HARVARD

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One of my very best guy friends from Semester at Sea goes to Harvard, Philip. It is neat how many people you meet on Semester at Sea that go to different schools, especially Harvard. I hadn’t seen him in two years but we had talked about me coming numerous amounts of times. I was nervous but wanted the Harvard experience before I graduate. It was an incredible weekend, I am sad that it is over! Bottom line, do not miss out on opportunities, just go for it if you are wanting to do something. Life is short and adventure makes you stay young longer! Weekend trips away are the best!

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CHINA

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China is a really neat country to visit and I highly recommend going! I believe that if anyone has the chance, they should definitely visit the Great Wall! The Great Wall was one of my highlights of the whole entire trip! The Chinese government’s internet censorship and surveillance project is part of the Golden Shield Project which was initiated, developed, and operated by the Ministry of Public Security. It blocks foreign websites, apps, social media, instant messaging etc. that are deemed inappropriate or offensive. For example, violence, pornography, politically-sensitive/anti-government etc. They use a combination of technologies and government-run internet service providers. Keyword filtering, IP address blacklists, DNS poisoning, packet inspection, and manual enforcement are used. 

If you are headed to China and want to use the internet, I highly recommend getting a VPN: unblocks Google, Youtube and Facebook (along with many other different blocked sites). This is good for anyone who goes to China for work/living/travel whom uses the internet. There are many different VPN options but some do not work and others are slow. Nord VPN is the best free option: (first three months free and does not ask for your credit card) reliable and fast, reconnects automatically, you can connect to 3 different devices, works well with Netflix (which usually VPN choices do not). But it is slow at first, so keep that in mind if you are starting to use it- it will get better. 

JAPAN

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Ever since I was a little girl, my dream was always to go to Harajuku. Harjuku is located in Tokyo, Japan. My friends from back home and I have always enjoyed the song: “Harajuku Girls,” by Gwen Stefani. You can tell by listening to this song that Gwen Stefani takes pride in the Japanese culture and enjoyed being there while she visited. She says: “Harajuku girls you got the wicked style, I like the way that you are, I am your biggest fan. Just an American girl in the Tokyo streets. You bring style and color all around the world, you Harajuku girls,” (Harajuku Girls song by Gwen Stefani). Something else I really appreciate about this song is that she sings her lyrics in English but she also incorporates some Japanese words into the song as well. I have always been a fan of Japanese culture ever since hearing this song for the first time.

I was fortunate enough to travel to Japan with my Father my junior year of High School. When we first arrived in Tokyo, I could not wait any longer. I needed to go to Harajuku as soon as possible. So the first day of being in Japan, my father and I went to Harajuku. It was definitely a site to see. It was a very crowded environment. There were people everywhere you looked. Most people in this fun environment were teenagers who care about Japanese fashion and trends. Harajuku is where most Tokyo teenagers “hangout” on the weekends with their friends. Thankfully we arrived on a Sunday because that is the day that is the busiest. Streets around Harajuku were just filled with teenagers dressed in their culture with a lot going on in the Harajuku streets. It was so interesting and fun to see. Japanese girls were dressed up as “Gothic Lolita” which is their true Japanese teen fashion. Music is also a very big deal in the Harajuku district. Fun and unique Japanese tunes playing from different stores all around the street. They listen to “Rock ability” music and dance with their friends outside. One of the best parts of Harajuku was the crepes. It is known for their delicious treats. One of the most interesting parts of Harajuku was that most of the restaurants are American. They have sandwich shops, burger joints, and breakfast restaurants. That was very nice for me because I do not necessarily care for Japanese food. I am a very picky eater which might be difficult on this trip. My goal is to be more open about trying foods. After harajuku we went straight to Shibuya. Shibuya is very similar to Harajuku. It is another eating and shopping district in Tokyo. It is basically the “Times Square” of Tokyo. I am sure most people have seen Shibuya on the television. It has all of the lights and the big screen just like Times Square in New York City. It was very interesting and fun to people watches in this area.

