Semester At Sea, Living the Dream

Written by a friend so perfectly:

I am on my last and final night on the MV Explorer. It seriously feels like yesterday I boarded a bus in San Diego, drove to Ensenada, Mexico and made my first steps onto the ship. It really did go by faster than I ever imagined.

My time on Semester at Sea has been many things: it’s been exciting, liberating, exhilarating, unique. It’s been challenging, at times, and rewarding at others. It’s something I will look back on, months from now, years even, to help reevaluate myself and my place in the world. The growth I have experienced is not temporary, for this voyage will impact me for the rest of my life. I know I will begin to see that growth every single day when I return home.

To the hundreds of remarkable people I have met this semester, this blog is for you…

Now that I am finishing the most incredible semester of my life I look back on my life changing experiences. Sitting here to write this is close to impossible. My eyes fill up with tears as I type because I do not want this to end. This last day on the ship has made so many unexpected emotions come out of me. I constantly have chills. At times I feel that I am in denial, when at others I realize that I really am getting off the ship tomorrow. I truly have been living a dream. Did I seriously just get to sail around the world? It is STILL so bizarre to me even after doing it all. No matter how many times I say it. I start to picture our first port in Hawaii when all of us were just getting to know each other and it was all still so new. We were clean slates yet to be written on with open minds and open hearts. To then standing on the Great Wall of China, visiting the Taj Mahal, standing in the bluest water I have ever seen in Mauritius, and living with a family in Ghana to now sitting in my cabin less than 50 nautical miles from Barcelona. There is a cab drivers business card, Singapore rail pass, receipts from everywhere I have spent money, and a Tiger beer bottle cap on the bottom of my purse. I have been to Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, and tomorrow I will be in Spain. My trusty anti-theft money belt is now the home of yen, yuan, dong, Singapore dollars, kyat, rupees, rand, and cedi. They are all memories of my time in those countries. I have done more and seen more than most people will in their entire lives. My dream came true, and to be honest it was only the beginning of the years of traveling I have ahead of me.

I think back to when I received my acceptance email. Sitting

in the Alpha Phi living room and looking at my phone, beginning to hyperventilate, and my sisters Megan and Lauren thought I was chocking. I was literally jumping with excitement and told everyone. That may have indeed been the start of my dream, but it was in no way the end of it.

We could only imagine what was ahead as we unpacked, gathered in the union, and said our first hellos. We shook hands with new friends, with our professors, and our deans. We got to know one another on a personal level, sharing travel plans over pasta and potatoes, and pub nights. We learned one another’s stories. We found one another’s strengths, and most of all we became a shipboard family.

We took Asia by storm; quite literally because of the rocky waves. We climbed mountains, we camped out for sunrises, we savored local cuisine. As we neared Africa, we grew anxious to see the drastic differences between Asia and India, and even more so, the differences between ourselves, and the people we were about to meet. I learned a valuable lesson this semester: traveling is not about the places you go, it’s about the people you meet. It’s the experiences you have, interacting with friends old and new. It’s dancing in a small village in the rain, laughing with local children, and using our bodies to convey messages across language barriers.

In Burma, we sipped sugar cane juice with locals and listened to their life stories. Our minds and our hearts were tested as we delved deeper into different countries, scribbling furiously into our journals as we returned back to the ship. We spent long days at sea, but those days flew all too quickly. We are different now. I have explored the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Ocean, reached the center of the globe, and walked on three continents with the same pair of shoes. How spectacular is that? Together, we pressed forward and came out on top. The friends we have here, now, caught us when we fell. Though some did not make it, and we come from different corners of the globe, we will forever share this bond, and most importantly stay a family. We no longer place any importance on the color of our skin, the religions we adhere to, or the nationality we claim. Through everything, we have grown. We have learned from our professors, and those who enhanced our voyage during their time with us– like the amazing Desmond Tutu, who sailed with us to South Africa and helped us to realize the importance of culture and apartheid. The classes we took helped us feel more confident in business, writing, and communication.

