5 Days in Vietnam

Hey everyone!

I had been looking forward to going to Vietnam for a very long time. When I travelled through South East Asia in 2015 it was the next stop on my list but unfortunately I was too poor to extend my travels (as traveling as a 19 year old goes).   We were there for 5 days and once the ship was docked, everyone went off on their adventures.



One of the first things I noticed was that the Vietnamese LOVE their coffee! There had to be about 8 coffee shops on every block and the coffee sure is strong. Traditional Vietnamese coffee is quite thick or there is drip coffee, then you some condensed milk is added for a little sweetness. I don’t think I have ever been so caffeinated before, I thought I was wired after one cup.

A couple friends and I spent some time in the backpacker’s district which is full of restaurants and bars, all quiet during the day but lively and full of people as soon as the sun starts to go down. Street entertainers and food carts line the streets making it a fun environment to spend the evening.


The traffic in Vietnam is crazy and can best be described as a swarm of cars and motorbikes that don’t stop for anything but go around any obstacle in their path. As a bit of advice before getting into port some of the students from Vietnam told us “the only way to cross the street is to say a prayer and walk straight until you make it to the other side,” and this truly is the best way to do it. You can’t run, change pace or stop but just have to hope that the cars will all move around you. There were so many times where I would cross the street and then laugh once I made it to the curb on the other side because I was surprised to still be alive.


The first day, some friends and I booked a tour of the tunnels. We took a two and half hour bus ride out of the city to where the museum was. There wasn’t much else around the area besides rice patties and some farms. The tunnels were used during the “Vietnamese War” (I am using quotations around this because the USA calls it the Vietnam War, while the Vietnamese call it the American War) for the Vietnamese people to escape, travel between countries, and on occasion live for short periods of time. We walked through the forest until we came upon a small space covered with leaves. He asked us to all gather round, and then he brushed some leaves away to reveal a secret door to the tunnels. I would never have seen the opening if our guide hadn’t pointed it out. When he opened the door he jumped into the very small, wooden frame in the ground, covered the door with leaves, and then lowered it over his head. Once again, we couldn’t see the secret door. We took turns looking inside the tunnel, and it was amazing how small the hole was; it couldn’t have been wider than my shoulders. Later in the tour we went through a tunnel that they had widened for tourists to go through; even hunched over, my shoulders and back were rubbing against the sides. I cannot imagine having to go through such a confined space like that to survive, and yet it was what saved many lives during a time of extraordinary violence. I learned a lot about what soldiers and civilians had to do to survive, and some of the tricks that Vietnamese soldiers used to protect themselves or mislead American soldiers.


There are a lot of museums around Ho Chi Minh city. We went to the history museum which was filled with different artifacts about the history of humans in Indochina. We learned  how the trade affected those living in and around Vietnam starting in the mid-1800’s. We watched a water puppet show (our reason for going to the museum) which is a tradition in Vietnam as well as several other Asian cultures. The stage is set in a pond with a bamboo curtain across it. The puppets are attached to sticks while the puppeteers remain behind the curtain. The puppets used to be a way to entertain royalty but have since been used to spread tradition, stories, and tales. My music professor recommended it and if you are ever in Asia I would suggest it too. It was a very exciting and entertaining show that told the story of daily life in Vietnam.


This is the first generation in Vietnam to be without war in over 500 years which is hard to believe but you can see evidence of this nearly everywhere you go. I toured the Independence Palace where the president lived in when the tanks knocked down the front doors, and visited the War Remnants Museum. The Remnants Museum was 4 stories tall and displayed pictures of the horrors that occurred during the Vietnam War as well as artifacts. I was happy that I went but it was unbelievable to see pictures of things that (at the time) were a part of every day life for those living through the war. I was most taken aback by a room dedicated to all the people affected by the chemical bombs that the American’s dropped. At the time, chemical warfare was illegal, however the American’s were using chemicals such as Agent Orange. Millions of people were effected by the herbicidal chemical, and walking through the streets of Vietnam, you can see the lasting effects today. It was a very saddening tour, and I cannot imagine what the Vietnamese people went through.



A friend and I registered in a Semester at Sea program called “As the City Wakes” where we started off the day by doing Tai Chi in the park with the community elders. There are many green spaces and work out parks throughout the city that are filled with people every morning either participating in a group workout activity or getting active themselves. 6 elders led our class and they taught us how to breath and move energy throughout our body during a morning workout. It was a great way to start the morning, wake up, and get moving. After the class we enjoyed a walk through the largest park in Ho Chi Minh city and got to see what morning life looks like for many locals.

After, we had Pho for breakfast and walked through a local community to see more of Vietnamese daily life. Grocery shopping is done at markets where stalls are set up on the ground to display the variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and sea food. People purchase groceries for their meals daily so everything is fresh. We walked for so long that even our tour guide got lost and had to ask for directions. I really enjoyed getting to see how most people in the city live.


Deltas are large rivers that carry water and sediment to the ocean, and are home to a wide variety of life. The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is home to millions of people.  We saw floating villages and markets; there are also many shops around the outskirts of the river. Unfortunately, due to the expansion of roadways and travel becoming easier throughout Vietnam, the floating villages and markets along the Delta are expected to die out. We had the chance to visit one of the shops where they make products such as rice-pop, coconut toffee, snake alcohol, rice paper, other snacks, paintings, cards, fans, chop sticks, and all sorts of knick-knacks.

We stayed in a beautiful eco lodge along the river where we had lots of time to relax. Our group also participated in a cooking class where we learned to make spring rolls, won tons, and sweet-and-sour chicken. In the morning we went on a bike ride through the surrounding villages and stopped at a few shops along the way to see how they make other products. It was such a beautiful environment.

I hope to spend a few weeks in the future backpacking through Vietnam. It is such a large country that I know there is so much more to see. I look forward to going back.


Thanks for following my adventures,

Amanda Abroad


Exploring Myanmar

Hello everyone,

I know it has been a long time since I posted a blog and I would like everyone to know that I didn’t forget about it, nor did I get left in a foreign country; I did have to take a break from writing because the last half of the semester was crazy busy. I am now home on solid ground and have some more time (and better internet) to write and post. I’ll be writing about each country I visited as well as some extra posts but I’ll be doing it from home. So without further ado you can now read about my time in Myanmar, which feels like forever ago even though it was only a couple months ago.

I would like to start by talking about the Rohingyas crisis that is currently affecting Myanmar. There seemed to be a lot of concern from a lot of the shipboard community about visiting the country and I would like to provide a little backstory. For those of you who might not know, the Rohingyas are an ethnic group in South West Myanmar who have been rendered stateless people and stripped of their citizenship. Since 1951 the group has progressively been under greater pressure to evacuate the country; thousands of people have fled seeking refugee in neighbouring countries and North America, however neighbouring countries don’t recognize them as citizens either, thousands have been brutally tortured, raped and killed. The situation has been described by some as a genocide although the government doesn’t describe it as so.

