Semester at Sea: The Beginning

Semester at Sea: The Beginning

The Semester at Sea Series
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I don’t talk about Semester at Sea as much as I probably should.

It’s not because I don’t want to.

It’s not because people don’t ask.

But it’s hard to talk about it with someone who wasn’t there.

Because if you haven’t experienced SAS, if you haven’t sailed around the world with 600+ strangers that became like your second family, you won’t completely understand how that trip made each and every one of us a completely different person than who we were when we embarked in Hamburg.

I can give you the elevator speech that I prepared - that Semester at Sea was everything that I needed when I needed it.

I can name the countries that I went to - Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Senegal, Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago, through the Panama Canal, Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.

I can give you a glimpse into the voyage by updating my instagram account and Facebook with photos from each country.

But you won’t understand what Dick Nean means.

Or why I can’t eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without thinking of the Lido Terrace.

Or the feeling I got when the whole ship came together to sing-shout Bohemian Rhapsody in Kaisersaal a couple of days after the election results divided us.

Or how it felt to shave my head while everyone shouted my name and the ship crossed the equator.

Or what really happens when a girl sneaks a sick seagull onto the ship.

And while I could sit down and explain it to you, bring you into my world for those four months, part of me wants to save those memories for the people that experienced them with me.

Because I’m worried that if I tell you all of it, if I tell you every single detail, that some of the magic surrounding those moments won’t belong to us anymore. It will belong to someone who won’t cherish the memories with as much love and care as we do.

And there’s a small part of me that fears the finality of writing it all down - because as soon as I write about Semester at Sea, as soon as my fingers hit the keys and the words appear on my laptop screen, that chapter in my life comes to a close, and the memories belong to more than just me.

But I went on Semester at Sea to gain control of a life that was led by fear, and I have no intention to invite that part of me back into the driver’s seat.

So I’m going to try to bring you into my life at sea and share the moments with anyone who wants to listen.

All I ask is that you be patient.

Be careful with the memories.

Treat them well.

Be okay with not fully understanding everything that I tell you or write about. If you make an effort to do that, I will try my best not to get frustrated with you when you want to hear about my trip. Because I know you mean well.

I know you genuinely want to know.

But if you want to ask me about the trip, ask me about all of it.

Don’t just ask me about my favorite country, expect a two minute conversation, and then change the subject.

Because Semester at Sea can’t be summed up in two minutes. It can’t be defined by my favorite country, or my favorite food, or the “best thing that happened on the trip”. Because it’s so much more complicated than that.

But if you’re ready to sit down and listen (or read), I’m finally ready, too.

(This is part one of The Semester at Sea Series - a series that chronicles my 4 months sailing around the world.)





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17 Empowering Bible Verses For Women

You go, girl.
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We all have those days where we let the negative thoughts that we're "not good enough," "not pretty enough" or "not smart enough" invade our minds. It's easy to lose hope in these situations and to feel like it would be easier to just give up. However, the Bible reminds us that these things that we tell ourselves are not true and it gives us the affirmations that we need. Let these verses give you the power and motivation that you're lacking.

1. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future."

2. Psalm 46:5

"God is within her, she will not fall."

3. Luke 1:45

"Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her."

4. Proverbs 31:17

"She is energetic and strong, a hard worker."

5. Psalm 28:7

"The Lord is my strength and my shield."

6. Proverbs 11:16

"A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth."

7. Joshua 1:9

"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

8. Proverbs 31:30

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised."

9. 1 Corinthians 15:10

"By the grace of God, I am what I am."

10. Proverbs 31:26

"When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."

11. Psalm 139:14

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

12. 1 Peter 3:3-4

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

13. Colossians 2:10

"And in Christ you have been brought to fullness."

14. 2 Timothy 1:7

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."

15. Jeremiah 29:11

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"

16. Exodus 14:14

"The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

17. Song of Songs 4:7

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way."

Next time you're feeling discouraged or weak, come back to these verses and use them to give you the strength and power that you need to conquer your battles.

Cover Image Credit: Julia Waterbury

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Solo Travel As An Extrovert Is Not Easy

Traveling alone, I can choose to view it as a difficult separation from other people or a journey of learning more about myself.

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Life has a funny way of revealing itself and after my mom ditched me on our mother-daughter trip to Taiwan, I found myself on a plane headed to a country I had never visited where I didn't know a soul. (Disclaimer: I have relatives in Taiwan but had never met them prior to the trip.) I was excited for the adventure that awaited, fear not setting in of how difficult it would be not to just travel in a foreign country where I didn't speak or read any Mandarin beyond the very, very basics (Literally my vocabulary consisted of 10 simple words/phrases, one of which was the word for "apple" which isn't that helpful for getting around. I have since picked up a few more phrases.), but also be alone with just myself for company.

So much of who we are is influenced by the people around us. A large part of our identity comes the communities we choose to be part of and how we interact with others. But who are we when no one's looking? Who am I without the pressure of other people around me?

I am an extrovert. I get my energy from being around other people. It's not that I can't spend time by myself; I just prefer to be in the company of others even if we aren't always interacting the entire time. My best friend and I will even do independent activities together. (Once when we were hanging out, she was knitting and I was doing a puzzle. I swear we don't act like grandmas all the time.)

Although an extrovert, I'm still a pretty independent person who doesn't like to rely on others for help. But traveling alone in Taiwan, I don't have much of a choice. I'm forced to learn to navigate public transport myself and somehow survive with the basic English that Taiwanese locals know.

Learning to travel alone has been an emotional and difficult journey as this is the first time I've been on my own for this long. Although lonely at times, I've realized that loneliness is a mental state of mind. There is the Sanskrit saying, "Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha moksayoh" which translates to "As the mind, so the person; bondage or liberation are in your own mind." My mind determines my emotional state of being and perspective! Traveling alone, I can choose to view it as a difficult separation from other people or a journey of learning more about myself.

Through solo travel, I am slowly learning to be comfortable with my own company which has been the biggest challenge. I was never an only child, I've always had a roommate in college, and even when I study, I go to public spaces like coffee shops so I can be surrounded by people. I don't know what to do when it's just me and my thoughts all the time. (Especially during meals. Should I appear busy on my phone like all the other single people around me?)


Because when you're traveling alone, you're in charge. You have control. You can change the itinerary from moment to moment without anyone's approval. No one's holding you accountable. Spontaneity? Let's go. You can build barriers but you can also tear them down. It's fun, it's exhilarating. But it's also scary. And unpredictable.


Would I go on another solo expedition in the future? Preferably not as traveling is way more enjoyable when you have someone to share the experience with. It's the people, not the place who make all the difference on a vacation. Yet I do believe solo travel is an experience that everyone should embark on at some point in their life (to grow and learn more about yourself).


This trip has taught me to find spontaneity in the fear and excitement and I've learned to embrace discomfort and unpredictability. To travel with not just my mind and logic but my heart. There are so many unique experiences, if you overthink too much, you'll lose your chance.

I've found that when I am alone, I become more vulnerable and open to meeting new people and having more offbeat experiences. I say yes with zero hesitation. Certainly, there are friends I made, hikes I climbed, streets I meandered, and epiphanies I had that wouldn't have transpired had I been with my mom or a group of people.


Traveling alone, I am now more confident in myself and am ready for the next wave that life throws me. Because I've learned that once you overcome the fear of being by yourself, getting lost (which you will), or accidentally eating meat as a vegan because you didn't understand the signage (I'm sorry!), the world in all its vast infinity can be pretty great. And there are some things that you can only learn on solo travel.

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