Malorie Reimer is an International Ambassador for the International Degree and Education Abroad office. Malorie is studying Environmental Economics and Policy as well as Business and Entrepreneurship. She recently returned from studying abroad with Semester at Sea, where she visited eight different countries.
Upon returning after studying abroad with Semester at Sea, I was frequently asked some form of the same question: “How was your cruise?” or “Didn’t you go on some boat trip this summer?” Yes, I was on a large, cruise-like ship, but what people don’t realize is that it is basically a floating University. While holding around 550 students, the ship sent us across the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and back during the span of two months. Visiting eight different countries allowed me to really experience the multi-cultural world we live in. I’ll be frank: this trip did include some lounging in the sun on the back deck, but often times it included studying and reading textbooks for upcoming midterms or finals.
In the nine classrooms and one major lecture hall there were over twenty different classes offered. The classrooms seemed similar to a regular classroom, but when I looked out the window there was open ocean instead of trees and land. With the small class sizes, I was really able to make the most out of my time. Since I was constantly afloat, I thought it would be beneficial to take a Marine Biology class to learn more about the ocean below me. Learning the scientific names of 50 marine organisms helped me identify the diverse sea-life around me. Out of the many things I saw in the ocean, the most interesting was a flying fish. It is a fish that shoots out and soars above water for sometimes 30 seconds in order to escape predators. Snorkeling in multiple countries was another highlight and allowed me to immerse myself with the sea-life and study their ecosystems.
It was when I was sitting in the water of Croatia with snorkeling gear on when I realized something; I was getting credit for learning hands-on skills that I was really interested in. This snorkeling and kayaking trip was part of a requirement in each course which is called a field lab. A field lab is a partial day that is spent with the entire class and led by a professor. In certain countries, you either visit a specific monumental location or engage in an activity that connects with what you are studying in class. These field labs often included going places that will enhance understanding in the classroom. Seeing and engaging with your coursework is much more intriguing than only reading about it in textbooks.
My second field lab was in Turkey for Developmental Economics. The most interesting part of this excursion is when we went to the oldest mall in the world, the Grand Bazaar. I was below the roof of what James Bond rode atop on a motorcycle in the opening scene of Skyfall. My mind was blown while I was in this fifteenth century structure that has 58 covered streets, hundreds of domes and 4,000 shops. While shopping and observing market interactions I was also learning about the Economics of Istanbul. This style of hands-on learning and interacting with the shop owners allowed me to expand my knowledge about economics and really dive into the culture of Turkey.
One other thing that made this ‘cruise’ into an academic voyage was the incredible individuals teaching on the ship. Not only were they great teachers inside the classroom, but they were great people outside of the classroom. Eating in the same dining room, bumping into them in port and getting to go on trips that they led allowed me to connect with the great professors. That casual connection made it easy to speak with and listen to advice from them. My economics professor remains a main pivotal point in my college career for changing my major. His kindness mixed with his different way of teaching and thinking about economics transformed what I wanted to do at Oregon State University. Another great experience that allowed me to connect with the faculty was going on a faculty-led trip with an Archeology professor that had an extensive knowledge about the ruins of Troy. His expertise allowed for a much more rewarding trip. The passion that these professors had for education and expanding my knowledge made this voyage a special and unforgettable experience.
Along with the amazing professors, I spent my time growing closer to the wonderful shipboard community. I like to refer to all the students on the ship as my SAS family. We were all there for the same reason: to discover the world. This common goal of wanting to see and experience the world made it easy to bond and make new friends with the students on board. Students on the ship came from all over the United States as well as other countries around the world; just being on the ship was a new cultural experience. I had to adapt to the wide diversity I encountered on the ship. My roommate from North Carolina (pictured on the right) taught me much about the American South. I also learned a lot about Central America from my neighbors down the hall. The ship culture, mixed with the diverse cultures I encountered at each port, encouraged much self-reflection and personal growth.
No matter if I was in Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Greece, Croatia, or Turkey, the words “just a cruise” never crossed my mind. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about those two most amazing and impactful months of my life. All the hard work that it took in order to go on this experience proved more than worthwhile. Although I may have spent a good amount of Euro, Lira, Dirham and Kuna on amazing food, souvenirs, and transportation, I wouldn’t take back a penny of it if it meant I would lose my many amazing memories of Semester at Sea. So now when people ask me about my ‘cruise,’ I chuckle to myself and respond with a short explanation of how it was, while realizing that no one can understand how truly amazing my experience with Semester at Sea was until they do it themselves.