The crimes being committed against the Rohingyas are horrific and unethical. There were many students who thought that the ship might not even stop in port and instead divert somewhere else due to the violence within the country. However, I want to share my experience in the country with you. My experience was positive, eye opening, and beautiful. It is important to remember that there is much more to a country than the terrible things that are occurring, or have occurred. It is important for people to hear the positive about what a nation has to offer in order for change to occur from within.


I went on a field program with SAS called “Buddhism: Cornerstone to Burmese life” where we went to a monastery and spent the morning with a Monk. After arriving at the monastery, we began with a Q&A session about Buddhism and what the life of a monk looks like. Buddhism is a philosophy that started in India and is now practiced by nearly 90% of the people in Burma. As we came up the Yangon River every town had at least one gold Pagoda which is a place of worship for Buddhist people. The monk that we visited with told us about the daily life of monks and what it means to be Buddhist. They live towards a better life and are always striving to become a better person; Buddhist people believe that you are supposed to live without excessive emotion; you are not supposed to experience deep anger or sadness, or joy or happiness.  (…just supposed to be…)

After our Q&A session with the monk we practiced meditation for 20 minutes focusing on how our breath felt as it passed the tip of our nose. I have never been good at meditating because it is so easy for my mind to wander but that 20 minutes flew by and I found it so easy to let go of anything that was occupying my mind, allowing me to just be. We then had some tea and snacks before touring the school. There are different grades for the different ages of students who come to learn about Buddhism, both girls and boys can attend, and it is not mandatory for children to attend.


We had the opportunity to spend some time giving donations to the monks who are studying at the monastery; each got some rice, a snack bar, and a bar of soap. There are about 100 monks who study and were aged 18 to mid-40’s, all dressed in long brown robes. They all dress the same because they don’t want to place value into material items and instead focus their attention on meditating.


I was very surprised by how developed the city of Yangon was, filled with skyscrapers and busy streets. The ship had to dock about an hour and a half outside of the city so there were shuttles to take us into downtown. The drive took us through smaller towns on the outskirts of the city filled with motorbikes on the streets and many small shops on the side of the road. The closer we got to the city of Yangon there were more sky scrapers and less motorcycles (motorcyclists are not allowed to drive in the city to help prevent accidents and clear up some of the traffic). We were dropped off at the central train station and off we went.

A couple friends and I ended up hiring a driver to tour us around for the day and take us to all of the important sights around the city. We got to see most of the downtown area, the colonial buildings that still stand from when the British ruled, as well as many temples and Pagoda’s.

The Karaweik Temple looks like a boat floating on the pond. From a distance, the large golden birds appear as if they are carrying the pagoda on their backs. The temple was absolutely stunning, with a great view of the surrounding park and city. There is a nice walking path that goes all around the pond; there were lots of people out for a walk or playing football (soccer) in the parking lot.

The Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple holds a giant statue of the sleeping Buddha which was unfortunately under restoration so we weren’t able to see all of it. Every 5 years they clean and repaint the statue so we were just unlucky with our timing. There was also a monk who got my attention and wanted to visit for a little bit, so I was able to talk with him about the temple and about the city itself. He wanted to practice his English with us for a bit. Many tourists stopped to say a prayer before continuing on for the day.


Just as the sun started setting our driver raced us over to the Shwedagon Pagoda. It was also under construction, but the atmosphere was the most memorable aspect of the visit. It was so magical to be there while people swarmed as the sun set. As the sky changed colour, so did the Pagoda. The pagoda built over 2,600 years ago and over time it has been built up, now standing at 326 feet tall. When walking around a pagoda (as with most religious sites) you walk clockwise, keeping your right hand closest to the structure. There were small groups of people praying together as well as some families teaching their children to pray. There was a line of candles that went around the pagoda for people to light for their ancestors, and others were laying flowers as a sign of respect. It was a very peaceful place and we walked around it in awe of the beauty of our surroundings.



There was one day that I had no plans so I decided to go and explore China town. I don’t even know if I made it all the way to or through China Town but I stumbled upon a crazy local market. It stared off in a warehouse with fabric stalls stacked 12 feet tall with every fabric colour, pattern, and material you can imagine. The isles were hardly larger than shoulder width and we were the only tourists in sight. Once we found our way out of the maze of cloth and back out to the street we realized that each road sold different items; one sold fruit and vegetables, one sold electronics, one sold freshly cooked foods, one sold mechanical tools and parts. China Town in Yangon was unlike any other China Town I had been to before but I also felt like I was getting a local experience.



There is a popular tourist market in the city called Scott’s Market that has anything you could want from food and drinks, to jewellery and clothing. It’s in a large colonial building with cobblestone streets inside. Some friends and I spent hours walking through the streets (only getting lost a couple times) absorbing as much of our surrounds as we could. There were many art galleries and I purchased a few paintings.

After the market we wandered through the city to find a small spa to get a massage done; I ended up getting a massage 2 days in a row. I started off with a traditional massage where I was stretched, bent, and twisted in every way possible. At one point I was face down and the woman was standing on the back of my legs with my feet wrapped around her knees, and she pulled back on my arms until I thought I was going to break in half. Things were cracking that I didn’t know could crack. When I went back the second day I got an oil massage which was much more relaxing. One of my favourite things to do when travelling in Asia was to get as many massages as I could.


My Financial Markets and Institutions class spent a day touring a small business and a bank in Myanmar. The first company we visited was Phandeeyar which is a company who is working to help tech start-up company’s get on their feet. So far, they have helped 11 companies get on their feet by providing funding and office space, with 6 more to start. Over the last four years there has been a massive boost in access to technology (specifically phones) in Myanmar and Phandeeyar is taking advantage to help create responsible users; and the program works because it is specific to the country, instead of trying to implement the plan from a developed nation. The office space that they used and provided to the start-ups was large with an open concept and lots of different colours. I was impressed with the optimism that the CEO has for the future of the country and his passion for committing to improving the responsibility to tech companies as well as consumers.

After lunch we had a meeting with the Corporate Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Performance Officer (CPO), and Chief Digital Officer (CDO) from one of the largest banks in Myanmar, Yoma Bank. All of the men were from developed nations and to say the least they were shocked at how the financial system functions in the country. I found our meeting with all the men very interesting and quite shocking actually. In 2003 Myanmar had a banking crisis, then until 2014 banks were only allowed to function as money transfers; for 11 years banks could only accept money to send family members in other parts of the country. This is completely opposite of how banks function around North America. There was no chequing or credit accounts, no debit or credit cards, and there was no possibility of investing funds into stocks or bonds. Without these functions there was no possibility for the financial system to grow. Since 2014 though, the government has allowed for the banks to do more than just money transfers; people can now put their money into a bank account, there are chequing and savings accounts, and there are now a few options for stocks. Although there has been a large growth over the past four years, there is still a lot of improvement and growth that has to occur in order for it to become a functioning and efficient financial system. Only 10% of people in Myanmar are estimated to be depositing money into banks because of the high inflation which is so high that people are losing money by depositing their money; people feel more comfortable spending money on gold and jewels to wear or hide in their walls. A factor in this that the government controls the central banks so they are unable to monitor interest rates. The bank is working towards creating a more efficient system that is available to everyone in Myanmar; this is being done by using the increase in technology to their advantage, and creating a cashless system. Although some are optimistic about the future of the financial system, until the government separates from the Central Bank and loosens up the regulations there isn’t much room for banks to develop.

