The Study Abroad Newsletter

Adventures on the High Sea

Mike Dowsett
Semester at Sea, Worldwide

Beginning of the Baptism Last fall impacted my life in such a powerful way that I would never have expected to be this moved by it. People come up to me and ask, “How was Semester At Sea?” I try to formulate a short answer that they can understand, but I still can’t seem to find the words to express the emotions. It really is something that you have to experience to fully understand, and because of that, it’s difficult to pick just one experience that I would like to share. Every story was equally memorable, but since I can only pick one, I will share what it was like to cross an entire ocean by boat.

Most people on study abroad will share an experience they had while in country, but that is too easy for me. I want to share something that few people in their lives will ever experience.

When I first heard of the idea of crossing the ocean by boat, it sounded totally normal. What we were about to do didn’t really hit me until that evening when we pulled out of Barcelona, saying goodbye to land (and fresh fruit) for the next two weeks. The first few days were life as usual on the boat, with classes going on, social events continuing and lazy hours of the day just watching the ocean pass you by. After about day five, that’s when what you are really doing hits home. You walk out on to the observation deck to get some of that much needed tropical sunshine and all you see is blue and white. Blue sky, white clouds, blue ocean and white bow wake. It is truly an incredible feeling not having anything around for literally hundreds of miles except for the occasional cargo ship and pod of dolphins or whales. I mean where else can you experience this and be studying. Witnessing sunrises and sunsets became an everyday thing.

Royal Barber It is tradition for the pollywogs (unbaptized subjects) to be doused with fish guts, then to jump into the sea (on-board saltwater pool), and then to kiss a fish before climbing back onto land. This is followed by kissing King Neptune’s ring, and then being knighted. After all of that, the person is ready for the final step....shaving his/her head. Many people didn't want to do this, but because I come from a maritime family, I felt more compelled than ever to take part in this hazing-like ritual. So, my three closest friends on the ship and I [got] in line and [got] our heads buzzed completely bare. I have never done this before so I didn't know what to expect.

Keep in mind this whole event is in full view of all [the] students, so it is somewhat of a show. Once it was all over, we were now officially baptized and ready to continue our journey as shellbacks. It may sound cliché, but I really did feel reborn [as] a new per son. The old pre-Semester At Sea me would never have been outgoing enough to try this. The Semester At Sea Fall 2014 voyage changed me in ways I didn’t think possible and taught me things about myself I didn’t know were there to be learned.

Mike Dowsett with Friends

The adventure continues next stop, Rio De Janeiro.