” Bon Voyage”

Semester at Sea 2016

Michael Willis

Neptune Day is a historic maritime tradition. The transformation from pollywogs to shellbacks. This tradition takes place after you cross the equator for the first time aboard a ship. The MV World Odyssey has adapted this tradition to include the tradition of sailors shaving their heads after crossing the equator and being accepted into King Neptune’s court. The ceremony of King Neptune’s court consisted of our ship’s captain, Captain Kostas painting himself green, wearing a Santa beard, and being dressed in traditional ancient Greek regalia. A sailor first started the process of being accepted into King Neptune’s court by being covered in green slime, jumping into the pool, and swimming across the pool. Once the pollywog emerged from the pool they were immediately greeted by a fish which you had to kiss. After kissing the fish you went and paid your respects to King Neptune and kissed his ring. After completing this process you were officially welcomed into King Neptune’s court as shellbacks. To maintain the maritime tradition shellbacks were given the opportunity to go and shave their heads. I took part in this tradition and have since gotten my scalp sunburned. OOPS.

2016 Shellbacks

2016 Freshly Shaven Shellbacks

On March 9th 2016, the MV World Odyssey docked in Port Louis, Mauritius the island nation off the coast of Madagascar, which was once home of the Dodo bird. While on the Island of Mauritius I had my last field lab of the voyage. This field lab was with Intro to Environmental Science. The itinerary for the lab was to hike up La Pluece Mountain the second highest peak on the island, and then go to the Populmous Botanical Garden. This was an adventurous day that would lead to lots of slipping and sliding. It had rained the entire day before on the mountain and the trails were wet, slippery, and extremely muddy. It was a two hour hike up the mountain and an hour to get back down. Following the trail that Charles Darwin took on his trip to the island aboard the Beagle. The view from the top of La Pluece was fantastic. The view looked out on to the “bowl” of the island. This is where some volcanologists believe, was the mouth of the volcano that created the island. On the hike down, there were only one or two people who didn’t slip. The trail had turned into a creek while we were on the top. It had rained on some portions of the lower mountain after we walked through the area. Once we got to the bottom of the mountain, we then boarded our buses and headed to the Botanical Garden for a guided tour of the native and endemic plant species that were found at the garden. This particular garden is revered as the oldest garden in the southern hemisphere. We saw many different species of palms as well, some of these were 30 feet tall with leaves that were five feet across. There were many species of plants that aren’t found in the United States Botanical Gardens, because of the climate and the possibility of invasive species. This made the trip to the botanical garden a very unique one.

“Bon Voyage”

Michael Willis

Semester at Sea 2016

“O, to die in Cape Town”, said Andy Pringle, the 89 year old gentleman sailing around the world with his family. The MV World Odyssey docked in Cape Town on March 15th 2016. This was the most westernized port we had been to in a very long time. It felt like your typical United States city with its own African flare.  Cape Town is a city where it was easy to find something to do; between exploring the V&A waterfront which was full of local musicians and western chain stores, to hiking table mountain, to having a relaxing afternoon in Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, the many extreme sports people participated in, and lastly the fantastic tours of the wine lands.

While I was in Cape Town, I went to the waterfront and found many interesting places to eat and hang out with friends. We also ventured to Long Street, which would have the Richmond equivalent of Cary Street. There, we found a wide array of unique shops and more local eateries. One afternoon my friends and I participated in a wine tour, getting to taste many of the local areas best wines. We even got to try the local specialty. The Pinotage. This is a grape variety that is completely unique to the Cape region. It is a red wine that is sweet and fruity while still maintaining the complexity of a red wine. This trip to wine country happened on the “Hop on, Hop off” tour bus program. A unique tour experience where at any bus stop you can get off and explore the local area then get back on and go find a new place to explore.

The next day, we planned a sunrise hike up Table Mountain. Table Mountain is a very unique mountain, as it is much more like a plateau. It is also one of the most recognizable figures of Cape Town. This was a challenge, but completely worth the adventure. We left the ship at 3 am and started hiking by 4. We hiked up the gorge trail that was expected to take roughly two hours. We stopped along the way to let a group, moving much faster than we were, to pass and after the short stop we all went from our short sleeve shirts to all of the layers we could get on us. It was a bone chilling temperature, with a light mist of rain. When we summited Table Mountain the sun was just starting to rise. Thankfully the table cloth, as the local’s call it, had not yet started to cover the top so we were able to look down on the city of Cape Town as the sun rose. The view from the top was stunning, but the short cable car ride down the mountain was necessary after a long morning of hiking.

