To say Semester at Sea has been easy would be a lie, an utter fabrication of the truth. The kinds of emotions I have experienced have run the gamut from unspeakable joy and incredible gratitude to devastating sadness and bitter frustration. I have experienced the beauty of a sunset from Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa and the back of a houseboat in Kerala, India, as well as the majesty of a sunrise from the 34th story of a building in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and at the entrance of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. However, in just one short week, I will have to begin explaining all of this and what it has meant to me to those outside of the proverbial magic bubble that is the world of Semester at Sea – a world so beautifully captured in the SeaDub.
I‚Äôm already being asked by folks back home what my experience has been like, and frankly I‚Äôm not sure how to answer without being hyperbolic. I‚Äôm still in the middle of processing just exactly what has happened to me and what I have seen because there are just so many thoughts racing around inside my head. How am I supposed to properly explain and capture my experiences of salsa dancing with locals in Costa Rica, floating towards Saigon up the Mekong River in Vietnam, or the perfectly dreamy blue of the water in Mauritius? That‚Äôs only a short list of what I have seen, too.
I think the best way to describe what has happened over the last few months is that I feel I have been running a marathon, a nonstop race around the world with the occasional stop thrown along the way. Using the word ‚Äústop‚Äù is a bit of a misnomer, however.¬† While in port, I feel as if I‚Äôve been switched to hyperspeed, venturing through whichever country I am in to try and understand their culture, traditions, infrastructure, and people as best I can. Time to process has been few and far between, but invaluable. The Pacific crossing provided the time and space to begin reflecting on this experience.
While I‚Äôm sure an immersion study abroad program would have been fabulous, I‚Äôm deeply grateful that I could draw upon the lessons I learned while in Ghana as I traipsed through China, and that the feelings I felt in Morocco were similar to those in Vietnam. While I was waiting around in the train station in Osaka, Japan, I heard ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a Small World‚Äù playing overhead. I immediately smiled, thinking how appropriate the song was in regard to this semester. People around me took notice. A smile is a smile no matter where you are. So is a laugh. So is a tear.
A Thanksgiving Day in Hawai‚Äôi reminded me how blessed I am to have been able to sail with the Fall 2011 Voyage of Semester at Sea and how deeply enriched my life has become because of it. Coming together for the SeaDub only confirmed how an incredible community has grown throughout the voyage. As we cruise through the Panama Canal en route for our final port in Honduras, every moment is precious. Semester at Sea, in the simplest of explanations, changed my life.