Overall Myanmar was a fantastic port with a lot to offer. I learnt more about the country than I was expecting and would be happy to go and visit again. Hopefully one day I can go back to go ballooning in Bagan to watch the sun rise over the pagodas.

The next post is coming soon!


Thanks for following along,

Amanda Abroad



6 Days in India

Hello everyone!

I have been told before that “India offends all your senses”, and I can say that I know exactly what they mean. The colours, the people, the smells, the sounds; all so overwhelming. Everything hits you at once.

Just a heads up, this is going to be a long post, but I experienced so much in just a few days. I will try to keep it short and to the point, but there are some things that I think are important to expand on.


My first day in India was spent on my field class for Abnormal Psychology. All I was told in advance was that we would be seeing two mental health facilities. I didn’t know what we would see, what they would be like, how they were run, what sort of/if we would be seeing any patients.

The two places we visited were very similar in how they were run, and it was a great opportunity to talk to the head psychologists and psychiatrists at the facilities about mental health in India.

The first place we visited was the Kusumagiri Mental Health Centre. As we were taken to the hall to have an information session, we walked through the inpatient ward; there were men sleeping in their beds and relaxing in the common area. There was an information session about when and how the facility started, how it is organized, and what the staff members do. It is a non-profit organization that started in 1971. Since then the facility has greatly expanded and helped many people.

The second facility we toured was called Lourdes Institute of Behavioural Science, functioning out of Lourdes Hospital. They do very similar work as the Kusumagiri Centre. They both rely on a team of doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists to diagnose and treat a patient. It is a team effort to ensure that every patient receives the proper care.

We also had an opportunity to connect with the students in the special education program at the Kusumagiri Centre who are all autistic. You could immediately see how excited they were to have us visiting for a couple hours. A few of the students performed for us; one sang, one danced, and one played the keyboard. I am sure that they had been practicing for days, and for them to perform for a large group of strangers who don’t even speak the same language took a lot of courage. It was a testament as to how much the Mental Health Centre  has helped them.

Both facilities are funded by patients and donations; no government funding is given to these organizations. There are some large companies who will donate either to the facility as a whole, or provide funds to specific areas, such as the playground we saw at the Kusumagiri Mental Health Facility that is being build to help children with balance issues. The money for the project was donated by a local construction company who believes in the work that the centre provides and wants to ensure that they can provide proper help to those who need it.

Family is a very important element of Indian culture, and the mental health centres acknowledge it. They understand that when someone has a mental illness, the patient is not the only one who suffers or struggles. The family is also part of the treatment process and the level of their involvement varies according to the need of the patient. This is a very different process than we see in North America where the patient is treated completely separate of the family. There has been evidence that shows when the support system of the family is involved in the treatment process of a patient, there are better results.

Mental illness has a big stigma in India and many people don’t seek help because of being labeled “mentally ill”. Both the Kusumagiri Mental Health Centre and the Lourdes Hospital are working in the community to change this. They also don’t label themselves as a “Hospital” and instead call themselves a “Centre” or “Behavioural Science Unit”. All of the speakers throughout the day told us that it will take time for the stigma to change throughout India, but by reaching out into the communities and making their presences known.

I was very surprised by the day, and learned a lot about mental health is viewed in India. I am so thankful to the two organizations who invited us into their facilities, and talked with us so openly about how the companies function.


Our plan for the second day was to go and explore Fort Kochi by taking the Ferry. Four friends and I left the ship in the morning and successfully made our way through a crowd of very persistent Tuk Tuk drivers. They were all trying their best to get us to ride with them to our destination but we were adamant that we wanted to take the ferry… spoiler alert, we cracked and were convinced by a Tuk Tuk driver to have him show us around the city for the day.

Sanu (our driver), took us to several temples and churches around Fort Kochi. They were all so different and busy with people going in and out of them to pray. He also took us to lots of local stores to do some shopping. Tuk Tuk drivers get coupons from the owners of stores to bring customers, which explains why he was so insistent on taking us. All the shops that we went to carried similar products; spices, silk, sari’s, carvings, jewlery, statues, and lots of other souvenirs.

I had a good chance to visit with a few of the workers and discuss how the August flood in Kochi had affected them and their families. One of the men named Guru spoke with me about how his family lost everything and how they had to leave their home. I have seen how floods can affect a community, but I think that it is harder for people who have very little to begin with. These families have everything taken away from them and have to rebuild from the foundation. Guru has a daughter attending University in Kochi, so he has to support her along with the rest of his family. The communities lean on each other and rely on the help of the people around them. They are resilient people who are still recovering but manage.

We also took a Back Waters boat tour to see a different side of the city. There were lots of people fishing and we got close to the Chinese Fishing Nets that you can see along all the shore lines. The nets are a popular sight for tourists and all of them are still used by the locals as a means of catching fish. They are lowered into the water to soak and then a weighted pulley system is used to lift them out of the water. It was strange to be taking a boat tour through local fishing spots in the middle of the city with traffic and towers surrounding us.


There were a lot of beautiful tropical birds that my friend Mackenzie (kenziearoundtheworld.com) would have loved to see. She was off on a field program but the whole time I was just imagining how excited she would have been. Her new found love of birds has been sparked by the passion of one of the professors on the ship and her husband, Lindsay and Eric Young. They live in Hawaii, and work at a bird sanctuary to rescue Albatross. This is just one of the amazing examples of how inspirational the professors on SAS are. The ability to spark a passion in their students is very unique and special on SAS.

On the last day in India a couple friends and I went back to Fort Kochi and took the ferry; it cost us 4 rupees ($0.07 CAN) one way, which was a much better deal than when we got a ride from the Tuk Tuk driver. We spent the day wondering around the area, looking at different shops on Princess Street, and watching some men fish using the Chinese fishing nets. We also stumbled upon a great café, Loafers Corner Café, to enjoy some cold drinks and the BEST banana pancakes I have ever had. It was nice to see a different side of Fort Kochi by foot.

“A mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to it’s old dimensions”

– unknown


I registered in the Taj Mahal Express field program through SAS. It was a little more expensive than if I were to plan the trip myself, however the ease of having it all organized for me was well worth it. I would not have been able to organize all of the sight seeing on my own, especially with such limited access to the internet.


We flew out of Kochi at  6:00 in the morning (2:30 wake up call) and landed in Delhi about 2 hours later. The day was packed with sight seeing that started off with a bus tour through New Delhi. There is a huge palace that was built by the English King to stay in for holidays; it has 380 rooms and needed 5,000 people to care for the residence. Once India gained independence the structure remained empty until the Prime Minister decided that he would live in a few rooms as a way of showing the English people that they no longer have power in India.

Humayun’s Tomb was the first stop of the morning; built in 1562 by Humayun’s wife after he died from a fall down the stairs. It preceded the Taj Mahal, and is sometimes call “The Baby Taj”. It is spectacular to see what massive structures are built as a grave. We had a chance to explore the grounds a little bit before heading to Old Delhi.