 

Table Top Mountain

Table Top Mountain

Table Top Mountain Cable Car

That afternoon, I went with my friends from Canada to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. We wondered around the gardens for hours. Looking at all of the local flora type fynbos. The fynbos variety of plants is very unique and is one of seven floral regions in the world. The plants in this niche have a wide variety of characteristics. They range from small rock plants to small trees. There were many of the flowers in bloom. They all released super strong, sweet odors that could be smelt throughout the garden. They also have a very large collection of cycads. Cycads are a type of tree that was around during the dinosaur era.

On another day exploring Cape Town, we ventured down to see Simons Town in an attempt to go and see the Penguin Colony at the tip of the continent. We unfortunately did not make it to the penguins, but we were able to explore a new town that is still a part of greater Cape Town. We went to the beach, where the water was freezing because it is approaching the early fall in Cape Town, and Antarctica isn’t that far away. We took the train home from Simons Town which saved us lots of money, and made for an interesting adventure. Going from a train station that you walk onto the train from the street, to the Cape Town station that is more like an airport terminal than rail station.

“O, to die in Cape Town” that is the motto we lived by while exploring South Africa. It led us to many great adventures and motivated us to be out of our comfort zone.

“Bon Voyage”

Michael Willis

Semester at Sea 2016
The country of Myanmar is a beautiful country that has much more to offer than expected. The MV World Odyssey arrived in the industrial port an hour and a half south of the former capitol city Yangon on February 18th 2016. We first got off the ship and boarded a shuttle that would take us into the city center of Yangon. While on the shuttle bus you can see a wide variety of sights. You can see the elegant gold pagodas that litter the country side, back dropped by extreme poverty. You can see the elaborate monasteries, the houses of the wealthy, the poor road conditions that deteriorate daily, the magnificence of the Rangoon River, to the crowded city streets.

Golden Pagodas

Golden Pagodas

Myanmar Countryside

Myanmar Countryside

The country of Myanmar has about 750 thousand people that are religious figures such as monks or nuns. We had the opportunity to have a monk named Unan sail with us from Ho Chi Minh City to Yangon. He taught us many different things about his country and the things that are considered respectful and the things that are highly offensive. This allowed us to make better decisions and hopefully not accidently offend people. Myanmar is also different when it comes to currency exchange. They only want the freshest crispest bills possible. If it is worn or has a mark on it they see it as valueless. Also every USD note has a different exchange rate. The higher denominations getting a higher exchange rate.
On the first day in Myanmar I traveled with a group of three girls to the markets. In a country that has only had ATM’s for a little over a year, there were bound to be a few problems. One of my friends ATM card wouldn’t work at any of the ATM’s so we were sharing money with her all day. When we got to the market we were exploring the different things they had for sale. Myanmar is one of the world’s largest exporters of rubies and the market was dominated by jewelry sellers. There were also a lot of people selling art, lacquerware, and the traditional clothing bottom that is a longi. A longi is similar to a skirt that you have to tie in the front. These are for both men and women and is seen as a sign of masculinity in the culture. Not to mention they are very comfortable in a culture that requires you to wear long pants almost everywhere. We all bought a longi, and at this point two of the girls had run out of money for the day. Since I hadn’t spent as much as the others, I became the bank that people flocked to when they wanted to buy something else.
The next day, I went to the Zoological gardens. This was just a fancy name for the zoo with a garden off in the corner of it. The animals here were different still from the animals in other zoos I have visited to date. They had local bird and mammal species that were endemic to Myanmar. They also had elephants. Although elephants are a common animal in Zoos, the elephants in this zoo you could come up and pet on the head, and quickly move out of the way of their swinging trunks. Elephant trunks seem to grow when the sugar cane that you are feeding them comes near, extending what seemed like an extra foot. They also had many other well taken care of animals, from white tigers to dusky leaf monkeys. After a trip to the Zoo, we went and sought out lunch. We ate at a café that overlooked another religious site. This site was a boat with two golden dragon heads, golden tails, red bodies and a pagoda mounted on the dragons. The dragons served almost as pontoons for the vessel. We then made another trip to the market, to explore more of the seemingly never-ending market.

