Alumni Spotlight: Alisia Gruendel

Alisia is a Junior in college who is studying Digital Media and Design with a 3D animation concentration. She now has the travel bug and plans to travel somewhere new at least once a year.

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Why did you choose this program?

I love sailing, but don't have many opportunities to focus on it 100%. My schoolwork does sometimes hinder my ability to find free time so this trip was an absolute blessing. I wanted to do something so different from anything I've done before. Something that would push me to do things I never would've done on my own, and end up loving them.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I found this trip all on my own. It was done outside of my home university. I had to enroll in the program on my own. Everything was organized through and with the program coordinators themselves. They were all so nice and everything required was easily labeled, easy to find, and they gave you a clear deadline for everything.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Expect your limits to be pushed, but don't be afraid of it. I was nervous out of my mind the night before I left, but once I arrived at the dock, everything fell into place. I was surrounded by people who were as willing as me to go forward and push themselves to try new things. Although some things were scary, they were well worth it.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

A day moves very quickly, and though they can be a little long, every second is a wild and fun ride. You wake up, eat breakfast together then clean and get ready for the next activity. You're always moving and always looking forward to the next activity. But do not fear, you do have downtime and there are lulls in activities. You do everything in groups which enables you and your crew to become closer than you have with a perfect stranger, who essentially becomes your family unit. You're always together. It's so special and amazing.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was getting to know everyone and letting them know me. I'm a very closed off person, naturally, but I knew this trip would push those boundaries since the most privacy you have is an open bunk stacked under or on top of someone else's. But once you meet everyone and you realize you're all in this together and experiencing the same nerves, you band together to help one another. I'm forever grateful that I had this experience because it has helped me lessen my fear of letting people get to know me.

What was your favorite memory from the whole trip?

Honestly, I gave myself the hardest question to answer. I think one of my favorite memories was during the first overnight passage.

It was the longest passage of the trip, an entire 24 hours out at sea, and it was my first time doing something like that. Granted, a lot of the experiences I had on the trip were firsts but this one was pretty intense.

I was a little nervous since the waves were going against the boat, my watch team was up first. I felt intimidated by the ocean as we headed farther from land, but then the sun fell behind the horizon and the stars came out. I had never seen so many stars in my whole life. It was so clear and beautiful, you could even see the Milky Way across the sky. And as if that weren't enough, two shooting stars raced across the sky before we turned in.

It was absolutely one of the most unbelievable moments in my life. And because of that, and the countless other moments I experienced, I'm more determined than ever to go out and make more.