Two and a half months, nine countries, four continents. There was much to see and experience this summer and it passed at a dizzying speed.
Tomorrow morning—in less than 24 hours—Semester at Sea’s 99th voyage, Summer 2009, will come to a close. This has been a summer well spent for all aboard the MV Explorer—students, staff, faculty, lifelong learners and family members. Students challenged themselves and reached well beyond their comfort zones as they explored different foods and people and cultures in these many countries.
Tomorrow’s parting will be bittersweet as students leave a unique community that has formed aboard the MV Explorer. The students have gained a special perspective on the world and their place in it. Some have changed in subtle ways and other students have changed in very noticeable ways, having been deeply affected by their experiences abroad.
They will arrive in Norfolk tomorrow morning with a new direction and new impressions of themselves, with new friends and a wanderlust to explore more of the world, and with a palette expanded by the tastes of Greece, Egypt and Morocco. Below are the final reflections from students, staff, faculty and the voyage’s deans on their time as part of Semester at Sea.
Claire Hunter, Wesleyan University
This experience has enabled me to know that I can work anywhere in the world, comfortably. I never expected that I would need to know that I could feel that way. …I’ve discovered in our travels to these different countries that families are so close and that’s been important, especially in traveling to so many places with my parents. (Claire’s mother, Carol, was librarian on summer voyage.) It’s been really interesting to see all these places with my parents because we can talk about it and have had the rare opportunity to share experiences with one another. Very few people get the opportunity to do that—even want to do it—but it is something that we’ll have forever. And they helped me see things very differently sometimes, in ways that made me think more about where we were. That was helpful for me.
Maia Kobabe, Dominican University
For me this whole trip was really like gathering raw information at such a fast pace. So, by the end of next summer I think will really start to process experience this well and, hopefully, be able to turn what I’ve seen and learned into pieces of art, writing and poems. This summer has certainly helped me grow as an artist in so many ways. I’ve had the chance to sit and sketch some amazing monuments and to view are beyond drawing. It’s been a real growing experience.
Ronalie Dealwis, Seattle University
More than ever I learned on this trip that you can communicate in a million ways if you really want to. Plus, I’ve been much more outgoing and far less afraid of going up and talking to people. The most memorable experience for me was spending time at the home of a Bulgarian friend from my mother’s in Varna. I had only met this woman once, but went to her home, stayed the night, ate traditional Bulgarian food, and struggled to communicate, but we did it. That’s something I never would have done before coming here. I just feel like, because of this entire experience, I’ve become more confident, more aware of the many issues around the world and a better world citizen.
I also came on this voyage very focused on what I wanted to do with my future, but after meeting so many people and making so many connections I started thinking differently and more about what I could do to improve this world and to help people. Now, getting a White House internship is my new goal and Congresswoman [Loretta] Sanchez was a big part of making me think seriously about that.
Dustin Farivar, Univ. of Colorado-Boulder
One of the things that keeps coming to me about Semester at Sea is that the best memories really are free. The times I’ve spent with the new friends I’ve made, traveling to and from destinations, reflecting on the experiences we’ve had are the times I’m going to remember the most. Sitting at dinner for six hours in Sevilla and eating and talking—those are the times I’m going to remember the most and that’s connecting with people.
Kyla Bryant, Norfolk State University
Being on the ship you make such close friendships. I remember staying up for Spain, which was just Day 7 and I felt like these people were my family who’ve I’ve been with for months. I feel like when I leave here I’ll have plenty of friends who I know I’ll be traveling to see, I have a reason to travel so I feel like it’s been a great experience and I’m so happy to have had it.
Rudy Shaffer, Portland State University
It’s been so comforting to travel with all of these people because we’ve come from all over and I came knowing no one and I leave having so many more friends, so many more connections. It’s such a unique experience to return to the ship and hang out with your friends and just share what you’ve done and how your outlooks have changed. And then to be part of a community with young kids and an older generation and you’re all seeing the same thing in a country, but experiencing it in such different ways. You gain a great appreciation for different points of view and seeing something in a whole new way. It’s just been unforgettable. I’m so sad that it’s going to be over. I really, really am.
Beth Knoreck, Univ. of Colorado-Boulder
Being a part of Semester at Sea … I felt like I had a responsibility to not only enjoy my travel experience, but to learn from it. So, I would take every experience and try to relate it back to my classes. I definitely think I gained more going through Semester at Sea; it was a different way of traveling.
Dan Polulak, Florida Gulf Coast University
One thing my parents made me do was to sign up for a service trip so I went on the orphanage tour in Bulgaria. And it was one of the moments I’ll never forget on this trip. We spent three hours at an orphanage in Varna and played with these kids who probably hadn’t ever talked to Americans. It was just a really good experience because it made me think about how I should appreciate the things I have because these kids have nothing and they were so amused with just seeing us. It was a lot of fun and I felt good doing it.
Erin Beaulieu, Univ. of Virginia
My academics have done nothing but help my travels on this trip. My social work class taught me to not just walk into a country, see places, take pictures as proof that I was there and leave. I was able to talk to the people and learn about their child welfare system. I mean, who learns about that stuff when they go into those countries? I would have never even thought to ask those questions or cared if I was just traveling around on my own. …My cross-cultural psychology class taught me that a culture that isn’t westernized is beautiful. When we go into a country or culture that is not like your own it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. You should learn about it—see their customs, why they do them, the history of them. It just makes your experience in the culture so much different than if you didn’t ask or didn’t care. So I think that without these classes I wouldn’t have had the experiences that I had.
