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12 countries in 112 days: My semester at sea

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The MV explorer; my new home for the next 4 months!

 

Spring 2014 Semester at Sea blog!

Hey guys! Have not heard from anyone in a while, but of course this is because I have not posted in a while. I’ve been home, in Michigan, doing my usual university-work lineup. Nothing special, but as some of you may already knew, in one month I leave for a Semester at Sea!! My amazing experiences in South Korea and Morocco were simply not enough for this crazy girl. I am excited to blog about this amazing opportunity here on my little wordpress! Spread the word because honestly I want people to hear about this opportunity and be pushed to it as well in life!

Wait, what? Hold on a second Danni. What in the world is a Semester at Sea?
Well, put simply and quoting from the Semester at Sea homepage:
Semester at Sea is a multiple country study abroad program open to students of all majors emphasizing comparative academic examination, hands-on field experiences, and meaningful engagement in the global community. A wide variety of coursework from 20-25 disciplines is integrated with relevant field studies in up to a dozen countries, allowing for a comparative study abroad experience that is truly global. The University of Virginia is the program’s academic sponsor. Students from 250-300 colleges in the United States and the world participate on Semester at Sea each term. Credit earned is transferable to a student’s home institution.”

Let me get this straight: you’re going to be living on a ship?

You guessed it! I live on a ship in double occupancy cabins! There are classrooms, pool areas, salons, food courts, ball rooms, a library, book store, snack booth – you name it and it’s there, everything I need to thrive while at sea! Naturally in ports (and we are in ports an average of 5 days) I will be traveling around and staying in hotels and such. And host families! So far I have plans to stay with host families in multiple countries in order to get the full cultural experience!

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Picture of one of the cabins on board

And where exactly are you going?
(Briefly Mexico) Hawaii, Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco(Yay! Back to Morocco!!) and London! Possibly more depending on my budget (Might hit a few countries when I debark in London, but that’s actually unlikely)

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How can you afford this!?
Well, I can’t. If it was not for scholarships and a work-study I earned for Semester at Sea I would not be going. I received a merit scholarship, need based scholarship and was hired for a competitive work-study. I am awaiting on one more scholarship that is worth 10,000 through an honors society, but it is unlikely I will receive it. (Only one was available. And a girl mentioned to me since she is involved professionally with the program she will pull some strings, so I just applied for a good shot!) I am also taking out loans and emptying out my savings. Unless I get that last scholarship, I will be eating ramen noodles for a year after I return. Worth it.

Read more on my Semester at Sea on my wordpress at the tag https://elusiveambitions.wordpress.com/category/semester-at-sea-2/

If you guys have any more questions feel free to ask! I will be posting more about it as time gets closer! I also have a tumblr dedicated to Semester at Sea so feel free to follow me at
http://seathroughneweyes.tumblr.com

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Moroccan Desert

another amazing view

“What am I doing with my life…” The above is a simple quote from my roommate I had when we stayed in a hotel somewhere in the mountains of Morocco. We awoke to sunshine, birds, and the greatest most beautiful surreal view I have ever encountered. Endless beautiful mountains and the sight of the Sahara desert in the far distance. That was our destination for today. The day before simply consisted of a long drive, visiting wild monkeys, and stopping in at a hotel for the night. The real adventure began in the morning. As we drove to the desert, we passed by many Nomad camps, and interesting, basically ancient civilized houses. It was interesting to see this because it made me see life in a different perspective; my life is mine, and it’s astounding to see how it can vary from person to person as you change destinations.

