Canes Across The Globe: Blair Brettschneider on ‘Semester at Sea’

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Blair Brettschneider is a junior from Birmingham, Mich. She is currently studying with Semester at Sea until May 6. Brettschneider is a journalism and American Studies major who has been writing for The Miami Hurricane since 2007.

Blair’s View: “I went to a high school called the International Academy and have been learning about Africa and Asia for years, through my classes and through friends whose families came from across the globe.  This semester I want to actually experience 11 new countries firsthand and be able to put the things I’ve learned into perspective.”

 February 7th, 2009

The waters are finally calm and I feel fine. When we sailed out of Casablanca on Thursday, we encountered heavy turbulence outside the harbor, and unlike a few days ago when we pulled into port, these waves lasted all night long.
The captain came over the loudspeaker and warned us about the “rolling” we would be experiencing shortly, and about 15 minutes later, we were taking cover - Or at least, I was. Some of the bright young minds on the ship decided to run back and forth in the Union and slide around on the marble floors. I saw one of those guys at the pool bar this afternoon ordering Fig Newtons and nursing his injured leg.
I sat on my bed Thursday night and watched in horror as the drawers of our bedside table opened and closed violently, the TV almost fell off its shelf, the chair in our room went sliding towards the door, and our laundry bags spilled their contents. While I was sitting on the bed, it too slid towards the door to our cabin, and I just kept looking around to make sure there was nothing that could easily come flying at my head.
The ship damages were minimal (some broken dishes and bookshelves) and our belongings are more or less back where they belong. But I still find it funny that my family members constantly tell me to “be careful” in India and “hold onto your purse” in Spain. So far, the only place where I’ve actually had to hold on for my life has been on board the MV Explorer.

January 31st, 2009


After four days of walking on land and seeing the ocean only from a distance, we’re back on the move.  We just left Spain and are now en route to Casablanca, Morocco.  We’re back to holding onto railings and trying not to fall over in the shower whenever the ship moves.

Although we stopped in Cádiz, Spain, I have a friend studying abroad in Barcelona, so Wednesday afternoon I went to the airport (along with around 100 other Semester at Sea students, or “Sassers”) to catch a flight to the opposite side of the country.  We spent Wednesday and Thursday exploring the city, checking out Gaudí architecture and drinking sangria.  We were even lucky enough to score tickets to see FC Barcelona defeat RCD Espanyol as part of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night.  It was definitely a good vacation from 8 a.m. classes and questionable food.
But Spain was like a warm-up.  Plenty of us speak enough Spanish to get by, and bar hopping in Barcelona is not too different from a night in the Grove (except the bars are better and your real ID will be accepted).  As we get further into our journey, I have no doubt that the places we visit will be increasingly different, and require much more willingness to try new things.
For now, though, it’s back to sea.  No more bunking with strangers in a hostel on the bad side of town – just my roommate popping her beloved seasickness pills and cursing the waves, “Motherf***er, I’m going to puke.”

January 24th, 2009

At noon today, I was a little less than 2000 miles from my first destination: Cádiz, Spain.  But I’m not waiting at the airport or even writing from the plane.  I’m currently in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with over 700 college students aboard the MV Explorer, the ship on which I will be spending the next 102 days while I sail around the world with Semester at Sea.
My cabin is small, but as a survivor of the Stanford [Residential College] towers, I know it could be a lot worse.  The ship – a “floating university,” as the faculty calls it – feels more like a hotel, at times, than a college campus, as it comes complete with a pool, spa and cabin cleaning services.
Of course, there are still parts that feel like college.   The Executive Dean joked on the first day that it’s just like freshman year. Getting on the ship Monday, I once again had no idea who my roommate was, what to expect from classes, or how bad the food would be (let’s just say you better learn to like salad).  Leaving people behind, this time in Miami as well as back home in Michigan, to spend the next few months with strangers from across the country, memories of early freshman year have become very vivid.  And although the thought of having one more conversation about names, majors and hometowns is starting to make me seasick, I know that it will be worth it in the end.
After all, freshman year ended up all right, and either way, I get to sail around the world.

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