I had such a great experience, from enrolling in the program until the very last day of the trip. First, the office staffs. One word: incredible. They are always there for any questions you have and answer very quickly. They follow the whole trip and make sure everything goes smoothly (and if it doesn't - we had a surprise - they work their heart out to make everything possible).
Second, the trip itself. For me, it was a dream coming true. As a student, I wanted to learn how to sail, and Sea|mester being a school abroad experience was the perfect match. I arrived the first day in Antigua with a mix of excitation and anticipation, but when I met a part of the group, I just became more excited for the adventure. It turned out to be a real adventure. Our first overnight passage, the staff helped us rising up the sails and when we turned off the lights, I still remember the awe that went through the group at the sight of the stars. So many, so bright. We started our 4 hours watches - 8 hours off. It was not easy at first and the crew was tired, but in longer passages, we got used to the unusual schedule. While in passages, we had two classes of one hour in the afternoon. Not everybody was focus ;). We did many activities, sometimes going on land, some other times, going diving. We swam with dolphins, turtles, rays, fish, sea lions and so much more. I can tell you that when you learn about manta rays during the trip and you get to swim with one, it's an indescriptible feeling of excitation and awe.
In my trip from Antigua to Tahiti, we crossed through the Panama canal, which was a bit intimidating at first, but was pretty fun after all. Going through the locks with a pilot onboard and seeing the water level rises and drops until the last doors finally open to the Pacific is something I never thought I would be doing. A few night after the canal, we left for the Galapagos and had the chance to see bioluminescent dolphins swimming at the bow with us. It was incredible. Two days after we left Panama, we had to turn around and go back to Panama because our propeller broke. The sailing was great and our newly acquired skills was put to use. We did end up going to the Galapagos and then to Tahiti with a few days delay.
This experience wouldn't have been such a adventure without all the challenges we went through. It wasn't always easy, but every difficulty brought the group closer. We started our trip as strangers to each other and ended up feeling like a family. Vela became our home and when the time came to say goodbyes, we had memories to brought back with us. Not everybody from the crew will go on a boat again, but for some like me, this adventure found its mark. Raising the sails, steering Vela through the waves, listening to the sound of the ocean sometimes under a scorching sun have woken up a new passion and a desire to go back, to feel the wind in the sails and to push my knowledge further.