“Bon Voyage” 2019

Will Driskill
SAS 2019

I started my Semester at Sea adventure about a month ago in Amsterdam, Netherlands and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Most of my travels before Semester at Sea have consisted of family vacations up and down the East coast. But, my travel bug really started several years back when I traveled to Pamplona, Spain to Run with the Bulls. For many, running with the bulls would be well outside their comfort zone, but I considered that to still be well within my comfort zone because, I traveled to Spain with family and close friends. Now, when I first heard about Semester at Sea, I was in disbelief. How was it possible to travel to eleven different countries and three continents all while getting an education for only half a semester? It was too good to be true and I believe that is what made me jump at this opportunity and not turn back. I was all in from the beginning and so far, it has been one of the best choices I have made.

So, about a month ago, I packed my bags, said bye to family and friends and headed off to start my journey in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Honestly, I was a little nervous at first because I have never done solo travel before and I knew absolutely nobody going on Semester at Sea. But, I think that is what made me want to go on this journey the most. Being able to meet people not only from the United States, but all over the world has been an eye-opening experience and something that challenges me to get outside my comfort zone.

I know that there will be many challenges that I will come across while traveling the world, but that is what I am looking forward to the most. It’s not just Europe that I am traveling to, but also Africa and South America. In both Africa and South America, I will be way outside of my comfort zone and that will be the biggest challenge for me. I have to be willing to not change, but become more open minded about the cultures and the areas that I will be visiting along the way.

“Bon Voyage” 2017

Semester at Sea Experience
First and foremost, I would like to say Thank You for providing me funding that allowed me to participate in the Semester at Sea Program. With the scholarship, I was able to obtain my passport, visas, and travel expenses. Semester at Sea was an extraordinary experience to say the least. Even though I was only in different countries for an average of 4 days, the experience I had is invaluable. From being able to visit the Taj Mahal to hiking the Great Wall and from trying different foods to, most importantly, talking to the local people, I am extremely grateful. Also, I am extremely grateful to explore my roots in Africa; I visited Slave Castles in Ghana and I visited Nelson Mandela’s Jail Cell in South Africa. Even though this was a dark road to travel, it was imperative that I explored all of my history, and these experiences have helped me grow in my own culture. Even though I traveled to 11 different countries, I learned that there are two similarities that are the same in all of them. One is that everything is “Same, Same But Different;” the other I learned from a Trader in Ghana named Stephen who said, “No matter where you go there will be good people and bad people.” These two things taught me that people are one in the same everywhere; however, they just may have different ideals and ways of doing their daily routines. I have learned to be more understanding and try learning other peoples’ ways instead of enforcing my own, and I learned how privileged I am, and I want to give back to everyone.
God Bless

To Whom This May Concern:

I, Mr. Shemar Mandell Blakeney, would like to truly say thank you for providing me funding for the Semester at Sea Program. This program was invaluable, and to be able to participate in it is amazing. By God’s Grace, I was able to attend. Being an African American male from a single parent household, I do not even know how blessed, humble, and privileged I am to have been able to participate in the Semester at Sea program. I am truly grateful and thankful for the scholarship you granted me.

Blessings and Love,
Mr. Shemar Mandell Blakeney

“Bon Voyage” 2017

SAS 2017
Shemar Blakeney
I have learned so much on this voyage. My experience is different than what I expected in some ways because what I “thought” a country would be like was completely different; I stereotyped a country before I even visited it due to my “Single-Story Ideology.” I expected to meet astonishing people along the way; however, I did not expect to meet and see so many amazing people. I stereotyped that most of the people on the ship did not have to work as hard to get here, but in actuality, everyone made some type of sacrifice to come on this trip.

I categorized Africa to only be food, wildlife, and poverty, but Africa is Extraordinary! It is everything all in one, the good and the bad. There are major cities all the way to rural countryside, so you see the extremely wealthy and the poorest poor, but Africa is an experience I wish everyone could have.

