Editor’s Note: At the end of each SAS voyage, a convocation is held in the Union to celebrate the end of a successful semester. For the Summer 2014 voyage, faculty chose Sarah Lindner to deliver a speech on behalf of the student body. Here’s what she had to say about overcoming fears and pursuing dreams:
‚ÄúI think I can, I think I can.‚Äù Those are the words that started my Semester at Sea journey almost exactly a year ago. I sat in the University of Oregon‚Äôs advising office getting ready to discuss the possibility of studying abroad with Semester at Sea saying those words over and over again in my head. I think I can, I think I can.
Even being in that office saying those words to myself was a major improvement from only a few weeks before when I was definitively saying ‚ÄúI can‚Äôt study abroad.‚Äù When people would ask why, I would throw out the excuse that I wasn‚Äôt really interested in traveling at that point in my life. However, that was a lie because I had always dreamed about traveling internationally. The excuse that I gave just covered up the fact that I believed that I didn‚Äôt have the time, the money, or even the courage to pursue this dream. You see, at that point I had never been outside of the country before. I hadn‚Äôt even traveled on my own before! Just the idea of navigating international airports and flying to London terrified me, let alone spending two and half months on a ship traveling around Europe. In my mind, that settled it. I couldn‚Äôt and wouldn‚Äôt study abroad.
Luckily, my friends and family were less convinced of this fact than I was. At the end of last summer, I got to meet up with a friend that had gone on Semester at Sea a couple of years ago. During our conversation, talk turned to her study abroad experience and she could not stop gushing about how amazing the SAS program was. At the end of the conversation she turned to me and asked, ‚ÄúSo Sarah, when are you going to study abroad?‚Äù With all of the doubts swirling around in my mind, I was ready to reply with my usual excuse, but there was something about the way that she had talked about study abroad, Semester at Sea in particular, that had me hooked.
Later that week, I brought up the program to my parents and, much to my surprise, they didn‚Äôt mention the impossibility of the money or time involved or any of the other doubts that I felt. Instead, they said that it sounded amazing and that I should pursue it. That was the moment that my ‚ÄúI can‚Äôt‚Äù regarding study abroad turned into ‚ÄúI think I can.”
Over the last year, my ‚ÄúI think I can‚Äù moments turned into ‚ÄúI know I can‚Äù moments. Through the help of some generous scholarships, incredible academic advisors, and supportive friends and family, my doubts about Semester at Sea began to be erased. However, this process definitely didn‚Äôt happen overnight. I can honestly say that even on my way to London I found myself rocking back and forth in a chair during a 13-hour layover in Charlotte, North Carolina, thinking, ‚ÄúWhat in the world did I get myself into?!‚Äù Fortunately, there was still something about SAS that had me hooked and that was all it took for me to know that I could make this study abroad dream a reality.
Now, after two and a half months of traveling, I can say that this dream has officially come true. I have eaten pasteis de nata in Portugal, ‚Äúseen‚Äù the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland (on an unusually foggy day), deciphered Starbucks‚Äô Cyrillic alphabet menu in Russia, enjoyed a beach day in Sweden of all places, and conquered my fear of heights by riding a Ferris wheel in Poland. I‚Äôve gone to class on Sundays, watched whales out of the window of my classroom instead of listening to lectures (sorry, professors), completed what seems like a million group projects, and written so many papers that I‚Äôm not sure why my fingers haven‚Äôt fallen off yet. And I‚Äôve done all of this while traveling on a ship with 800 of my closest friends, many of whom I now consider family. It has, in every respect, been the absolute best two and a half months of my life!
But, like every dream, this experience has to come to an end. Tomorrow we‚Äôre getting off the ship, but somehow I still find myself hooked on SAS. Two and a half months was not nearly long enough to fully enjoy this voyage. I‚Äôm going to miss being rocked to sleep by the ship, watching the sun set into the ocean, learning my way around a new city, getting lost in that new city, having deans who sing and dance, watching crew talent shows, visiting a new country every week, freaking out (happily) about taco days, and watching the water trail behind the ship as it transports us to our next adventure.
I just know that when I sit down on the airplane to go back home, I‚Äôll probably scare the person sitting next to me by sobbing the entire 3,539-mile trip back over the Atlantic Ocean. When they ask me what‚Äôs wrong, I‚Äôll tearfully reply that I just left my heart on the MV Explorer back in Southampton, England, and I don‚Äôt think that I‚Äôm ever going to be the same again. But even though it‚Äôs painful to leave, the memories that I have will always remind me that this is one dream that actually came true.
The biggest lesson that this voyage has taught me is that nothing should stop you from pursuing your dreams. No excuse stands a chance against the statement ‚ÄúI think I can‚Äù because, as I found out this summer, that statement represents hope. The hope that I can pursue the impossible. The hope that I‚Äôm brave enough to step outside of my comfort zone. The hope that inspires me to move mountains and allows me to reach dreams that once seemed unattainable.
So as we leave the ship tomorrow, closing the ‚ÄúSemester at Sea Summer 2014‚Äù chapter of our lives and opening the next chapter, I encourage you to take a page from my book and start viewing your dreams with an ‚ÄúI think I can‚Äù attitude. It‚Äôs this attitude that allowed me accomplish my dream of traveling the world, and you never know how far it might take you.