Traveling to 10+ countries on a floating college campus certainly makes Semester at Sea a one-of-a-kind study abroad program. However, if you ask voyagers what makes the experience truly so transformative, many will reference aspects of Semester at Sea beyond just the travel.
As we recently gathered around the table with loved ones for the Thanksgiving holiday, it seems fitting to highlight one of these prominent aspects– community, specifically the unorthodox learning community aboard the MV World Odyssey. Semester at Sea is not home to solely traditional students but is a thriving shipboard community of faculty, staff, Lifelong Learners, companions, and families.
Meet the Flores family, one of several families currently sailing aboard the MV World Odyssey during the Fall 2022 voyage! Nikki Flores is the Care Coordinator and travels with her entire family, including her husband Fred and her three children, Maricela (Mari), Adam, and Valentina.
Nikki first heard about Semester at Sea from an advisor at grad school who recommended the program due to her passion for global citizenship. Since then, she has sailed on three voyages before this current one. A staunch advocate of Semester at Sea, Nikki remembers “singing its praises while [her children] were in utero.” This fourth voyage, however, is special for her because it is the first time that her whole family is with her. “I’ve been talking about it for so long,” she says. “And, so it was a decision, ‘let’s do this together.’ I wouldn’t have wanted to leave anyone behind for this experience.”
Her husband, Fred, is grateful to travel alongside his family as well. “This is our very first time being an ‘on-deck family.’ We’ve done really well so far. I believe this journey has made us closer than before. It has taught us family values, working as one unit instead of being separated.” With the five family members all sharing one room, this statement sounds like gospel truth.
However, the beauty and joy of the voyage seem to outweigh the occasional scruples. “We live in New York,” Nikki says. “So the hustle and bustle of daily life is our norm back home. This experience has made us stop, slow down, and truly enjoy the world around us. That’s why I wanted this experience for them. That’s such a powerful family lesson.”
The Flores children, well-known as “Ship Kids” by fellow voyagers aboard the MV World Odyssey, share their perspectives on the voyage as well. Mari, the oldest of the three, speaks about their daily routine. “We wake up, and our parents take off the sheets and say they’ll spray water if we don’t get up, then we go to Global Studies…then, we eat in Berlin and study the books about the countries we’re visiting.”
Adam, the middle child of the family, enjoys staying active with the constant energy of the ship, saying “I’ll play basketball or go swimming. Then, I go to the 2:00 activity.” And, Valentina, one of the youngest people aboard the ship, shares her thoughts as well. “My favorite part is, one time, we made bracelets for me and my friend Winnie”, another “ship kid” aboard the ship at just four years old. Valentina, along with the other Flores children, keeps a journal of her time aboard the ship, encouraged by their parents. “Valentina likes talking about all the animals she’s seen in each port,” Nikki says.
As voyagers continue to participate and reflect in shipwide traditions such as Neptune Day and Thanksgiving, the collective mind is on the subject of gratitude. And for Nikki, her gratitude lies with Semester at Sea as a whole. “I’m so thankful that Semester at Sea afforded my family and me the opportunity to do this together, that my children have had these experiences that will shape the adults they’re going to become. If you can have this opportunity to travel with your family, I would choose this program again and again.”
Learn more about Semester at Sea’s shipboard community of students, Lifelong Learners, and faculty and staff!