By Jessica Spanier
This past summer I did what Stevens taught me over the past 2 years: I took chances. I learned from mistakes. I made friends wherever I went. And I did it all through the Semester at Sea, a program that pushed me out of my comfort zone.
Soon after taking my finals last May, I was waving to other students’ parents as I embarked on the MV Explorer with a departure from Southampton, England. The boat was headed to numerous destinations: Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Malta, Italy, France, Spain, Gibraltar, and Portugal. Nine countries, 13 port cities, one territory, and 24 class days in a total of 66 days: a dynamic program that continued to shape the Stevens Duck that I am.
One of the many questions I am asked when I explain the Semester at Sea program is, “What was your favorite country?” I must say, that is an extremely difficult question. I loved and embraced all the countries and all that they had to offer.
I observed daily activity around the Hassan Mosque II and rode a camel in the countryside of Morocco; rock climbed and hiked though a national park in Turkey; walked through the 2004 Olympic Stadiums, ate a scrumptious combination of olives, tomatoes and feta, which is absolutely out of this world, in Greece; learned about Malta’s history in 110°F heat and relaxed in a kayak with fellow colleagues in Malta; enjoyed a wine tasting while observing Michelangelo’s David in Italy; met with distant relatives in France; explored and came to appreciate Gaudi’s artistic touch; in Spain I wrote research papers in cafés and watched a bull fight, explored the caves of Gibraltar on my 21st birthday and went to an ancient re-enactment of the Lipizzan Show outside of Lisbon in Portugal. Now, you understand why it’s so difficult to choose!
What I can tell that I enjoyed most about the trip was learning to explore what you are afraid of, talk to those you do not know, and to visit places off the beaten path.