Shipmate

Jocelyn at Sea

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
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In the fall of 2008 I spent a semester studying abroad through a program called Semester at Sea. Hosted by the University of Virginia, Semester at Sea is an educational journey that takes students around the world while providing them with an invaluable global perspective. Students take classes aboard a ship that’s been outfitted as a floating university. Equipped with classrooms, a library, gym, dining facilities, computer lab, wellness center, even a pool, the MV Explorer is where the students call home for their four months abroad. While in port students have the opportunity to either sleep on the ship or travel elsewhere and provide their own accommodations. At sea classes are held in a block schedule every day, there are no weekends. Because of this, no classes are held while in port and students are free to travel as they choose so long as they stay within the designated country and return to the ship in time for disembarkation.

Here’s a ship tour created by some students on the Fall 08′ voyage…

During the Fall of 2008 when I sailed we stopped in 10 different countries on our way around the globe. Here were our ports of call…

Itinerary
Nassau, Bahamas
Salvador, Brazil
Walvis Bay, Namibia
Cape Town, South Africa
Chennai, India
Penang, Malaysia
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Hong Kong
Shanghai, China
Kobe, Japan
Yokohama, Japan
Honolulu, Hawaii
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Panama Canal
Miami, Florida

Although life on the MV might seem like one big cruise, students are extremely dedicated to their classes and coursework, much of this stemming from the close relationships afforded with faculty and staff. I was able to take classes that not only fulfilled requirements at my home university but also worked to integrate the history and current events of each of the countries we visited. Additionally while in port students are required to partake in Faculty Directed Practica (FDP), where professors arrange certain educational excursions that student then go on to enhance our experience abroad.

For example, to learn more about international business I went on a trip to the Nike factory in Vietnam. For my development class, we visited a ‘rehabilitated slum’ in India and spoke with a women’s community group that organizes micro credit loans and encourages female business ownership. It’s one thing to learn about these things from a textbook, lecture or PowerPoint but seeing it first hand brings the educational experience to a whole new level.

Traveling on Semester at Sea was definitely the opportunity of a lifetime and one that will most assuredly open your eyes to the world around you. I can not say enough good things about the program, the community of travelers it creates and the atmosphere for learning that it nurtures. I would encourage anyone that’s interested to check out semesteratsea.org to see how you can become a shipmate for a semester. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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