Priscilla Blum is student about to attend Cornell University in the spring of 2016. However, before her next four years of official education, Priscilla decided to embark on a journey through a program called semester at sea, where she traveled the world while taking her courses on a ship and docks at a different city each weekend. After discussing her trip with me, she came out with some great points, advice and insight on traveling abroad. Here are some pieces from Priscilla…
1) Semester At Sea is a unique study abroad program on a floating college campus with approximately 600 students. Instead of studying in one country like a traditional study abroad, with Semester At Sea, you wake up in a new country every week or so (voyages range from 10-19 ports/countries). I was initially concerned about not being able to spend enough time in each country. I still feel I wasn't able to fully immerse myself into all of the different cultures, but since I got a taste of many places around the world, I now know where I want to return.
2)The countries that have stood out the most to me were definitely Morocco and Senegal because their cultures are entirely different than Europe even though Casablanca and Dakar claim to be 'the Paris of Africa'. My biggest culture shock was the poverty in Senegal. I obviously knew there would be poverty, but I never really understood it until I saw it for myself. The joy that lit up in children's faces was astounding when I gave them their own water bottle. It was eye opening to me to see the immense appreciation in things we take for granted daily.
3) In Italy and Croatia everyone spoke English in the areas I visited (Civitachavechia, Rome, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Naples, Capri, and Dubrovnik) but that is probably because those are touristy places. I never took Spanish in high school so I struggled a bit in Spain. Fortunately, the people I traveled with knew Spanish so it was helpful having them there. In Morocco I was on a guided tour with other students and their parents. We had multiple guides who translated for us when we were shopping in the markets. They speak French in Senegal, so the beginners French I took throughout high school came in handy especially when interacting with women and children in small villages.
4) I really wish I had brought a go pro on the trip. I reccomend that to people planning on studying abroad. People have taken some really sick under water videos and pictures. They are great for sightseeing and travel in general. I wish I hadn't brought as much clothes because there is limited closet space.
5) The thing I miss most about home is my dog and mac and cheese. In Greece and Spain there are a lot of stray dogs which are cute but dont come close to mine at home.American food isnt too difficult to find abroad, especially in european countries however I have not been able to get mac and cheese anywhere unfortunately.
7) A rule I set for myself this trip was to taste the traditional dish in each country I visit. The two countries with surprisingly good food were Greece and Morocco. I did not expect to like the food in Greece because I am not a fan of Mediterranean styled dishes. I ended up having an unhealthy obsession with tomato balls, gyros, and baklava. I had low expectations for Morocco as well. I was amazed by how flavorful everything tasted. The best dishes in Morocco are any kind of tagine (chicken, lamb, vegetable) and the olive bread. I can't wait to revisit those countries to satisfy my cravings. The country that had the friendliest people was by far Croatia. Everyone was extremely hospitable and kind hearted. Croatia also has a very low crime rate, so that might be a contributing factor.
8) My advice for people going abroad is to not plan everything out and keep an open mind to trying new things. You never know whom you're going to meet or what surprises may pop up. You need to be flexible and you can't be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Some of the best days I've had were spur-of-the-moment decisions about what I am going to do and where I am going to go. Last week, for example, I was in Senegal and was invited to join some other kids to go hang out on a surfing island. It ended up being a beautiful place with great vibes.