Wednesday, June 6, 2012
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!