A sea of possibilities abroad

img_1775“You’re studying on a cruise ship?” is the initial response a majority of us Semester at Sea (SAS) students receive from others when trying to explain our unique study abroad experience. Then, we would continue to describe the many countries we would be visiting for four months. Reactions are often filled with pure awe and excitement in regards to the many opportunities this new journey will provide. Hints of jealousy, fascination, and encouragement are a mix of the emotions I receive from family members and friends who had never heard of SAS.

At the University of San Diego, the Semester at Sea program seems to be one of the top picks for many students interested in studying abroad. The many SAS alumni who come back to campus recruit nearly every Torero they talk to, explaining that SAS is so amazing you cannot even put it into words.With feedback like this, it is hard not to want to be a part of this unique shipboard community that everyone at school seems to rave about.

The anticipation began with the start of summer, maybe even earlier for some Toreros. However, the realization did not fully hit until many of us, me included, were physically on the ship in Hamburg, Germany. Expectations were high for some, while others had no idea what to expect. My abroad expectations fell somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

Our SAS itinerary consists of the following ports: embark in Hamburg, Germany; stop in Piraeus, Greece; Civitavecchia, Italy; Livorno, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Casablanca, Morocco; Dakar, Senegal; Salvador, Brazil; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; travel through the Panama Canal; stop in Callao, Peru; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; disembark in San Diego, California.

There are a total of 55 USD students studying on SAS, some  of whom are being challenged to take a step outside of their comfort zones to explore and interact with new people from different schools as well as different parts of the world. For fellow Torero, junior Gabby Meyer, stepping out of her comfort zone is something that she is looking forward to.

“These last few days have been exhausting, and my SAS expectations have not been exceeded just yet,” Meyer said. “I’m really hoping to get outside my bubble and be able to understand that the way I live is not the way the whole world lives. SAS will hopefully enable me to have a more global perspective on life.”

So far, I don’t think SAS is what any of us really expected. For me, the first couple of days were a bit overwhelming when it came to meeting new people and starting new friendships. It was a challenge at first to avoid migrating toward fellow Toreros because the comfort of college friends is too familiar to resist. Being referred to as the USD kids has both its positive and negative connotations.

Each passing day provides more opportunities to meet other students and encounter new faces while walking throughout the many decks of the ship. Conversations spark while discussing various subjects within classroom settings, eating decent meals three times a day, waiting for the Global Studies lecture to start every morning, tanning at the pool deck, lounging in the many comfy couch chairs in many of the study rooms, or staring at the endless body of water that surrounds our little ship.

I’ve noticed many Toreros becoming more comfortable with making new friends on the ship and expanding their group, while still introducing new SAS friends to fellow USD friends. Hopefully soon enough, we will all be one, big, happy family.

With all of this familiarity comes a comforting mentality that reassures us when we are uncertain. Yet, the challenge of this Semester at Sea voyage is to constantly challenge ourselves to be uncomfortable and explore unfamiliar parts of the world, of others, and of ourselves. Throughout these next few ports, we will experience a multitude of feelings, interactions, and memories that will hopefully shape us into more open-minded, global citizens who appreciate humanity’s beauty across the globe. There is an ocean of possibilities out there, we will just have to see where the ship takes us.

By Tayler Reviere Verninas, Staff Writer