There is a drastic difference between New Delhi and Old Delhi; I knew immediately when we switched sides of town. New Delhi has a very English influence on everything from the roads to the buildings. Entering into Old Delhi, there are thousands of people filling the streets in cars, on Tuk Tuks, rikshaws, bikes and by foot. There are food stands everywhere and no one seems to be moving in the same direction. It is complete chaos as an outsider, but there is some sort of order to it considering it is how their everyday lives functions. There were so many questions I had; where do all these people live? Where do they work? How is there enough food brought into the city to feed everyone, and where does it come from?

Delhi is the size of an American state and has a population of roughly 19 million people. As a comparison, all of Canada has a population of about 34 million. Every time I hear this it blows my mind.

In Old Delhi we visited the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib mosque and went on a rikshaw ride through the market. The rikshaw ride was insane! Everyone was stacked on top of each other, literally bumper to bumper. People would walk through the streets and cross wherever because the traffic is so crazy. On a 4 lane road there had to be at least 8 lanes of cars, trucks, bikes, etc. on top of one another. I just sat in awe of the commotion around me. It’s difficult to put into words how incredible it was.


Our last stop of the day was a Sikh temple as the sun was setting. In Sikh religion, they believe that it is your duty as a creation of God to feed your body. There are volunteers of the temple, who work hard to ensure that those who cannot feed themselves don’t starve. We took a tour through their kitchen where we saw them cooking rice and naan. This is done everyday, and can be done because of amazing volunteers and donators. Inside, the temple is nearly all marble and the walls are covered in gold and jewels. As with the rest of Old Delhi, the temple was full of people who came to worship. It was so beautiful to see families going through the temple and watching parents teach their children the proper way to approach a temple, pray, and exit.

It was a very exhausting and busy day so it was nice to go and relax at the hotel after. There was a lot to process.

The next morning we travelled to Agra and toured Agra Fort. The most memorable resident of the fort was Akbar and then his grandson Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb put his father on house arrest because of their opposing political views. Unfortunately we were running low on time so we didn’t get to see the entire fort, however we were able to see the area where Shah Jahan spent his time on house arrest.


Constructed in 1631 AD, the Taj Mahal is a symbol of immense and everlasting love. It took 20,000 people to construct the building that stands 144 feet into the sky. Shah Jahan had the temple built after his third and favourite wife died giving birth to their 13th child. History says that she was his soul mate and that he grieved so deeply after her passing that it drastically aged him. After Shah Jahan was placed on house arrest his vision deteriorated to the point that he couldn’t see across the river well enough to look at the Taj; it has been said that he would stare at the reflection of the Taj through a diamond in the wall of his palace.


I have read and seen many pictures of the Taj Mahal, but similarly to La Sagrada Familia in Spain, no text or picture can do justice to the size of the structure. Walking through the red gates that opens up to the first view of the Taj Mahal is a memory I will always cherish. Even though there was a swarm of people walking through the gate at the same time, I had no concept of anyone around me. There is perfect symmetry of the arch in the gate, and the dome of the Taj.

fullsizeoutput_67b6Awe! The only word that can be used to describe how I felt over the 2 hours spent admiring the Taj Mahal. Utter Awe. We arrived in the late afternoon so the sun was still high in the sky, providing a beautiful blue backdrop the starch white building. As the sun set, the orange light that changed the colour of the sky also dusted the Taj. It was constantly changing as the sun set and consistently became more beautiful.


From a distance, the only details that can be seen are what the shadows provide, but as you move closer you can see the intricate detail that covers the walls. There are quotes from the Quran surrounding the entrance, and detailed carvings in the marble around the arches. Inside is the tomb of the past emperor and his queen laying in their final resting place side by side.

There were hundreds, if not thousands, of Indian people who were there simply to walk inside the tomb. The line completely wrapped around the outside of the Taj before people were able to spend a brief 5 minutes inside observing the tombs. Tourists have a different entrance so we were able to go through a shorter line. The same amount of details continues inside on the white marble. There are lattice windows carved from the marble to allow for natural light to enter from all sides. Exiting the tomb, I walked around the entirety of the structure soaking in as much of it as I could.

I was completely overwhelmed by the sight of the Taj Mahal.


India was a good example of how travel can sometimes make you uncomfortable, but it is important to let that feeling soak in. The only way you can grow is by stepping out of your comfort zone and allowing yourself to be uncomfortable.

We will never be able to spend enough time in a country with SAS, however, it is a nice teaser of each culture. India is a country that I am already excited to return to and see more of.

Thanks for following along,

Amanda Abroad


The Half Way Mark

Hey everyone,

I am very sorry for being so slow at posting! There is never enough time in the day, and school has gotten really busy. I will still post about all of the countries, but they are probably going to be a little bit later than usual. The wifi is also an obstacle. It isn’t as strong as I need to upload pictures, so I am doing the best with what I got. I just wanted to talk a little about the voyage so far and keep you all updated with ship-life.

I have been to 7 countries in 2 months, and I am officially at the half way mark. It makes me sad to think that there is only another 2 months left but it’s been an unbelievable time. Since I have been posting mostly about being in country, I thought it would be a good idea just to give an update about what life on the ship has been like; the ups, the downs, the fun and everything in between.

“Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.”

– Rick Warren


It took about a week for it to sink in that I am living on a ship. I still wake up every morning and pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. It didn’t take long for me to settle in and build close relationships with those around me including other students, professors, staff, faculty and crew members. The ship has quickly become home and everyone on it has become family.


I have been waking up around 7:30ish every morning to make it for breakfast at 8:00. Some mornings are harder to get out of bed than others, especially since we have lost 6 hours since we left Germany, and we still have another 15 hours to lose before the end of the voyage.

Between classes, I spend my time studying, typically on deck 7 at the back of the ship. It’s a little quieter, and there is a breeze for those crazy hot days. When it’s colder or rainy outside, I like to study in the Berlin Restaurant because there are classes going on meaning it’s really quiet. Finding your study spot is important and something that has to be established early on. There aren’t really designated areas with tables to do work on so studying looks a little different than at home.

Meals have still been good (for the most part), but they have just become so repetitive. Every once and a while they might have a taco night or something special. After Mauritius we had a big BBQ cookout on the pool deck and it was a great opportunity to chat about our days. The food doesn’t even have to be amazing, but something new is always spectacular. The one thing that I wish I would have brought with me is a coffee press and some good coffee because ship coffee is no longer cutting it. I have reverted to getting a coffee from the snack bar nearly every sea day now.

After dinner at 7:00 pm (or as we on the ship call it, 19:00) ,there is a lecture held in Kaisersaal either by a professor, life-long learner, or the interport lecturer. The lectures have been about so many different topics including introductions to the places we are visiting, psychology, politics, philosophy, global events, business, economics, and technology. They have been a great way for professors on the ship to give us a glimpses into their own research or interests, as well as help us understand our environment around us, both at sea and in country.


