Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What to know about SAS.......

There are so many things that I wish I would've known before I went on this voyage. And I'll list some of them, but first let me say this: I made the HUGE mistake of not joining the Facebook page, not being a huge FB user. But EVERYONE on the ship seemed to already be aware of many more things like rules, excursions, whatever because they communicated with alumni through the SAS FB page. So if you're going on an Semester at Sea voyage, join the group and either talk with people and get advice or get your questions answered, or just read about what people have done, what trips they loved, what they advise people to do, bad things they experienced, what to watch out for, or just what every day life is like on the ship. I'll address some of these now, but really, the group apparently has some great advice and people seem to be pretty friendly. It's also a great way to make friends before you leave. You might even find a roomie on there. So life on the ship. It was a lot different than what I expected. But maybe I was a little naive in that respect. Before I left, I read gossip from parents saying this was a "Booze Cruise" or a "Party Boat." So let me set the record straight, the voyage is whatever you make it. Yes, there are some people who are "spending daddy's money" and treat the entire voyage as a vacation and get drunk in every port. Then there are some people who get drunk a lot, but still value the experience as educational and do well in school. There are others who don't drink a lot but go out and party and still do well in school. But then there's me, who is probably on the complete radical side of the spectrum. I didn't go out much at night, I didn't drink at all, and I definitely didn't party. I chose to have this experience entirely for the educational aspect. I wanted to learn, both in the classroom and in the ports. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with drinking and partying if that's what you like. But I've just grown out of that phase of my life and didn't care to do those things. Also, you have to remember that you're in foreign countries and it's much different than the USA. People will try to steal your money, take advantage of you, etc. There were plenty of instances of petty crime such as pickpockets, purse snatchers, and other little things. But then there are other things that people robbed at gunpoint, knifepoint, beaten up, put in jail and caned. It can get pretty dangerous and I think that when you get drunk, or at least belligerently drunk, you don't have that filter in your head that tells you what isn't safe. So I didn't want to be exposed to that kind of situation and decided to play it safe. But if you're looking for a good time and party friends, then trust me you won't be alone. Just make sure you value your time and really try to get a lot out of the amazing faculty and in-port educational opportunities. You can learn so much if you open your mind to it! Like I said, I found out that my study habits and socializing seemed to be quite different than most. And it was really frustrating at first because I was surrounded by a ton of college kids who loved to party and I didn't. But once I found a good group of people who were like me, I really began to enjoy myself. I started associating with my hall neighbors and really got to know them. Since my hall didn't have a great Internet connection in our rooms, we would all congregate in the hallways to email our loved ones and that was great bonding time! That's probably what I miss the most actually. So if you try you can always find people you can get along with. So I was really prepared when I packed for this trip. I had some clothes for all different occasions, a TON of toiletries, and medicine for anything. I'd say for this particular trip with warmer climates, pack a ton of warm weather clothes, but also some long sleeve shirts and pants that aren't too hot and don't stick to you when you sweat, because where there is malaria you need to wear more conservative clothes. And also bring some modest clothing because some countries dress more conservatively than the US. Then start packing for the ship - I'd recommend just casual clothes but some people do like to dress up every day. As for medicines, pack a lot of seasickness meds but they do have some on the ship if you forget. Make sure you get Cipro from your doctor for when you get an upset stomach! And then malaria meds of course. Cold medicine might come in handy because colds go around fast when so many people are on a small ship. I personally packed way too many toiletries like shampoos and conditioners because I didn't know how difficult it would be to find them in these countries. I never once went to a Walmart or anything so I'm not sure if it would be hard to find one, but I know in some places they don't have Walmart. And as far as excursions to take, like I said the Facebook group gives a lot of advice for that. Most people don't take that many SAS trips and did them on their own. I think it depends on what kind of person you are. If you like to plan things yourself or if you like them planned out for you. The SAS trips are usually a little more expensive than if you would try to do it independently, but they often come with meals. Some people really enjoyed the overnight SAS trips, and some people went through programs like Global Citizens to do those trips. There are a lot of options but it just depends on your preferences. There are so many fun things to do and it's hard to just pick a few. But I'd say look at the SAS trips and sign up for what you're dying to do, and especially sign up for your FDPs. You can always buy or sell trips on the ship too. There are always a lot of people selling trips and I never had a problem finding something to buy if I needed it. But FDPs can fill up and a lot of people had trouble finding open ones so make sure you sign up for those ASAP so you don't have to worry about it. Other than that, my only other advice for those doing the SAS program is to be smart. If you go out and get wasted you have a pretty good chance of getting robbed or pick pocketed at the very least. You're in a foreign country where you don't know anything or anyone and bad things can happen. On my trip we had a lot of little crimes and several big ones like people being robbed at gunpoint. But if you use your head and stay in big groups then you have a much better chance. And also, don't always trust the taxi drivers because most of them will try to rip you off. Some of them have even tried to do worse. So only take taxis in big groups and make sure you agree on the fare before you leave with them. Have fun!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Work Study on the Ship

