Wednesday, August 17, 2011

School's Out For Summer!


Let me start from the beginning.

Two nights ago the ship had a finals kick-off with a BBQ on Deck 7!!! The crew slow-cooked BBQ ribs and made mac and cheese, potato salad, a huge fruit display coleslaw, roasted corn, roasted potatoes, and a desert bar! It was so good! It was nice to have something different for a change; ship food has gotten pretty redundant lately.

Yesterday everyone on the ship took the Global Studies Art History final. It was a lot easier than anticipated, which was a nice. Afterwards, the UVA kids and I went out on the deck 7 side deck to hangout and start studying for the next round of finals. At dinner Emily from Canada ordered an ice-cream cake to celebrate the end of Global Studies! She is such a sweetheart.

Today everyone woke up early for a second round of studying before day two of finals. I grabbed a quick breakfast and went up to deck 7 to study. Before long both Emily’s, Tina, Alex, Franny and Karen all joined me. We had a big study party! I only had one final today. I didn’t have a final for Negotiating for Value because my quiz grade was a large portion of my grade and so was my final paper. I was in and out of my last final in an hour. I had 5 short answer questions and an in-class essay: Evaluate the culture of the Renaissance through the art and architecture of the period. It was such a broad question I had no problem writing a couple pages.

Everyone else on the ship should be done with finals by 5pm tonight, just in time for the beginning of the night’s festivities. It’s going to be a busy night: Boston pre-port with info about debarkation, packing and clearing customs, crew talent show, and star gazing. I’m super excited for stargazing tonight after the crew talent show. The ship is going to turn off all the outside lights for an amazing view of the stars. Rumor has it a meteor shower started a couple days ago and we should have a first row seat, if the sky stays clear.

Tomorrow is another busy day. There is a mandatory meeting for everyone in the afternoon and a group discussion about adapting back to “real life.” Apparently there have been multiple people in the past that have a hard time re-adjusting after the program finishes. Tomorrow night is also the Ambassadors Ball! It’s basically prom on a ship, everyone gets all dressed up, enjoys a five-course meal, and a dance afterwards.

Friday the 19th is the last day full day on the ship. All my packing has to be done by 1pm. I have to bring my bags to the Deck 2 aft and then pick it up the next day after getting of the ship before clearing customs. Also, there are going to be cabin checks and who knows what else. It’s basically the same as checking out of a dorm at the end of the year. Friday is also convocation and the ends of the year slideshow.

The past 63 days have flown by; I can’t even imagine how fast the next three days are going to pass my by. Before I know it, I’ll be pulling into the Boston harbor and flying back to Minnesota.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On the Open Sea

A couple of days ago the ship sailed away from Morocco and started the long seven day trek back to the United States.

Morocco was incredible. It was definitely the most culturally different port I went to. I was struck by the poverty of the countryside and the living conditions. All along the seacoast, outside of Casablanca, up to Rabat was full of shantytowns and garbage. There were also lots of shepherds herding cattle, sheep and donkeys all along the highway. It was quite interesting to see donkey carts passing on the highway overpasses. The Hassan 2 Mosque in Casablanca dominates the coast, it’s white walls and intricate pattern work still have me amazed. Unfortunately, there is mass poverty all around the mosque, which I find quite ironic.

Although the country is still developing: unsafe tap water, urine to fuel it’s tanneries and a per person capital of $4800, the people are for the most part happy. Everyone I met was friendly and helpful and offered fair prices at the souks compare to the Grand Bazaar in Turkey. Everyone always had a smile on their face.

One of the most interesting experiences I had in Morocco was observing Ramadan. During Ramadan one is not allowed to eat or drink between sun-up and sun-down. That is quite a commitment during the hot and long summer days. I really enjoyed watching people and square of Morocco come to life at sunset to break the fast during Ramadan. What I understood to be a religious holiday, looked more like a huge block party and people gathered and entertained one another in the streets.

My highlight of Morocco was an SAS zip-lining trip. I traveled by mini bus to the foothills of the High Atlas Mountain in 115-degree heat- way too hot for a girl used to Minnesotan summers. After arriving at the zip-lining place I was offered mint tea and got into my harness. I started my experience with a high wire bridge spanning over a canyon. Being afraid of heights I almost had a heart attack crossing, but made it to the other side in one piece. The SAS videographer was on the trip and got multiple shots of everyone zipping above and through the canyon…so keep your eyes peeled for the video on the SAS website.

Because it’s in the middle of finals week I am going to keep this post short. Only a couple more days until the ship berths in Boston and the experience is over. I can’t even begin to describe how SAS has changed my life.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Attention Please, Attention Please

An announcement was just made to store all breakables and valuables tonight because the ship is going to be experiencing rough waters. BRING IT ON.

Semester at Sea: Academic Side

For a vast majority of my blog I have written about my travels and the people I’ve met. I haven’t exactly talked about my classes that much or what is expected of a typical student. So, this post will be strictly about academics.

When students first learn about Semester at Sea they have a picture in their head of a “cruise” not a voyage. Students believe that this will be an easy summer…I know, because I was one of them. But, of course, I was wrong. Semester at Sea is truly an academic experience. And like all universities, academics start in the classroom.

For those of you who have been following my blog, and for those we haven’t been, you should remember that I am in class everyday on the ship…including Saturdays, Sundays even Sea-sickness days. Everyday I attend Global Studies: Art History of the Mediterranean, Value of Negotiation, and Italy in the Age of the Renaissance.