Everyone on the ship has become like one big family. We enjoy each other’s company on the good days and are there for each other on the bad. I know that I will keep in touch with so many people in the future and am excited that I will have a place to stay in many states. I am lucky in that one of my best ship friends is someone from my home city so we won’t have to say goodbye. I am already dreading having to say goodbye to everyone in a few weeks.

The crew members are also a huge part of our family and I am so thankful to every one of them. They work so incredibly hard and always greet you with a smile and a hello. My cleaner Angelito is one of the kindest men on this ship and every morning when I walk out my door I can expect an “Oh good morning Miss Amanda! How are you today?” He always has a big smile on his face and I enjoy our short visits every day. The servers know us well enough to know what we like for our meals and how many cups of coffee we have with breakfast. Linval is one of the servers and walking into Lido restaurant every morning and hearing him singing immediately brightens my day.

When we are in port one of my favourite things to do is visit with locals. In Spain, we were able to spend some time visiting with some local restaurant owners. In Ghana, visiting with the sales people at the market was my favourite part. Everyone was so happy to have us and just visit about where we are from and tell us about their culture. The Ghanaian people are so proud of their country and happy to share it with us. In South Africa, our tour guide on our wine tour had a lot of knowledge and was able to share with me a lot about the water crisis and the history of the local culture. India was wild and crazy, but connecting with people over a simple smile is universal.


I have yet to get home sick ,and I think that is because everyone on the ship has become like my family. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my family and friends (yes Mom and Dad I miss you too!), but there is such a strong connection with all of us on the ship that it makes being so far from home much easier.

After spending a busy day exploring a new port, I get so excited to arrive at the dock and see the ship lit up. It has become my home. When everyone is back on the ship it’s as if we haven’t seen each other for weeks and everyone stays up late trading stories of their adventures and discussing things that affected them. It’s a good chance to get a different perspective on the same thing that you experienced.


Living on the ship for 5-6 days at a times can feel restricting. Constantly being surrounded by people, we are bound to get on each others nerves every so often. Some days are better than others; and there are some people who are dealing with tough things at home. We can see when our friends and professors are having bad days, and sometimes it’s as simple as a smile to turn someone’s day around.

Then there are days that are literally rockier than others, and that’s when I am ever so thankful that I don’t get sea sick (knock on wood). There has been more than one instance where I have walked into the washroom and there is someone throwing up in the toilet, or in the garbage can, or people occupying both. All I can say is make sure that you have plenty of motion sickness medication.


There are always things to do around the ship; and if you go looking for a distraction, you can easily find one. During the day there are people hanging out by the pool or on the back deck. In the evenings, everyone tends to hangout visiting or playing games.

Every so often, a movie is played in the Kino Cinema. Sometimes it is a more educational movie and other times it is a family movie. Everyone brings snacks and a blanket, and we all cozy up to enjoy a movie together. I have gone to see “Lion” and “Babies”, which are both fantastic films that really made me think about what life looks like for other cultures around the world.

As discussed in a previous blog, on one of our study days after leaving Ghana we had Neptune Day. It was a big celebration of us crossing the equator for the first time on our voyage. And coming up, we have Sea Olympics that will be a day-long event where all the Seas will compete against each other in different events. They are fun team bonding days and a good way for us all to put school work aside for a while.

The Astronomy professor has arranged a few night to have the lights on the bow of the ship turned off for a few hours so his class can participate in stargazing. Everyone is welcome to go listen to his talks and enjoy the stars. I love these nights and always layer up (even when it’s still 30 Celsius outside) and bring my blanket to lay down and stare at the sky for a while. I fell asleep one night on the deck. The rocking of the ship was just so peaceful and whenever I look up at the stars I feel like I am at home.


It is easy to get swept away by my classes or planning the next port, and although I am putting a lot of my energy into my classes, it is important to make time for myself. To remind me how amazing it is that I am travelling around the world on a ship while taking university classes. I have been journaling, and although I have fallen quite far behind, I know that it’ll be a great reminder of all the small activities we have done, or of some funny stories. Everything around here happens so fast that leaving Hamburg feels like years ago. Keeping a rough documentation is something that I will always value.

I have also been taking a ton of pictures. No picture every does a setting justice because a picture can capture a sight, but not the entire setting; the sounds, the smells, the commotion or the peacefulness. I will go home and show all my family and friends and happily tell them all of my stories, but no one will be able to fully understand the experience.

Semester at Sea has been a fantastic voyage thus far, and I am excited to see what the next ports have to offer.

If anyone has any questions or things you would like me to write about please feel free to contact me or leave a comment. Next post coming soon I promise!


As always, thanks for following along.

Amanda Abroad


A Day in Mauritius

Hello Everyone,


Semester at Sea stopped in Mauritius for a day. The 2000 km 2 island is located off the coast of Madagascar and has a population of roughly 1.3 million people. Through colonialization, Mauritius has been under rule of the Dutch, English, and French until it gained independence in 1968. Due to the vast differences in cultural influence, the people are very accepting. It is a melting pot of cultures where everyone speaks multiple languages and is accepting of different religions.



Due to the fact that we were only in port for a few hours, we could only get off the ship if we were registered in a field program. I signed up for a Catamaran day (because being out at sea for 6 days made me want to spend more time on a boat); I am always happy when I get to be out on the water. We got on the boat, went looking for dolphins and came across a large pod. We got to watch them play in the waves for about an hour before continuing on with our day. I learned that when you see a pod of dolphins from the surface, you can only see about a third of them, so I am guessing we saw at least a hundred.


We then sailed into one of the bays to anchor, do some snorkeling, and relax for a while. For those of you who know me, you know how much I love to be in the water. As soon as we dropped the anchor I raced to the back of the boat, grabbed some goggles and jumped into the water. The coral and fish were extraordinary, as Mauritius is known to have some of the best snorkeling around the world. We spent a few hours in one spot so I stayed in the water until I pruned and then spent some time relaxing/napping on the boat. The crew prepared a fantastic BBQ for us with chicken, fish, salad, rice, potato salad, corn, and plantains. The next time I go to a BBQ and am asked to bring something to share, I’ll be bringing a bunch of bananas to throw on the grill with a pinch of sugar; I can’t get enough plantains. The entire day was a great and much needed break from studying.



I would like to add in that some of the reefs I saw were bleached. Before going to Mauritius, we had a long discussion on the ship about how to help conserve coral reefs. I am no expert, but studies have shown that sun screens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate are very harmful to coral and marine life. Please check your sun screen before applying it and be sure not to purchase sun screens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Reefs at Risk is a website containing more information about this issue as well as a list of sun screens that are safe for reefs. I would encourage everyone to check it out to ensure that our oceans stay vibrant and healthy. Although we can’t reverse the harm we have previously caused, we can make a difference by changing how we act in the future.

body of water near mountain

Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

SAS Faculty organized a huge BBQ dinner for everyone when we got back on the ship. We all hung out on the pool deck feasting and enjoying each others stories about the day. There was even an ice cream bar! When you are living in a small space for long periods of time, it’s the small things (such as an extravagant BBQ dinner) that make the day that much better.


I wish we were able to spend more time in the country, but there is still so much more to see.

Next stop, India!