Kandawgyi park

Kandawgyi Park

” Bon Voyage”

Michael Willis

Semester at Sea  2016
On February 9th, 2016 the MV World Odyssey arrived in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam. We arrived a day later than scheduled due to extreme weather conditions on the Saigon River. Vietnam was a fantastic country. The weather was hot. When we arrived it was 91 degrees Fahrenheit. This was so comfortable after the two weeks of winter we experienced in Japan and China.

Saigon river

Saigon river

As we sailed up the Saigon River to get to the Ho Chi Minh City port we saw brown, murky water under us and on either side of the river lots of palms and other native greenery. A beautiful lush and full tropical forest on both sides of the river with the occasional house on stilts built right into the river. We passed several other freight vessels docked on the sides of the river. When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh, I got off the ship and boarded the local shuttle to the center of town, this is what the port authority requires of any passenger vessel docked in the industrial port. I set out with two friends and we went on a mission to explore the city of Ho Chi Minh. When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh it was the second day of Tet. This is their celebration of the lunar New Year. This is a time full of red and gold colors all over the city and most of the shops had closed as they spent the holiday with their families.
On the first day, we explored the touristy strip of the city looking at all of the souvenir shops. The first few shops were all so impressive with the wood carvings, the elaborate designs of figurines, the bright colors of shirts, and the different raw materials that had been carved into anything you can imagine. However, after the first few shops all of the souvenirs become the same. It just becomes a game of where can I go to get the best price. There was not much else to do on the first day, except go to these touristy destinations, as most of the shop stalls were closed. As the Tet holiday began to wind down, more of the shops opened and then the famous markets opened up.

 

Ben Than Market

Ben Than Market

The Ben Than (said like Tohn) market was an experience. Aisles that were wide enough for a person to walk, and that was it. However, it was uncommon to be the only one trying to occupy the space you were in. The shop venders had further cut down on the aisle space by overcrowding their stalls with all of the same touristy trinkets and the locally made Nike, Under Armor, Adidas, and other clothing brands of shirts, pants, and hats. Their stalls cut the already narrow aisles in half. Not to mention the building it was in. It was a large, metal, garage like structure with no air conditioning or fans, except the ones any vendor would wave in your face to try and lure you to their stall. So, the second you walked into the building your body began to pour with sweat. However, if you could handle the heat and the pressure of the locals, you could find the best deals around in this market.
On the last day in Vietnam, I did a Semester at Sea field program to the Cu Chi tunnels and a cooking class in the morning. The cooking class took place at a local organic farm. This farm was full of different herbs and greens. A huge variety of mint and basil grown alongside tapioca, guava, and lemon grass. They also grew oyster mushrooms, straight out of the bottle. The farm owners had developed a unique system of growing the mushrooms out of two liter bottles. These bottles hung in stacks 15 high in a dark, hot and humid shed to get the mushrooms to grow big and lush. When it finally came time to cook, we made ourselves a four course meal. The first dish was fresh spring rolls. We rolled the herb leaves into a fresh, rice paper with rice noodles for a light and delicious appetizer. The next dish was a salad. This was the most labor intensive dish of the day. We had to cut up a part of a papaya, cucumber, and carrot with a “fancy knife”, it made the vegetables look like crinkle cut French Fries. We then dressed this with a traditional dipping sauce. Then the protein of the dish was made. You had to cut up ginger and lemon grass to marinade the pork of tofu in. This was a spicy salad that was fresh and delicious. We then made the entrée. It was called Chicken or tofu in clay pot. The name was very creative. It combined few ingredients, but got the most flavor possible out of those few ingredients. Finally dessert was deep fried banana spring rolls with coconut ice cream. These were the highlight of the meal. They were so tasty and the coconut ice cream that went with it made the flavors of the banana shine. It was also nice to have the cold ice cream on a hot day.
After the cooking class we moved on to take a tour of the Cu Chi tunnel system. This tunnel system stretches for thousands of miles underneath the country side of Vietnam all the way to Cambodia. These tunnels were used by the Viet Kong during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were an incredibly humbling experience. The tunnels that we went through had been widened to over double the original size to allow tourist to crawl through them. You were still hunched over at a 90 degree angle and squatting a little bit to be able to move through them at all. In several places you had to slide to make it through even at its widened state.