Visiting the Great Wall of China

Visiting the Great Wall of China 

While in China, I attended an Acrobatic Show in Shanghai, and it was extraordinary. It was amazing to see so much talent and skill in a single room. For example, there were some people jumping from bicycles onto their partner’s shoulders, and I saw a man on stilts do back-flips through the air and land in the middle of a target. I also saw people hanging from other peoples ankles while they were 20 plus feet in the air! Also, the food here is amazing. I would say that “Traditional Chinese Food” is all about what region of China you are in because they all have their own styles of food (like different parts of the USA are known for different foods). The Great Wall of China was breath-taking. In either direction you looked, the wall just stretches for what seems like eternity. The people in China are so friendly, and they are happy to help you if needed. It was a lot of fun having a language barrier and trying to talk to people, because everyone was laughing at how we couldn’t understand each other. Yes, the language barrier can sometimes be frustrating, but if I was completely comfortable and did not experience any type of difficulties while I am on this trip, it would be a waste of time, because I am supposed to embrace this culture and opportunity fully and learn from the experience.

My general advice for future study abroad students, and travelers of all kinds, would be to go talk to all of the local people, especially the locals around your age group because they can give you the best ideal of how the country is; however, do not make their one opinion your only opinion on the country. Also, you can never have too much money; one of my coaches from high school who studied abroad in Spain said, “Whatever number you think you will need for the trip, double or even triple it.” This was very true.

My experience from traveling and studying abroad has highly changed my thoughts on my place in the world and my identity. Even though I am not home yet, I would say the thing I am looking forward to the most will be to eat my mother’s cooking and spending time with my friends and family. The hardest part of going home will probably be not being able to spend time with the people I have bonded with for the past 4 months. I will miss the amazing friends I have made on the ship, and the experience of waking up in a different country every other week.

“Bon Voyage” 2017

SAS 2017
Jack Weaver

Blog Reflection on South Africa and India
2017-10-12-PHOTO-00000050After experiencing the sheer beauty of South Africa combined with the abundance of exhilarating activities, I honestly thought that no country on this trip, or likely any country I would ever visit could top my experience here. In South Africa, I went on the most beautiful hike of my life, had some of the best meals I have ever had, went paragliding, went shark cage diving, chartered a yacht for a fishing expedition, toured some of the most beautiful wineries, and stayed at a luxurious safari. I did this for around one thousand dollars. Then, I encountered India. I did not go to an animal safari or soar through the air in a parachute like I did in South Africa, but that was okay, because India amazed me on an entirely different front. Where South Africa was identical to the United States in many ways, such as food offerings, language, nightlife, and availability of goods, India was like no place I had ever been.2017-11-06-PHOTO-00000076 I will never forget looking out the window of my airplane, only to see grey, not because of the clouds, but the smog, the air pollution. Then upon touching down, seeing people use the restroom in the streets, drive without lanes on the road, sometimes fitting 5 vehicles in a space equal to about two lanes, or even share their streets, their homes, their cities with a whole variety of animals. Accepting that there are people just as happy as me that live day to day in these conditions that not even the poorest of poor Americans face was mind provoking. Understanding that many of these indian people lived in shacks, so that they could give the majority of their wealth to construct these giant temples with unrivaled beauty was a wake-up call to how collectively Indians think. This collective religious ideal was even stronger in Myanmar where thousands upon thousands of pagodas were built from even poorer communities.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

I don’t know if I will ever witness a structure more majestic as the Taj Mahal. When I walked under the arch, and the Taj Mahal came into sight, I was overwhelmed with awe. In conclusion, India taught me that the goal of traveling should not always be about chasing a thrill, but more often about discovering a unique culture.

