We’re down to seven days. In seven days, on September 8, I’m boarding a plane to Germany to meet the MV World Odyssey.
I am excited, terrified, worried, stressed, thrilled, nervous, ecstatic…I really don’t even know what to feel anymore.
I first heard about Semester at Sea in high school, and from that moment, I knew it was something I wanted to do in college. Four years later—while suddenly nervous that if I did the program I would set sail within the year—I just thought, “Why not?” I applied, was accepted, applied for scholarships (including one from diversityabroad.com—how cool is that?!), got approval from my advisers for my classes, and am now standing in my room looking at two large empty suitcases.
My god. It’s actually coming. I’m actually doing this.
I have no doubt this will be the hardest thing I’ve personally ever done—physically, mentally, emotionally. I struggled a lot in my first two years of college with isolation, my inexplicable-shyness, and my near-fatal character flaw: being a terrible introvert. The community I have found at my university in Massachusetts has helped greatly, and I know I can do this. It’s just the, “Oh god. I leave for Hamburg in seven days—and I’ve only now started packing!”
Some quick personal stats: I’m a third-year university student in New England. I study anthropology, with a focus in bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology. I’m also going after Certificates (interdisciplinary minors, basically) in Culture, Health and Science, and Native American Indigenous Studies. I love to travel (obviously), but also love reading, writing, sailing, and obsessively-over-planning. Let me think of other things I enjoy…K-Pop, high fantasy series (not so much Song of Ice and Fire, but if you haven’t read Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive yet, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life), British period dramas, and my laptop whom I have named Boris, for a start.
I still cannot believe this is real. I have actually been given this amazing opportunity to see the world, find myself, and change my perspective. Guide book writer Rick Steves said, “It’s a very powerful Eureka! moment when you’re traveling: to realize that people don’t have the American dream. They’ve got their own dream. And that’s not a bad thing” (Salon 2009).* I (a privileged American getting a secondary education at a well-funded university) will never truly experience first-hand the difficulties billions face every day. I know that. Without at least trying to understand another reality, however, I run the risk of going about my life being entirely close-minded and unaware of a world outside of my reach.
And that’s partly what drove me to pursue Semester at Sea as my study abroad experience. No, it’s not a traditional immerse-in-country-for-five-months. Because of that, I would argue it’s even better. I won’t be living in Argentina in student housing while occasionally venturing out of the country. The program lends itself to comparative studies. There is a drastic difference in how local Catalans go about their daily lives in Barcelona and how the descendants of slaves in northern rural Brazil get ready for bed at night. It’s why I love anthropology—people are incredibly diverse, but, at the heart of it all, we’re still human.
I still have a lot of packing to do, a lot of planning, and a lot of sleepless nights. But I cannot wait until my adventure begins!
*Clearly I have been in college for too long and need to cite every direct quote I ever use.