When I arrived in Japan with Semester at Sea, it was so interesting to see it in different eyes with different people. I went to Harajuku and Shibuya with a field lab. It was fun and very interesting to see these places with other students and see what they thought about Tokyo. I could tell that they really enjoyed Harajuku and seeing the fun teen culture just as much as I did. Even though I missed being in Japan with my father, it was fun experiencing it with students my own age. Something I noticed even more this time around in Japan is that cuteness is a big chacteristic of Japanese culture. For example, hello kitty is a big deal. This is a child like projection. I noticed that grown women dress up in child like ways in Harajuku. But this time around I thought about it in different ways. For example, I noticed with a different perspective that their culture is very unique and different from ours in The United States. I believe this is unique and was quite fun to see and admire with my fellow classmates. I also learned that Japan exports popular culture around the world and that they are very good at imitation. I noticed this with cars, style and many other ways. They take pride in this and do not see it as plagiarism. The last time I was there I did not think about their culture in ways like imitation. Something that is not an imitation and is from Japan is their animation and cartoons. When we were in Tokyo we went to the Anime Museum. It was very interesting to learn about their types of animations. Something interesting I learned is that even though anime is very popular in Japan, it is not popular enough to emerge and become as popular everywhere around the world. That is what makes it so special for Japan and their culture. It is so interesting to me how things are important to some cultures and not to others. This is only one example out of many.

After Tokyo, my best friend Melanie and I went to Hiroshima. While we were in Hiroshima, we went to a variety of sites. When we arrived in Hiroshima we were ready to learn all about the devastating history. I have never been to Hiroshima before so I was really looking forward to our time there. It was interesting to learn all about the world’s first atomic bomb attack. The A-Bomb Dome was much smaller than I was anticipating. For some reason I was expecting it to be a lot bigger than it was. I was also not expecting the city to be as modern as it was. Even though it is modernized now, that does not change the fact that the bombing is an important factor of the city and that it happened. I could not believe it when I was told that this explosion killed at least 70,000 people and the people whom were still alive were very sick. This meant that around 140,000 people eventually died from this tragedy. I was a little nervous about going to visit Hiroshima because I did not know what to expect from the people in this area. My first instinct was that they would not be very happy with Americans. But actually, everyone was really friendly and wanted us to learn all about the history of this bombing incident. They were not concerned with accusations of blaming. The people in Hiroshima were actually very interested in the American culture and asked us two girls all about our lives in The United States. I really enjoyed talking to locals and hearing about their culture and lives in Hiroshima. We went to the Peace Memorial Park and had a really nice time. I learned that the “Peace Memorial” became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. We also saw the Children’s Peace Monument, Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students, The Peace Bell, The Atomic Bomb Memorial Bound, The Fountain of Prayer and the Gates of Peace. As you can see, we really utilized and enjoyed our time in this historical city.

Last but not least, my favorite part of the whole trip was the Himeji Castle. I had never heard of it before but my father recommended me to go. It was the most beautiful castle I had ever seen and bigger than I could have ever imagined. It was on top of a hill so I could see it from the train station. It took a couple of hours to walk through the whole site. The castle is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site and was actually one of the first in Japan. Himeji castle is the most visited and largest castle in the whole country. My tour guide explained that the castle walls are shaped as fans. I thought that was very interesting and unique. The castle consists of eighty-three buildings and the main castle has six floors. I also learned that the white exterior is supposed to look like a bird taking flight. To say the least, the castle is incredibly beautiful and definitely worth seeing.

I really appreciated my time in Japan. It was amazing to go back for the second time and see it in different perspectives and outlooks now that I am a little older. Japan has the most amazing culture and I really enjoyed seeing some of its modernized ways and compare it to the history. I love the Japanese culture because it is so unique and so different from our ways of living in the United States. The Japanese always have a way of impressing me. From their interesting styles to their hard working attitudes and their exceptionally nice personalities, I think the Japanese really have a wonderful and healthy lifestyle. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have been in Japan two times now.

 

HALONG BAY

This is a natural wonder of the world and a MUST SEE in Vietnam. If you can work this stop into your plans, definitely do!

Travel to Halong Bay: From the Hanoi airport to the town of Halong it is about a 3-hour drive through the countryside and rural villages. Halfway through the ride there is a large complex, which acts as a rest stop for many others, making the same journey to Halong. At the rest stop they sell art, clothing, souvenirs and snacks that are all overpriced, but you will most likely purchase some snacks cause they are unique and interesting looking. The restrooms are clean and they take credit card so no need to spend your dong. This place is made for tourist groups.