“Bon Voyage” 2017

Shemar Blakeney
SAS 2017

o So far on my voyage, my favorite food would be Naan, bread from India. I have also eaten squid, octopus, and eel while on the voyage.
o I was a member of a South African Musical, which was really fun and amazing.
o I spend my free time talking to my friends about anything in the world. All the way from politics to last names. It is a little different from the US because everyone on the ship truly has a different perspective, instead of in the US where it’s just a “different” version of the same ideal.
o Even though I am not taking any language courses, I have been practicing my Spanish with friends and crew members on the ship. Also, I was taught how to say hello and thank you in Hindi, Burmese, and one language in Ghana.
o In my global studies course, I have become aware of my “American Way” of thinking. I noticed some of my thoughts and actions are completely different in other cultures.
o Outside of class, I have learned interesting ideals and beliefs. Our ship as a whole, is a different country.
o I have discovered tons of new music. For example, I have listened to music from Puerto Rico and then turned around and listened to music from Ghana, and one more time to India. The shipboard community is full of different music and aspects. I have also learned how to dance the salsa, bachata, and merengue.
I have spent time just enjoying and embracing the Sunset and Sunrise. I have also participated in yoga for the first time.
o I spend my time with other students, including students from other countries. I have met people from Puerto Rico, China, Ukraine, Columbia, Iceland, and many other places, and they are ALL wonderful! I have met new people in all of the different countries that I have visited, and we have exchanged contact information, so we can stay in touch when I return home. I have only met one person from HSC, and he is on the ship with me. However, I have met the President for Shipboard Education, and he has visited Hampden-Sydney College.
o My school is a ship, and my campus is the globe. My classrooms are a movie theater, a dining hall, a pool, and an auditorium.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar

“Bon Voyage” 2017

SAS 2017
Jack Weaver

For me, there was never a decision to be made about studying abroad, but rather the much more difficult question, which country? When I learned that the ISE (Institute for Shipboard Education) program called Semester at Sea allowed me to visit 11 countries across four continents, I couldn’t resist. After all, my love for travel is what fueled my desire to study abroad in the first place. Therefore, Semester at Sea was a perfect match, with one exception–the means of transportation. I had never so much as been on a ship before, so the thought of living on a ship for four months was understandably overwhelming. I decided to knuckle down, step out of my comfort zone, and do it for the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel the world. Throughout the summer, I often times found myself questioning whether or not I made the right decision, which is the problem that comes with facing so many fantastic options. However, the minute I stepped onto the ship, I knew I made the right decision. My new home for the next four months was breathtaking. It wasn’t something I had to deal with, in order to see so much of the world, or a sacrifice, but far from it. It is a magical experience in itself. Walking up to the vessel, I immediately noticed it’s giant stature, but beyond that it looked quite plain. It wasn’t until I stepped inside that I could fully appreciate the magnificence of the M. V. World Odyssey.
The interior looks like something out of the Great Gatsby. Elegant is an under statement. Beautiful wood trim lines the walls, the doors, even the cafeteria, pretty much everything is decked out in this beautiful wood. The carpet is a deep royal blue, with a majestic pattern that gives off a warm feeling of utter decadence. I was then guided towards the Kaisersaal, a fantastic room filled with enough furniture to seat 500, not to mention the furniture feels like it was plucked from early 20th century mansions. I then glanced upwards to find that even the ceiling was decorated with a mural that spread from corner to corner of the massive room. After I finished checking in, I proceeded to my room, to find a heavy wooden door with bronze guild. The first thing to catch my attention was the amount of woodwork in the cabin. The dressers, tables, both desks, cabinets, and even the bottom half of the room was covered in this premium wood. The design was complimented by artwork in gold frames. The bathroom was equally amazing, the walls were lined with a pearl marble finish, while the sink was comprised of a darker marbled stone. The gold/bronze trim from the room was even more prevalent in the bathroom, and to top it all off a sea duchess was painted on to the marble shower, emitting a feeling of untethered serenity. It was at this moment that I realized I’m actually living and studying in a moving hotel. And, not just any hotel, a five star hotel that while I was marveling in its splendor, was simultaneously transporting me across the world. Being an art admirer, one of the most impressing things of the masterpiece of a ship, was the prevalence of artwork throughout. Prints and originals alike line the hallways and rooms of the ship, accentuating the classy feel. However, in my opinion, the diverse array of sculptures were far more impressive, as they were all museum quality originals. The glamorous decor of the ship was great, but it also felt over the top, after all I am just a student. I was curious as to why Semester at Sea would go to such great lengths to provide such a luxurious accommodation for me. That was until one of my professors explained to me the history of the ship. From 1998 to 2012, the ship was the home of one of the most popular German television show Das Traumschiff. The name translates to dream boat, and it is easy to see why. My professor went further to explain that Semester at Sea actually leases the ship for 9 months, and one of the conditions is that the ship cannot be altered in any way from the original set of the show. The reason for this is that fans of the show pay large premiums to be able to sail on the set of their favorite show.