As always, thanks for following along,

Amanda Abroad


6 Days in South Africa

Hello again,

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

After 6 days out at sea, we made it to Cape Town. I have dreamt of travelling to South Africa for 5 years; I could barely hold in my excitement as we pulled into port. We arrived a few hours later than expected, but it was nice to enjoy all the sights as we came closer to the land. One of the professors had a “wildlife watch” on the bow of the ship where we observed many birds, seals, fish, and whales. Cape Town is an immense, vibrant city with so much to offer.


As I am sure many of you have heard, Cape Town was in the news around the world with the worry that it would be the first city to run out of water. I was concerned about travelling through the city but soon realized after arriving that there was no need to worry.

Last year around this time, the city of Cape Town’s water reserve was running at an all time low, and the government had to restrict each individual to 50L of water a day. Although this was a mandatory limit, there were still people who were not cutting back on their water use, and the city was concerned about how low the dam level was. They wanted to scare the locals into cutting back on water usage by stating that there was a chance the dam could run to low to leave the taps on at a level of 13.5%; they called this Day-Zero. As soon as national news reporters caught wind of Day-Zero, it was blown out of proportion. There was no real threat that the reserve would run dry, but if individuals were not limiting their water use, they were going to shut off all the water taps and set up water stations around the city, where people would have to go to fill up a pale of water each day, as a means of monitoring the water use.


This was the first time in history that the reserve was this low. Due to the fact that the recent years have been warmer than in the past, their rainy season was very dry last year, and there has been an increase in the population.

Also as a result of the news getting reported around the world, many tourists cancelled their holidays leaving many tour guides and companies with a slower season than years passed.

Now the water levels are more than double what they were last year around this time at about 76%. The city is no longer worried about running out of water, however, it has made the people much more conscious about their water consumption. There are signs graffitied all over the city, on posters and in bathrooms, asking everyone to be aware of how much water they are using and to only use as much as is needed.


The first full day in Cape Town, a couple friends and I booked a wine tour to take us through the wineries around Stellenbosch. We went to 4 different wineries, sampling 23 different wines including some CBC’s, Brandy, and a blend unique to South Africa called a Piontage. It was a perfect way to start our time in the country getting a little tour of the city and surrounding landscape. The landscape around the wineries reminded me of the Okanagan area in British Columbia, very mountainous filled with rows and rows of fruit orchards.


How can you go to Africa and not go on a safari? I signed up through Semester at Sea to participate in a 3 day, 2 night trip to the Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. We all hopped on a bus and enjoyed a 5 hour drive through the country. The landscape looked quite similar to Southern Alberta with the fields of crops and mountains. The only difference was that instead of cows roaming the fields, there were Ostrich.

When we got to the reserve, we were welcomed into a beautiful lodge and fed a fabulous 5 course lunch. The ship food has been pretty good, but it was nice to mix things up. After lunch, we were shown to our rooms. Our room was a luxurious tent with a big bed (heated blankets included), a big soaker tub, and an outdoor shower. Our patio overlooked the valley where we could see some Springbok (South Africa’s national animal) and Wildebeest grazing. It was so peaceful and relaxing, which was a nice break from studying. The Reserve was named after a mountain on the property that has a large rock on the top. During European Colonialization and trade, someone would be posted on top of the hill to keep a look out for incoming ships. If a ship was coming into port they would create a smoke signal so the people in the town below could prepare supplies to stock the ships.

The Reserve also rescues all of its animals, the lions were all rescued from a Big-Game Hunting Park that breads animals to then be hunted by tourists. The elephants were rescued from a circus. There is 1 rhino killed every 8 hours around Africa from poaching. It is important that more reserves like this open around Africa because there are many animal species that are endangered due to poaching and hunting. The animals on the Botlierskop Reserve have free roam of the  4200 ha property, hunting their own food and living as they would in the wild.

Over the next 2 and a half days, we went on 4 game drives around the property, separated into 2 trunks. Our guide was Neil, a South African man who studied biology at the University. He has worked at the Reserve for 13 years and it is easy to see how passionate he is about his work. Any question you had for him about an animal, he had the answer.

It was a lot colder than expected, and I thought I was over packing when I brought my toque but am I ever glad that I had it. On the morning drive it was only 6 degrees Celsius and very foggy, but the cooler weather meant that the animals weren’t hiding in the shade. Not the weather I was expecting in Africa.

Over the few days, I saw all sorts of animals including springbok, impalas, wildebeest, blue cranes, rhinos, giraffes, lions, elephants, and hippos. I could hardly believe that I was in Africa on a Safari but enjoyed every minute. Since we had 3 days of game drives, we were in no rush and took advantage of enjoying each moment watching the animals in their natural habitat. I don’t think I could choose a favourite animal because they were all so amazing! The elephants are such gentle giants; rhinos are very peaceful; giraffes are beautiful and amazing creatures; and the lions were so lazy. On the last morning, a lot of us took part in a horse back safari (the lions were in a different area, don’t worry Baba). It was cool to be one with the animals going through the fields.

In our free time, I got to enjoy some pool time and a canoe ride down the river, as well as some relaxation by the fire. It was a fantastic few days with great company and fabulous guides. For any future Semester at Sea students, I would highly recommend signing up for this field program.


IMG_8751On our last morning in Cape Town, a friend and I set out to hike up table mountain, and the plan was to take the cable car down. We left the ship at 06:00 and almost got blown off the gangway it was so windy. We decided to at least go to the bottom of the mountain and then decide if we wanted to hike up, so we ordered an Uber and off we went. The driver told us that the winds would die down by 09:00, spoiler alert, they did not. As we hiked up the mountain, the winds got stronger and stronger because the gorge we were hiking up funneled the winds directly to us. Closer to the top, we were practically on all-fours climbing up hoping that the winds wouldn’t be so strong at the top. It took us about an hour and twenty minutes to climb up, but it was even windier at the top. I jumped up and got blown 3 feet back it was so strong. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really even enjoy the view because of how cold it was, even wearing 4 layers, a wind breaker, mittens and a toque. We took a couple quick pictures, did a little exploring and then made our way back down because the cable car was closed due to the strong winds.

South Africa was even better than I had anticipated, and I cannot wait to go back again. I immediately felt at home there and hope that it isn’t long until I can return.

Thanks for following along,

Amanda Abroad


Neptune Day

Hi again,

There is a tradition on Semester At Sea to celebrate the first time crossing the equator. It’s called Neptune Day, and represents leaving behing the Pollywog status and becoming an Emerald Shellback. It is meant to give praise to Kind Neptune to help us through the rest of our voyage.

07:00 we were woken up by crew members playing drums, bells and whistles marching up and down the hallways.

08:00 everyone had to report to the pool deck, swimsuits on and sunscreened up.

