The community aboard the MV Explorer is like no other. Every day, in every port there are new opportunities to grow. This is not only a result of the multitude and variety of cities we are exploring, but also due to the inescapable simplicity of living on a ship.
Internet is limited on the ship, which keeps everyone off of Netflix and their phones. Students have access to a designated email and only a few online educational sites. We can purchase an internet plan, though costs add up, or we can do the smart thing, by simply brushing social media aside for the next few months. Each cabin has a TV, but there are only a handful of channels, all of which are geared towards classes, upcoming ports, and educational learning.
The result is a vibrant community, void of digital distractions. Dinner tables are full of students and faculty, having real and often stimulating conversations. It’s amazing how much people can do when they are looking beyond their silver screens.
As Academic Dean, Mark Thomas, said on the second day at sea, “our ship is a ‘living, learning community'”. The idea is modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s Academic Village, wherein professors and students would live, dine, lecture and study together. Much like a tight family-feel, Semester at Sea sets the stage for an outstanding community to flourish. There is something about being surrounded solely by the ocean, with at least one hundred nautical miles to land in every direction, that forces one to grow ineffably close with his/her community. People who normally would not branch out, are then forced to expand their comfort zones. Likewise, social butterflies, like myself, are in a paradise of possibility.
As a living entity, the community changes as we do. A delicate ecosystem, each member’s actions affect the whole, for better or for worse. Such an experience is incalculably edifying in learning how to live in a way that builds the community. We leave marks on each other, and the ports we visit are slowly starting to leave their marks on us. With each new city, the Semester at Sea wardrobe expands, from kimonos to custom suits.
Each one of us on the ship contributes to the great, complex and ever-growing story of SAS. Our voyage, our community, and our experiences are extremely unique. We have formed a SAS class, a DNA that has never existed before and never will again. We are all here, at a climactic intersection of our lives, where we can get to know each other as we get to know the world. Everything and anything we do is innately original it reminds me to simply let go, keep my head above the water, and explore the world.
All photos by Evan Meyer