“Bon Voyage” 2017

SAS 2017
Shemar Blakney

Life is different on my study abroad program.  My commute to class is easy because I can get anywhere in about 3-5 minutes. I can always hear people talking about their experiences from the last country we visited, or their plans for the future countries.

My living space is nice and moderate. My room does not have any windows, so I wake up to pitch, blackness every morning as if it is 3’o clock in the morning, but it may 2’o clock in the afternoon. My roommate’s name is Curtis, he is from Connecticut and goes to Elon University. My home abroad is different from my home in the US because we are constantly moving, and my home abroad is always surrounded by water. Also, I had to get use to rocking side-to-side and not being able to walk in a straight line due to the rocking from the waves.

When packing for this trip, I wish I would have left behind a lot of the clothes I brought with me because you always buy a lot of clothes while you are abroad. I wish I could have packed my family and friends with me, so I could show them the world I am experiencing.

Most of the people dress just like at home because we are mostly American students. I have seen some traditional dress from our international community; however, I use the term international community sparingly because we ALL are international. #WeAreForeigners #GlobalCitizens While I was in country, I thought I would see more “traditional” dress; however, I noticed that people still dressed similar to what I was accustomed to. That is when I realized that I was thinking of the stereotypical image of the countries I visited, or the Single Story Phenomenon. The Single Story Phenomenon is when one generalizes a group based only on one aspect of what you hear or what the media portrays when in actuality the group is so much more than one’s opinion. Think about it; you cannot describe yourself with one word or one sentence. I have changed the way I dress by not always wearing basketball shorts and instead wearing pants or cargo shorts. However, I have not given up my crazy socks!

One thing I am trying to get used to is time. We use military time on the ship, and military time still sometimes confuses me. Also, I am going through around 11 different time changes while I am away.

My favorite food that I have tried so far is squid and jollof rice. This rice is made with tomatoes, onions and a blend of spices.

Mandella's Cell

Mandela’s Cell

We have been to many places so far and have more to see. But, there is one in particular that I want to share.  For one of my classes, we went to Robben Island to learn about intergroup relations during the Apartheid Era. While at Robben Island, we visited Nelson Mandela’s cell where he spent 18 years of his life. The cell was barely twice the span of my arms. There was not a “bed”. Only a mat on the ground. It was a very humbling experience because I could not imagine enduring 18 years of physical and psychological abuse. Not only did Nelson Mandela do this, but he also never lost faith, and he forgave everyone in the process. It was a very inspirational experience.


“Bon Voyage” 2017

SAS 2017
Shemar Blakeney

I chose to participate in the Semester at Sea Program because I will be able to travel to multiple countries instead of just one. Even though I will not be able to immerse myself as deeply as other study abroad programs, I have the opportunity to go experience a lot of different cultures.
I am extremely excited to visit South Africa and Japan; however, I am looking forward to traveling to all of the countries. I want to put meaning and faces to all of the places I have read and learned about in books. Also, I want to try the different foods in all of the places.
I am nervous that I will accidentally offend someone due to my own culture. Also, I am a little nervous that I will not be able to gain the global experience as I would if I would have participated in a traditional study abroad program.
I want to meet people from all of the countries and gain personal insight into their world. I want to see the world through their eyes and gain understanding into the true global world and not just my own single-viewed world.
So far, I have visited Hamburg, Germany; Barcelona, Spain; and Valencia, Spain. All of these places have their own unique atmosphere and people.
In Germany, I visited a local jazz restaurant and attended a local concert, and they were both spectacular with great music. I could feel the people coming together to listen to the music and enjoy life.
In Barcelona, I visited the Gothic Square where they had old architecture and statues. Gothic refers to the style and type of architecture of the buildings from a specific period in history.
In Valencia, I visited the Largest Aquarium in Europe called the Oceanografic! The Oceanografic was filled with sharks, crocodiles, seals, dolphins, beluga whales, and many different types of fish. Also in Valencia, I saw extraordinary types of artwork and buildings. They were unbelievable.
It is truly an experience to communicate with people in a different language. I have experienced some difficulty in understanding languages, but the barriers can be broken with a little practice and patience. I have spoken some Spanish to the locals to order food. It is helpful that a lot of the locals know some form of English, so together we can build an understanding with each other. Also, it is just fun to try to speak in another language to the locals, respectfully of course. The ship is filled with people from ALL OVER THE WORLD. I have made friends with people from Puerto Rico, China, Philippines, and Iceland. It is very interesting and enjoyable to talk with others and hear their way of life, and how they feel about our cultures.
I have tried some interesting food in Spain. I had a particular dish containing squid, cuttlefish, muscles, whole shrimp (with the head still attached) on top of noodles and vegetables. It was Spectacular and Delicious!

