Semester at Sea: All Aboard – Week One on the MV Explorer

Editor’s note: Lauren Jones, a third-year student majoring in English and Economics, is blogging about her Semester at Sea experience. Read her first entry: Ready to Set Sail on Semester At Sea


When you’re having breakfast on a cloudy morning, eating a bowl of cereal, do you ever look outside and have one of those look-at-my-life, look-at-my-choices moments?

My roommate, Spencer, attempting to study outside.

My roommate, Spencer, attempting to study outside.

The fact that Semester at Sea was actually happening took a couple days for me to digest. This week, everyone onboard had to adjust to the reality of eating, sleeping, and going to school in the middle of the Pacific, while realizing that this idea of circling the globe, seeing countries we’d never been to and may never see again, was actually going to happen, and soon!

As I write this, our ship is about 200 miles from the coast of Hawaii, and 1800 miles from our departure point in Ensenada, Mexico. There are 917 people on the ship, most of us students, from 277 schools and 24 countries, all here to see the world while pursuing our degrees.

The ship pulls out of Mexico on embarkation day. We won’t see continental North America again for four months!

The ship pulls out of Mexico on embarkation day. We won’t see continental North America again for four months!

Professors, their children, and “lifelong learners,” or other adults on the journey who also attend classes, are all living onboard. After class, I’ll bump into my professors at the dining hall, meet their kids running through the halls, and I may even travel with my “extended family” of adults and other students when we arrive in port. The unique community is one of those elements of the voyage you don’t really think about when you’re signing up, but it starts to resonate the more you talk to people, whether it’s a fellow student from New York or a 70-year-old lifelong learner who decided to sit in on your economics class. We’re all living together, getting used to the rocking ship, navigating the different decks, and wishing we had bought more snacks at Wal-Mart before leaving the country. But we’re also learning from each other, about each other, and we’re having great conversations about the world and its cultures, inside and outside of class.

I talked with the voyage’s Executive Dean Mike Zoll this week, who told me that the learning community is his favorite thing about Semester at Sea. “This ship has a way of crosscutting communities where you get to know people the way you just can’t on land,” he said. “We’re kind of all we have for 100 days, for better or for worse, so we’re going to build something pretty amazing in a way that could never be done at home.”

Students, professors, children and lifelong learners share in fellowship together during mealtimes.

Students, professors, children and lifelong learners share in fellowship together during mealtimes.

I’m working out my routine on days onboard the ship, when classes are in session. I’ll go to my work-study job in the morning, attend class, work out in the gym, then do homework, play games or hang out in the evening. I’ve also attended the lectures that SAS also offers every evening, which cover global topics such as social entrepreneurship, representing America well, and human impact on marine life.

Along with evening lectures, student groups started this week. The SAS Student Life team helped organize sports teams, religious services, and a collection of other typical clubs you would find in college. In addition, students have formed 16 (and counting) other organizations onboard – from euchre club, meditation club and beat poetry, to ping-pong and salsa dancing groups.

Week One on the MV Explorer was all about adjusting to life at sea, meeting the new community, and getting involved in this increasingly real experience. Time to jump in!

Figuratively, of course.

Figuratively, of course.



6 Comments on “Semester at Sea: All Aboard – Week One on the MV Explorer

  1. Reading that it is “time to jump in” did your old dad’s heart no good, so I’m glad you added the “figuratively speaking” qualifier. That said, you are embracing an opportunity to grow intellectually, culturally, and personally. My guess is that at the end of this semester your world view will be quite different than when you embarked. You have chosen to avail yourself to a world of ideas and possibilities. I will be interested to read of your experiences on this adventure; however, I am more interested to watch the person you become as a result of this semester. Have fun. Be safe. Call your mother.

  2. Your blog made me think about things I would not have thought of. Living with people you don’t know (at first), eating, going to classes, working out, playing games, attending clubs, etc. It would be like staying at school (in a building) 24/7 for four months… have adjustments to make.
    It would not surprise me that you will make a few lifelong friends along this journey.
    Thanks for taking time to blog for UVA, we appreciate reading about this experience first hand and seeing the pictures you have taken.

  3. 30 years ago one of my good friends from high school did Semester at Sea – and she still talks about it, and I remember the amazing stories she told when she returned. My UVA daughter won’t be able to schedule Semester at Sea, unfortunately, but will do another study abroad program next summer. I’m now excited to look up the details on how to be a “Life Long Learner”, I’m not quite there yet, but would love to have this adventure to look forward to in a few years. Meanwhile, I’ll look forward to your updates!

  4. Lauren–Don’t know how you have time to attend class and do all the required homework! The packing would have been a real challenge for me! This sounds like a wonderful program; had not heard of it before. This semester will be one for the books! Keep up the good work. Enjoy reading your blogs. Hugs, Adele and Bob

  5. Know that your entire family is very proud, and a little jealous, of this wonderful opportunity you have earned. Open yourself up to the world of learning which presents itself to you. We love you and pray for safe travels!

  6. Lauren Jones, conquering the world one country at a time! Your experience sounds so exciting and wonderfully eye opening. I am sure you are going to learn so much :) Love you tons and can’t wait to read more about your adventures from back here at the boring ole’ grounds 😉

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