We had to plea to King Neptune to allow us to cross the equator, and become Emerald Shellbacks (meaning we have crossed the equator once). As we stood there in the rain dancing and singing, the first group of Pollywogs started the rituals:

  1. Get covered in slime
  2. Swim through the pool
  3. Kiss 2 fish (yes real fish!)
  4. Praise King Neptune (Dean Bob) and his Queen (Abby)
  5. Get Knighted
  6. Optional head shaving (I chose to keep my hair)

I have never started a party at 8:00 in the morning before but it was such a fun way to celebrate. When it came time to actually cross into the Southern Hemisphere there was a buoy marking where the equator is, other than nothing but water as far as the eye could see, I have to say that the two hemispheres looked pretty similar. Physically crossing over the equator isn’t something that many people get to do by ship, and I am honored to now be a Emerald Shellback.


Thanks for following along,

Amanda Abroad



Hi Everyone!

If there is one thing that I will remember most from Ghana it will be the people. The beautiful and welcoming people. Wherever you go everyone is saying hello, shaking your hand, and genuinely interested in where you come from. As a traveller I have never felt more welcomed into a country.

We docked the morning of September 27, and as the ship was being tied up a local drumming and dance group welcomed us with music from the docks. Music is integrated into almost all aspects of Ghanaian culture so it was nice to get a taste of what we would be hearing for the next 4 days before even stepping off the ship.



I had my World Music field class on the first day. We went into a small village on the outskirts of the city to learn about music and culture, as well as practice some of our musical skills. Our teacher for the day was Jerry Ei who is a local music instructor who has traveled around the world teaching as well as performing traditional African drumming.


The day started off with a lesson on how drums are made and fixed, and then we moved onto drum lessons. We all sat on the roof top with the rolling hills in the background. Jerry went through the basics before moving onto more difficult rhythms. It was amazing to hear the beating of all the drums fill the air and see everyone with huge grins. As the pace picked up my hands were trying so hard to keep the beat but my left hand was struggling. It is amazing to see how easy the professionals make it look. You can’t help but love African drumming.


We then had a short dance lesson with one of the performers. In Ghanaian culture it is almost impossible to separate music, dance, and drama as they are all integrated into once piece. There is little separation between the performers and audience unlike what we are used to North American culture, so if the music or song moves you it is appropriate for you to join in.

We had a bell lesson and learned a short lullaby later in the day. Jerry was genuinely impressed with how quickly we picked up the rhythms and patterns. At the end of the day we got to watch a performance with drumming, singing and dancing by a local group. It was so special to be a part of such a close nit group of people for a day. The music completely energizes you. There was a woman down the street hanging clothes dancing to the music, and some children playing, dancing and singing along. I don’t think it is possible to watch and African drumming performance without a huge smile.

I think this was probably my favourite part of being in Ghana. Spending the day with the locals, being welcomed into their home with open arms, and learning about such an important part of their culture.



Accra is the Capital City in Ghana housing approximately 2.25 million people. The city is spread out with some office and apartment buildings but mostly made up of smaller townships. There are many structures remaining from the European Colonists that have since been passed down through generations that some families live in today.

The shuttle bus dropped us off downtown in a parking lot and the adventure began. My favourite part of being in a new place is just being able to walk around soaking in my environment.

We made our way to the old market in Accra along the Ocean to do some bargaining. Some other SASers who made it to the market the previous day told us how tough the locals were at bargaining. I was thinking that they had never had to bargain before and didn’t know what they were doing but after 5 minutes in the market I knew what they were talking about. The locals are very persuasive and great sales people. I also have never been to a market where I speak the same language as the owners of the shops which is probably part of what made it more difficult. They were all so nice and happy to have us in their country. Almost everyone who had a stall came up to us and introduced themselves, shook our hand and asked where we were from. Shopping and purchasing an item through bartering is a very social experience and is a fun was to get to know the person selling you the items. We bartered our little butts off that’s for sure.


I registered in a field program through Semester at Sea to take a tour of the Global Mamas office and then take a Batik workshop. For those of you who don’t know about Global Mamas, they are a company based out of Ghana, who empower women in their community to become financially stable and fulfill their dreams. They teach the women how to handle their finances, how to save money, and the basics of running a business. The women start by Batiking or Sewing for Global Mamas and are encouraged to branch out and gain more business for themselves. You can find Global Mamas products in many stores around North America (specifically at Ten Thousand Villages).

The afternoon was spent taking our Batik workshop. Batiking is a way to die cloth, beginning with a white sheet that is then stamped with foam dipped in wax. The fabric is then soaked in a mixture of water, dye, and some chemicals before being hung to dry. Depending on the colour that the fabric is dyed in it might not change to the desired colour until it is oxygenated through drying. Once dry the fabric is then rinsed in hot water to get rid of the wax and hung once more.

At the end of the day it was amazing to look at my piece of cloth and be able to say “I made that”. It takes a lot of skill to be able to produce high quality Batik consistently. I am very thankful to the women at Global Mamas and Marry (the Batik instructor) for taking the time to teach us more about their company and show us how the fabrics are made. I highly recommend finding a shop near you to check out Global Mamas products.


“Look back to the past to help us more forward in the future” – Ghanaian Proverb

The tour that I took of the Cape Coast Castle was the most impactful moment of my trip so far. The castle built in 1653 was used to traffic African men and women during the slave trade. No matter how much you read or hear about the horrors that thousands of people went though, nothing is more powerful than standing where they stood. It was mind boggling to walk through the dungeons where slaves were kept, meanwhile in the room above their heads was a Chapel for the white man living above their heads to pray and hold services.

This is a part of Ghanaian culture that has drastically shaped who they. Our tour guide told us that “we may not be able to make up for our ancestors actions but we can say sorry”. That statement is something that will stick with me.


After lunch we had a walking tour of the Elmina Township where we were able to immerse ourselves in the local fishing village and see how so many people make their living.


Thanks for following along,

Amanda Abroad

Note: for anyone who is looking to contact me amanda.sakundiak.fa18@semesteratsea.org is the email address that I have the easiest access too.


4 Days in Spain

Hi everyone!

2 ports down 9 to go! Spain was nothing like I had expected it to be but  it was so much better.


We arrived in port at 7:00 am in SPAIN! We docked a little early so I missed us pulling into port but was able to make it in time to watch them tie up the ropes. There were a lot of students who were able to make it out of bed and we all watched the sun rise.

Once cleared by customs we flooded off the ship to take our first steps into a new country. A couple friends and I spent the day walking around the city stopping at anything the intrigued us. The day ended up being filled with the sights of Gaudi which was spectacular. We ended with some Sangria and a wonderful meal at a small local restaurant.


The Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter was our first main stop which took my breath away and sent me into a total state of awe. The dark and dramatic lines completely draw you in. It was beautiful to hear the choir singing in the background and to see people coming in to say a prayer.

The next stop on our Gaudi tour was Casa Batllo and Casa Milo, two more beautiful structures. It is amazing to follow the lines of the buildings and see how they twist, bend and expand. They almost seem to have a movement; and it is easy to see that much of Gaudi’s inspiration came from nature and his surroundings based not only on the animals on the buildings but aslo the different textures used.