After the next hour and a half you will arrive in Halong, which is a cute village on the water with a lot of hotels, seafood restaurants, and small junk boats ready to take people out onto the bay. Junk boats are very rocky, so make sure they supply you with lifejackets.

DO- if possible sleep on one of the small cruise boats that anchor in the middle of the bay. Waking up on the bay is a spectacular experience and you are in an ideal location to access the other attractions of the area.

On these small cruise ships they serve you lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next morning. It is a lot of fresh seafood, so if there are allergies let them know in advanced. Additionally, bring your own bottled water and alcohol if you prefer. Drinks are relatively expensive and you have no other options for staying hydrated. At nighttime, there are many activities to participate in such as, karaoke, cooking demonstrations, and fishing off the decks. There are other boats in the same area, so you do not feel isolated or unsafe on the bay at night.

GO- To the caves. Although tourists are not allowed in many of the caves, there are some that are designed for tourists to walk through. These are well lit, open spaces, with signs and roped off areas to guide you through the large area. The stone within the caves resembles the dementors from Harry Potter and it is amazing that these structures were formed naturally. *Note: If you are claustrophobic you may want to skip the caves.

In addition to the caves, there are also various viewpoints at the tops of the islets in the same area. There points offer beautiful, panoramic views of the bay. You will need to climb hundreds of steep stairs to get to the top for these viewpoints. If you are not physically up to it, do not try. The stairs can become crowded and are extremely narrow to begin with.

Altogether, Halong Bay is an incredible, and mystical, and earns its title as a wonder of the world. You may see photographs of the site, but no photograph can truly capture its magic.

ICELAND

Going to Iceland was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I went for my LAST Spring Break with my BEST FRIEND whom I have traveled with before. Yes, plane tickets are affordable. No, it is not affordable when you get there. A hamburger is about thirty dollars in your average restaurant in Iceland. Along with this, alcoholic beverages are incredibly expensive as well: around twenty dollars. Everything is beyond expensive because it all has to be imported because it is an Island. But that is okay if you are there for the experience altogether. We ate ramen noodles and hazelnut sandwiches basically the whole entire trip. Anyways, exploring the Island was incredible. We were there for nine whole days and did not once get bored. Yes, it was cold. That is why preparation and packing is crucial.

PACKING ADVICE:
A good jacket: most important

Good footwear: boots

Jacket

Fleece-lined leggings

Normal leggings

Thin shirts

Thermal shirts

Sweaters

Swim Suit: many hot springs to explore

Flip Flops/Sandals: to get in and out of the pools

Towel

All in all: a variety of different clothing is the best way to go in order to have options! The weather changes hourly in Iceland!

Everyone asked us the whole entire time why us two “sorority girls” chose Iceland for Spring Break. Our response was because we wanted an entirely different experience than everyone else going to places like Mexico or Vegas. Well, that is exactly what we got and I could not have asked for anything more.

Semester at Sea continuing on in this blog… sorry not sorry. SHIP ADVICE

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SHIP ADVICE:

  • first off, you actually wont have any internet on the boat. But thats okay because you will have seamail (email) which is how you can contact home and post your blogs and reach your friends on the ship. but it’s slow….
  • Terms you got to know
  • ON SHIP TIME and DOCK TIME you must understand!!!
    • on ship time is the time that you have to be checked in // swiped

in and back on the boat!!! you have to make this time or else you get DOCK TIME which is where you have to stay on the boat for a certain amount of time in the next port after everyone has left and it’s terrible.

  • try and get back to the boat wayyyyyyyyyyy ahead of on ship time,

give yourself a LOT of time

  • drunk tank is a thing… dont come back to the boat drunk or they will put you in

a room and you will get in trouble — it’s not worth it at all!!! pay the extra for a hotel !!

