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Shipboard Interview with Dana Saign

By Allie D'Amanda

As I sit at the snack bar on the MV Explorer with Dana Saign, a 21 year old from Mountain View California who currently attends UC Santa Barbara, I pause a moment before diving into my interview.  I hear the grinding of coffee beans while Antoinette, the friendly employee hums along with a tune on the radio.  The buzz of conversations wafts in from the students around us, and the tap-tap of Dana’s foot marks time as she anxiously awaits my first question.  We are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on our way to Japan, anticipating what everyone has told us will be the most life-changing adventure of our lives: a Semester at Sea. 

Dana is very tan, and I ask her about how she got so brown, assuming she must “lay-out” on a daily basis.  Her answer is just another reminder that people’s lives are anything but obvious.  “I have played water-polo all my life, and of course we practice in the sun! But, last year I seriously injured my knee, and I feel like I’m too young to get surgery, so I quit.  That’s why I’m able to be here, and I wouldn’t change it for anything,”

I ask her if she knows anyone who has done this before, and she says her good friend Kimmy, and fellow classmate, told her about the trip and taught her all the “tricks of the trade,” as she put it.  Dana laughs to herself saying, “this may sound silly, but I also watched the MTV reality TV show “Road Rules,” and it chronicled seven students' adventure on Semester at Sea, and it looked so cool!”  She also visited her older brother in Italy while he spent a semester abroad, and was so intrigued by the experience that she claims to have caught the “travel bug.”  “I just couldn’t wait to travel again,” she says.

Upon her parents’ persuasion to do an abroad program in general, she looked into many opportunities.  I ask her why she chose this program over others.  Based on Kimmy’s rave reviews, her desire to “broaden her horizons” and see a wide variety of countries and cultures she may never get to experience again, she set her heart on Semester at Sea.  “How did you weigh the advantages?” I ask.  “Well,” she says, “I figured I’d never get another opportunity like this, or have the chance to see such countries in the context we are in now: with students.  I also probably wouldn’t have the chance to learn so extensively about each of the countries before visiting them…to ‘davel in the goods’ one might say.”  She laughs out loud, and I laugh too, as her sense of humor is incredibly infectious.

“So what did you do to make this trip possible?” I ask, on a more serious note.  She sighs and tells me that she had to work all summer, and that every penny she made will be going toward “this.”  I can’t help but notice a bit of stress in her voice.  I nod my head in agreement, and smile saying, “O.K, now for my final question! What is it about you that is in synch with the Semester at Sea experience?”  She looks away for a moment.  “I don’t know really, but I guess Semester at Sea has such a broad range of people, all open to new possibilities.  I am open too.  We are all new to each other; everyone gets to start over; clean slates.”  I smile at her and say I couldn’t have said it any better.

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