The Semester at Sea website was very easy to follow and details exactly what scholarships they provide and how you can apply to them. It also shows you when they've received your application and if you've been approved. That's one great thing about SAS-the website. Although I applied around October, which was much later than many other students, I could still easily turn in all my needed documents with the help of the website. By the way, I spoke to several students who applied as close to about a week before the ship sailed. It's really difficult and strenuous, but it can be done. Getting the visas is definitely the hardest part. Some of the students had a hard time and couldn't get certain visas so they had to visit the embassies in various countries to obtain those. It's just easier to allow yourself plenty of time to get those visas. But anyway, the scholarship applications. I applied to late for the Presidential scholarships - and I highly recommend anyone applying to the program to try to get this scholarship. It looks like a little work, but it pays for tuition so it helps out a lot. And meeting the presidential scholars on the ship, I expected them to be like some kind of geniuses. But they weren't really. I mean, they were smart, but basically the whole idea of the scholarship is to have a really good research project. So if you can come up with one of those and articulate it well, then you have a shot at the scholarship. Only a few people get the full ride so it's pretty competitive. But as for the other scholarships, I applied for Need, Merit, and Work-study and got all three. The work-study I applied for was in the Audio-visual department. They have a work-study for communications, which is more in the area of journalism, but I am more interested in broadcast journalism and I decided audio visual might help hone my skills. But there's also a photographer and videographer position, which looked really fun. So I got the job by, first, sending in the application on time. I wrote down a list of skills I had learned from my classes. Basically, I just looked at what skills were necessary for the application and then wrote briefly about how I can meet those requirements. It wasn't too difficult for me, but maybe it was my specific department. I can't imagine a ton of people trying to work in the AV department. Not very cool. But that was one reason I chose it. I figured that a lot of people would try to apply for the campus store or as office assistants, but I really needed the $4,000 scholarship (that's what you get for a semester term) so I went with the one I thought was the most attainable for me and my skill level. And I ended up getting it, and worked with five other people, and I was the only girl. So if you're a girl looking at AV, you might have a good shot. It you go to the website they give a description of all jobs. But basically all jobs require you to work two hours per day that we are at sea. It's not very much at all. What I did was hang out in the AV booth and provided assistance to teachers who needed help setting up the projector, playing a DVD, any sound or video problems, etc. Then if you work during the evenings, there are usually lecturers or speakers who are either just talking and need microphones, or are playing a PowerPoint so need help with setting up the projector, playing a movie, or any other audio/visual technology support. When you're in the booth and there's a presentation going on, you have to make sure the sound levels are always appropriate so you need to be able to work well with an audio board. You also have to monitor the video, which is much easier to do than write about. But you're basically in control of what airs to the televisions in the cabins, so you have to watch the cameras and switch cameras, just like in a news room if you're familiar with that. The equipment on the ship was lacking a bit, so hopefully that's something they'll update in the future. Overall, the job was a great experience. It definitely helped with a chunk of the tuition. I applied for all the scholarships I could through SAS and then scholarships through my home institution too, in my case KSU. I would recommend the Goss scholarship, which was for $5,000. But apply for all scholarships possible. Some people could use the scholarships from their home institution to pay for the tuition on the ship, so look into that. I'm not sure if KSU offers that because I was never told that, but I know people from U. of San Diego could transfer the scholarships over. The work-study was also great with helping me meet people. I had a really fun time working and talking with new people. I immediately got to know the people I was working with so it helped with making friends. Also, I could do homework when work wasn't busy so it became a time for studying as well. Ultimately, I would absolutely recommend anyone with issues concerning the high price of tuition to apply for all scholarships available through SAS. I didn't think I would get that much, especially need-based, but I did so you might be surprised too. And also apply for all possible scholarships through your home institution. For KSU, go through the studioabroad website and they list all possible study abroad scholarships and typically have one common application to fill out for all scholarships you are applying for. Also, look for external scholarships. Your home university might provide a link to some of these. Although I didn't apply to them because they didn't really apply to my situation or I was too late to apply, looking at those won't hurt. There are a lot of ways to get funding for study abroad and I found a MUCH easier time getting scholarships to study abroad rather than study at home. Good luck!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Yokohama, Japan

