Semester at Sea by Chase Hirshorn

I embarked on the World Odyssey, a 700-person ship in Antwerp, Belgium, bidding farewell to land, service and the familiarity of daily life. Thus began my life at sea school, Semester At Sea. In an unconventional classroom setting, we find ourselves aboard a cruise ship where lounging by the pool between classes is the norm, and running on the treadmills offered breathtaking ocean views instead of Sterling Center walls.

Semester At Sea is an extraordinary study abroad adventure encompassing visits to 12 diverse countries, with classes conducted aboard the ship during travel days. Our journey commences in Belgium and culminates in Thailand, with numerous stops in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Each country we visit grants us approximately five days to immerse ourselves in its culture and tailor our experiences according to our preferences. On travel days, we remain on the ship, engaging in classes that prepare us for our upcoming port of call.

My fellow classmates come from a variety of colleges, predominantly American universities. The class sizes mirror those at The College, and the educational approach is Americanized. Much like my peers back at the Betty Center, I too am enrolled in a marketing course. Our coursework involves reading from the McGraw Hill textbook, although completing homework via Connect is impossible due to the no Wi-Fi. While sea school shares fundamental similarities like at Charleston, there is a unique twist to the learning experience.

In all our classes, we delve into the core subject matter while also drawing connections to the countries we are exploring. For every class, there is a corresponding field class—an educational excursion in a different country. These field classes allow the entire class to venture into a city, gaining firsthand exposure to the course material. For instance, in my marketing class, we ventured into Grenada, Spain, to observe marketing strategies in practice and correlate them with our classroom knowledge.

Up to this point, we have docked in Antwerp, Belgium; Malaga, Spain; and Valletta, Malta. Each country left an indelible mark on me, and I cherished exceptional experiences in all of them. In Spain, I embarked on an exhilarating hike, locally referred to as the “Walkway of Death.” In Malta, I did on a catamaran tour to the Blue Lagoon, an amazing day that I wonder if I’ll ever be able to replicate.

Unfortunately, our plans to visit Morocco were thwarted by earthquakes, leading us to reroute to Malaga. We will be revisiting Spain as Barcelona has always been on our itinerary and is the next port of call. Following Barcelona, our journey will take us to Greece, Jordan, Dubai, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, and finally, Thailand.

I am so excited for the upcoming ports of call, yet I also hold a deep affection for my time at sea. There is truly nothing quite like living on a ship with 500 fellow students, with whom I have grown remarkably close in just three short weeks.

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