As an alum of SEA Semester from more years ago than I’d like to admit, I’m passionate about the value of the experience. I’m part of the Admissions & Marketing team for Sea Education Association and my role focuses on maintaining the website, creating print materials, posting to social media and managing the digital marketing. I help shape the way we present ourselves, mainly to our target audience of college-age students. I need to communicate all aspects of what its like to participate in a SEA Semester and entice the next generation of students to join us. When the opportunity arose to join a couple weeks of the sea component for Caribbean Reef Expedition, I jumped at the chance. It was time for a refresh. What would be different? What would be the same?
A lot is the same. Sunrises, dolphins at the bow, green flashes, brilliant stars, wet driving rain squalls, delicious meals, daily science stations, hauling on lines, swim calls, weekly field days – even the same captain is aboard that led my student voyage.
And some things are different. As an “other” I have the chance to be outside the watch rotation, which has its benefits (sleeping – or not sleeping – as I choose) and its drawbacks (where do I fit in, to support the daily ship operations?). Gone are the three-cornered sponges – we now use color-coded microfiber towels. My student voyage was mostly at sea in the Pacific Ocean – only one port stop early on in the 6 weeks. This voyage hops from island to island in the Caribbean. Without project work and watch duties, I’m also able to step back and see the transition of students to shipmates, individuals to a cohesive community, as everyone adjusts to the rhythms and responsibilities necessary to operate this vessel effectively and efficiently.
My task onboard is to document the experience, through photos and videos, and to explore ways to increase our social media presence in real time (have you been following our Instagram stories??) One of my worries was that this objective would detract from my personal experience. But it hasn’t. Even though I’m sending in content every day, it’s a one-way conversation. I’m okay with that. I’m not worried about the number of likes or shares or views – I’m just focused on capturing some of the moments each day to share with the world that surely must exist outside of our little bubble, even though it seems far away at the moment
This last piece is what I have forgotten as the years have passed by – the community that is quickly formed when you sail away from the dock. I’ve read about its strength several times in blog posts from students, usually when the end of a voyage approaches and everyone begins to feel reflective. The world as we know it really does shrink down to the 134’ x 26’ space that we work together to care for. A week at sea had passed before I thought about the 2 cats I left at home in the care of neighbors or the stress of home renovations that have dominated my life recently. I even placed my fantasy football team in the hands of a trusted friend – during playoffs! Everything fades away except for what is happening right here, right now.
It’s like a meditation practice regulated by sunrises and sunsets, supplemented with stars and wind and a deeper, more open laughter than I normally give in to.
I now charge myself with a couple tasks. First, I want to take what I’ve learned – or have been reminded of – and not let it go again. Take care of those around you and stay in the present to fully absorb its colors and patterns. Realize that much of what adds weight in your “real” life might not actually matter, when you take a step back and think about it. Second, how can I fully relay this concept of community, or at minimum a basic description, to those who might consider setting sail with us? How do I communicate this in pictures and a few lines of text, or in a poster headline? Is it impossible, something that can only be experienced to be understood?
I’m going to do my best to find out.
Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications | 508-444-1918 | email@example.com | www.sea.edu