Jeannie Sullivan is a Junior in Agricultural Sciences with a minor in Speech Communication. Last fall, she embarked on the journey of a lifetime with Semester at Sea. Currently an Ambassador for the OSU Office of Global Opportunities, Jeannie is fully versed on how to make the most of a study abroad experience. Read on to learn about her incredible voyage and the opportunities SAS has to offer!
Everyone asks if life on the ship was like “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody” and I always say no, not at all. When we were at sea, we had classes every day. That means we had homework, midterms, and finals to go along with that. When we were in port, we got to go explore the countries and do independent travel. For my program, I was able to see an array of countries. I boarded the ship in London and from there I spent the next three and a half months sailing and having the sea as my campus. The countries that I was able to visit on my voyage were: Russia, Poland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Brazil, Barbados, and Cuba. We were supposed to go to Ghana and Senegal, but since that was during the height of the Ebola crisis, we were rerouted to go back to a different region in Spain and Italy. While I took classes on the ship, I had a required field lab that I went on for each class. These field labs were hands on learning experiences that brought the classroom and reality together. On my voyage, I was able to go hiking and see flamingos in Tuscany for my invasive species lab, learn about the history and architecture of Portugal for my architecture class, learn about Ireland’s health care system and how the LGBT community is treated for my public health class, and learned how history and communication correlate with each other in Russia.
Living on a ship is pretty much like living back in the resident halls. On my voyage, there were a little over 600 students and 150 professors and faculty on board. One thing that I thought was awesome was that the professors and faculty got to bring their families on the ship, so occasionally there were little kids running around, which was always fun and a nice stress reliever. I was always surrounded by people and it was really hard to get quiet time, but it was nice to always be socializing with people at the same time. For my program, I was still meeting people on the last couple days of my voyage. I was able to meet people from all around the States and the world. Being on a ship, I got to see everyone in their best attire, and their not so best attire. So it was always interesting walking around the ship (I always wore orange sparkly slippers when we were on board). With tight quarters, I got to know my professors very well. I loved having lunch or dinner with them. I got to know them on a personal level, and they did not seem as intimidating as they would have back at Oregon State. While living on the ship, I was able to be put into a “family.” This meant that I was grouped with a faculty member and other students. It was nice to be able to have a group to have dinner with, hear their travels, and meet people that I would not have met otherwise.
Being able to go on this voyage was a chance of a lifetime and full of once in a lifetime opportunities. I was able to go to Cuba two weeks before Obama eased the embargo. I learned how to salsa dance from the locals, I got to meet students from The University of Havana, and got to see the site of The Bay of Pigs. I was able to sail down the Amazon River and sip on coconuts on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema in Brazil. I was able to ride a camel in the Sahara Desert (and it just happened to be a Wednesday when I did that). I was able to experience real Belgium waffles, crepes, pierogis, Brazilian barbeque, and Italy’s pizza and pasta making skills firsthand. I was able to see festivals and listen to local music in Russia and Belgium. I was able to see the filming site of Michael Jackson’s song “They Don’t Care About Us.” I got to overcome my fear of heights by zip lining the boarder from Spain to Portugal. I saw the iconic symbols of Paris and the ruins of Rome. I was able to see a Champion League match between FC Barcelona and Ajax at Camp Nou. But most of all, I was able to meet lifelong friends, see beautiful sunsets and sunrises, whale watch, see pods of dolphins and fly fish, and be able to star gaze while in the middle of the Atlantic and see the end of the Milky Way Galaxy while looking at shooting stars.
I could not find a better program that fit what I wanted to get out of my experience abroad. I wanted to see as many places as possible, learn to put my preconceived notations aside, and to take advantage of once in a lifetime opportunities.