices. And, I’m learning so much in each country every day.
It’s hard to imagine that we’ve been here for a month already, going around the world. I’m having a blast. The stuff that I’ve learned, people who I’ve met--this is be one of the most important moments of my life. At this point of my life, this is one of the most significant experiences, so I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity. When I go home to Taiwan or the Philippines, I definitely want to do something for people and for social justice. This voyage has really opened my perspective.
I don’t like to think about this being over. My transitional period when I get home is going to be tough for me because I’ve been looking forward to doing this program and this voyage for so long. But then, I’ve made friends in each country who tell me I can come visit them whenever, so I know I’ll be back to probably everywhere. Still, I’m avoiding that thought of this ending. I’m having more fun than I could have ever imagined.