La Sagrada Familia was the last big stop of the day. Antonio Gaudi designed the church and in 1883 construction began with scheduled completion in 2026. I had done a little bit of research prior to leaving for this trip and had known a little about the structure and building process but turning the corner and seeing the mass that is Sagrada Familia was spectacular. The church stands on an entire city block and reaching tall into the sky. Every inch of the building is covered in detail with all sorts of natural inspiration; from lizards, snails, and sea shells, to the patterns on the pillars like snake skin and fish scales. We spent an hour and a half just walking around the outside taking in as much as we could.

Walking through the entrance of the building your eyes are immediately drawn upward. Gaudi designed the giant pillars to imitate trees, transforming from a hexagon into arms that branch across the ceiling. The stained glass filling all the windows starts dark at the bottom and lightens as it gets higher. There were people from around the world who gathered in the unfinished structure to awe in its beauty. We spent over an hour and a half just in the church and then spent about an hour walking through the museums displaying information about the construction of La Sagrada Familia and Antonio Gaudi. It would be amazing to go back when construction is complete and see the entire building as Gaudi himself wanted it to be.




Day 2 in Barcelona started off with an amazing breakfast (as recommended by a friend) at Brunch & Cake. If you are ever in Barcelona I highly recommend it. I had a laté and an eggs benedict with eggs, a lobster hollandaise sauce, shrimp, rice, black waffles and a side of arugula salad. All of the dishes that came out of the kitchen looked almost too beautiful to eat.

We then spent the day walking through the city with the goal of making it to Park Guell (another of Antonio Gaudi’s works of art). We were unable to get tickets into the main area of the park but there are lots of walking paths through the public area. We ended up on top of the hill with an amazing view overlooking the entire city all the way to the port where we could see the ship (Home).


Barcelona it was a beautiful city filled with many welcoming people. We learned in our global studies before we got to port that many of the local people are unhappy with the tourists and are trying to get them to leave. Although we experienced a few people like that for the most part if you took the time to visit with the locals or ask them about their businesses they were very welcoming.

We walked about 40km in the two days we were there and still didn’t see everything that we had hoped too. Just means that I have a reason to go back some day.


Valencia was a lot more laid back than Barcelona was, both with the amount that we did and the pace of the local people. This port was mostly spent sight-seeing and relaxing. We started at the Arts and Science buildings that were quite unique providing a contrast to the old buildings we had been looking at the past couple days. The modern buildings look like something from a si-fi movie. They have water beds around them that create perfect reflections making them look almost like living creatures.

We then walked through a park named Turia which cuts through the city, it use to be a river bed that flooded the city many times and eventually they decided to reroute it to go around the main city. Instead of turning the dried-up river bed into a road way or buildings they converted it into a beautiful park that was filled with people out for a walk, taking their dog to the park, or out for a bike ride.


Once we got to the opposite side of the city we took our time walking around, past the Cathedral and into the Square where we did a short walk through city hall. We also had the chance to walk through the local market which was filled with all kinds of fresh food from fruits and vegetables, to meat and fish. The difference in cultures was quite obvious as this is where most of the locals get their groceries for the day. The meat stalls had whole rabbits, cow hearts and tongues, and pig skins. There were also a lot of meat stalls that were selling smoked pig and bacon, displaying all the pig legs by hanging them from the ceiling.

Our feet sore and tired we decided it was time for a glass of wine which then turned a bottle and then dinner (I had to get my fill of Spanish wine in Spain. It would be rude not to). We had Paella for our meal which is a local rice dish that can be ordered with different ingredients; ours was a sea food Paella with shrimp, octopus, prawns, and craw fish. It’s a must have in Spain!

We spent the last day on the beach relaxing and getting some reading done for classes, with one more stop at a restaurant for more Tapas.

Spain was a great way to start off our travels and a nice ease into different cultures. Our next stop is Ghana which will be very different than what most of us students are used to but I am looking forward to another country and embracing another culture.


Thanks for following along!

Amanda Abroad


First Week at Sea

Hi everyone!

The past week has been crazy and I have pinched myself every day to make sure that I’m not dreaming. On Sunday, September 9th, 2018, 440 students boarded the MV World Odyssey in Hamburg, Germany to depart on a 106-day journey around the world with Semester at Sea. I wanted to give a quick update about what life at sea has been like so far.



Overwhelming; the word that best describes boarding day. The ship was in port at the Altona Cruise Centre where we all checked in, dropped our bags off, filled out forms, went through security, and then through the Gangway onto the ship.

The voyage that I had planned, researched, and saved for all summer long started at that moment. On the ship I found my room, met my roommate, and unpacked. The rest of that evening and the following day was filled with orientation and safety meetings (because as we have all been reminded many times, “we are living on a ship”). There is a total of 8 Canadian students, 3 of which are from the University of Lethbridge.


As mentioned in my previous blog, over the summer months the ship is used by German Cruise ship company so there are beautiful paintings on the all the walls, beautiful chandeliers and light fixtures in the classroom, nice carpeting, and big comfortable chairs. It’s hard to believe that University students use it for majority of the year. Due to the fact that Semester at Sea turns the ship into a learning voyage from a cruise ship the classrooms are not what you would typically see in Canada with desks and a white board. Instead the movie cinema, restaurants, auditorium, and sun room, are all used as our classrooms, making for a very original learning environment.

There is a salon where we can go to get anything cosmetic done including hair, nails and waxing. And a spa with all of the amenities you can imagine. These all cost extra on top of our tuition but are available to anyone on ship. It is unbelievable to me that this is my school campus for the semester.


The meals have been surprisingly great. I was expecting cafeteria food, but I don’t think I have ever eaten so well. It is all served buffet style; breakfast includes fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, bread, eggs, potatoes, and a meat. Lunch and dinner are pretty similar to each other including a salad station, soup, a cheese platter, a meat platter, sandwich or wrap, choice of meat, fish, potato, rice, and pasta; and with dinner there is also dessert.


It’s been an adjustment trying to communicate with people on board. There is no texting your friends to see where they are or if they want to hang out, so we have been using good old fashion stickie notes.

My friend Mackenzie and I leave little notes on each other’s doors to say where we are going to be studying or what time to meet for a meal. Check out Mackenzie’s Blog, she is also from the University of Lethbridge, and received the Brawn Family Foundation Scholarship.

We all have unlimited access to our school email (seamail) and websites needed for classes, but limited access to wifi. We are all allotted a little bit of wifi each day and then once it runs out you can purchase more if wanted. I am enjoying being disconnected from my social media and not relying on my phone. I’m finding I have much more time in my day.



We started classes on Tuesday, September 11 which was a pretty rocky day (and by rocky, I mean that the ship was literally rocking). Many people were unable to make it to class or had to leave because they got sea sick.

All of the professors are very enthusiastic and passionate about what they are teaching making me look forward to what the rest of the semester has to offer. Going to be challenging but I am ready to take it on.


Being completely surrounded by the ocean is a new experience, nothing but water for miles in every direction. Every day there have been whales and dolphins playing in the distance; a few people have seen sharks, sea turtles, sun fish and flying fish. Trying to study or pay attention in class with so much to look at in the background is going to take some getting used to.

I have been sure to get up early to watch the sun rise every morning, and try to see the sun set every night; my goal is to see as many as I can.


“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” – Wendell Berry

Thanks for following along!

Amanda Abroad