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?
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.
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.”
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!