Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"I love to travel, but I hate to arrive." – Albert Einstein

Many of us aboard the MV Explorer are feeling like this right now. Our journey, which began in Nassau 107 days ago will be coming to a close tomorrow morning. It has been the experience of a lifetime and one for which there are truly no words to describe it with. During the course of our time together, we have bonded as a community. At one point or another, we all found ourselves calling the MV Explorer home and we looked forward to getting back on board the ship and being with our new family just as much as we anticipated arriving at our next port of call. The experiences that we shared together will be forever ingrained in our minds as well as our hearts.

For those of you back home anxiously awaiting the arrival of friends and family (there are probably even a few of you staked out right now in the port in Ft. Lauderdale), you should know that we are not the same people that left you in January. We have all changed. Our perceptions of the world have changed, our knowledge has grown, and we may view our lives back home through a new set of lenses. The voyagers who will be disembarking in Florida tomorrow will carry with them a greater appreciation for the freedoms and comforts that we enjoy so casually at home. When we spend $4.00 on a drink at Starbucks, we may catch ourselves thinking about how many days that would have fed a family in India for. When we go back to our neighborhoods, we might stop to compare them to the impoverished townships in South Africa that are home to millions. When we see a confused traveler in our hometowns, we will remember the countless people around the globe who came to our assistance. There were those who may have done something as small as take five minutes to walk us to a destination we could not find to others who were kind enough to provide us with a place to sleep.

We will all walk away from this journey knowing more about ourselves and the world. Here is how Semester at Sea has changed us:

Kathryn Cammack, Metropolitan State College
“Semester at Sea has proved and disproved stereotypes that I held before this journey about both people at home and of different cultures around the world.” Kat told me how much both her immersion in different cultures and being a part of the shipboard community has meant to her.
Meriel Colglazier, University of Virginia
“Before this journey, I didn’t know about the world. I only knew what I had seen for myself and outside of the United States, I had only been to Europe. Seeing all of these cultures made me more aware of what is out there and I am looking forward to bringing my experiences home and sharing them with others.”
Alexandra Bosee, Stetson University
“Before going on Semester at Sea, I felt like the world was a lot bigger. I saw the world through what I was told to believe through textbooks. Now my perceptions shape the world that I live in."
Amanda Barbara, University of Miami
“Semester at Sea made me want to see as many places as I possibly can and share them with others. We have seen cultures around the world and now I can apply them to my own life. It makes me appreciate the simple things and not take anything for granted.”
Julius Schwerin, Citadel Military College
“It made the world seem a lot smaller and put everything within my reach. Being on Semester at Sea also taught me to rely on people more than I ever have before. The kindness that greeted us everywhere we went was inspiring.”
Robert Perry, San Diego State University
“I have been around the world. I have everything seen from the Southern Cross in the sky to the lava flowing volcanoes of Guatemala. I’ve made connections with people halfway around the world when we could barely speak to one another and it showed me the similarities and cultures of people around the globe”
Naazaneen Hodjat, University of Washington
“It was really interesting to see different cultures mixing and see how people fulfill their needs. People are the same all over the world, they are just trying to live and their main priorities are just to be able to do the basics, like providing food and shelter for their family.”
Gavin Booth, University of Arizona
“Reflecting now on Semester at Sea, I have made the best friends and connections of my life. I have been able to see the entire world and as a business student, every aspect of the world has changed. I’m thinking more globally than I ever did before.”
Jie Chen, Shantou University (China)
“I saw that visiting China changed the way people viewed my own country. They learned more about life in China and how our country works. Being with students in this community also changed my life. It gave me a feeling that everything is going to be okay in the future. They taught me to be confident. My attitudes towards life have changed a lot.
Robert Arnot, Pepperdine University
“Once you see things for yourself, they really have meaning in your life. After seeing the grandeur of the Taj Mahal and the other magnificent places that we had the opportunity to go to compared in stark contrast with the poverty of the common people in India and others around the world that I saw for myself, I am beginning to develop a new perspective on people and society in general. You also always hear people talk about what is wrong with society. Well, now I have seen the world and I have seen for myself how beautiful it really is.”
Miguel Castillo, Emmanuel College
“I was shocked by how similar people were. We went to all of these different countries all over the world and we got to see all of the different cultures and had incredibly unique experiences in all of the countries but in the end, I discovered that everyone, that all people are essentially the same.”
Braxton Henderson, University of Pittsburgh
“I used to think that I would never go to all of these places, that they were too far. Even when I was actually in all of these countries, I didn’t really believe that I was there. I had to step back on reflect on the incredible journey that I was on. I found that we all live in the same world, we’re all human…everyone wants the same things from life. They just want to be treated with respect, to be able to be happy and live with their families. The differences between us all are not so big…we shouldn’t allow them to become barriers. Semester at Sea has exposed me to people around the world and the differences I saw just made me want to learn more about them.”

These are just a small representation of what we will all walk away with tomorrow. No voyager has had the exact same journey and we will all take something different from our experiences. I want to thank all of you who have followed this blog throughout the semester. We’ll be seeing you soon!