Monday, August 31, 2009

First Day of Class: Photo Blog

As promised, below are some photos of students from the first day of classes on Sunday. Classes rotate on a two day schedule; yesterday was an A day, and today is a B day. It's similar to block scheduling that many people remember from high school. There are no Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes or Tuesday-Thursday classes, simply because being in port would throw the schedule on its ear. So having A classes and B classes is a clever solution that avoids any student confusion, and allows us to have classes on untraditional days (like Sunday), so we can make sure everyone gets enough class time to secure their class credit.
Now, there were plenty of things students did yesterday besides sitting attentively in their first classes. Below are a series of photos the display just a little of what they were up to. Look closely, you might see yourself or someone you know!
In between classes, students made there way to the textbook and supply stores, where they could stock up on everything from books for class to deodorant or shower gel. Yesterday though, spiral notebooks and SAS hoodies were big sellers.

Today is Add/Drop, and students will have time to make any last minute changes to their schedules. They had impromptu meetings with faculty and staff members in preparation for the day, along with chatting about other services that will make life aboard the MV Explorer as smooth and beneficial to their futures as possible.
They have to eat, of course! All participants eat buffet-styled in either of the two dining halls for all three meals. Students also have the option of eating on the deck attached to the dining hall on the sixth level. Eating times are great opportunities for students to get to know other students, their professors and members of the staff. As time passes, these tables will be the setting of many spur of the moment debates and discussions about the wonderful experiences that are to come.
Exercise is an important part of staying healthy, and the SAS students wasted no time finding ways to work up a good sweat. Whether playing a sport or lifting free weights on deck seven, the students are learning that keeping up with a workout routine will be vital to keep them feeling their very best in an environment that's constantly moving and changing.
When all the classes were finished, the students got a chance to relax and make new friends. The social aspect of SAS should not be underestimated. The friendships formed over the next few months will, in many cases, last a lifetime. These students will be with each other over the course of what will be a life-changing journey, and it is amazing that they are already starting to form the friendships that will provide them with a solid peer support system later on.

Yes, yesterday was a pretty amazing day. But it was just the first of a series of amazing days that won't stop until we're back in the States. These students will see things they've never seen before, talk to people with backgrounds completely different from their own, and will, hopefully, begin to see their opinion of the world become more informed and evolved. This blog will attempt to paint the story of that evolution through text, photos and (eventually!) video. So stay tuned.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Orientation and the Involvement Symposium

Today was an important day on the ship. The students had orientation all day, and then the involvement symposium in the evening. After the first night at sea, it was good to see everyone in good spirits, and handling the transition to sea life remarkably well. Seasickness can be an issue whenever you're living on a ship, but the on board physician and his team is doing a great job of keeping everyone feeling their best.
Orientation started promptly at 0900 hrs., and covered every aspect of life on the ship including academics, student life, health, safety and conduct while in port. Students were also introduced to the faculty and staff for the first time, and invited to get to know this dynamic group of people outside of the classroom. At lunch, there were many students doing just that.
After lunch, Captain Jeremy spoke in detail about the rules and regulations in place for keeping every member of the ship safe throughout the semester. Students know how to react in the unlikely event of an emergency, and can rest safe knowing that the nearly 200-person crew is highly trained, many with over 15 years of experience working with Semester at Sea.
In the evening, students were given the opportunity to sign up for a wide array of extra-curricular activities and student organizations at the Involvement Symposium. They were also invited to come up with their own groups. There was an outpouring of interest for a number of different activities including the intramural sports program and the Voyage Book committee (the SAS equivalent of a yearbook).
The days schedule ended with meetings to introduce students to the people living around them, which have been divided into groups called "Sea's." Each group is headed by a Living Learning Coordinator, who will serve as a source of guidance and support as students make their way through this amazing journey.
Tomorrow may be Sunday, but it is also the first day of class! Be sure to check in for blog updates and lots of pictures from the big day.

Embarkment on the 100th Voyage

Hello from the Atlantic Ocean! Yesterday our shipboard community became complete. After four days of faculty and staff orientation, we were finally joined by all of the students. They are quite an impressive bunch. They represent over 250 different colleges and universities from the U.S., and 12 additional countries. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and they all seemed very ready to get the voyage underway.
On ship time (the time by which all voyage participants must be on board) was at 1500 hrs. or 3 p.m. An hour later, the students had their first life boat drill. Captain Jeremy commented that it was the quietest and most orderly first life boat drill he’d ever seen.
An hour after the life boat drill, we finally set sail for our first port in Cadiz, Spain. Students lined just about every deck snapping pictures, chatting with new friends and waving their farewells to loved ones.
After dinner, there was a welcome meeting during which all of the faculty and staff were introduced, and the executive dean, Nick Iammarino, and academic dean, Bob Chapel, each spoke a few words of advice and encouragement. Dr. Iammarino said that this was like the very first day of college for everyone on board, and that students could, “make [the voyage] a good experience, or make it a fantastic experience.” He advised the students to focus on their studies, spend their time in port wisely, meet as many new people as possible and try to learn something from all of these new associations. Beyond that, he said, understanding, respect and flexibility will be key to a successful semester.
Dr. Chapel echoed many of Dr. Iammarino’s sentiments, adding that the floating university will truly be Thomas Jefferson’s “academical village” with students and faculty living, eating, bonding and learning alongside one another, and he advised students to take advantage of this unique opportunity.
Captain Jeremy also gave a brief speech, assuring students of the high safety standards that the ship meets, and the regular inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard it passes with flying colors.
When the students were dismissed, the excitement on the ship was palpable. Sarah Van Cleve, a junior economics major from UCLA, said she couldn’t wait to finally begin her journey after all of the preperation.
“I’m most excited for Ghana, Vietnam and India because I think those countries are most different from what we’re used to.”
Alisha Martinez, a senior business major from Northern State University, said she was excited about every aspect of the voyage.
“I think the most interesting thing we’ll get to do will be actually talking to the native people and seeing many different cultures,” she said.
Today, students will be in orientation, and tomorrow will be the first day of class. Updates concerning both days will follow.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Greetings from Canada!!

Welcome to Semester at Sea's official Fall 2009 blog! My name is Charity Scott, and I am the Communications Coordinator for this voyage. I'll be writing most of the blog posts in the coming months, but the blog will also feature guest bloggers in the form of students and, perhaps, the occasional faculty member. This blog will provide regular updates as the MV Explorer makes its way through a schedule that will cover 12 port stops in just under four months.
We are currently in Halifax, Canada, and the faculty and staff were joined by the students that make up the voyage's work-study program. Tonight there will be a reception for all of the parents, and there will be a blog detailing that and orientation tomorrow. We will be joined by the rest of the student body tomorrow before setting out for our next stop in Cadiz, Spain!
Aside from providing a glance into some of the experiences students will have while traveling, the blog will also attempt to give you some perspective on what daily life is like for students on the ship, as well as illustrate how the students will find their outlook on the world changing as a result of the Semester at Sea experience. It is my hope that this blog will be both informative, insightful and entertaining. The blog will be updated very regularly with text, photos and video, as will the official Semester at Sea Facebook and Twitter accounts. So please follow along as we set out on this amazing journey.