“Just Be At Sea”: The Impact of Semester at Sea

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Aug 14, 2017


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“Just Be At Sea”: The Impact of Semester at Sea

“Traveling around the world has completely transformed the way I view people. It has made me realize that everybody has a story-everyone has something that they have or are currently struggling through. This has made me want to express kindness towards everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from.” Photo and response from Katiana Cokinos, captured by Ari Gootnick.

Each voyage touches and shapes every student differently, but for Ari Gootnick, the Fall 2015 voyage was particularly life changing. His experience inspired him to document how the voyage has changed the lives of others within the community onboard, and the product is one many Semester at Sea alumni can relate to. 

JustBeAtSea was created via Tumblr by Gootnick at the end of his voyage as a way to honor his experience and the experiences of others he sailed with. Throughout the last month of the voyage, Gootnick wandered around the ship and found students, faculty, staff and crew to ask them one question: “How has traveling around the world changed the person you are today?” Each response is accompanied by a distorted portrait of the person responding, with a facial expression of their choice. Ultimately, these responses show a diverse range of growth that takes place on Semester at Sea.

“Traveling has taught me how small it all really is.” Photo and response from voyager Tom Aijian, captured by Ari Gootnick.

“This is a huge project that means a lot to me,” Gootnick said. “The changes people went through are remarkable. People are more confident and see the world differently.”

Coming from the University of Texas at Austin, Gootnick had only been outside of the United States a handful of times before sailing. He heard about Semester at Sea from a friend and immediately decided to apply. His time on the voyage fed his desire to travel as well as fostered his long time passion for film and photography.

“Semester at Sea was a great opportunity because not only was it great to travel, but I was able to express and take advantage of my passion,” Gootnick said.

Gootnick in port during his Fall 2015 voyage.

Gootnick expressed that for him, Semester at Sea affected him deeply because he learned to “just be”. Before embarking, he didn’t know anyone on the ship and not having access to internet helped him really understand and get to know others around him.

“Just learning to let go and know that everything works out the way it’s supposed to, that was very powerful to me,” said Gootnick.

Gootnick explains that the people he met on the ship and in port ultimately have had a profound impact on his life then and now, and JustBeAtSea is one of the ways he wishes to convey that.

“I wasn’t doing it for myself, I was doing it for the community,” he said. “In the end, it’s not about where you travel, it’s about who you travel with.”

See Ari’s full blog here.

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