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Alumni in Action: Fall 2018 Voyagers “Look Alive!” at Five-Year Reunion

When Gleb Shenov, chair of the Fall 2018 Voyage five-year reunion planning committee, left his voyage five years ago, he never thought he would again experience one of his favorite parts of the voyage. Whenever the MV World Odyssey would anchor at a new port, many of its voyagers would all plan to meet at a nearby restaurant shortly after arrival to “toast” the new port together. Gleb shared, “It was an amazing feeling to walk into a foreign place and see the entire place filled with SAS faces. After our voyage ended, I didn’t think I’d ever experience that feeling again.” 

“Look Alive 125” Reunion Chair Gleb Shenov with shipmates

Fortunately, due to the amazing efforts of Gleb and the entire five-year reunion planning committee, he was able to experience this again in Chicago. In September 2023, more than 200 members of the 125th voyage, or as voyagers fondly deemed it “Look Alive, 125!” voyage, gathered for a six-day, action-packed reunion and celebration. Gleb reflected,  “At the reunion, I walked into one of our gatherings, saw all the SAS faces, and realized the place was basically filled with Semester at Sea voyagers, I thought to myself: ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m getting to experience this again, five years later!’” 

This is just one of the many outstanding moments at the reunion, which can also boast itself as being the largest known reunion gathering in SAS history. Anna Shoultz, the reunion’s Vice Chair for Reunion Logistics, said, “Everyone on our voyage was so close and it showed in the turnout we saw for this five-year reunion. Our voyage really lived up to its motto of “Look Alive, 125!”—some people even have tattoos of this slogan [including Anna!]—and the voyage community continues to be active, show up, and make an impact wherever we go.” 

FA18 voyagers at the five-year reunion

To achieve the largest SAS reunion to date, Anna and Gleb worked with 15 other committee members to plan over eight months. The team started by surveying all voyage members about reunion interests and preferred locations, with Chicago as a top pick for its accessibility and relative affordability. In fact, the “Look Alive, 125!” voyagers were so engaged with the idea of a reunion, that the committee had to be whittled down from nearly 50 interested voyagers. “In the end, we had to be very purposeful about the planning committee,” Anna said. “We made sure every group was represented and that we had all different types of perspectives throughout the planning process.”

Around 250 people from the voyage expressed interest in joining the reunion – from students to faculty to Lifelong Learners. In the end, the voyage really showed up. More than 220 alumni attended at least some portion of the six-day event with more than 100 attending a Sunday brunch on the final day of the week. Among the attendees, 34 United States states and six countries from across the globe were represented. 

FA18 voyagers at the five-year reunion

Over time, as the event grew larger and larger, the committee members began to call Chicago “the 13th port.” The event kicked off on Sept. 4, 2023, with an array of “reunion week field programs ranging from a game night at a local arcade bar to a trip to Wrigley Field to catch a Chicago Cubs game. The reunion also included a Staculty and Lifelong Learner Lunch, a sunset picnic, and a piano bar night. The main event, held on September 9, was, in true SAS fashion, a “mini-voyage” on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. For three hours, SASers enjoyed Hors d’oeuvres and drinks on board Chicago’s Classic Lady vessel while gathering and reminiscing with their SAS friends and families. Additional images of the reunion, as well as the full reunion itinerary, can be found on the reunion Instagram here or the reunion website here

Members of the ISE team were also aboard to join in the festivities, including Heather Wisniewski, Vice President of Advancement for SAS/ISE, and Dr. Lisa Braun Glazer, member of the ISE Board of Trustees. “ISE was so supportive in this whole process,” Gleb said. “For any alumni interested in planning their own voyage reunions, definitely start with ISE, as they can help get all of your communication going.” CEO Scott Marshall even made a special video for the reunion attendees, congratulating them on the largest reunion in SAS history. 

The Fall 2018 voyagers also made a lasting impact on the Chicago vendors. “We always talk about how we also try to have a positive impact on the places we visit, and we really saw that again with the Chicago reunion,” Anna said. “The ship’s crew and all of the vendors kept telling us how kind, positive, and fun every SASer they interacted with was. It’s really nice to see these impacts from our SAS voyage still affecting us all five years later.”

ISE staff and Board members attending “Look Alive 125” reunion

Though the Chicago reunion had to come to an end eventually, Gleb and many others from the planning committee have already set their sights on their 10-year gathering.

“Just like our first SAS voyage, it was really hard to see the reunion end. But I think I’ll have that moment again—when I can look around a place and see nothing but my fellow SAS voyagers and lifelong friends— very, very soon.”

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