It takes a minute or two after you’ve realized you’ve forgotten something to rationalize that you really don’t need it, or how you can go about in obtaining it again. The only problem is, that when you’re on a ship in the middle of any ocean (literally), thing’s get a little bit trickier, and what you forgot… well, there is no way of getting it back. This is the same for all that extra stuff you brought, that when the term comes to an end, you realize you didn’t even remember you brought half of it and it no longer fits in your luggages.

1)      Leave your hair dryers and fancy hair straighteners at home. They will be confiscated unless they are automatic shut off… and honestly, those just suck any way so think of it as a healthy  and acceptable break for your hair. All the climates you will be entering anyway wont agree with styled hair and just make it frizzy. Embrace Au-Natural.

2)      Everyone does dress super trendy for the first week. It’s kind of shocking, when you only packed essentials and wish you brought those cute pumps. Honestly, within a month the whole ship will turn hippie and you’ll be wearing gypsy pants that you bought for a dollar in Vietnam because that’s what’s trendy on the ship.

3)      I would still pack those pumps though… It’s nice for Ambassadors ball.

4)      Magnets. Your entire room is magnetic and tape is forbidden. I picked up a new magnet in every port and went home with an interesting collection now scattered across my fridge.

5)      The ship is cold. I will repeat that: the ship is freezing. Pack accordingly. However, after a few days the campus store opens and you can buy a Semester at Sea blanket for your bed and extra hoodies.

6)      Campus Store Secret: (Shhhhhhhh) Everything goes on sale at the end of the Voyage, and periodically throughout the semester they bring out new items. So don’t buy everything all at once. The only catch is, once the size is gone… it’s gone. Smalls and Mediums don’t last very long.

7)      DO Bring snacks and DO buy snacks in every port. The food sucks on the ship. Salad, pasta, every style of potatoes known to man and mystery meat every day on repeat. Yum.

8)      Laundry is expensive. 4 dollars per tiny, tiny bag. My roommate had four bags every two weeks. Bring your own detergent and have fun in your sink. (Clothes dry quicker outside of the bathroom)

9)      DO Tip the “maid” or “man-maid” of your room. For a full semester I would tip $50 USD collectively between you and your room mate. Or, you can tip right upfront to try and secure the cleaning staff from reporting you if they find anything in your room.

10)   Pack light. I know you know that you’ve heard this a hundred times, but it’s true! I only packed one large duffle bag, and packed another large duffle inside of it including a 50 litre backpack for travelling in port. Even then, when it came time to go home I still had to cram everything in and left the ship holding plastic bags full of stuff.

11)   Send Post Cards. Send them to all your friends, family and even one for yourself. When you get home you will have all these amazing new postcards and each one will bring you back into a memory.

12)   DO keep a journal. Write everything you do, see, smell and hear. I wrote three journals while I was away. They became my scrapbooks. All the flyers, ticket stubs, information and emails of people I had met are all in there. They are the most valuable things to me now.  Also, if you write everything down, it helps with your school work because you’ve already written most of your paper without knowing it.

13)   Oh yeah, don’t be dumb like me and be already packed and ready to go without realizing… oh hey, I’m actually doing school on this thing! Pack some notebooks, highlighters and sticky notes. They are mad expensive to buy on the ship.

14)   Repeat after me: I will learn how to say “Hello” and “Thank-You” in the foreign language of every port we visit. You won’t believe how far these two words will get you. Also, sherades are your best friends. Hand-gestures are universal, and almost anything can be put across. While I was in Brazil I had a female emergency and had to hand gesture my way into finding a tampon. You can only imagine how that went! The mission was still successful.

15)   DON’T DO all Semester at Sea trips. They are way too expensive and nine times out of ten, you will just end up dissapointed. Just copy their itineraries and do it yourself for a quarter of the price.

16)   DO use Semester at Sea for service trips. Make sure you do at least one service trip. This voyage is about the people and the impact they make on you, so why not give back? You will kill yourself after words if you don’t. I visited 5 orphanages, and they were the most rewarding experience.