beautiful view

~let’s fast forward a bit: now comes the time I pick my camel! And up I go, and we’re off! A 2 and a half hour camel ride to our sight. Who ever said the desert is boring? it’s so fascinating and vast, I believe I’ve fallen in love with it. “The sand in my eyes feels like paradise. Climbing sand dunes, and reaching for the moon.” I kept singing over and over again to myself. A little tune I made up while I sat under the stars in the beautiful Sahara night-time sand! The camp sight was amazing; I felt so much like a nomad. It was a feeling of fantasy but in complete reality. Tents were available, but it was so warm everyone moved their pillows and bed-pads outside. As did I, along with my group of friends I have gathered here in Morocco. During dinner I encountered wild cats in the desert. So skinny, I almost thought they were unhealthy. But they’re desert cats; what do you expect? They all started out rather skittish but once I started offering them my chicken tagine(traditional Moroccan dish) they began to take a liking to me..a little too much. In the middle of the night those little stinkers made their way to my bed-pad and plopped themselves on top of myself and my friends. Everyone was rather annoyed with me; I always attract cats but it’s something they will just have to get used to 😉 One cat beckoned me to follow it at 3 in the morning. Unsure why, I followed him a great distance until I came over a small dune to see a different camp sight.

Kind of an awkward photo; but that tea sure was good! I turned back still unsure what this cat wanted, but it was an amazing walk that felt so much like a dream…my favorite part of returning to my bed-pad at night was having to pass by our line of camels. A feeling I can’t explain, but as I looked into the distance to see the endless Sahara, the beautiful sky, the unique camp sight, the desert-specific outfit I bought at a market here in morocco, with a scarf wrapped around my head and the line of camels I really began to think “What is my life? Who am I? What am I doing?” in the most amazing sense of course.
meow :) Sahara Kitty
our camels

Tomorrow is Monday; more classes which I always fancy, and my host family said they want me home after classes so we can go to the super-market together. Tomorrow will be a chill day, which is what I need considering I have not truly slept, aside from 2 hours in the sand, in well over 24 hours.

 [read more on my adventure in Morocco at https://elusiveambitions.wordpress.com/category/morocco/ ]

Bye Bye Korea :(

The last two days of the program have come to a rapid end, sadly. What I regret most, which seemed to be mostly out of my control, was the lack of connection I formed with the other scholars. I didn’t connect with anyone here, so I felt like I missed out on a small bit of the experience. Though I tried, I just felt like the odd ball wherever we went, no matter what. I was always paranoid no one wanted me around, so a few times I kinda locked myself away in my own bubble But, least it won’t hurt to say goodbye for the most part. Goodbyes to those you grew close to always suck, glad I won’t have to feel that this time. Regardless, I was still able to get along fairly well with everyone, and experience Korea to the best of my ability!

My host family stay was fantastic, she took us to an underground shopping mall in Gangnam, and alll around Seoul! In the morning, lunch, and night, we had home-cooked meals that we helped prepare! Even made sushi! She was so incredibly kind, and I’ll be posting her information on my blog soon for anyone interested in doing a KoreaStay with her! (by her request! Her house is welcome to all those interested in KoreaStay)

The last day was nice as well. I managed to find a small group to travel around with, where we went to a ton of different shopping places. Places that would be named “sketchy” in the U.S, but here it’s just pure culture. Crowded, cramped, random, yet amazing and special! We eventually sat down and ate these Korean Pancake things (forgot the name!) for a while, drinking Korean wine, munching on onions and kimchi and the pancakes – this place we ate at was a specialty place, meaning it only served what I mentioned above. We later traveled to a different area and had another pancake, but this one was sweet, like a desert! I loved walking by all the random food stands of people cooking various foods – even strange things I have never seen before. Including silk warms! I ate one – tasted meh. At the end of the night we did Karaoke for about two hours. Karaoke joints in Korea and way too cool to describe. Seriously, just go.

What amazes me most is the amount of Korean I managed to pick up. from “take me here” or “where’s the bathroom?” or “I need some cough candy” I feel very proud with what I learned, and I’d love to formally study Korean one day!

To wrap this up, it’s time for me to start packing up! 8am sharp we leave for the airport. 😦 great, another 13 hour flight! I hope I manage to get a better seat! ugh. I hope coming back will be nice. I decided to skip Wednesday to relax, heal up, and work on make-up assignments  I’ll return to classes on Thursday; this will be hell.

[read my entire adventure through South Korea at https://elusiveambitions.wordpress.com/category/south-korea/ ]