Cu Chi Tunnel

Cu Chi Tunnel

This made you think how small these people were and how determined to win they were that they would use these tunnels with no light and small cramped and crowded conditions. Trying to pass someone in the widened parts was nearly impossible and people passed each other daily during life in the tunnels. The tunnel entrances were unbelievably well hidden too. The large openings were disguised as water wells and the smaller entrances were covered with leaves. Our guide when trying to find the tunnel entrance began banging her foot on the ground trying to find it until the exhibit soldier came over found it after a few tries and showed us the proper way of getting into the tunnel system. Vietnam was an unbelievably beautiful country and one that I am looking forward to getting the opportunity to explore again.

“Bon Voyage”

Michael Willis

Semester at Sea 2016

We first landed in Shanghai China on January 31st 2016. This was my first opportunity to explore the great expanses of China. The ship originally would be docked in Shanghai for two days then travel from Shanghai to Hong Kong and that is where I would meet up with the ship again. I traveled on the first day to the Jade Buddha Pagoda in Shanghai. This was an entertaining two hour walk from the ship with several friends. When we arrived at the Buddha it was an incredible experience to see the craftsmanship of these centuries old Buddha statues made from large pieces of jade. One of the Buddha reaching enlightenment and the other the Buddha going to nirvana. Unfortunately on our way back we had to battle the wind, snow and sleet. The nearest refuge from the wet and cold was a giant mall in the heart of the Shanghai shopping district. We took refuge in the mall and got a quick snack to recharge and thaw from the outside. We then took off to the nearest subway station which wound up being only 200 feet from the mall entrance. We then boarded the subway and took it to the ship. Then we all went out for an evening of celebration after a long day of walking. We then returned to the ship early.
The next day is when my travels across China began. I had a flight to Chengdu the capitol of the Sichuan Province in China.In Chengdu there is the Giant Panda Research Base this was my ultimate goal to get to.  Before my flight to Chengdu I still had several hours in Shanghai. So I decided to go to the Shanghai Zoo which was only one subway stop from the airport. This was an entertaining sight as they have many animals that are not found in the United States Zoos. Many indigenous animals to China and other surrounding countries.

I then took the subway to the airport and waited for my red-eye flight at 21:20. On all flights in China they give a full meal, this was a pleasant surprise on the three and a half hour flight. When I arrived in Chengdu there was some confusion with the hostel I was to stay at, also the car I had arranged to pick me up was not there. This forced me to have to take a cab, which wound up taking me over a lot of the city of Chengdu. It finally got me to my hostel after two stops at hotels, to find someone who could help translate as the cab driver spoke no English. This unfortunately cost me double the fare as the reserved car would have. My next few days in Chengdu were stressful, adventurous, and very educational. Chengdu taught me more about myself than I have learned in any other place. The need to solve and find solutions to problems was around every corner in that city. I was there for three days and did get to go to several historic and cultural sights. I went to Tianfu Square, the Peoples Park, the Wenshu Temple, and most importantly the Panda Base.

Wenshu Temple

Wenshu Temple

I also got to learn how to play mahjong the local way. I am not good at it, the language barrier was still an issue when it came to understanding the rules.

