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Reuniting in South Africa with Semester at Sea Parent Trip
Every parent of a Semester at Sea voyager knows the mix of emotions that comes with seeing their child off during embarkation, wondering how they’ll change and grow during their time aboard the MV World Odyssey.
Spring 2019 Parent Trip participant Nanette Mereles knows that feeling as well as anyone because she’s experienced the voyage from both sides. A Spring 1980 voyage alumna of Semester at Sea, Mereles’ son Max sailed as part of the Spring 2019 Voyage and relied on her to help organize his field program experiences.
“When I went on Semester at Sea back in 1980 it was nothing. You got to the port and you were on your own. Back then there was no planning ahead because there was no internet,” Mereles said. “With Max, I was really happy I set him up because it’s hard once you get into port and you realize ‘I only have three days and I’ve got to get all this done.’ When Semester at Sea organizes the whole thing and you just go, it’s really nice.”
While Max was taking advantage of Semester at Sea field program offerings, Mereles was planning an adventure of her own. Along with 48 other parents, Mereles and her husband decided to meet Max and the MV World Odyssey in Cape Town, South Africa as part of the Spring 2019 Parent Trip. There she got to meet the parents of other voyagers, enjoy trips to wine country, table mountain, and more, as well as reunite with her son mid-way through his voyage around the world.
The highlight of the trip was a multi-day safari at the Shamwari Private Game Reserve.
“It was perfect. The lodges you stayed in were beautiful. One night we met as a big group for dinner, but for the most part you stayed in smaller groups, which was nice. The guides that take you out to see the animals were very knowledgeable and made you feel safe. It was very fun.”
Activities like spotting the big five while on safari and township visits took a backseat, however, to observing how her son had grown in his short time at sea.
“I think he matured quite a bit,” Mereles said. “He’s able to navigate the world on how to travel. The biggest thing is the ability to get along with other people in small quarters, and to be able to be flexible and patient.”
And like all parents, Mereles felt the need to impart a bit of advice to her son before the voyage had to depart. After meeting Max’s friends in Cape Town, Mereles, who had just reunited with a friend she had shared the ship with back in 1980, made sure Max knew that just because he disembarks, it doesn’t mean the friendships he’d built during Semester at Sea will end.
“I had literally just come from seeing my friend that I knew on Semester at Sea, and 38 years later we have a whole group of us who are still very, very close,” Mereles said. “So I kept telling Max don’t worry, you’re still going to see them. You still have this strong bond.”
To view upcoming parent trips, visit www.semesteratsea.org/parent-trips.