The 112th voyage of Semester at Sea has officially begun as the MV Explorer set sail last night to make its way across the Pacific for a 106-day journey around the world. It was impossible to miss the feelings of both anticipation and excitement on students’ faces as the buses arrived from San Diego to the docks in Ensenada, Mexico yesterday. After months (if not years) of eagerly looking forward to this voyage, many of the students appeared almost awe struck as they laid eyes on the ship that will be their living/learning community for the next four months.
Faculty and staff, who had already been on board for a few days of pre-voyage training, watched with excitement as the population of the ship suddenly swelled to 962 participants as students and Lifelong Learners continued to arrive throughout the day. Despite boasting the highest total population of any previous Semester at Sea voyage, the embarkation process went very smoothly as everyone made their way on board.
While every Semester at Sea voyage is special in its own right, the Spring 2013 voyage has several unique characteristics that make it a particular stand out. For starters, due to recently improved political conditions, Burma was added to this year’s itinerary, giving students the opportunity to explore a country that is only in the beginning stages of reopening its doors to the world. On this voyage students will be sailing westward with the opportunity to spend time exploring Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, and Spain.
In addition to an exciting new itinerary, Spring 2013 participants will also have the distinct privilege of sailing with Nobel Prize winner and long-time supporter of Semester at Sea, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as he joins the voyage for 11 weeks from San Diego to South Africa. When he was introduced during yesterday evening’s welcome ceremony the students all rose to their feet with excitement, greeting him with a resounding standing ovation. “I had heard that he was supposed to come on the ship,” remarked Clair Sutton of Boston University, “but it wasn’t real until I actually saw him.”
Members of this semester’s shipboard community will also have the opportunity to interact with a unique on-board experiment in global entrepreneurship called Unreasonable at Sea. The program aims to use the power of the Semester at Sea experience to help accelerate 11 international start-up companies that are innovating solutions to some of the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our time. Through on-board workshops, close interactions with distinguished visiting mentors, and engagements in nearly every port on the itinerary, the start-up founders will work to spread and scale their businesses worldwide. Students will have a chance to engage with Unreasonable’s community of global innovators throughout the course of the semester.
As the MV Explorer sounded its horn to signal its departure from the Ensenada harbor last night, students enthusiastically gathered along the railings of the ship to watch the shores of Mexico retreat into the distance. “I’m excited for what’s in store, for what’s ahead,” Millie Williams of Chapman University said as she watched the ship head off into the Pacific.
“This experience is going to change your life,” Executive Dean, Tom Jelke, assured the students as he formally welcomed them yesterday evening. “We’re really excited about who you’re going to become, what you’re going to learn, and how you’re going to grow in the next 106 days.”