What is your favorite travel memory?
That is a ridiculously hard question to answer as there are many, but I will pick one from my first semester with Seamester.
We were visiting Fiji and had gotten in contact with a volunteer organization based in a small village, where the only foreigners the locals see are those volunteers. We were invited to join the community of 200 people at church on Sunday morning, and then they held a large meal for everyone at the community center.
There was hardly any English spoken, but we were all so excited to be there and they were excited to have us and show off their homes and village. The kids especially were so enthusiastic – I asked them if there were any flowers they could show me that I could take pictures of, and the next thing you know I have two kids grabbing my hand and pulling me towards the garden, where they each pick several flowers and then make me kneel down so they can put them in my hair. Every time a flower would fall out they would make me get back down so they could fix them again.
We spent the afternoon playing hand clapping games with the kids and wandering around the village. It was one of those days where you feel like you make connections and communicate with people just through smiles, laughing, and a little bit of really funny miming.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
I have become much more confident in my ability to go anywhere in the world and just figure things out. You also learn all kinds of skills living and working on a boat with 20-30 people that you never even imagine when you start the job… not only can I now sail a 112 foot boat, but I can also grocery shop and cook for 30 people!
I started out as a marine biology instructor who had never sailed before, and I now have taught three years worth of marine biology and oceanography, sailed over 30,000 nm, got my dive master, been in charge of provisioning, and have taken over as the Program Manager.
I feel confident in saying that my leadership and communication skills have improved, as well as of course my appreciation for other cultures and countries.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
This past summer at staff training for Seamester and ActionQuest (our sister program that runs summer trips for middle and high school students in the British Virgin Islands), I had eight of my former students back because they are now working for the company.
The fact that so many of them were deeply influenced by their experience onboard and have continued on with sailing, diving, leadership and now want to share that with others makes me really proud.
We also have students working on other boats, students who decided to go live abroad and teach English, and students who still meet up with their friends from trips two years ago to go on diving trips together. The best thing though I hear, or just notice, when I catch up with students is their confidence in themselves.
They may come for the sailing or diving credentials or marine science classes, or even just for the adventure and experience, but they all end up gaining so much more from the relationships they build with each other onboard and the confidence they gain from competing this amazing feat.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
Students always ask me which boat and program I love more, Argo or Ocean Star, and I really can’t give a straight answer to that.
Ocean Star is great because it is a little smaller and so you feel really close with the rest of your crew (16 students and 4 staff) and classes are smaller. You also get to do more diving and usually a lot of cool hikes and exploration on the Caribbean islands. And come on, it’s the Caribbean so it is all gorgeous and the weather is amazing 95% of the time.
Argo is amazing as well though as you get to go to some of the coolest and often most remote places you can imagine (goggle Cocos Keeling, yes it really looks like that, and we stop there on the Indian Ocean crossing trip from Australia to South Africa). The experience of being out at sea for up to weeks at a time is also something you really can’t explain to anyone who hasn’t done it.
It takes a few days to get used to, but there is an amazing sense of calm of being away from technology and the rest of the world and having your entire world be this boat and this group of 29 people around you. It really creates a sense of family that I don’t think any other study abroad program can match.
So to answer the question... any of them! Ocean Star's trips are the same each semester, and Argo's changes each semester based on where they are in the world, so if there is a certain part of the world you want to explore, plan ahead so you can catch that trip.