Reflecting on Semester at Sea 5 Years Ago Today

… I woke up on the MV Explorer for the first time and started my Semester at Sea voyage.

Part of the reason why I went through all of my old Semester at Sea blog posts this week was because I am reminiscing about my voyage. Did I really leave 5 years ago? No, it’s not possible. It feels like yesterday…. But it wasn’t.

I can hardly believe how quickly the 5 years have passed. Other travels have come and gone, but Semester at Sea has always stayed with me, sitting in what feels like my recent memory. It imprinted itself on my identity, and I am forever a different person because of it.

me at sea

Looking back, I don’t really remember how I prepared for it. Honestly, I don’t think I really did. I was too excited to worry, too pumped up to second guess my choice. This was the itinerary I was reviewing, anticipating and getting excited for.

  • Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Cadiz, Spain
  • Casablanca, Morocco
  • Takoradi, Ghana
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Port Louis, Mauritius
  • Chennai, India
  • Singapore, Singapore
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
  • Hong Kong / Shanghai, China
  • Yokohama / Kobe, Japan
  • Honolulu / Hilo, Hawaii, USA
  • San Diego, California, USA

I winged it, as I do with most of the things in my life. I just figured it out. I flew myself to Halifax to meet the ship even though didn’t know a single soul aboard the ship. I was confident in my decision and knew that this would be the best experience I ever had, and didn’t for a single second think I made a mistake.


I am surrounded by fellow Semester at Sea alumni at Greenheart Travel (there are 3 of us!), and while none of them were on my specific voyage, we share an experience that is one-of-kind. I find myself with kindred spirits, like-minded people who know what it’s like to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The specific voyage doesn’t matter, it’s the experience that shapes you. SAS is its own animal entirely, and if you meet a SAS alum, you can immediately strike up a conversation together. I imagine it like sorority sisters, except so much cooler because you traveled the world together, in a way.

No one can ever take away my experience on the MV Explorer and all of the things that I witnessed while visiting 12 different countries over the course of 4 months. I dream that one day I will find myself back on the program, perhaps as a staff member or lifelong learner.

And yet, I know it will never match the experience I had that first time in 2010. I will never be new to it again. Instead, I’ll always a seasoned vet with a sense of what it’s like to live abroad a moving vessel circumnavigating the globe.

me and jess in kyoto

I daydream of Semester at Sea nearly daily. Waking up to a cup of coffee on the top deck with only the ocean in front of you. Heading to a fascinating class about the world around you, learning together with fellow wanderers. The feeling of euphoria and nerves when you step off the gangway on the soil of a new country. The emotion that ripples through you when you see the ship again after a week away exploring. The late night existential conversations with your ship mates as you come to terms with beauty, ugliness and amazement of the world and all it holds.

While the five years has gone both quickly and slowly, Semester at Sea is never far from my memory, and I am happy to spend the day today remembering what I learned, what I felt, and making sure that the experience continues to shape the person I am today. I remind myself how lucky I am and how grateful I am for the way Semester at Sea changed me.

Cheers to my past self for the adventure that awaits, and cheers to my future self for never taking it for granted. Five years ago today, I endeavored on an experience that would change the course of my future.

ambassadors ball

Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

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