I have indeed gained weight, or as I like to see it now, I have gained baby weight of my cultural and intellectual rebirth. But really, it’s not like I was going to skip the Nan in India, the pho in Vietnam or the amazing pastillas in Morocco. Although

I won’t miss the pasta and potatoes on the ship, I will always long for one more long dinner on deck 5 with some of my most wonderful friends. This ship must be the ONLY place on earth where ten college kids can have a three-hour dinner without being interrupted by text messages or Facebook notifications. I can’t even tell you how fantastic it is. Those long dinners will forever be among my most precious memories. The simplest of times, but one cherished memory. Whether we were planning our weddings or trying to process India, I always felt most at home during dinnertime. May we always remember the freedom of being unplugged and out of touch and the magic of living in the moment with the people around us. Even if we took over 1,000 photos, images can’t convey the smells, tastes and sounds that made each moment real. I realize more now that the magic really begins when we stop experiencing life from behind the lens and fully immerse ourselves in the moment.

We could have done a million other things this semester, stayed at home, studied in one country… but we didn’t. At this exact moment in time we came together, to learn and grow and to forever be the kids of SAS Spring 2013. We lived on a cruise ship. We sailed around the world. We went to a university that had a gangway and a pool deck. We

must be the only people on Earth who had classes canceled so we could cross the equator or watch our friends in stand up comedic act. I lived for snow days growing up in Colorado, but not having class this semester gave me the opportunity to see the world. Our lives are so epic, and so are we… and I know it is just the beginning.

Although we are a pretty confident bunch, we still have our fears. Fears like getting off the ship, losing touch, getting that first text message or knowing how to tell people your story. We worry that we will be strangers to our family and friends and that no one will ever understand us again. We will lie awake at night wondering what we will do with our lives to top this experience or how to make this semester count. Deep down we all really have one fear; that we haven’t changed, that we haven’t grown enough and that we will settle back into our old ways of being. We will walk off the gangway in Barcelona tomorrow wondering: “Now how do I make this the beginning not the end?” It seems daunting now, figuring out a way to make our new selves function in our old lives and not bark at our friends when they complain about traffic, class or being hungry. After India, I will never complain about being hungry again. I get now how lucky I am to have the resource to even have 3 meals a day.

As alum, we will be a hard bunch to overwhelm, to scare or discourage. After being covered in more dirt imaginable in Burma and Ghana or walking through a row of beggars in India, nothing fazes us now. Things that once seemed “difficult” months ago are no longer remotely intimidating. We did this, and now we can do anything.

Although we may be unfazed, may we never be unimpressed. May

we always be delighted by the wonders of world and find magic in every place and person, not just in the monuments or celebrities, but in everywhere we go. May we always see the world through new eyes. May we stay optimistic and stay positive and may we always stay a little naïve. May we remember the things we should’ve said no to, but said yes anyways, the people we promised we would help, and may we never forget the moments when we felt anything was possible. May we always remember the person we wanted to become. May we always see the world as an opportunity and a challenge. And may we wake up every morning ready to conquer it.

Whether

we found our roots in Vietnam, re-evaluated our place in the world of Africa, or became more comfortable with new languages in Ghana, Semester at Sea has changed us. As a shipboard community, we realize now what’s important in life, and what isn’t. We have had the opportunity of a lifetime. And when we feel like we want more, that our lives aren’t enough, let’s instead appreciate what we have, what we saw, and those amazing people we met on the Spring 2013 voyage of Semester at Sea.

So as the moments slip away and we try to make sense of the past 4 months, may we smile bigger, breath deeper and soak it all in. This is all we have and we are the luckiest people alive. It’s still so hard for me to realize that. Of course we are lucky because we just sailed around the world and had over a million eye-opening experiences, but the luckiest because we have each other, and may we always have each other. I love you semester at sea and you have changed my life forever.

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