Giant Panda Research Base

Giant Panda Research Base

On the last morning in Chengdu, I ventured outside the city to the Panda Base. The base is full of Panda’s old, young, and infant. Pandas, both rescued from the wild and born at the base were in the enclosures. One enclosure had at least ten Panda cubs chasing each other around, sleeping in trees, and pushing each other off of the food platform. After all of this I boarded a plane to get to Hong Kong to meet back up with the ship. After an adventurous evening of exploring Hong Kong by many unplanned ways, I made it back to the ship in time, only to wait in a security line.
The last day in the Hong Kong Port was incredible. I had a field lab for my Plants, People, and Culture class. A field lab is a mandatory trip that a class takes in a single port and explores real life practices of the subjects talked about in class. On this particular field lab, our itinerary was changed for the benefit of the group. We ventured to a local flower market, a local traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor, and a local fruit market. At the flower market our professor was in his element pointing out and describing different species from around the world being sold. It was a particularly vibrant time at the market as it was 2 days before the start of Tet, or the Chinese New Year. So, there were bright colors all over the market for people to decorate their homes with. We then ventured to the Doctors office, where we learned about traditional Chinese medicine. He answered our questions for an hour or so and taught us about the techniques of TCM and the holistic beliefs in contrast to “Western” allopathic medicine. He then demonstrated the techniques of acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, and filling a prescription for us. We then had lunch at a local restaurant that was very accommodating, and very delicious. The locals were lined up out the door when we arrived. After lunch, we went to the fruit market. The market was full of fruits and nuts, many of which we see as exotic, and others that came from a lot closer to home. My friends and I purchased a mango that was about the size of a professional football. This mango was also the sweetest, softest, and probably best mango I have ever had. There were also nuts in the shell and out. Then the exotic fruits such as dragon fruit, durian, and many fruits our guide couldn’t even name. We returned to the ship and had a surprise waiting for us when we got back.
The itinerary had us traveling from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City from February 5th to February 8th. This plan was delayed by a day. Due to high seas and high winds delaying our departure from Hong Kong by twenty four hours. This, unfortunately did not mean that we would have an extra day in Hong Kong, but an extra day in Victoria Harbor. This was a joy for some, and a tremendous blow for others who had to cancel many plans and attempt to reschedule others. Now we are off sailing to Vietnam, where we should arrive tomorrow afternoon on the 9th.

Victoria Harbor

Victoria Harbor

 

“Bon Voyage”

Michael Willis

Semester at Sea  2016

After 12 days aboard the MV World Odyssey, everyone was getting a little cabin fever. It was a thankful sight to see the shores of Japan. We first docked in the port of Yokohama. Then after two days in Yokohama, the ship sailed to the port of Kobe. When we first arrived in Yokohama we had a welcoming party of traditional Japanese drummers. Outside of my window on the ship there was a Ferris wheel that also doubles as the world’s largest clock.

Yokohama port

Port of Yokohama

Then when we arrived in Kobe, we were greeted by the Kobe Fire Departments fire boats that put on a water show for us as we entered into the Harbor. We were also greeted by a Japanese band, playing music. This wasn’t a rock band, but imagine a band playing in a Gazebo at the center of town in every old-timey movie.
We first got off the ship and explored the immediate area of Yokohama. I traveled with my friend Hannah, from the University of Virginia. We went to the Cup Noodles museum, explored the local life, ate some fantastic sushi, took an afternoon trip to Tokyo, and got horribly lost. According to Hannah’s fitbit, we walked 18 miles in one day. In a city that doesn’t speak English, and when you don’t speak Japanese, it is very hard to navigate the city streets that are all in Japanese characters. So, we got turned around and wound up in the red light district of Yokohama, unintentionally. When we returned to the ship, several hours later, we were exhausted and relaxed for a couple hours before preparing to go back out for the evening. We went out with several other friends for the evening and wound up meeting up with some other Semester at Seaers, affectionately known as SASERS. The next day we also took an adventure to the Cup Noodles Museum. It was very interesting to see the volume of cup noodles that is consumed annually across the world. Also, the number of different flavors produced covers an entire wall floor to ceiling. Over the two days in Yokohama we ate lots of sushi. In one restaurant we went to, it had a sushi conveyor belt and in the other, we played Russian roulette with the sushi menu. Once again not being able to speak any Japanese, but it turned out well. The most obscured things we ordered were the salted salmon roe and a whole baby squid atop the rice.
I opted to sail with the ship from Yokohama to Kobe, which saved me lots of money. This was a great decision. The crossing was a much needed break. Although we were only in country for four days with the crossing, it was still nice to have a break away from planning trips and doing homework, and not having to stress about the language barrier. We were also treated to a specialty dinner that was served to us in the traditional super fancy sit down dinner meal style. Menus, all the silver wear, people scraping the crumbs off your table. It was unbelievably fancy for the normal dining experience aboard the ship. The food was also fantastic.
When we got to Kobe, I traveled by myself, and took many different subway trains to finally make my way to Kyoto. I didn’t take the most direct and efficient way, because my Japanese is as good as their English. It took me three hours to get to Kyoto, a trip that should take no more than an hour. However, it was fantastic to get to see Kyoto and all of its history and temples. As soon as you walk outside of the Kyoto station, you are greeted by skyscrapers with temples tucked between them. I walked to the Nijo Castle, the Imperial Palace, several other Buddhist and Taoist temples, I also tried to make it in time to the Golden Temple but showed up ten minutes after it closed, the biggest let down of all of Japan.

