It has been officially one week since I have boarded the MV World Odyssey with Semester at Sea. As I write my first blog entry being on the ship, I am in my usual spot where I do my homework and readings. I lay on a loun
ge chair with my feet up outside on the seventh deck with a view of the vast ocean, as the ship is moving. Every single view is beautiful, no matter what time it is during the day. I’ve even seen sea turtles and dolphins as I study outside. It feels like you’re living in a dream.
There is so much to write about just within the first two weeks of the voyage. Prior to the voyage, my mom and I visited London, Paris, Rome, and Hamburg. Leaving my mom in Hamburg was very difficult. I found a classmate from USD to check in to the MV World Odyssey (the name of our ship) with, so I said goodbye to my mom. My mom’s eyes were so watery, I could tell she was doing everything she could to keep them in. Minutes later when I was about to enter the building I yelled “bye Mom!” and she came back to give me another hug. I knew how hard it was going to be for the both of us to be worlds a part. I thought that I would be very homesick the first few days of the voyage, thinking of my boyfriend and my mom, but actually I’ve been having the time of my life. I’m starting to realize and experience that stepping out of your comfort zone is so healthy for you and can help you understand yourself as an individual.
My roommates are definitely the best and I couldn’t have been luckier. Their names are Rebecca and Alejandra. Rebecca is from Pennsylvania and goes to school in South Carolina, and Alejandra is originally from Columbia and goes to school in (South) Jersey.
Unpacking was definitely overwhelming at first, as there are 3 small closets and we all brought a lot of clothes and toiletries. I was surprised that I was able to unpack everything within an hour.
During the first day, we did a safety drill, played some icebreakers, and got a strict lecture about what to do and not do on the ship as well as in ports.
The second day was orientation day and mandatory info-sessions were given about academics, field programs, intercultural communication, ship safety, and residence information. On the second day, everybody began making friends. It is so easy to make friends on the ship. If you think about it, how hard is it to make friends with people who have the same courage and excitement as you to travel the world in 4 months.
The third day was our first day of classes (A1). Classes are split up by A day and B days since days when we are on port can vary. For example classes cannot be strictly for Mondays and Wednesdays, since sometimes we will be in port on those days, and unlike at home, we sometimes will instead have class on Saturdays and Sundays since we are on our way to the next port. For the next four ports (Greece, Italy, Spain & Morocco) we will basically be in port for 5 days (Monday-Friday) and then have school (one A day and one B day) on Saturday and Sunday. It varies from port to port, but you get the idea. Our classrooms are spread out throughout the ship, using restaurants, cinemas, the Kaisersaal, etc. These locations would seem unusual but are necessary and work quite well on the ship. The classes are very fast paced and include a lot of reading and personal writing reflections. Since we have one week of straight classes before we get to our first port, I can only imagine how fast and difficult it will be to read and write simultaneously as we are in the port. Most professors will ask you to read the material assigned and then reflect with something you’ve experienced on the port. Most classes also want you to journal about certain things you see in port that go along with topics in the class. I am taking a total of 5 classes on the ship, which is the maximum and taking 4 classes rather than 5 is recommended. Everybody has to take a Global Studies Class, which is where we learn about globalization and learn about the cultures of the ports we are visiting. I am also taking Buyer and Behavior, Comparative Economic Systems, Issues in Recreation and Tourism, and Contemporary Western Religion Thought.
On the third day, the seas were extremely rough and rocky on the ship. So many people began to get seasick. I myself got very sea sick as I threw up 3 times and even had to leave early from one of my classes. The professors were very understanding of the situation and some professors got very seasick as well. I found that for myself, the best form of medicine for seasickness is the prescribed patch that you can put behind your ear. While the seasickness pills the doctor gave me worked for the first two days, they also made me extremely sleepy. My roommates and I took a 4 hour nap during our first day of class, not only because of the pills but because of the rocking of the ship and the way your body feels unbalanced can make you sleepy.
As I walked around the ship during my first day, I couldn’t believe how many Filipinos worked on the ship; from initially checking in, to the bar, and even in the restaurants. Since my mom is Filipino, so I immediately felt a connection with them as I shared that I was half Filipino (mestiza) and became even more comfortable on the ship (like a piece of my mom was still here). One night they even made a Filipino dish called Chicken Adobo. All of the crew and stewards are extremely nice. For example, on the third day when I got extremely sea sick, one of the waiters brought me some crackers during dinner because he noticed I barely touched my plate. Since we are on a ship, we also have stewards who will clean our room and replenish our towels and toilet paper (like a hotel). During dinner, the waiters or bus boys will also ask to take our plates for us once we are done. At first it felt very odd and most of us began to realize how privileged we are to be a part of Semester at Sea and stay on the MV World Odyssey.