17)   If you go to China, sign up for a trip with The China Guide and SLEEP ON THE GREAT WALL. It’s incredible, and half the price that Semester at Sea does their trips to China. About 80 Semester at Sea students sign up for it every voyage.

18)   Join the Facebook page group for your voyage. Just the basic information that’s floating around those pages and past voyages Facebook pages is enough to make you feel prepared.

19)   Melatonin and Caffeine Pills will be your best friends and will help your sleep schedule. (If your doing a Spring or Fall voyage, keep in mind that by travelling WEST around the world you gain an hour of sleep every few days. If you travel East, yep, you guessed it… you lose an hour every few days.)

20)   THEY DO, I REPEAT, THEY DO DRUG TESTS. In some of these countries, you’ll be surprised at how casual it is to find a joint, that at some times you’ll literally be turning people down every five seconds. Keep in mind that Semester at Sea has no mercy for people who are caught, and if they suspect you, they will drug test you and all of your friends. 16 people went home in Mauritius on my voyage, including one of the life-long learners. So just behave while you’re away.

21)   DON’T worry about the size of your cabin, or what deck it’s on. They literally all look the same unless it’s a Junior Suite room. The inside cabins feel larger because there are so many mirrors, but it’s a personal choice if you like a window or not. (The window is great for when you wake up in a new port and the Shanghai Skyline is right there in front of you). My advice, go for a cheap room.

22)   DO bring USB Keys, extra hard drives. You’ll be exchanging photos and music like crazy.

23)   DO buy a map. The campus store sell’s great ones, and everyone signs them at the end of the voyage.

24)   DO most of your planning before you get on the ship. It’s extremely difficult to plan things while you’re on the ship, so print out a bunch of stuff beforehand so your prepared and can discuss it with your new friends. This way none of you have to waste your precious internet minutes.

25)   Leave your nice clothes at home. Stuff goes missing in the laundry all the time, or it comes back slightly deformed. Either way, you’re going to be buying so many souvenir t-shirts anyway it won’t matter.

26) DO bring a sleeping bag. It’s nice to have while travelling through some third-world countries and staying at hostels. It’s also perfect for sleeping out on the deck.

27) DO take down the picture frame in your room. They always have tips and tid bits from past voyagers.

27)   Forget about your cell phones, face book, hair products and make-up. Unless you’re going to trendy European cities, you will realize that this voyage really is “Life Rehab”. An entire voyage about rediscovering yourself and giving yourself a break from North American ideals. It’s actually so liberating.

3 responses to “THE ‘KNOWS’, ‘DO’s’ and ‘DONT’S’ OF SEMESTER AT SEA

  1. I am leaving for the Fall voyage in a couple of weeks! Thanks so much for posting about the sleeping bag and the straightener (it would suck to have that stupid thing taken away!) I am flying from California to London to board the ship and was thinking about waiting to buy things like tampons, shampoo, conditioner, etc there so it doesn’t take up a ton of room in my bag. Do you think that would be a good idea?

  2. Your blog is so inspiring and beautiful! I had a question about your semester at sea post! I am looking into going on one during the summer and I am confused about what you said about service trips? How do you sign up for those?? Are they a separate kind of trip or are they a part of every trip?

    • Semester at sea organizes FDPs (Stands for something I dont know) and they are essentially field trips organized by SAS and lead by an instructor. You can sign up on the ship or beforehand. I recommend doing it before because some fill up really fast. Also if you sign up YOU HAVE TO GO nothing sucks more than organizing a trip to a deaf orphanage and having no one show up at the bus. The article is saying dont sign up for these because SAS basically charges you for organizing the trip and it is less expensive to to it on your own. However, it is much harder to do service projects by yourself and the ship does really good ones. I had a ton of fun on these FDPs and I never did a service one. If you feel like spending the extra money it can be great fun especially the first few ports to decide if you like them and to meet new people. This is the most important to me because the best time I had on SAS was a 3 day trip in the atlas mountains in morocco and I met ton of cool people.

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