I didn‚Äôt want to step off the gangway. I didn‚Äôt want to admit that our 106 days at sea were over. Anyone who has ever sailed on Semester at Sea before knows that feeling. It‚Äôs an aching in your heart as you say goodbye to the ship that was your home and the friends who have become like family to you. It‚Äôs not surprising that we were all experiencing strong feelings of disbelief and sadness as we disembarked on Thursday, because the Spring 2013 Voyage had been truly exceptional.
As with all Semester at Sea voyages, ours was unique in its own right. We were the first voyage to ever sail with a group of world-changing entrepreneurs and mentors, thanks to the Unreasonable at Sea program. We had the privilege of sailing with Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Desmond Tutu, as he joined us for eleven weeks, imparting his profound wisdom on our entire community. We also had the wonderful fortune to have Myanmar added back onto the Semester at Sea itinerary as the country begins to open up again. We crossed the prime meridian and the equator at 0¬∞,0¬∞, giving us all the rare nautical distinction of ‚ÄúEmerald Shellbacks.‚Äù And we soaked up endless amounts of knowledge, both from the academics onboard and our adventures on land.
However, it was often the more subtle experiences during the voyage that defined it the most. It was the feeling of togetherness that radiated when we gathered on the back deck to each cast a rose into the ocean in memory of Professor Wade Lancaster (who died of natural causes while in Shanghai) as the ship sailed in a figure-eight pattern‚Ä¶ that was the night we realized what a close family we had already become. It was enjoying breakfast in the Garden Lounge while overhearing Desmond Tutu‚Äôs infectious laugh at a nearby table, or hearing him talk about apartheid during a class discussion. It was the moments of insight that happened when the Unreasonable at Sea mentors shared their wisdom with us during the nightly ‚ÄúFireside Chats.‚Äù And it was the countless times we found ourselves awestruck by the kindness and generosity of the local people we met during our travels who welcomed us so warmly into their lives.
It was the serendipitous encounters, the awe inspiring landscapes, the new languages, and the moments of connection with total strangers. It was the late night chats, the morning workouts, the classroom discussions, and the group projects. Field labs, new foods, hilarious antics, and opportunities to learn patience, humility, and compassion. These are just some of the many things that defined our voyage.
As I hauled my bags out of the port terminal in Barcelona, I was greeted by a large group of eager parents who were waiting to welcome their children back from this incredible adventure. One of the moms asked me as I passed by, ‚ÄúSo how was it?‚Äù All I could do was shake my head and confess to the parents nearby, ‚ÄúNone of your children will ever be able to fully explain what this experience has been like.‚Äù It‚Äôs unfortunate, but true. You can never grasp what Semester at Sea is really about until you‚Äôve sailed. The intensity of the community that forms is unlike anything I‚Äôve ever experienced before, the encounters in each port make permanent impressions on us all, and watching your fellow voyagers grow and change as they discover both themselves and the world around them is simply magical.
We were part of something special these past 106 days. And, while we‚Äôre all sad to leave the MV Explorer behind, there‚Äôs also an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all that we experienced, and for the people who helped make it possible. We‚Äôre grateful for Tom Jelke, Sharon Hostler and the rest of the Spring 2013 administrative team who each put their heart and soul into making this voyage such a success. We‚Äôre grateful for the faculty, staff, and life long learners who inspired us in endless ways. For the Unreasonable at Sea team for giving us a new perspective on how to change the world. And, of course, for the incredible crew of the MV Explorer for taking such good care of us everyday and for getting us safely from port to port.
As hard as it was to finally step off the gangway here in Barcelona (after all possible stowaway options had been fully considered!), I recognize that my Semester at Sea experience doesn‚Äôt finish here. So many of the people I met ¬†on board will be friends for life. The lessons I've learned will be with me forever. And, given the addictive nature of the Semester at Sea experience, I‚Äôll likely be back again one day in some capacity. Until then, I‚Äôd like to send a fond farewell to everyone who sailed on the Spring 2013 Voyage. We are all returning home much wiser citizens of the world thanks to each other and the life-changing journey we shared.
Communications Coordinator, Spring 2013