SAS Fall 11 - Reflection
January 06, 2012 | By: Andrew Centofante | Tags: travel
How do you even begin to reflect on an experience like Semester at Sea. How do you put some words down that even come close to representing the things I have seen, felt and experienced. How can you capture the shift in ones perspective when you can barely understand it yourself. I am changed by this, no question, but how am I changed is a whole other story. I can barely process it all, let alone give a coherent statement about what I now feel, but I will try to give some insight into what it all means to me.
First off, I want to give so much thanks to the Semester at Sea program. The fact that this program even exists is mind boggling and the fact that they hired me is even more insane. A dream come true. They combine higher education and travel in a way that is truly unbelievable. Being surrounded by educators and students, attending seminars, deep conversations and an inspiring community made every day an opportunity to learn. The amount of culture, challenging experiences, reflection and personal growth that is at the core to this program makes every day an adventure. This program is really a one of a kind thing, a life changing experience and I would recommend it to everyone. Students… apply now, find the cash, you wont regret it. Adults, apply for a a job and get on that ship.
Next is that I am a ridiculously lucky human being. Not just that I got this job, which was incredibly fortunate but more I am lucky that I live the life I do. I am wealthy, not rich by any means but compared to millions around the world I am more that wealthy. I live in a beautiful country full of opportunity. I have a place to call home, running water and an abundance of food. I was given an incredible education and got to go to college. I have an incredible and loving family and supportive parents. I have access to all sorts of amazing technology. I have my health. The list goes on and on. I live an unreal life compared to the majority of people in the world and the question I keep coming back to is… why? Why did I get so much while others have so little? Why was I born where I was and to the family I did? How am I so lucky? I don’t know the answer. I don’t think there is one. Its the way the cards are dealt but after all I have seen I can’t just stop there. It keeps leading me to another more important question. What am I going to do with this gift of a life? What am I going to do with my affluence and wealth and education? Again, I don’t know the answer, but the reality is I can make major change to the world for the better. I have been given opportunity and that gives me responsibility.
The power of a community is amazing. Spending time on the ship in a closed environment really created an amazing community. Everyone saying hello, eating and learning together. Experiencing the world and life with these people created amazing bonds. By the end of the voyage we were all united. One thing Semester at Sea does that I love is limit the internet which eliminates a huge distraction and makes everyone more present. I really believe that our current culture with all of its connectedness is pulling us further and further away from each other. Isolating us from the very people who can help enrich our lives. I know I am going to make an effort to create more of a community back home.
I don’t know jack. Even things I thought I knew, I don’t. This is one of those things that is hard to explain but its true. You think you know what another culture “is” but usually it never comes close. The joy of the people in Ghana as well as the dance and music that is embedded in their lives. Standing on the shore of the river Ganges and feeling the reverence that people had for this sacred place. The meditative calm that is apparent in every aspect of the Japanese culture. You think you know how things are but you don’t. I saw so many things that defied logic but they just worked. Traffic in Vietnam. This seemed so dangerous but after a while it made sense. Toilets… I don’t need to go into detail but there are a lot of ways this is done and none is “better” than another. Another example is the great wall of China or the Taj Mahal. I had seen pictures of it. I had seen it on TV but the amazing beauty and all the history that hits you when you are standing there brings such a deeper dimension to a place. Another things is just how big the ocean is. When you are at sea sailing at 24 knots for 9 days straight and all you can sea is water in all directions you realize how small you are. These are all kinda silly but it makes you realize how little you know and how much we pretend we do.
Finally, people are people are people. No matter where you are you can relate to people because they are you. Everyone wants happiness. Everyone needs love. Everyone wants to connect. Children smile all over the world. I found unbelievable kindness everywhere I went. We live in different places each with beautiful customs, cultures and histories, so celebrate our differences and find comfort in our similarities.
Travel is just great and I am going to make a point to do it as often as I can. It opens your eyes to new and amazing things. It opens your heart up to people. You learn so much about yourself when pushed outside of your comfort zone. We live in such an amazing and beautiful world and I want to explore it more. I am not done learning. I am not done growing.