  • if you get caught coming back drunk multiple times you will fail

and they will contact your home school

  • seamail – the email on the boat and the way you contact everyone
  • pub night- special nights when you can actually have 3 drinks and kinda get buzzed. Expensive, but fun at first to meet everyone
  • fancy dining­– nice sit down meals you pay for and can rent the room out. So worth it! Do it for birthdays, to celebrate if someone gets a job//internship and the end of the semester
  • you can order special deserts like cake and cookies
  • netflix is not an option… so bring your favorite movies on a hard drive
    • you will trade movies and end up with hundreds by the end so dont freak if you dont have very many to start— just bring your favorite
  • bring an external hard drive and back up everything. everything. always back up… seriously
  • keep your laptop on something soft like a blanket or pillow at night — vibrations of the boat can ruin your computer– and never on your bed side table cause the rocking of the boat will knock it right off
  • bring all of your toiletries for 4 months!! (bobbi brown doest exist in india… bring enough makeup and sunscreen and shampoo and tampons for 4 months!! theres a store on the boat but bring your favorite brands because the store is super expensive and very limited)
    • speaking of the store, if you love a shirt in the beginning of the voyage or a pillow or something BUY it, once things are sold out, they are sold out and they won’t get more
  • bring your favorite food!!! trail mix, quest bars, and granola bars are lifesavers!!! the food sucks (sorry but it really does) so bring your favorite snacks and meal replacements. plus when in country having handy granola bars can save you on a 7 hour bus ride
  • be prepared to gain some weight…. it’s ok… everyone does. try and avoid the peanut butter til the end of the voyage though….
  • being disconnected from ALL social media outlets while on the ship is amazing… take advantage of it, embrace it!!!
  • bring a journal!!!! and always write!!!!!!! I LOVED WRITING ALL OF MY EXPERIENCES
  • befriend the crew — they are amazing!!!
    • bring money to tip them!
  • have lunch/dinner/breakfast with your professors, build relationships! they are incredible resources.
    • there are no other times in your life when you can live with your professors and access thema t all times! it’s amazing
  • actually go to class. you live on a ship with all your professors, theres no where to go except to class so do it– if not they will call you and embarrass you
  • join a ship family!!! (it’s where you are paired with a faculty and thier family or a life long learner (older people who just do semester at sea because they can) and have weekly dinners and it’s awesome)
  • participate in sea olympics!! and embrace your “sea” — which youll find out about day 1
  • you will be the tannest you will ever be in your life– but wear sunscreen cause the rays reflecting off the ocean and near the equator are brutal and being sunburnt is not fun when you basically live outside.
  • watch the sunrise and sunset as often as you can
  • dont send clothes you LOVE to the laundry…. they will get ruined. I NEVER sent my clothes through the laundry. Only hand washed them. Cheaper and safer.
    • But if you end up getting your laundry done, STUFF the bag and dont do laundry all the time, its expensive
    • everyone does laundy the day you get back on the boat so maybe do it another day just in case you don’t get your clothes back in time for the next port!
  • if you are weird//picky about your pillows bring one from home
  • bring a map for everyone to sign at the end!!!
  • bring like 3 copies of your passport
  • it takes a couple weeks to get your “sea legs” so sea sickness is inevitable for some people (I never got sea sick)
  • you will have a lot of time in between ports by yourself!!! bring books and journals and movies and embrace the time alone!! it’s so valuable to reflect and discover yourself
  • bring a deck of cards if you like to play games, my friends did but I hate games lol
  • if you bring cards against humanities you will be the most popular human on the boat
  • bring instant coffee if you are picky about coffee (the coffee is gross and coffee becomes a necessity)
  • a gopro is amazing.. learn to use one before though if you get one because so many kids bought them and had no idea how to use them and they went to waste
    • get a floaty device for it
  • bring a camera!! not necessarily a huge nice one but a cheap digital one that you wouldn’t die if you lost…
  • actually attend the special lectures and talks when they are held!!! so many amazing professors come on the ship and you wont be able to take classes from all of them so this is a good way to hear what they have to say!!!
  • bar nights are fun but dont spend all your ship money on them!!! (when they let you have 3 drinks).

 

And yet again, I am talking about Semester at Sea. PACKING ADVICE.

Semester at Sea:  If you are going on a voyage, get excited for the best 4 months of your life, seriously. Heres some packing/ship advice:

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The first photo was me when I was young going to my grandparents house. The second was me leaving for Semester at Sea!