After one day in transit, we arrived in Yokohama. The first day I went with a couple girls to Tokyo. We took the train there, having to transfer lines once. It only took around 45 minutes for us to get there once we figured out the subway. Then the girls I was with decided to just start walking blindly, after I suggested we look at a map and find some place cool to go. But they started walking and about 15 minutes later we realize there is absolutely nothing the way we're going. Luckily, we ran into an old Australian couple who asked us if we were lost. We said yes and just decided to follow them around for a bit. They went to a park that had the Meiji Shrine. None of us were sure what the significance of the shrine was, but it seemed like it was a place for prayer. Then we decided to go to Harajuku, a young and hip district in Tokyo. We only walked for a few minutes and hit an intersection with giant retail buildings - the biggest Old Navy I've ever seen in my life. I noticed that we'd hit the district because suddenly there were only young, stylish teens walking by. There were a quite a few people with a face full of piercings. And when I mean full, they were completely covered. We walked around a while and found the Oriental Bazaar. I guess that was just a store that had souvenir items at a cheaper price, although it was still pretty expensive. We spent a while there and I bought a few knick-knacks. Then we decided to go get some food. We wanted Japanese food, specifically their stuffed crepes, but a lady from the ship told us there weren't any around. So two of the girls I was with went into Shakey's Pizza, which is supposed to be pretty good, and the other girl and I went to look for cheaper, more authentic food. We finally came across a little stand that sold the crepes. I bought the famous kind, which name escapes me right now, and it was so good! I went back for seconds and got a crepe with chocolate ice cream, which was even better! I hope I can find some places that sell those back in the US! After that we kept walking around and found a little shopping strip that mostly sold younger clothes and accessories. But we just walked around a looked, and after a while we decided to head back to the ship since we were both so tired.

The next day, and final day in Japan, I had a trip to Mount Fuji. The day didn't go as well as I'd hoped, because the entire day it was raining and cloudy. We took a bus ride a few hours to Mount Fuji, and drove to the fifth station on the mountain. We stopped and walked around, and of course hit up the gift shop. It was so cold out and there was snow everywhere, which for some reason I wasn't expecting. I guess I thought we weren't going to be going up high enough for there to be snow. But the ground was covered and it felt like winter in Kansas, which I thought I'd missed. And lucky for me, I wore flip flops so it was even more unbearable. After spending some time shopping for Mount Fuji souvenirs, we went back to the bus and drove to the Visitor's Center. There we, once again, went to the gift shop. And after that we watched a short film about Mount Fuji. Then we drove a while to Hakone and took the ropeway for about 30 minutes. We stopped near a lake and drove a couple minutes to a boat, where we took a ride on the lake, hoping to get some good views of the mountain. But it was too cloudy and we couldn't see Mount Fuji at all. I was pretty disappointed, since that was the whole point of the trip. The rest of the trip was fun, but I was really looking forward to seeing the giant mountain. Oh well, I'll just have to come back during July or August some year and climb to the top. They said it only takes about six hours to get to the peak. After the boat ride we just took the bus ride back to the ship and I got back on, after waiting in line forever. Now's going to be the most boring stretch of the trip. We have about a week and a half until we get to Hawaii, and then another week until we get to San Diego. During that time I'll have to write a few papers and study for my finals. I don't think anyone's looking forward to the rest of the trip.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kobe, Japan

We arrived in Japan on Tuesday, and didn't get cleared for immigration until around noon. It took a long time for everyone on the ship to stand in line, get their picture taken, and get their fingerprints taken. And by the time I got off the ship, it was maybe 11, but everyone didn't get cleared until later. So I had to sit in the terminal and wait, and by the time everyone was cleared, it was pointless to get back on the ship since my FDP started at 1. I went with my media class for a radio station called Radio FMYY. It was a radio station that formed after the huge earthquake 15 years ago because the emergency radio stations weren't sufficient enough for foreign people. After the earthquake in 1923, people were afraid of what might happen. At that time, they didn't have stations in other languages at that time, and they also only perpetrated information about the affected to the rest of the world, rather than giving more information to those being affected. Therefore, rumors started circulating between the local Japanese about foreign people, such as the Koreans. They turned on them and ended up murdering 6,000 Koreans because they believed these rumors. So Radio FMYY was created as an emergency radio to provide information to affected people in several languages. After a presentation, we toured a small part of the facility, the studio. Then we just returned to the ship. I decided to tag along with a friend who was going to the local "dollar store," or a 100 yen store. We took the metro to downtown and went to the dollar store and I bought a lot of cheap souvenirs, since I wasn't sure if I'd get the chance to find any elsewhere in Kobe. All of the shops here are very Westernized, and I wanted traditional Japanese items. So I had to settle for some cheap knickknacks in case I couldn't find other items. After that I just went back to the ship for the night.