“Bon Voyage” 2017

Greetings from 38° 54.34’ N 009° 51.47’ W!

Tillmon Cook

Since my last blog post I have been to three different ports including Cape Town, South Africa, Tema, Ghana, and Casablanca, Morocco. All three of these places have been incredibly different and each have their own culture. In addition to time in port, ship life has been really fun as well. There was a crew talent show that was phenomenal! Who would’ve known that the people on our ship’s crew were so talented! Also, everybody that was on the ship became Emerald Shellbacks. If you don’t know what that is, an Emerald Shellback is a person that crosses the point 0° N and 0° E by ship. And, if anyone ever asks, there actually IS a buoy that marks the center of the world.

South Africa was amazing, but unfortunately, I didn’t immerse myself into the culture like I had wanted to. Like many others on the ship, I did a lot of adventurous things. The first day was spent exploring the city. We went to various restaurants and bought good food.

Table Mountain



The next day, I hiked Table Mountain with a group of friends and spent the rest of the day laying on the Beach in Camp’s Bay.



A new friend.

A new friend

On the third day, I was lucky enough to sign up for a field program that traveled to a township.  This trip was extremely eye opening because it uncovered the sad inequality between races in South Africa. The legacy of apartheid is still extremely visible in South Africa, and affects millions of people.  In the township, we visited an orphanage, afterschool program called Happy Feet, and took a bike tour.

SLR Pic 0133

Birds-eye view of South Africa


The following days consisted of adventure. The third and fourth day consisted of sandboarding in sand dunes and skydiving. Both activities were so incredibly fun! If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.


Awaiting the others


City of Refuge


Orphanage Library



I went into Ghana with no plans, and honestly did not have any expectations about what I would see. When we got there, I was extremely overwhelmed with the street vendors trying to pull me into their shop. Moreover, the streets were packed with people due to the market. A couple of my friends and I spent the day walking around Ghana exploring the different shops and tasting Ghanaian chocolate. The next day I was fortunate enough to sign up for a field program called Life of a Fisherman. This program was another eye-opening experience. Our group traveled to a local fishing village and learned the everyday life of someone that lives in the village. We witnessed the men, that had gone out the day before, bring back the fish they had caught during the night. Next, we walked around the village and saw how everyone lived. This was extremely difficult to observe because of how different the culture is. For instance, I saw a man hit a woman and nobody did anything about it to stop him. I can’t explain how hard it was to watch the man’s actions. Our tour ended and I spent the rest of the day relaxing on the ship. On the third day, I had another field program called City of Refuge. City of Refuge is an orphanage that rescues children from slave trafficking. We attended a church service with the children, took a tour of the facilities, and spent the rest of the day playing soccer. I now know why Ghanaians are so in shape. It was close to 103° F and we played for almost two hours straight. Needless to say, I was dead after that game.



IMG_4775 (002)

Hassan II Mosque

After another six days at sea, we ported in our final city, Casablanca, Morocco. Like Ghana, I had no expectations. It’s funny how traveling will do that. I was excited, but I didn’t know what I was excited for. I guess I was at the point where I just want to see what different places have to offer. Our stay was only four days, so that meant we had to be quick about whatever we did. A group of friends and I got off the ship and took a train straight to Marrakech (about three to four hours south of Casablanca). When we stepped out of station and were all mind blown because of the beautiful city. The art and architecture were so unique compared to everywhere else. If I could describe it in words, I would tell you to think about the Disney movie Aladin. The next two days were designated for traveling and a camel trek in the Zagora desert. On the way to the desert we stopped at Aït Ben Haddou. This is an old settlement on the old caravan route from the Sahara to Marrakech. This spot was really cool because there have been a lot of movies shot here. Later, we continued to the Zagora desert for our camel trek. We camped out under the stars, had good food, and talked with many people all around the world. The following day, we drove back to Marrakech (about a ten hour drive), and walked around the city. There were all kinds of street performers and shops set up. On the last day, we travelled to Casablanca and split ways. I walked to the Hassan II mosque. It is the largest mosque in Casablanca and faces with its back against the sea. This was the last thing I did in country, and sadly walked on to the ship I’ve called home for the past four months for the very last time.

