At 8am onAugust 23rd, 2012, I literally embarked on what I knew would be a great journey of discovery.
I knew it would be a great journey shortly after my arrival at Port 20 in Halifax, where my home for the nextfour months awaited me. There, the dean of the school was the one to greet me, and my professors were the ones to help me move my duffel bags into my cabin…talk about hospitality! Seriously though, I don’t know if it’s because I’m not used to everyone being so nice where I’m from, and if people outside of the Metropolitan Area are just overly hospitable, or that the conglomeration of diversity aboard a shipboard community just seems to foster a dynamic sense of cooperation. Either way, I like it! I like that anyone and everyone is always smiling onboard, making me want to smile all the time. I like that my steward, John, folded my clothes without me asking him ( making me more conscious of my disorganization, so that he doesn’t have to do it again!). Honestly, it’s these simple acts of kindness that make me feel safe, despite whatever imbalances my body is feeling…
Only a week after embarkation, I find myself still not over my seasickness (I find myself constantly tired and taking naps, which I usually never do), definitely not adjusted to the increasingly changing times (we’ve lost six hours of sleep since we left), and craving food that hasn’t been sailing with us for the past week and a half (although the food is quite delicious).
I have not made a single phone call or login to Facebook since I embarked, and quite frankly, it is very liberating. I always admire those individuals who give up Facebook or any social media for Lent or for any other form of mental fasting from the virtual world. I never felt capable of doing that, so I am actually really grateful to have it forced upon me.
It is honestly amazing how much ‘extra’ time I have now that I’m not constantly connected; in fact, this was taken a step further when due to the vibrations of the ship, my harddrive collapsed, taking my computer with it Yes, it’s inconvenient, and yes, I plan to go to a computer store as soon as I get off the ship, but even this did not feel as dramatic, as I think it would’ve felt had it happened at home. There’s just something really calming about being in the middle of the ocean: it’s a feeling that no matter what physically breaks and shatters externally, your internal peace and balance are literally the most important things that should occupy your time, especially when you’re walking down the halls and the ship is swinging you left and right and you are slamming into walls.
With the ‘extra’ time I now have, I am dedicated to meeting new people. There is an overwhelming number of people from the West Coast, particularly from California and Colorado, which for me is really interesting, especially because I’ve never been out West- it’s like the West has come to me! To be honest, there is not as much cultural diversity as I would have imagined: except for about 15 international students, most people are second or third generation Americans. Coming from a place that is so close to New York City, however, maybe it’s just not as diverse as I am accustomed to.
Aside from trying to get to know people through what I find to be commonplace questions : ‘What’s your name? Where are you from? What school do you go to? Major? Signing up for any SAS trips? Plans for Ireland? What classes are you taking here?’, I am taking classes…yes, divergent to popular belief, I am in fact taking classes!
My classes onboard consist of: International Business, International Marketing, Global Studies, Astronomy, and World Religions. Although it’s only been a week, I can honestly say that I like all of them so far. They are so purposeful and practical, specifically oriented around the countries that we are going to visit. For example, for my International Business class, we are going on a field trip to a retail company in Brazil that fabricates clothing for merchants around the world. For my Global Studies course, I along with four other girls, are creating a video about the globalization of dance, across the four continents that we visit. For my World Religions course, we are visiting numerous spiritual houses in South Africa. For my International Marketing course, my assigned group and I are creating a marketing plan for an American corporation planning to expand to Brazil. Lastly, for my Astronomy course, the entire course is scheduled to observe the stars whenever the ocean is in our favor, on the highest deck of the ship.
In between and after classes, there are numerous activities onboard, including yoga, zumba, film, french, investment, and ‘insanity’ clubs. These are all student run and cater to the specific interests of those individuals onboard. I have even started a salsa club 😀
Perhaps one of the most ‘real life’ experiences is the congregation of the community for what are called ‘cultural pre-ports’. During these gatherings, numerous faculty members and experts in their specific fields gather to teach us about the history and culture of each country that we will be visiting. So far, we have been oriented on what to do and what ‘not to do’ in Ireland, England, and Belgium.
Although I did get some great ideas, I plan on doing what I know is best for me, that which was reinforced by alums who left me numerous pieces of advice behind a painting in my cabin: ”Enjoy the journey.”
Just in case you were wondering what my new home/ floating university looks like, here are some pictures!
THE UNION AUDITORIUM: