I’m sure we’ve all seen or at least heard of the popular TV Show, “Suite Life on Deck,” which has unbelievably transformed into my every day life. The Semester at Sea program is a floating campus that sails nearly in a full circle around the world, starting in San Diego, CA and ending in Hamburg, Germany. January 5th marked the start of my journey: embarkation day. We started our trip with a shuttle to Ensenada, Mexico, where we boarded the MV World Odyssey with our allotted two duffles, stuffed to the brim with clothing to fit all climates and cultures. The ship eerily resembles the Titanic in ornamental decorations, impressive gold accents, and an elegance that is unmatched to a typical college campus, walls littered with worldly art and staff who cater to our every need: cabin stewards who clean our rooms daily, a wait staff who serve us our meals, and crew who are at service 24/7. My new home serves as a luxury cruise ship in the summers and was once the setting of a famous German TV show. My cabin is small but my roommate, Maggie, and I have filled it with treasures found in different countries and pictures to make it feel like our home. The first few weeks at sea came with seasickness and a trial of getting my “sea legs,” meaning that every time we hit a large wave, I could be walking normal in the halls then suddenly fall over. It isn’t uncommon for a professor to tumble mid-lecture!
We attend class only when at sea which can be for short bursts between ports so classes are at an accelerated pace to accommodate the short amount of time. My professors are the best in their fields; they speak seven languages, all hail from a different part of the world, and have the most impressive resumes. The ship only allows students to take 12 credit hours and this semester I’m taking Conflict Management and Communication, Global Youth in Context, Macroeconomics, and Global Studies, the required course for all voyagers. Classes are scheduled in “A” or “B” days so instead of going by the usual date, the ship community calls days “A1” or “B7.” I have two 80-minute classes a day. Our assignments aren’t like those of a traditional classroom because we have select Internet access to only a few sites such as the Washington Post, Wikipedia, and our “Seamail” email accounts. Our courses focus primarily on readings and reflection papers following each port experience.
When not in class, I fill the days with reading, coloring, laying on the pool deck, working out in the fitness center, visiting the spa, or attending lectures each night given by different visiting professors. Sunsets are ship wide events, with dozens of students filling the top deck to get the best view. I joined a few clubs on ship – bible study, yoga, latin dance, and the extended families program where I’ve been “adopted” by the on board Pyschology professor, her husband and 9-year-old son, Max, who I play ping pong with and make wild plans about what we would do if pirates attacked. Our shipboard community is made up of about 800 voyagers including students, faculty and their families, and crew members. Our community comes from many different countries, states, and universities – meaning I’m learning just as much from my peers as I am my professors. Days at sea have been simple and meaningful, isolated from the world, surrounded only by the big blue sea. Friendships have come easy with no outside distractions, lectures are taught more through stories and conversation versus technology heavy presentations, and the excitement of our adventures ahead keep us anxious in our long days at sea. The ship has quickly became my cozy sanctuary, making home wherever the anchor drops!