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The Treasure Map

Life History of a Cookie & Cream Sandwich
Amy Dewitt

“If you could be any part of a sandwich what would it be?”  And so began our chance encounter.  On a soggy 6th floor deck, Miss Ellie Cooper became the middle of an ice cream sandwich, and I became a giant slice of just-ripened avocado.  It was sprinkling on our cookies & cream-avocado sandwich, but the sunny breeze proved a prime environment for fueling conversation.  The Semester at Sea masses, myself included, generally do not know how to hold up a conversation – “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “Where do you go to school?  Major?” “What classes are you taking?”  Throw in a few Global Studies complaints and you’ll have reached the end of a choppy, mechanical conversation.  I want to know what Semester at Sea means to the individual, beyond the “Voyage of Discovery,” and I want smooth, comfortable, honest conversation to lead me to the answer.  The starting line to this race?  Ellie.

Ellie knew that the SAS program was one she could not pass up.  Her life had been shaped by endless influences that helped in making the decision obvious.  Growing up, Ellie’s parents offered her a “bigger picture” view of the world.  They did quite a bit of travel, sticking to the unbeatened path, munched on popcorn over independent and foreign flicks rather than box office hits, and strongly supported abroad study – even hosted a student from Norway.   After high school Ellie was ready, more than ready to leave her home of Kansas City.  She didn’t need to run away, simply wanted something less “one-track and close-minded”, and found that different pace by attending college in Texas.

Her junior year was creeping up on her when she discovered Semester at Sea by way of a close college friend who had just returned from her own SAS voyage.  Life was familiar, organized, and comfortable.  She would have to leave friends, boyfriend, and family behind for what she had heard was infamously synonymous with the “Booze Cruise”.  Would it be a debauched semester that she would come home regretting?  Her parents were concerned with the pigeonholed travel plans – experiencing mere smatterings of each country and not indulging on a particular culture.  Were they right?  But Ellie’s inherent independence would not allow her to miss this opportunity.  Having a Semester at Sea alumnus close by helped to disintegrate those fears; she sent in her application, quickly learned to dread each new packet of paperwork to fill out, and stayed busy at work – all efforts building up to August 27th. 

Ellie Cooper has a foundation that she will unhesitatingly declare as the strongest influence in her life.  It’s her support group: Her friends and family sit around a giant map to track Where’s Ellie Today?  I asked her which country she was most excited to be heading toward, and before allowing her face to settle after her cheek-to-cheek, sparkling smile she answered, “EGYPT!”  Her excitement gave me goosebumps, and we speedily kept on topic, bouncing travel plans and ideas off of each other.  Semester at Sea will “expand her horizons” and feed her passion for culture.  Will it do that for every participant?  No one can say.  The answers are as unique as the crazy crop of students on this ship, but these are Ellie’s answers.

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