Semester at Sea: Back Home

A picture of dried fruit for sale at night in the Marrakech medina square.

We’re departing for London tomorrow. It’s a sad feeling, seeing stacks of luggage outside each cabin door, filling out your friends’ journals and maps, searching for the words to define relationships with people whom you’ve seen the world with, but after this week, may not be seeing again. It’s been a day filled with hugs.

On the ship, we’ve had a great community, living with professors, traveling with your classmates and friends down the hall, never being stressed out on our floating island, always finding something fun to do. Stepping off land and out of bounds in countries, wow.

I care so much more about the world. You hear about places like Southeast Asia and Africa in the news, but now having experienced it, and having real connections there alters your perspective and attitude completely. I also feel so independent – traveling abroad isn’t scary or out of reach; it’s something that a twenty-year old college student can do without internet access or a map. I’ve become so thankful and understanding of the privileges that Americans have, with our wealth and in the ways we view gender; as well as our democratic government and our sanitation systems. It’s something you have to experience, seeing other places other than what you’ve known, to better understand your own country.

So, before I say goodbye and return to normal life again, here are a few housekeeping items for general knowledge:

– Saving for the trip. Everyone asks about paying for SAS. Your school will help you out with tuition, but we all have to budget our own extracurricular spending money that isn’t in the bill. By the end of Morocco, I had spent $2659 of my personal money traveling in the 12 ports. This is not including tuition, flights, or visas obtained before boarding. This does include the shampoo and bathroom supplies, snacks and laundry, and my general travel expenses – two flights, a Japanese bullet train, and many buses and taxis. Transportation costs were my largest expense, followed by food and lodging. That said, I stayed off the ship almost every night, with the exception of South Africa and Singapore.

– Safety. I never had moments where I felt that I was in immediate danger. I think you have to be smart, and travel with people you trust to also be smart. There were moments where I felt judged, disrespected or objectified because I was a woman, and there were points in my travels with friends where we knew that we had to make decisions based on our circumstances whether to continue, or get out. You have to be aware, and listen to what your SAS deans tell you about safety and cultural norms in a country.

– Seasickness. I didn’t have any problems with seasickness or any illnesses. It affects many people though, and the worst days for sickness were near the beginning when we crossed the Pacific. People generally get better within a few days, sometimes it comes back, but you figure out your body and how it works pretty quickly. And the ship is full of medicine if you need it.

– School / Travel Balance. It’s jarring to come back from six days in India and have a paper due the next day, but it’s manageable. Ship life is very restful, you’re given much more unstructured time to get your work done than you would in normal college life.

– Study abroad will change your life. It’s not something to be afraid of, and there are scholarships everywhere if you plan ahead and talk to your study abroad office, financial aid office, and your friends who have done it. I never thought I would study abroad, but now I couldn’t recommend it more. College is a time when you’re trying to figure out your life, and when you’re not always sure what you want to do, it helps to see where your opportunities are, get a bigger picture of what the world is and where you fit within it. Besides, you’re also in some of the best shape of your life, so you’re resilient against lots of walking and lack of sleep.

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing about my travels on Semester at Sea! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and have learned or become more curious about travel abroad. If you have any questions, I’m always available to contact at and would love to answer anything I can! I am headed to travel in France and the UK when we disembark, and then I’ll return to the USA to Charlottesville for the summer (and make back some of the money I spent on this voyage). I am very sad that Semester At Sea is ending, but at the same time I’m so glad I decided to jump in and do this. It’s one of the best decisions I can think that I’ve made in my life, and I think it’s obviously going to impact my worldview forever. So I just tell myself that even if I have to leave my home in the ship tomorrow, it’s not an ending, just another journey.

2 Comments on “Semester at Sea: Back Home

  1. Thanks Lauren for sharing your travels. As a fellow ‘Hoo, I’ve enjoyed following your experiences. I know that it took time and effort to write this blog and appreciate your thoughtfulness. Have a wonderful rest of the summer. — Pam, CLAS 1978

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