The MV World Odyssey has officially sailed over 1,470 nautical miles from our embarkation point in Hamburg, Germany to our first, officially port here in Barcelona, Spain! After sailing for the past six days, at a nice, slow pace of fourteen miles per hour, I have had a lot of time to reflect on my first week here at Semester at Sea.
Living on a ship with over four hundred other students has definitely not been the easy adjustment that I had expected. I have always been one with a loud voice, natural leadership and an outgoing personality that makes it easy for me to find my home within a new place somewhat quickly, but when I boarded the MV World Odyssey being the only individual from Indiana, one of a handful from the midwest, even, I felt quite out-of-place. As I learned in our first day orientation, 88% of students on board with me are from the west and/or west coast, with the majority of them coming on Semester at Sea with about fifteen to twenty of their friends from their home institution. Thankfully, I have the best roommate I could ask for, who has become a built-in best friend (especially living in our 18 by 12 foot cabin) and I have started my classes on board to allow me to meet individuals in the same academic interests as me, and I am slowly feeling as though I am able to be myself.
Despite the personal and social obstacles, living on a ship is easily the strangest experience of my life. First of all, I wake up every single morning with the same feeling of a ‘too-much-cheap-vodka’ hangover, but with double the nausea and zero the fun memories from the night before. Instead of being able to treat this so-called hangover with McDonald’s fries and a day of Netflix binge-watching, I get to treat it with a sea-sickness patch (that makes you an extra dose of nauseous) and sitting through three, one and a half hour classes while violently rocking back and forth. Second, when I told everyone I was going to be off the grid for the next four months, I even thought I was being dramatic as usual. Truth is, our ship has internet that works 25% of the time, allows access to only three websites (our SeaMail account, the Semester at Sea homepage and ownCloud, which is just an academic rip-off of iCloud) and to top it off, we get fifteen mega bytes of internet per day. By the way, the Snapchat application on your phone? That is 580 mega bytes… without the data.
For the first time since I started high school back in 2012, I am not using an ounce of internet to do my school work, I am not talking to my parents every single day and I have no idea what any of my friends are doing back home. I rely solely on military time, nautical miles and wave strength to lead me through my days (and a lot of Dramamine). But, for the first time in my life, I am living on something other than land. I am traveling to thirteen counties by ship, while continuing my academic studies and growing as a global citizen. With all of these new experiences that have thrown me off within the past couple weeks, I am only preparing myself for the incredible, life-changing experiences that I will take part in the following weeks.
I am beyond thankful for this uncomfortable beginning because it has shown me exactly what this voyage is meant to: to grow as an individual, to discover a purpose, to exceed as a student and to become a global citizen, rather than a United States citizen. It is to be a traveler, not a tourist. It is to get uncomfortable, to get messy, but to find a way to make sense of it all. I found myself sitting at an activities fair signing up for Early Risers, a club to literally watch the sunrise, Yoga, something I have never done seriously before and Yes! Theory, a club where you say yes to things that make you uncomfortable, make you step outside of your personal bubble, leave your social cushion. It’s a club to stop making excuses and to make the most of your life, and make every single day a little better than the last.
Semester at Sea is already teaching me things that I had not even realized until I began writing this post, and for that, I have to say that I am grateful. The past two weeks have been the strangest weeks of my life, and I cannot wait for the next three and a half uncomfortable, but beautiful months here on the MV World Odyssey.
P.S. To help me feel a little less homesick, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org