The community aboard the ship is like no other. Every day, in every port, there are new opportunities to grow; this is not only a result of the multitude and variety of cities we are exploring, but also due to the inescapable simplicity of living on a ship.
There is virtually no internet on the ship, which keeps everyone off of Netflix and their phones. Students have access to a designated email and only a few online educational sites such as Wikipedia and their email. We can get an internet plan, which costs a fortune (at about $15 for every 30 minutes), or do the smart thing by simply brushing social media aside for the next few months. Each cabin has a TV, but there are only 4 channels, all of which are geared towards educational learning.
The result is a vibrant community, void of digital distractions. Dinner tables are full of students and faculty, having real and often stimulating conversations. It’s crazy how much you can do when everyone is looking beyond their silver screens.
As Dr. Mark Thomas said on the second day at sea, our ship is a “living, learning community.”
The idea is modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s Academic Village, wherein professors and students would live, dine, lecture and study together. Much like the tight family-feel of Vanguard, Semester at Sea sets the stage for outstanding community to flourish. There is something about being surrounded by water, with at least one hundred nautical miles to land in every direction, that forces one to grow ineffably close with their community. People who normally would not branch out are then forced to expand their comfort zones. Likewise, social butterflies like myself are in a paradise of possibility.
As a living entity, the community it changes as we do. A delicate ecosystem, each member’s actions affect the whole, for better or for worse. Such an experience is incalculably edifying in learning how to live in a way that builds the community. We leave marks on each other, and the ports we visit are slowly starting to leave their marks on us. With each new city, the SAS wardrobe expands, from kimonos to custom suits.
Each one of us on the ship contributes to the great, complex and ever-growing story of Semester at Sea. Ours is a spectacular chapter, since this is the last voyage with this particular vessel, the MV Explorer. Whereby, everyone’s been asking the same question —what are we going to do tomake this voyage stand out?
While it may be special to “go out with a bang,” I do not think is necessary. Our voyage, our community and our experiences are already unique. We have formed a SAS class, a DNA, that has never existed before, and never will again. We are all here, at a climactic intersection of our lives, where we can get to know each other as we get to know the world. Therefore, everything and anything we do is innately original. It is enough to simply let go, keep your head above the water, and explore.