The last day we spent in Kobe, I went on a trip to Hiroshima. I was really excited for it, until I found out we were going to be taking a 5 hour bus ride out there. The ride didn't end up being all too bad, we stopped a couple times at gas stations and I tried to find some food. But everything was in Japanese, and it was really hard to tell if it had meat in it or not. I settled on a hotdog......with noodles inside. It was very interesting. Besides the sauce they put in there, the noddle-dog was actually pretty good. We got there about 2 pm and started at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Our guide gave us until 3:50 to walk around the museum, which was hardly any time. I got a lot of the way through, but by the time we had to leave, I still had a couple rooms left but was only about halfway done with the audio guide. I was pretty disappointed I missed the room where they had clothes from some of those who passed away and their stories, and the room with information on what happened to buildings. I need to go back there someday to finish going through the entire museum. There was just too much to see in such a short time! After that our guide walked us over through the park and to the statue for the 12-year-old girl who passed away from leukemia. She folded 1,000 cranes while she was in the hospital, since they symbolize peace and recovery. We all had some paper cranes that we set down there. Then we finished the tour by walking to the Dome. That's the building they decided to keep the way it was after the bomb, they've just done a little restoration to so it could be preserved. It actually has some controversy around it because some people want it to be destroyed since it reminds them of an awful time. That building was probably one of my favorites to see, because it kind of made you feel like you were right back there in 1945. One of the things that struck me the most about my day in Hiroshima, was that none of the people in Japan have negative feelings toward Americans. They are all very polite, respectful, and friendly. Their only goal is to create peace and ban all nuclear weapons around the world - and, unknowingly to me, they've been in pursuit of trying to make that happen. And after that trip, we went back to the ship, but this time we took the bullet train. It only took about an hour and a half to get back this way, so it was a lot nicer trip back. When I got back, I grabbed some dinner and went to bed. We left for Yokohama that night, and the next day we spent in transit. I spent that day watching movies and doing homework. It turned out to be a very productive and relaxing day.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Cove

We've been talking a lot about The Cove in my classes, since we're coming up on Japan in a couple days. We watched a little bit of it in my Anthropology of the Ocean class. For those you don't know about it, it exploits the dolphin fishing in a town called Taiji in Japan, specifically in an area called The Cove. The video includes the main activist, Ric O'Barry, who was one of the dolphin trainers in Flipper, along with several other activists he gathered in his mission. They all are trying to get people to become aware of the slaughter that has occurred in this area from September to March, killing 23,000 each year. He's opposed by a few local fisherman and the government in Taiji because it brings a huge profit for their town. So it's very hard to take pictures or videos of what's happening in this area. Finally, (spoiler alert) they manage to smuggle high def cameras that are hidden in rocks and place them throughout the cove. Then they capture this incredible and horrible footage of what happens in The Cove. I won't describe it, since it's pretty awful. Then at the end of the video, Ric goes into an IWC (International Whaling Commission) meeting, with a television strapped to his chest, playing the footage they gathered. I heard that The Cove was destroyed in the tsunami, but they just relocated the slaughter to a different area. It still occurs today, but now people are more aware of what's going on.

