“Bon Voyage”


Michael Willis
Semester at Sea 2016
I am studying abroad with the Semester at Sea program, academically sponsored by the University of Virginia. Thus, I am not in one single country for the duration of my study abroad experience. I will be traveling to Honolulu Hawaii, Yokohama Japan, Kobe Japan, Shanghai China, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Min City Vietnam, Rangoon Myanmar, Cochin India, Port Louis Mauritius, Cape Town South Africa, Takoradi and Tema Ghana. We travel to these countries aboard the ship MV World Odyssey, formerly the MS Deutschland. The ship is a very luxurious, thousand person, cruise ship where we live and attend classes.

Michael Willis Seamester at Sea classrooms - Copy - Copy

Ship Classroom

Every day that we are at sea, we have class. The classes are not done on the traditional MWF schedule, rather on A and B days. Also, we do not get weekends aboard the ship. This is supplemented by the fact that we get four to six days to explore the country that we are in the port of, except Honolulu and Port Louis, as these are just refueling ports and we are only in port for a day.

My walk to class every morning can be very challenging, or very relaxing, depending on the swell of the sea. In higher seas, it can be a challenge to get to class. The higher seas cause balance to be an issue and often cause you to bump, or rather fall into people as you travel the halls to and from class and the dining rooms. The smell of the central Pacific Ocean is always in the air, and if you sit outside long enough, your computer will get a white tint to it from all of the salt in the air. The sound of the ocean is always around and provides a fantastic white noise to fall asleep to.
I live in an outside, triple room. This means, I live on the outside of the ship with two other roommates. Our room is small, for three people, being the same size as a double occupancy room, but with an extra bed. I live in the top bunk in our room. This is also a problem in rough seas, as it is a possibility that I could fall out of bed with the movement of the ship. There are very different living conditions aboard the ship, versus at Hampden-Sydney. We have room service that cleans our room every other day, and at meals we have servers who will take our plates from the table when we are done. The crew on board are super friendly, and are always willing to help you at any point with just about anything.
On board the ship there is a very different perception of time. The atmosphere is very laid back, and no one rushes anywhere, yet. Once we get to port, people will be rushing to explore the places we are going. With having very limited internet access and no cell phone service, there is so much extra time to socialize with people face to face and get homework done. It also isn’t hard to get homework done, when most of it is reading, that can be done sitting on the back deck of the ship in sun chairs. The idea of time exists, because we have to be in class, but time passes more slowly and you can get a lot more done without the influence of technology.

We have been at sea for six days now, and we will arrive in Honolulu, Hawaii tomorrow, January 11, 2016. While at sea, we have gotten to see different things. The first day, I saw a whale splash its tail out of the water. It has also, now, become a common sight to see flying fish dart out of the water, fly a few feet, and splash back into the water. At night it is pitch black. We have no light pollution from anywhere, which is fantastic to see the stars at night. The water is also a fantastic shade of royal blue. It is not murky, such as the water at Virginia Beach or the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

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