Imperial Palace

Golden Temple

Golden Temple

I returned to Kobe, where I once again got lost. This time I had the voice of Colonel Snead yelling at me in my head, “Don’t travel alone”. This was also aided by the fact that it was dark and I couldn’t read the street signs. I thankfully found my way by looking at a map that was made for children and was full of pictures. The second day in Kobe, I stayed around the ship not wanting to get lost again. I went to the Sake Brewery Museum. This was interesting, and I learned a lot about Sake that I never knew, such as, it takes months to prepare a good sake. I did not try the Kobe beef, as it is 10,000 yen for a six oz. steak. That roughly converts to 100 dollars. This unfortunately was way out of my price range.
Now, it is off to our next adventure aboard the MV World Odyssey. Two more days at sea, then it is on to China. I have actual plans, not to just wander around and get lost. I will be adventuring to Shanghai, the Sichuan Province, and Hong Kong.

“Bon Voyage”

Image

 

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.

“Bon Voyage”

Michael Willis

Semester at Sea 2016
I have prepared for my study abroad experience by booking all necessary flights and materials to get out of the country. I have gotten my passport and my necessary visas for travel. I have packed my bags and decided what type of weather I will actually be experiencing while I am abroad. I will not be in one country for long and will mostly be at sea, so I will need to plan very appropriately as each country will have a different climate.

A Voyage Around the World

102 Days, 15 Cities, 11 Countries

• Embark: San Diego, CA, United States 1
• Honolulu, Hawaii, United States 2
• Yokohama, Japan *
• Kobe, Japan *
• Shanghai, China *
• Hong Kong, China *
• Ho Chi Minh City, Việt Nam
• Rangoon, Burma
• Cochin, India
• Port Louis, Mauritius 3
• Cape Town, South Africa
• Takoradi, Ghana *
• Tema (Accra), Ghana *
• Casablanca, Morocco
• Debark: Southampton (London), England

I am most looking forward to experiencing all of the different countries along the route of the voyage. Although I am not in a single country long enough to get to see the entirety of the country, I will get almost a week in every port to experience the City that we are in port for. I am most looking forward to seeing Japan, India, and Morocco. These countries have very unique and interesting cultures that can be similar to the United States but absolutely different at the same time. Getting to see first-hand what these cities and countries cultures are makes me very excited.
I am most nervous about sea sickness. I am very at home on the water in a canoe. However, this is the first time that I have ever been on a cruise. There is the inherent problem of sea sickness while on a ship, and talking to many alumni of Semester at Sea, it is a very common problem that everyone will experience once, at least. I have acquired many home remedies to hopefully not get sea sick, but we will see as the semester progresses if I get my “sea legs” and this no longer is a problem.
My goals for my time abroad are simple. I hope to get to experience as much of a cities culture while I spend my time there. Every city has a unique and characteristic flare that makes it its own and distinct. I hope that I can find and get to experience a part of these distinctions and see what society outside of the United States is all about. Another goal is to not be the typical American tourist. I am traveling abroad and am a representation of myself, my school, and my country. I do not want that to be a poor representation of anything that I represent. My last goal is to excel academically. I will have a different set of distractions than I do on campus. I hope to do better academically on board the ship than at Hampden-Sydney. I will implement a strategy to be successful and hope to uphold that strategy in and out of port.