The movie was very well done and I might have found a new inspiration in Ric O'Barry. However, it brings a lot of questions to my mind. As soon as the students saw this they gasped and were really upset by the killings. And maybe this isn't logical for me to think, but it made me really mad at everyone around me. How hypocritical is it to say that the killing of these animals is wrong, but all other animals is perfectly acceptable? Is it because these animals are mammals, or because of their intellectual ability? To me, it felt the exact same as watching documentaries about the slaughter of cows and chickens. And cows are mammals. Is it just that they are "dumb" or that it's accepted to eat that kind of meat in America? Or maybe dolphins are prettier? I just can't understand it. To me, all animals are equal, and just because one is smarter or better looking, doesn't make it superior to another. I definitely think that this dolphin hunting needs to gain attention of the public, but it's ignorant to think that the same kind of treatment to animals isn't occurring in our country, right under our noses. It's ignorant to think that this town in Japan is cruel and barbaric, when similar practices happen to other animals all over the world. It's ignorant to get so worked up over something and then talk about what you bought in the last port. I think that this world is just filled with ignorant people, who like to pretend that these horrible things aren't happening all around us, or just don't care.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Shanghai, China

The voyage to Shanghai was really nice. Hardly anyone was on the ship so it was very quiet, I could get caught up on homework and sleep, and also the food was so much better. We had waiter service as opposed to the cafeteria style we usually get. And everything on the menu was 10 times better than the food they usually set out. The big downside was not being able to travel around China for those two days, but I can't take that back.

The first day we were there I had two trips planned. The first was the Maglev Train trip. We took a drive around some major parts of Shanghai and had a brief city orientation. Then we went to the Jin Mao Tower, which I think is either the sixth tallest building in the world or in Shanghai. We took the elevator up to the 88th floor from the -6th floor. The ride took only around seven seconds or so before we reached the top. The view was very beautiful - you could see anything. After that we went to ride the Maglev Train. This train goes to the airport and can hit a maximum speed of 431 km/hr or about 267 miles per hour. We were able to ride it during a time when it went to its maximum speed. It was very fast, to say the least. But I wasn't ever scared until we passed a train coming the other way and for a second it sounded like we just collided with it since we passed it going so fast. The Maglev stands for Magnetic Levitation, so it uses magnetics and sits about 10 cm on top of the tracks and doesn't actually touch them. It was a very cool experience to ride on the Maglev, but I don't think the trip should have taken so long. After that, I went with a friend to eat by the ship at a Chinese restaurant. I had noodles and rice, and it was decent. By that time I had to leave for the next trip, which was an acrobatics performance. Our guide said that the ERA Acrobats worked with Cirque Du Soleil. The show was pretty incredible, it had flexible people, acrobatics flying in the air, extreme balancing acts, and even a motorcycle show, where they had six people on motorcycles going around in circles in a giant ball. That was probably my favorite.

The next day I had a trip to the Zhujiajiao Water Village. I was really excited to see a village, since that's been my favorite parts of each country. But, in my opinion, the village wasn't even really there anymore. I read that in 2012 (must have been really recent) it had been converted to a bunch of gift shops. It did have a waterway going down the middle of the village, but our guide said they don't use it anymore except for tourists. So when we got there we took a little boat ride along the waterway to one end of the village and back. Then we had two hours to walk around and shop at the gift shops. I was super disappointed that we didn't even have a guided tour or anything. It seemed just like some scam to make money, which I'm sure it was. After just walking around for two hours we went back on the bus and left. The only thing I ended up buying was a name painting for my niece, as everything else was really overpriced. I had planned to go out to the markets after that trip and had a friend to go with, but she bailed at the complete last minute. So I tried to find other people to go with, but everyone either was going to sleep or going out to get drunk.

The last day I woke up really early to hit the markets. I wanted to do a little shopping before we left and I had an FDP in the afternoon. So I met up with some people and went to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum underground markets. It was huge and had a ton of cool souvenirs to buy, but I also wanted to go to the Yu Garden Markets, so I only spent about 20 minutes at that market and headed to the second. I didn't buy much at the first market since I was holding out for the Yu Garden, but it was complete crap. It was like three stories of junk. A ton of jewelry places, kids toys, and knock off items. I didn't even have that much time to really shop since I had to be back on the ship by 1 for my FDP, so I quickly bought a bunch of junk items and left. But before I was leaving, I couldn't find my phone in my bag, I searched and searched and my friend even looked in my bag and couldn't find it. I was convinced it was stolen. But later I magically found it in my bag. I barely made it back in time for my FDP to the Shanghai Media Group, which ended up being a television station so I was extremely excited to go there. However, when we got there our teacher found out that the person he'd been corresponding with didn't really work there, or at least no one knew who he was. So our trip got canceled, which was a great ending to the day. I couldn't go out again because I'd spent all my money earlier since I didn't expect to go out again and everyone I knew was already out so there was no one to go with. I just came back to the ship and stayed on the rest of the time. So my time in Shanghai wasn't the best, I probably will never come back here. But I would like to travel to Northern China, to the Great Wall. Next we're going to Kobe, Japan.