11 Lessons I Learned from Studying Abroad on Semester at Sea
People are always asking me how I got into this crazy life of travel. As a kid, my family was fortunate enough to vacation when we could (I had two very hard working parents who I thank endlessly for prioritizing travel in my life from a young age), but it wasn’t until college that I truly discovered what it meant to travel, and not just vacation. In the Spring of 2010, I was admitted to the study abroad program Semester at Sea. That Spring, I boarded a ship with 500 students for four months of immersing ourselves in the cultures of Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana and Brazil. 12 countries in 4 months.
We took classes on our floating campus, but our main focus for that semester circumnavigating our big world wasn’t to learn in a classroom, it was to learn from the world – to travel. Not to see places, but to understand people, not to sightsee, but to explore, not to be tourists, but to be adventurers. We had about a week, sometimes more, in each port. We wouldn’t have classes while in port, so we were left to create our own travel plans. If this sounds like a dream for a college student, it was. It was the most incredible experience a college student could ask for, but it was far from a booze cruise around the world – it was four months that completely shaped my path to where I am today as a person, and as a travel blogger.
In fact, it’s on Semester at Sea that I started my very first blog as a way to connect with friends and family back home. Instagram wasn’t a thing yet, so I didn’t start my @JetsetChristina travel instagram until long after, but it was in those four months that I absolutely fell in love with blogging, and when the little pieces of what would become my full-time career started to put themselves into place.
I found out quickly how much I loved writing, and how much I loved being able to have a place to put all of my travel recommendations and stories from different destinations around the world, so that other people could find them and use them for their own travels. In that blog (fittingly titled ‘Christina Seas the World’), I wrote about everything I experienced in these very foreign countries over those four months. From the sights and the smells, to people and the cultures, to the mishaps and adventures.
There was such magic in writing about this trip around the world to everyone back home, being able to bring them with me in my own little way, that completely mesmerized me. I remember one day on the ship a girl running up to me and saying, “are you Christina Vidal? My mom follows your blog EVERY day and told me we should be friends!” The fact that my personal stories were touching people I had never met was incredible to me, and that they felt like they not only knew about the world from my blog, but that they knew me from my blog. Pure magic. I was hooked.
All in all, like any trip, coming home was the hardest part, and I brought with me some important life lessons from sailing around the world on Semester at Sea that I continue to try and impart on my daily life, so I wanted to share them with you all!
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