Global Studies: quite a challenge for a business student. The whole class is a completely different mind set than business and I find it challenging being enthused about different paintings and sculptures. Fortunately, the class is balanced with information about the history, politics, economics and future outlooks of all the different countries on the itinerary. Everyone on the ship has an hour and a half of global studies. Another aspect of Global Studied: Field Directed Practica (FDPs). Each student is required to turn in two journal entries/academic reports about a UNESCO world heritage site they have visited, what they saw when they were there, and how it relates the material presented in class. For me, this is the hardest part. Never in my life have I had to write a journal entry. Heck, I didn’t even know what a journal entry was until SAS. As a business student, my extent of writing has been a twenty-page research paper my freshman year of English and some pages with bullet points for group projects. I literally had to go find English majors, Psychology majors and Communication majors to find out how to write a journal entry. Ridiculous. The last aspect of global studies: exams. My first exam occurred a third of the way into my voyage right before berthing in Spain. It was fairly easy recalling eight days worth of class material….quite a different experience for the second exam. Exam number two had the same amount of material, but it was spread out over one whole month. Lots to remember! It was really hard recalling certain artists from Spain five countries down the road. Overall the class is a great way to learn about the countries on the itinerary.

Negotiation: Definitely a highlight of my trip. Although there is a about twenty-forty pages of reading every night it is worth it. I’ve learned so much from this class! The whole summer I have been learning different negotiation techniques: how to effectively close a deal, understand different cultural aspects of business, as well as multiple in class simulations and first hand encounters. The best part of the class is being able to use what I have learned in real life. While visiting Turkey I was overly successful at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market negotiating with shopkeepers. I was so successful that friends of mine asked me to start bargaining on their behalf. As part of the course I have a quiz every other day, a discussion group that meets every other day, and a final paper. The final paper is written with a partner about a negotiation that takes place in port. My friend Ben and I decided to get together and go to the Grand Bazaar to carry out our negotiation for the final paper.  Ben ended up finding a decoder from WW2 in an antique store and we were both able to use the tools learned in class to form a relationship with the shop keeper (asking about photos of his father and children, asking about the items and where they came from, etc) while creating a target amount we wanted to pay for the item, a walkaway point, and the most importantly a BATNA (best alternative to Negotiation Agreement). We ended up with an amazing deal and an even more amazing personal experience. The class is still ridiculously hard, but worth every minute!

Italy in the Age of the Renaissance:  Another very challenging class for a Finance major. It seems like everyone in the class had already taken a history/religion course except myself. The class consists of two exams, a final, and one large field/journal report. MORE JOURNAL ENTRIES. Ugh. Regardless, I was been very interesting to learn about the Renaissance and the changes Italy has undergone. My final paper is going to be about the Whirling Dervish in Turkey in historical context.

The hardest part about SAS is time. Or lack of time. It is extremely hard to get readings and exams finished in only 23 hour days (loosing time crossing the Atlantic to the Mediterranean). After the first 8 days of class followed by port you think you’ve finally struck a balance between school and ship life…until more and more countries start coming every 1,2,3 days, along with the beginnings of papers, exams, group projects, seminars, and sleep. Right now I have finally caught up on everything. The past four days have been insane: seminars, four papers, two exams, three quizzes and two group meetings. Thank goodness I also gained two extra hours in the process and will gain another hour tonight. Right now I have completed 2/3 of the voyage. After Morocco I will have final exams and papers due.

SAS is a once in a lifetime opportunity! So be ready to put in lots of time and effort for an experience you will never forget.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Turkey Day

Today is Turkey Day, rightfully named due to the one day in-between Bulgaria and Turkey. Right now the ship is anchored outside Varna, Bulgaria. Around 7pm tonight the anchor will be lifted and I’ll be on my way to Turkey. I should arrive in Turkey tomorrow around 7am.  I plan on waking up around 5:30am for the sunrise and the berthing of the ship. Apparently it is a right of passage to wake up for sunrise as the ship pulls into Turkey, because it is absolutely breathtaking watching the sun illuminate all the mosques and monuments along the Bosporus.

Back to Turkey day…this morning I had 2.5 hours of Global Studies learning about the past and current political situation and history of Turkey. I don’t have any other classes so I will be using my extra time to catch up on sleep, study for an Italy in the Age of the Renaissance Exam, Study for a Global Studies Exam, and figure out what to do in Turkey. Tonight at pre-port I will be learning more about places to see and discover in Istanbul.  So far my plan includes: City Orientation, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, The Grand Bazaar, The Spice Market, Old Town, Turkish Baths, and an overnight trip to Cappadocia. I have no idea how I am going to fit all of these activities into only five days! I also need to meet up with my Negotiation for Value partner Ben and engage in a negotiation for our paper due at the end of the class. SO MUCH TO DO.

The next three weeks are going to be a blur.

Friday, July 22, 2011

An Amazing Night

Last night around 9pm the ship passed through the heart of Istanbul, Turkey! It was aboslutely beautiful sailing through the city while it was all lit up. From the ship I was able to see the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. While winding through the city the ship passed under two spectacular bridges all lit up.


Two round of fireworks were lit off from the shore as we passed.

This was by far the most incredible part of the voyage.

Right now it is the last day of classes before Varna, Bulgaria. The ship is sitting out in the middle of a bay anchored outside of Varna...we arrived a day early. SO for the next 24 hours of classes, preports, and exams I will be teased by Varna so close...but so far away.