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

18 Comments on “Lauren Jones ’15: Ready to Set Sail on Semester at Sea

  1. Lauren your story is very inspiring. I hope you have a wonderful and a lifetime experience as you travel around the world. I will keep you in my prayers and God bless you! Always stay alert and be careful.

  2. This sounds awesome! What a fantastic experience! I have an aunt and uncle who live just outside of Paris is you’d like a local’s perspective for your last few days. :-)
    Stay safe and absorb as much as you can.

  3. Lauren, I am so happy you have chosen to participate in this great adventure. Once you have been to far off places in the world, your own world will never be the same. YOU will never be the same. You will forever see with new eyes. When you listen to the news and hear stories of the things happening in other countries, you will think of the people you have met in those places, and the events happening where they live will touch you personally. Drink it all in. Savor it. Be enriched.

  4. Lauren, I look forward to following your expedition and adventure. Be blessed, be careful, and I will be praying for you and your anxious folks. LOL

  5. Dear Lauren,
    What a wonderful opportunity. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers for safe and wonderful travels. I look forward to reading your blog and traveling vicariously through your adventures. As you roam the globe please know back here in Charlottesville there are people thinking of you and wishing you well! Bon Voyage!
    Love, Susie Crabill

  6. Dear Lauren,
    Though I’m still in that small central Illinois town, I’m looking forward to traveling with you in spirit on this adventure. Your first stop is the only place on your itinerary that I’ve visited, and it was wonderful, inspiring. Kudos for embracing this opportunity and for sharing it with us!

  7. Dear Lauren,
    What an exciting adventure and opportunity to earn credits. Be blessed as you grow in wisdom and knowledge, which will enable you to better understand the global impact of the world you live in today. May you not only grow academically, but may you also grow spiritually. I’m excited to travel with you as you post your entries in your blog. I going to be most excited to read about your adventures in China and Singapore, which are two places I’ve lived. Technically, I didn’t live in China, but I think Hong Kong is a very close comparison. I’m going to sit back here in your small town in Central IL and enjoy the ride.

  8. How wonderful and thank the Lord you were open to this great and wonderful life adventure. I am proud of you!!! Kenda

  9. How exciting for you! I found a love for travel much later in life when I was 40 years old. Now I am always telling my children that whenever they have the opportunity to travel they should take it. It will definitely change your perspective on so many things – what is really important in life, how you can survive without so many possessions, as wellas how fortunate we are to live in the USA. Bon vayage to you and take in as much as you can stand!

  10. Lauren, I am sooooo happy for you! I know you will come back in May having a heart full of the life and needs, and blessings of people you don’t even know right now. Please know that my prayers go before you.

  11. What a great opportunity of a life time. Wish everyone, including me, had this chance to see the world. We might be better people. Enjoy and I plan on reading your blog and keeping up with the events.

  12. WOW! Lauren this is amazing. So are so blessed to have received this opportunity. Way to go UVA in providing this boat! Please keep all of us updated on everything you do, we want to see lots of pictures from all the countries and on the boat. Many Congrats to you. Praying for safety.

  13. I will be eagerly following your adventure! God bless you on this journey! (p.s. I was your mom’s piano teacher way back in the day. We went to church together and your grandmother (Meg) was one of my GA leaders! You are blessed with a wonderful family.) Take care and enjoy!

  14. Pingback: Lauren Jones ’15: All Aboard – Week One on the MV Explorer | Social Media, U.Va.

  15. Pingback: Semester at Sea: China | Social Media, U.Va.

  16. Pingback: Semester at Sea: Japan | Social Media, U.Va.

  17. Pingback: Semester at Sea: Climbing Kilauea – Aloha from Hilo | Social Media, U.Va.

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