Summer on the high seas: Ode to a Ship
“The most incredible experience I had on my voyage was not the one you might expect”
Lauren Hartig, Director of the Field Office at Semester at Sea, shares the final instalment in a three-part blog series on her travel adventures.
The most incredible experience I had on my voyage was not the one you might expect. Each of the diverse countries we visited offered a unique experience seemingly better than the last. I also managed to eat my way through the local offerings of each new city several times over. Pintxos for life! However, now that I am back in San Diego, the memories that keep resurfacing and the homesick feeling I have is for the ship itself. Along our voyage, the MV Explorer became a special community, its own country in a way, our homeport.
In grad school and in my professional career, I have studied the benefits of living-learning communities. Currently I work with the International House UCSD, which is part of a worldwide consortium of international houses across the globe. There are four key factors that define this sense of community: membership, influence, fulfillment of individual needs, and shared events/emotional connections.
The ship was our safe harbor, the place where we said good-bye and welcomed each new port, ten times over. Our cabins became our sanctuary, some cleaner than others. We sat together in the dining halls, the pool deck, the classrooms, and the union. We shared the details and photos of our adventures with each other and planned for new experiences.
“There are four key factors that define this sense of community: membership, influence, fulfillment of individual needs, and shared events/emotional connections”
During the day while at sea everyone was usually busy working, studying, and taking classes, but we also had special days of no class like the Sea Olympics. The Sea Olympics were organized by the extremely talented student life team and included activities for all ages and all levels. I was happy to compete in the trivia contest, but there was also synchronized swimming, basketball, and comedy shows. Overall, it is important to keep up a regular fitness routine because the food in the dining halls is served buffet style (with dessert)! The gym on the ship is small, but my friend and faculty member Amber Johnson, who also happens to be a Ninja Warrior, taught sunset yoga classes on the 7th deck!
From students, staff, and faculty dressing up and sitting/dancing side by side at the Alumni Ball to students and faculty/staff children wearing pajamas to the Union for the cultural/logistical pre-ports, the ship was a floating university. It was an incredibly unique 25,000 ton traveling campus. One that even hosted a TEDxSemesteratSea event on the way to Finland. As the shipboard drive and our moving convocation ceremony demonstrated, membership into the SAS alumni makes us a part of an exceptional group of people. I can’t wait to see what the students from our voyage accomplish out in the world and I am continually impressed by what students from previous voyages have accomplished (check out Pencils of Promise and Kiva).
“Membership into the SAS alumni makes us a part of an exceptional group of people. I can’t wait to see what the students from our voyage accomplish”
There were many sunsets to behold on our 66 days at sea, most of them I witnessed from my special spot on the fifth deck starboard side outside my office. The final Administration Team meeting held on our last day as sea was filled with laughter and love (and some tears). In a very short time, I grew to respect and cherish the professional relationships and connections I made on this voyage more so than any place I have ever worked.
My final farewell to the staff and students and faculty of the Summer 2014 voyage was not a good-bye per say, but a ‘sea’ you later. My peripatetic self will not let me stay put for long so I know there are many visits across the country and faraway travel in my future. If I am really blessed, I will one day get to sail again with Semester at Sea.