Saying “Goodbye” to Barcelona

Trent Singleton- December 2015

The Last Week

I cannot believe it is December and that I already have to leave. The time has flown by; this is by far the shortest semester of my college career. In between traveling, acclimating myself to the host culture, and learning the busy city of Barcelona, it feels as if I have only been here for a few weeks. I have had a few down moments—getting lost in the city, having my debit and credit cards stolen—but I do not regret a moment of the experiences I have had here. A few of my favorite moments/parts:

Mi familia:
Living with a family has really enhanced my experience. As I have mentioned before, they speak essentially no English, which really forced me to use the Spanish language. I never realized how frustrating it can be when you are unable to express yourself verbally. The combination of my three Spanish classes, especially the one with my professor Rosa and my living situation fostered and improved my ability to speak, understand and communicate with Castellano or the Spanish language.

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My trips:
While I did spend a lot of my time exploring Barcelona (and it is a city that I recommend everyone visit and explore), I also was fortunate enough to travel to several countries throughout Europe. My first trip was to Munich for Oktoberfest. This was one of my favorite trips and a great cultural experience. I also was able to see Paris, Normandy, Amsterdam, Brussels, Salzburg, Rome, the Vatican, Grenada, Tarragona, and Berlin. Studying here has really increased my appreciation for Europe and the culture. It is a bit different than living in the US, but it was easy for me to adapt. One of the drawbacks is that you almost always have to pay for water, but the ease and low costs of travelling make it completely worth it.

Trent Sigelton Barcelona

My view:
It is difficult for me to articulate exactly how I have changed. I think it may be a bit too early to tell. I know for sure that I hold Europeans and other cultures in much higher regard. I recommend that everyone, if given the chance, to travel to another place and ignore your comfort zone. Learning to live differently and to adapt are valuable skills and will serve one well in life. This has been a great ride. I cannot express enough the gratitude I have towards my family for the great food, environment, and conversations of which they have provided me. I also am very appreciative of H-SC, Dr. Widdows, and the entire study abroad program. In terms of the application process and support, it has been incredible, and I owe this incredible experience to you.

Greetings from Barcelona, Spain!

Trent Singelton-November 2015

In the thick of it…

Once this week begins, I will have approximately six weeks left in Barcelona. I am both a bit disappointed and excited to see that reality. While I am excited to return to H-SC in the spring, I know it will be difficult to leave Barcelona—a city I now feel comfortable calling my home. I can only hope that the next six weeks go by slowly.

             View from Rooftop Bar-Hotel Majestic  (Sagrada Familia in center)Picture1
My Spanish skills are definitely improving. I definitely benefit from living with a local family—they do not speak English, so I am definitely immersed in the language while at home. The version of Spanish spoken here is called “Castellano.” It is appreciated if you are able to recognize that preference instead of calling the language Spanish. While here, I have had a few dreams in Castellano, which I was excited about because it shows that my skill in the language is growing. It also helps that I am taking three classes here taught solely in Castellano: one culture, one language, and one literature. I hope that by December I have an even stronger grasp on the language and a better understanding of the culture here.

My free time is definitely spent a bit differently here—since I am so close to many other European countries, I have been able to travel a bit. I recently have been to Amsterdam, and I have a tripped planned for Rome in two weeks. It is also great to spend the day walking through the city and finding hidden gyms that Barcelona has to offer. Last weekend I went to the top of Tibidabo, which has an incredibly panoramic view of the city. I feel that my time is best spent exploring the city, since I will not have an opportunity to see the sights I can for a while. One of my favorite places is a small square near my homestay called Plaza del Sol. While it is not large or that impressive architecturally, there are always locals at the various tapas bars or restaurants, and performers and musicians playing for the crowds.

                                              Two  Views from Tibidabo

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I am the only student from Hampden-Sydney in Barcelona, but I have met a few students who know the school. I almost prefer being here alone, because it has forced me to meet new people. There are many amazing and awesome people here—if I was with a group of H-SC students, I am sure I would have a great time, but I feel I would be a bit more limited in the perspectives I would get to see and obviously in the people I would meet. It will be interesting when I return to the Hill in the spring—I am excited to see how my time abroad has changed my perspective.