Semester at Sea Fall 2006 Voyage banner


Dear future Semester At Sea participants,

     There are very few people in the world that will ever get an opportunity like this.  Traveling quite literally around the world in three months, bringing experts on the places that you will be going with you to teach you all about them.  If you think that this voyage only lasts 100 days, you are gravely mistaken.  You may not notice it until you get home, or perhaps not for ten years after that, but the person that steps onto the ship is not the same as the person that steps off. 

     Sometime after visiting Cambodia, I found it hard to listen to my friends at home talk about that great party that I missed- I had to fight the urge to scream at them that it doesn’t matter, that I’ve seen poverty, I’ve seen people without access to water, I’ve seen people really living.  The most important lesson that I learned on this voyage is that everyone else’s lives continued on while I was gone.  This goes for the people in the countries that I visited and for friends and family at home.  I’ve learned to be humble and that what I did for the last three months is not necessarily better or more life changing than what my friends and family have done.  Every day matters, and that there are many different ways to make the best of each one.

    As I felt the world getting smaller, I looked back at where I had been and noticed one very important thing; people, everywhere, are people.  I met a rickshaw driver in India who was so proud to show off his children, I met three young girls in Burma who loved to draw their favorite animals, I met teenage boys in Egypt who hated working in a fast food restaurant, I played familiar card games with the staff at my hotel in Burma, I sang along to Guns ‘n’ Roses with a young man I had just met in Croatia.  All around the world, there are people just like you and me.  There are so many of them that you will never meet, so take the opportunities that you get.  I was shocked to find a new friend in Spain who I could talk to about politics (mine and theirs), music, family, and even travel.  This happened to me over and over in a lot of different places, and each time I was shocked. 

    I’ve learned many things over the last three months.  I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, or perhaps not to expect anything at all.  I’ve learned that the number of skin colors, eye colors, religions, beliefs, and customs are infinite.  The most important thing that I’ve learned is that you never stop learning and you will never understand everything about a culture, not even your own.  I could ask a million questions to a newfound friend in Burma, and I would never understand what it was like to live his life.  This does not mean you shouldn’t try to understand as much as you can, and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask every
question that you can think of, because, believe me, you will be asked all of those questions in return.  It may seem obvious to you that you went to high school every Monday through Friday from 7 am to 3 pm, but to someone who grew up going to school Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 9 pm, you’ve just amazed them. 

    I kept one bit of advice with me for the entire voyage.  On our way into Hawaii, Shauna Kennedy, a student who is from Hawaii, gave a speech.  In her speech, she asked us to remember that these people live here, that we are stepping into their every day lives.  You should always keep this in mind.  Don’t be offended when someone ignores your request for directions, especially if you are not speaking their language.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Imagine walking down the street and being bombarded by people asking you for directions in broken English, if any English at all, taking pictures of you walking and trying to eating your breakfast.  Imagine that there are 700 of them, and you experience this for five days in a row.  Keep the feeling that thinking of that gives you in the back of your mind as you walk around in new countries.  Be respectful and remember that you are visiting someone else’s home, and you will have a magnificent time, see breathtaking sights, learn of amazing cultures, and meet many wonderful people.

                                                                        Enjoy the world!

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