Monday, November 24, 2014

English Minor Travels the World During Semester at Sea

By Sarah O'Connell, Strategic Communication and Public Relations major, English minor

My view from my bedroom on the lowest level of the ship.  That's right, I woke up to this every morning.  Sometimes I would even see a new country outside.
One of the greatest Christmas presents I've ever received was a giant styrofoam board map of the world. I was able to stick pins into it, to places I've been to and places where I wanted to go, and it was one of my top priorities to bring with me when I went away to college. It was a way to set goals for myself and to imagine what I would and could do in certain places when I would finally be able to travel. During my freshman year, I came across a poster for a study abroad program that would not only accomplish my set goals I had made on my map, but also change my life. 
Standing in front of the Largest Pagoda in Myanmar and surrounded by one of the most colorful of cultures encountered on the voyage.
The Semester at Sea program has been active for over fifty years, sailing around the world and serving as a floating college campus for its students. The program currently takes place aboard a ship called the MV Explorer and provides typical classes that could be found on campuses around the country such as arts, sciences, and even business. Of course we were given more of an opportunity being distracted and let our minds wander at the impressive views of new oceans or countries we could see from our classroom windows.

I had planned most of my college career around this opportunity to travel and study on the ship. When I finally found myself taking my last step off of dry land and walking onto the shifting vessel I would call home for the next four months, I felt a rush of excitement mixed with anticipation. What glorious adventures were waiting for me on that golden blue horizon? Back then I had no idea, but what I know now was something more remarkable than I could ever imagine.

Our itinerary included eleven different countries for us to explore. We ventured across the rough Pacific Ocean and made our way through Asia in; Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar, and India. When we sailed down the Indian Ocean we found ourselves in Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, and Morocco. We had accomplished so much before we made our final stop in England. Even now, the memory is still as fresh in my mind as spring. I can recall what it was like scaling the steep stairs of the Great Wall of China, or stalking elephants and giraffes in the wilds of Africa, or looking out on the deck of the MV Explorer and being unable to tell where the sky met the ocean. 

Henna artists at work during a home visit in India.
Every day that passes pushes me to try to remember every specific detail and commit it to my memory. I look at my map now, decorated with colored pins of the locations I have visited and dream about going back someday, but for now I am so thankful I was given this wonderful opportunity in the first place. And it all started with me having a goal on what I could accomplish with my small map of a very large world. 

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