Keaton Crawford and Brittany Raab were the two lucky winners of a personal blogpost on SAS‚Äôs News from the Helm. The two Fall 2013 voyage students bid on the blogpost as part of the shipwide auction, which raises funds for scholarships and other opportunities for SAS students in need aboard voyages. Keaton was a gap year student on the Fall 2013 voyage, is a competitive horse rider and will spend this spring semester competing with her horse. ‚ÄúSemester at Sea has been an incredible experience for me and I really cannot explain how much it has impacted me,‚Äù said Keaton. ‚ÄúI am really not sure I even realize the extent of how it has shaped me into the person I am now.‚Äù Brittany attends Point Loma Nazarene University and hails from Sammamish, Washington. SAS asked the two young women about their experiences on the Fall 2013 voyage and learning about and exploring the world from aboard a floating university.
What has been the most valuable lesson that you'll take away from the voyage?
Brittany: The most valuable lesson that I‚Äôve learned and will take away from this voyage is that there is not one way to live life. There is no best story, best experience, or one path that we are all carved out to walk. The sooner we realize this and stop criticizing others for how they live their lives, the more fulfilled we will all be.
Keaton: The most valuable thing I‚Äôve learned from this voyage is how to adapt to new and different situations and how to keep a good attitude no matter what life throws at you. I have been put in so many different situations that I never thought I would be able to handle until I had to and now I have the confidence that I can do so many more things.
How has the voyage changed your world view?
Brittany:¬†The voyage took me to 14 places on a map that previously held no significance in my life. Each country was filled with people, cultures, scents and colors that far exceeded anything my camera or videos could capture. Now, four months later, these cities have changed from being just a name on a map to one of my most favorite ‚Äúnames‚Äù to recall because with it comes a string of memories that have changed me.
Keaton: Seeing so many different places and meeting so many different people, I see things so differently now. I look at the world with a greater understanding of how we are all one human family and that is what matters most.
What will you miss most about the shipboard community?
Brittany: I will miss being surrounded by 550-plus peers from over 250 universities. Despite our diversity and differences we had one vital thing in common: each one truly believes that he or she can make a difference in the world. I will miss being surrounded by a body of students driven with passion for the world, a heart for people unlike anything else I have ever seen and the ambition it takes to make it all happen.
Keaton: I will miss being around the most incredible, talented, and accepting individuals on this ship. I will miss the people and the learning experience most of all. I have learned something from each and every person I have met on this ship.
How has being on the voyage changed your outlook on the future? Will you do something different now?
Keaton: I would say that my goals will be bigger and my future plans involve many crazy plans compared to before I came on Semester at Sea. I have the travel bug for sure. Travel is on my list of things that I cannot live without and that is even more true now. I feel like there are so many open doors and there is no “right way” of getting a college education. And, I feel like I am much more of a global citizen because I am more knowledgable about the world, the people in it and what is going on around me that I never knew about before. I have gained a thirst for knowledge on this trip that is going to be very hard to quench.
What was your favorite port during this voyage?
Brittany: My favorite port from this voyage was easily Morocco. It was the most culturally different from my lifestyles in the U.S.. I loved my time there because it challenged my thinking, my faith, and showed me many times that the predispositions I had were wrong. For example, I always thought that women were restricted because they had to cover themselves from head to toe in burkas or with the hijab headpiece. Instead, what I learned when I was there surprised me. The women I talked to wore their burkas in all sorts of different ways, colors and styles. They were still women who wanted to express themselves through their clothing. When I actually talked to the Moroccan people I found some of the most amazing outlooks that has stuck with me ever since. This culture believes in one true love, and that they were created to spend their life with one person. To respect this person, the women take pride in fully clothing themselves in public so that the only one who sees their body is their husband. Their dedication for that one special person was incredibly inspiring and I loved the way these women lived it out on a daily basis.
Do you think you are more of a global citizen now than before?
Brittany: My time at sea and in port has taught me to understand the extent of how one country really affects another. Even though we all identify with different countries and cultures around the world, we are all a part of this world, and therefore I‚Äôve learned we are responsible for taking care of each other in it. It fascinates me how much we emphasize the differences we see in each other‚Äîgender, class, sexual orientation, race, relationship status, etc. After studying world history and watching people worship different religions or no religions at all, my mindset has been completely changed. I would never have experienced things like Moroccan hospitality, Ghanaian spirituality, Belgian friendship and Cuban joy if I did not take the time to look past the initial differences. Once I did that, I was pleasantly surprised to continually discover that we actually aren‚Äôt that different at all.
How do you think you've changed from this voyage?
Keaton: There are two changes I have noticed in myself: I have gained a tremendous amount of confidence and independence. I know now that I can accomplish so many things that I never guessed I would have accomplished before coming on this voyage.
What was it like to travel to and visit Cuba?¬†
Brittany: Visiting Cuba felt like a study abroad experience of its own. I could not have possibly understood just how big of a deal it was for us to be there until we first stepped off the ship‚Äôs gangway and saw all the reporters and news cameras at the University of Havana‚Äôs famous stairs. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, especially given the political tension between the two countries. Despite all the controversy, I loved being able to dance in the rain with other Cuban students to Spanish music. That is one memory I will never forget!
Keaton: Cuba was a completely surreal experience for me. I got chills when we were at the university because I just could not believe that I was so lucky to be able to be a part of that amazing experience. I learned so much and met so many wonderful people in our days in Cuba.
Why did you decide to do Semester at Sea?
Brittany: I‚Äôve actually wanted to sail on Semester at Sea since I was nine years old. During a family vacation in Hawaii, I asked our waitress about her life. It turns out she was waiting to join the Semester at Sea ship for the spring voyage that year. Being the oldest in my family, I had no concept of college at that age, let alone college on a ship that traveled around the world! I remember being fascinated by her SAS description and feeling like it was something I was just meant to do one day. I scribbled down ‚ÄúSemester at Sea‚Äù on a drink napkin and stuffed it in my suitcase. When I unpacked by bags back home, I was devastated to find that I had somehow lost the napkin. I remember trying to Google things like ‚Äúship school‚Äù or ‚ÄúAfrica and Europe traveling college‚Äù and other nine-year-old terminology that, of course, the 2003 Internet couldn‚Äôt recognize. When I arrived at my university as a freshman I knew I still wanted to study abroad. The first time I walked into the study abroad office I saw the Semester at Sea MV Explorer ship advertised and couldn‚Äôt believe my eyes. That was the one!
What did you miss most about your life back home?¬†
Keaton: I missed my family most. I have realized so many things about myself and I can‚Äôt wait to show them how much I care about them and tell them I love them. I want to thank my parents and sister especially for always supporting me and allowing me to pursue my dreams. Even though they were half way around the world from me for the last four months, I know my entire family has been behind me the entire time, supporting me and allowing me to live out my dreams. My aunt and grandma always sent my family on cruises since I was seven years old. I think that really affected my decision of the kind of study-abroad program to do. They were really the ones who gave me the travel bug. I can‚Äôt thank them enough either.