Semester at sea teaches students lifelong lessons

In the spring semester of their junior year, Jim Parker and Sarah Papsun embarked on an unforgettable journey.
They boarded the Universe Explorer with 618 other students from around the world.
Parker, an international business major, and Papsun, a marketing major with a minor in mass communications, are both seniors who spent a semester at sea last spring.
Parker and Papsun are also busy Residential Assistants’s, who are not happy unless they are consumed with work, travel and study.
Parker and Papsun each obtained 15 credits while at sea. The University of Pittsburgh taught all 76 courses offered.
There was an on-board library along with classrooms, a pool, basketball courts, a track and a fitness center.
Parker and Papsun’s semester at sea began in Nassau, Bahamas, on Jan. 21 of this year.
They arrived in Havana, Cuba, on Jan. 23 and remained there for four days.
While in Cuba, Fidel Castro threw a party for the students and talked to them for five hours about various political subjects and listened to what the students had to say. They also went on a cigar factory tour.
Their next destination was Salvador, Brazil, where the students experienced Carnival, what they desribed as the ultimate party.
Parker and Papsun went fishing along the Amazon River, touched crocodiles with their bare hands, ate exquisite papayas and mangos and slept in riverboats and hammocks.
Papsun, who is from the industrialized New York City, said there were huge fines for littering in Brazil, and gum chewing was illegal as well.
While in Singapore, the two Quinnipiac students bought various electronic goods at affordable prices.
In Hong Kong, China, Parker and Papsun took a bus to see the sunrise by the Great Wall of China at 4 a.m.
Both Papsun and Parker said the city of Shanghai, China, was very capitalistic. They said everyone seemed to be an entrepreneur and common American brands like Pepsi and McDonald’s were seen frequently.
The last stop before returning to the U.S. was Osaka, Japan.
The students were able to sleep in a Buddhist monastery one evening and on Mt. Roko another night, making tents out of ponchos and twigs.
Being that very few people in Japan speak English, Papsun and Parker said it was hard to get to the various temples and villages.
Communicating with the Japanese people was done by the use of hand signals and basically guessing which way to turn to reach the proper destination.
The trip ended in Seattle, Wash., after 14 days at sea. Parker and Papsun went their separate ways not to see each other again until their senior year at Quinnipiac.
Although some students choose to use their free time exploring the various countries and trying new things, many of the other students on the boat took different paths.
Some of them constantly volunteered doing community service in each country. Other students choose to use their free time to shop.
“The semester at sea was academically invaluable, but it was culturally priceless,” said Parker.
Although only a minuet portion of Parker’s and Papsun’s trip was academically oriented, they said the life experience and culture awareness that they received was rare.
“Since I have returned home, I have not left the countries I traveled to behind,” said Papsun. “I think of them every second of every day and share my experiences with everyone.”
Visiting so many unique parts of the world and learning about these cultures first hand can be a remarkable experience. Parker and Papsun said they cannot begin to understand how the semester at sea has changed their lives.