Lauren Jones ’15: Ready to Set Sail on Semester at Sea
Editor’s Note: Lauren Jones, a third-year student majoring in English and Economics, is about to embark on Semester at Sea and has agreed to blog about her experience. This is the first entry.
When I started college at U.Va., I had zero intentions to study abroad. It seemed like something other people did – a nice idea, but an impractical one when you look at the price tag. I thought: Would a few months outside of the U.S. really be worth all the trouble you have to go through to get there? I was already making a major life transition by coming to Virginia from a small town in central Illinois, and going to college a thousand miles from home was already feeling like a study abroad experience to me – so why go any farther?
Two and a half years later, I’m here in San Diego, getting ready to board a bus to Mexico that will take me to the MV Explorer, a giant passenger ship, or “floating university,” ready to sail to 11 different countries around the world. I’ve spent the last days of winter break attempting to fit four months worth of stuff into a suitcase and two carry-ons…
…And now I’m almost ready to embark.
Over these past two years I’ve learned a lot about how your time at college shapes you as a person. The people I’ve met and the opportunities I’ve found at U.Va. influenced my decision to not just study abroad, but to go on Semester at Sea – a totally unique, multi-country study abroad experience.
I came from a high school with about a 95 percent Caucasian population. While I didn’t have a lot of exposure to people from other countries, I found that U.Va. attracts students from all over the world – and even now its international enrollment is growing! The friendships I’ve made here with international students have sparked my curiosity as to what the rest of the world is like – what do people from completely unfamiliar cultures believe, value, and practice? And how can that impact my understanding of humanity, and the way the world works? These questions, paired with a couple very persuasive Semester at Sea alumni and an awesome financial aid package, helped me realize that a crazy trip around the world like Semester at Sea didn’t just have to be something other people did – it could be something that I can do.
I landed in San Diego International Airport this afternoon, where I’m staying the night at a hotel and will be boarding a bus to take to the ship in Mexico tomorrow. I met up with a bunch of other students as soon as I made it to the hotel – there are about 700 students in the city tonight ready to embark. And the majority of us don’t have close ties to anyone else on the voyage, which means lots of new friendships will be made!
On board the ship, I’ll be taking 12 credit hours of classes, with my major courses in English (Travelers and Visionaries) and economics (Development Economics) along with a religion class and an acting class. All classes are taught with a “global perspective,” meaning they’re designed to provide an academic grounding for the countries we’re about to visit. Each class also includes a required field activity for students to complete in one of the countries. In my Religions of the World class, for example, I’ll be spending one of my days in India visiting six different places of worship with my class, including Islamic mosques, Hindu and Buddihist temples, a Christian church and a Jewish synagogue – and then write a paper about it.
Though I was initially wary of even leaving the Midwest, my time learning and growing at U.Va. has given me the desire to go even farther. I am blessed, thankful, and PUMPED to begin this adventure, and I look forward to writing about it along the way. First stop, Hawaii!
Here’s the Spring 2014 Semester at Sea itinerary:
- Embark: Ensenada, Mexico 1/10
- Hawaii – 1/17
- Japan 1/29 – 2/3
- China 2/6 – 2/11
- Vietnam 2/14 – 2/19
- Singapore 2/22 – 2/23
- Burma 2/27 – 3/4
- India 3/9 – 3/14
- Mauritius 3/21
- South Africa 3/28 – 4/2
- Ghana 4/10 – 4/14
- Morocco 4/23 – 4/27
- Debark: Southampton, United Kingdom 5/2
- + a few free days in Europe to go wherever I choose!
- Return home: 5/8