Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Day of Waiting

After flying from KCI to DTW, with a small stop in St. Louis, I'm now sitting at gate A30 waiting for my flight DL619 to depart. However, that won't be for another few hours - five to be exact. That gives me a lot of time to sit in the rather uncomfortable airport chairs and write, because what I failed to pack in my two 40 lb duffel bags, about a 30 lb carry on and a stuffed-full backpack were books. Supposedly, I'm supposed to be meeting the group soon, but I have no idea how to spot anyone out. It's not like they're going to be all dressed in colorful tribal print, although I do have my South African laptop case that screams Africa, having a giraffe and elephant on it. Who knows, I could be sitting by my potential classmates right now and not even know it. How riveting. After I wait until 6 p.m. I'll board the giant Airbus (no, that's really what it's called) to Amsterdam. And, no, I won't be able to have a few hours to explore. I'll have just two hours to get on my next connecting flight to Kilimanjaro. These two flights in total will be about 17 or 18 hours long. This will include a lot of watching movies, a lot of listening to music, some sleeping and (hopefully) minimal talking to passengers around me. I hate small talk, after all. I just hope the in-flight movies will be somewhat interesting. I also hope I'm not sitting next to some giant, sweaty dude or a crying infant. No offense to large men and babies. I'll be leaving behind my house in Lawrence and two dogs, Spud and Copper, to spend seven weeks in Tanzania studying Kiswahili for my African language studies minor. I'm not sure if we'll begin in Arusha or Dar es Salaam, but the plan is to spend six weeks in Arusha studying at the MS-TCDC and staying with a host family (who I know absolutely nothing about) and one week between Dar and Zanzibar, an area that is about 98 percent Muslim. That'll be my first time in such an area. That means covering just about every part of my body in order to avoid harassment. I'm now at a loss for words, but another post before my flight this evening isn't completely unlikely, especially if I run into some interesting characters to write about.

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!