I’m currently sailing to the last port of call, Hamburg, Germany. Everyone’s final exams are wrapping up and we’re all preparing to exit the ship and say our goodbyes for the last time. This has been the best voyage of my life and I can confidently say that Semester at Sea is one of the best decisions I’ve made. Moreover, this has been (and probably will be) the most bitter-sweet moment of my life because I have to say goodbye to everyone I’ve become best friends with. I have had the most fun I’ve ever had while traveling, but most importantly, I’ve learned more about myself than I ever have. This voyage is a chance of a lifetime, so if you’re a student and trying to decide if you want to travel abroad for a semester, it WILL be the best decision you have ever made.

“Who got to live this life? For one brief moment, we did my friends… we did.”
-Dan Garvey AKA (Dean Dan)

“Bon Voyage” 2017

Greetings from 28.22° S 37.16° E!

Tillmon Cook

I am approximately 830 nautical miles from Cape Town, South Africa, and I could not be happier to see land. It has been 10 days since I’ve walked on solid ground and I still have another two days to go. Since my last update, I have been to two ports. From Ho Chi Minh City, we sailed to Yangon, Myanmar, and from there my voyage traveled to Cochin, India. We were supposed to sail to Mauritius, but sadly, a lot of difficulties regarding the ship came up so we were not able to port. However, we have had a lot of activity days on the ship. The first was Neptune Day. This is a tradition on Semester at Sea, and it marks the crossing of the equator! The next was the Sea Olympics, and this was various games that the different “seas” (students living in the same area) competed in. My sea didn’t win, but hey, we didn’t come in last either.

Myanmar was amazing and I could not have asked for much better. The first day consisted of a walking around the city of Yangon, and visiting various landmarks. The most famous place we visited was the Shwedagon Pagoda. This is a huge, golden, Buddhist temple that people go to and pray. In fact, there are Pagodas all over the country of Myanmar. The next few days I was on a field program called Undiscovered Myanmar. This trip included visits to Buddhist temples and to various rural villages around the Mon State of Myanmar. On the first day, our group visited the Golden Rock Pagoda. This is a Buddhist temple that is centered around a huge golden rock that is perfectly balanced on top of a mountain. My favorite day, however, was the third day. My group went kayaking, and took a short hike to the top of Kaw Ka Taung mountain. The view from the top was flawless and will most likely be a picture that I’ll always have in my head. Although Myanmar’s port went by way faster than I would have liked it. This country was amazing and so incredibly different than the United States.

The Next port of call was Cochin, India. I didn’t have any particular expectations for India while sailing to the country. However, I was touched in both a positive and negative way. Positively, because India has so much to offer. The people are incredibly nice (if they aren’t trying to bribe you for money), and the landscape is beautiful. I was influenced negatively because of India’s poverty. I was fortunate enough to spend my first day in port at an orphanage. We spent the day playing and dancing with children. I also spent time with the manager of the facility. He told me how he had been struggling with funds and that he would take anything he could get to help the children. This truly broke my heart, but nevertheless, I appreciated every bit of my short time with the kids and I hope that they did as well. The rest of the week was spent with my two friends traveling to New Delhi. We spent a day and went to the Taj Mahal, and now I can confidently tell someone why that is a wonder of the world. It is without doubt the most beautiful structure I’ve ever seen and a true symbol of love. I did learn while I was there that there was supposed to be another monument that mirrored the Taj Mahal, except it was supposed to be black. But because of emperor family drama, it was never constructed.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

I’m so incredibly excited for South Africa because of all the adventurous things it has in store. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing yet, but I know I’ll make memories that will last a life time.