PACKING ADVICE

  • get a good back packing backpack!!!!!! preferably one that you dont have to only open from the top (one with a zipper all the way down the front) because getting in and out of that is a pain
    • maybe a small duffle
  • money belt!!!!! (the one that goes around your waist and under your shirt and that holds your passport and money so you feel safe and dont lose anything in country)
  • external hard drive
  • extra memory cards
  • bring magnets for the wall
  • don’t forget school supplies… like pens and notebooks (you can purchase on ship if you don’t wanna hassle them on).
    • order your school books ahead of time, keep in mind they take space in your bags!!!!
  • outlet adapter (the one with every country!!!! -you can buy one of the on the ship but kinda expensive)
  • get money for each country ahead of time
    • this saves time racing to an ATM and can get you in a taxi right off the boat and into the city
    • dont get too much of each currency but having a little is VERY helpful. i think i got around 50 USD worth of the currency in countries we were there long for and 20 // 10 USD for like singapore and mauritius that we were only there for a little!!
    • you will need to order the currencies from your bank ahead of time so do it asap
  • bring ALL toiletries you may need for 4 months!!!!!
    • your shampoos, lotions, makeup, sunscreen, bug spray,
  • bring basic medicine like pepto, tums, advil, sea sickness pills, emergen – c, day quil, ny quil
    • theres a med center on the boat but it’s nice to have your own stuff!!! but there are plenty of sea sickness pills on the ship
    • also you are going to get sick from all the foreign foods so TUMS is amazing and the meds your doc gives you for travelers diahhera should ONLY be taken if it’s REALLY BAD!!!!!
  • pack 2 duffle bags
    • 1 with all your clothes
      • comfortable walking shoe that you can wear in warm countries
      • tennis shoes
      • maybe one nice pair or sandals//boots to go out in
      • (but not nice cause you can buy knock offs in china and vietnam!)
      • dont bring hair tools (like blow dryers or curling iron) they wont be allowed on the boat. But if you want a hair straightener (make sure it is the kind that shuts of itself, that is the only kind they allow on the ship).
      • LOOSE FLOWY t-shirts (most countries you need to cover your shoulders but you dont want to burn up) so those brandy shirts are perfect
        • basic colors that you wont get sick of
      • flowy pants//skirts if you have some (if not you can buy 9393937 pairs once you get to vietnam)
      • SWIMSUITS- that’s what I lived in on the ship lol
      • flowy dresses for coverups
      • some going out clothes (you will go out in China and Japan and S Africa for sure) and some cute clothes – but not too many!!
      • only a couple sweatshirts
      • boots that you dont care too much about to wear in cold countries and could ditch if you run out of room to pack
      • winter jacket you can ditch after China
      • good leggings you can wear all the time and wont get stretched out (lulus) Lulu everything (that’s what I did anyways)
      • dont bring any clothes you love!!! you will just end up ruining them (maybe)- Bring travel detergent bc I washed all my clothes in the sink.
      • baseball hat (showers are not that great in most countries)
      • travel sized bottles to put toiletries in
      • organizer bags for clothes
      • best, most comfy pair of jeans!!
      • dont over pack the winter clothes!!!! you wont need them after Japan and China!
        • rewearing clothes is okay and embraced!!!! so pack light it’s so tempting to overpack but dont!!!!! THIS IS A MUST.
      • a nice dress for the alumni ball (or you can get some fun custom something from india or Vietnam- I didn’t do that) I just brought a cheap cute long dress from H&M and left it on the ship.
      • travel purse big enough to hold your cameras and phone and money in port- don’t carry it around in every port- only the safe ones
        • they have purses made specifically for traveling that have wire in them so they cant get cut and locks – might be a good idea.
  • 2nd duffle with all your snacks and toiletries ***this one will later be filled with souvenirs (so many souvenirs like so many) at the end of the trip
    • bring bug spray !!!!!
    • bring your favorite snacks
    • bring granola bars — they save you when dinner is potatoes and pasta for the 2973937th night
    • bring enough makeup
    • sunscreen!!!!
    • bring your favorite books (or a kindle packed full of books)
  • things youll buy in country so dont pack too much or worry if you dont have:
    • flowy pants, knock off ray bans, scarves etc.