Josh Hernandez, Seattle Central Comm. College, (transferring in Fall to MIT)
I know it sounds weird for a physics major to be on a voyage with a theme of human rights and social justice, but there are two reasons. First of all, scientific work has become so globalized that it’s an essential skill for a scientist to be able to work with people of different cultures and backgrounds and to be able to readily adapt to a new situation both in their career and their scientific research. So I figured the best way to learn that would be to go on this program. And also, I think that science and the humanities are very interlinked, you have starvation, population, pollution problems, all of which require serious engineering and scientific research in order to be solved, so it just made sense. And I’m glad I did come on for those reasons and most importantly because I had the opportunity to see some wonderful countries, experience their cultures, and make friends along the way.
Casey Hudetz, SAS Staff, IT Coordinator
From port to port students became more comfortable exploring each place. In Spain, they were so nervous about the language barrier or the money or the food and what to do. By the end it was kind of old hat, but in a way that showed they had developed as travelers and as people in how they related to other cultures. They took more chances with the culture, the food and travel suggestions they received, which was great. …By the end they were more comfortable taking the chances to see a more authentic view of the country. That was a cool change.
Rocky Rohwedder, SAS Faculty, Prof., Sonoma State University
When you go on a voyage like this you can’t help but be changed in some profound way. …The curriculum isn’t just in the classroom. It’s also in the places that we visit. When you can see the world in a different way then you can learn so much from it. Every landscape has a lesson to teach you. …So I just encourage my students to look around and realize that there are so many things to learn if they have the eyes to see. They have to open themselves up to what’s there. They have to treat the place around them as a curriculum and something that can teach them. If you realize that everywhere you are has a lesson to teach you then your life can be so much fuller. So, the pedagogy of place is something I think is an important part of Semester at Sea.
Sadika Sulaiman, SAS Staff, Living Learning Coordinator (LLC)
One student in particular who stood out for me on this voyage in terms of the change I’ve seen in students. At the very beginning of the voyage she talked about being very affirmed in where she was from and that she wasn’t going to change on this journey and didn’t feel like going to these different countries was going to have a real impact on her. Now, after visiting eight countries, she said “I still feel so affirmed in where I’m from and I feel a lot more strength in my hometown, but what I’ve seen and experienced is never going to leave me and I feel so much open and aware of my surroundings and the world.” For me, to hear her verbalize that was really powerful.
Matthew Pollinger, Ithaca College
One of the true highlights for me was in Italy and learning about olive oil. I always thought that it was one of those commonplace products, however, I quickly learned I was wrong. Producing olive oil is a complicated science that requires intricate scientific knowledge, as well as strong family devotion.
Nexus Cook, Temple University
My most beautiful memory of Greece is meeting a 76-year-old woman in Ancient Corinth. She was the sweetest woman I have ever met and she confirmed the fact that the world is full of great people.
Elissa Greene, UC Davis
Taking an hour to walk through eight cars of a train—back to front—on our way to Marrakesh, immersed me in the culture and gave me an experience I will never forget.
Molly Babbington, Chapman Univ.
My first lunch in Rome was by far the most enjoyable experience I had in Italy. We ate at a small restaurant on the corner across from our hotel and were greeted by an older Italian man who seemed to be the owner. He immediately made us feel at home with his eagerness to get to know us. We walked by the restaurant the next day and he recognized us and invited us in for free espresso. It was wonderful to be so welcomed, even as foreigners.
Mike Zoll, Executive Dean, Summer Voyage 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the real interest in learning among our students on this voyage in multiple and non-traditional mediums. A compelling example of this was the student participation in our Explorer Seminars, a line-up of non-credit lectures, discussions, and workshops scheduled each evening at sea. These seminars routinely filled to capacity, with some drawing up to 250 participants--a remarkable testament to the curiosity of our students. I hope they continue to be curious and explore and be open to learning about different people and places in their lives. …In addition, beyond the richness of comparative cultural immersion in eight ports of call, I hope students remember the unique shipboard living-learning environment that has been their summer home.
Shane Rasnak, Cornell Univ. (excerpted from his blog “Shane at Sea”. Click on the title to read entire blog)
…I wanted to wrap up this blog and say that my decision to go on Semester at Sea was quite possibly the single best decision I’ve ever made in my life. It’s been the most exciting, fun and eye-opening summer I’ve ever had, and I’m sure the things I learned and experienced in this voyage will influence what I do for the rest of my life. I’ve made friends all around the country, and interacting with the students and faculty on this ship has opened up the world for me in so many ways. I signed up for this trip thinking this would be the ultimate travel experience, but now I see this as just the beginning of my traveling career. If anyone is interested in learning about this program, I’d love to share my experience with you and give you advice. You can reach me at email@example.com.
Michael Smith, Academic Dean, Summer Voyage 2009 (Excerpted from his remarks to students at the SAS Summer ’09 Convocation)
Over these past 67 days, we’ve experienced a dizzying array of activities, launched several new student organizations, raised funds for scholarships, all in the midst of encountering new people and places. … I hope that as you consider your time on this voyage that, overall, each of you will find it well-spent, and that you believe yourself to be well on the way to becoming the person you aspire to be. Your time here has been defined not only by your accomplishments, and your contributions to your community, but also by your aspirations, and by taking the time to reflect and be with friends.
…I hope and believe that your education here has equipped you to undertake this deceptively simple task of “thinking things through” as you engage with different people, places and cultures. And I think that you will find that this task of living out your hopes and matching them to your accomplishments and your contributions to the wider world—in other words, living your own unique vision of what it means to be truly human—you will find that this task goes on throughout your lives.