SAS F12 Route

A Broad Abroad – Semester at Sea

Rebecca, Maddie, and Milly in the WJCU studio.

Like every Tuesday night, the “twelve to two crew” and I were sitting in the WJCU radio studio getting ready for our weekly show – “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Jackie, one of my co-hosts, had attended a John Carroll study abroad informational session earlier that day. London, Australia, and Ireland were only some of the options mentioned; she paused to remember – “oh yeah, and they talked about this thing on a cruise ship.”

That caught my attention.

The next day, I was glued to my computer screen researching this cruise ship study abroad program. Why settle for one country? With Semester at Sea (SAS), I could visit 14!

And so I worked towards my goal. I applied for the program and all the financial aid that they had to offer; SAS awards over $4 million in scholarships for need and merit grants alone. The program not only stresses the importance of culture, but expands knowledge of cultural differences by requiring a Global Studies class for every participant. In addition to Global Studies, I’m taking Irish Literature and Film, Introductory Astronomy and World Religions.

The MV Explorer

The MV Explorer accommodates over 2,000 students each year. SAS calls it their personal “floating university.” We study while we’re being transported from country to country and, while we’re in port, we have the opportunity to explore by either going on SAS-sponsored trips or finding new things to do on our own.

For the 111th Semester at Sea trip, this is the first time that they are using this particular route.

The Father Matthew Bridge in Dublin, Ireland

Soon enough, I’ll be docking in Tema, Ghana and assisting SAS alumnus deliver toothbrushes to the Freedom Center. In London, I’ll be spending 3 days with Milly, a foreign exchange student that spent a year at John Carroll. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to check out some classic Irish pubs in Dublin and witness the breathtaking landscapes that I saw in a book my mom bought me when I was little. Since we’re allowed to travel from Antwerp, Belgium, I get to see Anna, another foreign exchange student, in Germany. I’m looking forward to making friends and going on crazy adventures together which might include trying some local cuisine like Brazilian churrasco (chicken hearts)…if we don’t get too intimidated.

Aside from planning trips, sending out my passport to get visas for Ghana and Brazil, booking my flights, and buying books, I had to visit the traveler’s clinic to get my yellow fever vaccination.

One of my best friends, Jaclyn, came with me for moral support. I was glad she was there when they handed me a side effects list that included “death,” “severe brain damage,” and “organ failure.” Once my initial freak out had passed, we walked into the consultation room where I received the vaccination. The doctor began playing an informational video while she snuck around to her Wonder Woman lunchbox to get the loaded needle. Having survived that, maybe now I’ll have the courage to cage dive with sharks in South Africa.

For 107 days, I get to be cruising on the coolest campus in the world. As the SAS employees say – the world will be my campus!

*More information can be found at


This is an international program meaning SAS accepts students from around the world! There’s a special Facebook group for every voyage, so I took a look at the colleges everyone attended. In case you’re interested, here are a small portion of the schools that accept Semester at Sea credit:

University of Virginia (Academic Sponsor of Semester at Sea)
John Carroll University
The Ohio State University
Case Western Reserve University
Baldwin Wallace University
Kent State University
St. Mary’s College of California
University of San Diego
University of South Carolina
Stanford University
Southern Methodist University
University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of Colorado
Tufts University
University of New Hampshire
Vanderbilt University
Elon University
Lawrence University
Rollins CollegeCurry College
Western Kentucky University
Bentley University
New York University
Rutgers University
Wheelock College
Loyola University Chicago
Elizabethtown College


Road Trip West: The Grand Canyon (Part 3 of 4)

(Part 3 in a 4 part series)


By Megan Ritchie

The next day, Day 4 for those counting, Chris and I awoke, sore from our wigwam slumber and hit the road once again. It’s at about this time in a road trip, I think we can all agree, when real life starts to feel like a foreign thing, and all you have is a car, a radio, and, inevitably, an interesting collection of empty fast food containers crammed in various recesses throughout the vehicle. Yep, we were feeling the miles.

Thankfully, we were just in time for a detour of grand proportions. Now, when Chris and I were originally planning the trip’s route we were all, “Rockies! Rockies!” and my dad was all, “You’re insane and will kill yourselves/the car!” so, as I mentioned before, we chose the southern route. As a compromise of sorts we decided we would take a detour of about 100 miles, give or take, to see the Grand Canyon because, after living abroad for a year, all I wanted was some good old American splendor. And Chris and I, Midwesterners that we are, had never been to the Grand Canyon. And it’ the Grand Canyon, you guys. 100 miles ain’t nothin’ for something that awesome.

 So, over the river and through the woods, to the Canyon we went. When we arrived and hoisted our creaking bodies out of the car, the sun was blistering hot. Armed with sunscreen, sunglasses and some stylish hats, we made our way into the park office. After a few hasty conversations with people giving us impressively mismatched directions (“Isn’t this one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country? Shouldn’t this be more straightforward?” we asked ourselves), we managed to find our way onto a shuttle that would take us into the Grand Canyon National Park.

The bus ride was rather pleasant, mostly because we weren’t the ones responsible for driving. I kept craning to see the canyon, but it was shy and kept itself hidden from the road the entire time. In fact, it wasn’t until we were dropped off that I got my very first view of the canyon. We scuttled up a trail and spread out in front of us, stretching as far as we could see in both directions, was the Grand Canyon.

It was utterly breathtaking. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is truly one of those places that photographs do no justice. In fact, trying to flatten out something so dimensional, so expansive, so rich in color and shadow and texture, seems borderline insulting. Not that I didn’t try. But after a few pictures, including one on my horrible camera phone for the fans back home (“Hi Mom!”), Chris grew a little antsy and so we headed down the trail.

It seemed the deeper and deeper we got in the canyon, the more beautiful it became. I was snapping pictures left and right, some of the canyon itself, but many of us with the canyon: Chris in an arch, me near the edge, Chris gazing out over the canyon; just call me Annie Leibovitz guys, ‘cause it was a regular Vanity Fair cover shoot.

I clicked on and on and–wait a second: Life was (somehow) continuing on the trail beyond our photo-shoot. In fact, the more we tuned in to our fellow National Park trail enthusiasts, the more we realized that everyone seemed to be from out-of-town. And, while we (obviously) were too, everyone around us seemed to be from a bit farther out-of-town…as in, out-of-country. Nearly everyone on the trail around us were speaking various European languages, and striding purposefully up and down the trail. The Americans, large and in charge, were up above on the shuttle buses, breathing heavily behind their digital cameras, while down here, svelte and workin’ it, Europeans were showing us who was boss. Chris and I decided we were done with the photo-shoot—we needed to pick up the pace…for America! We cruised down the trail a handful of miles to our turn-around point, a sturdy-looking outhouse with a water-pump nearby. It seemed to be a popular spot to stop and find some shade, no matter your country of origin.

After a quick bathroom break and a few swigs of water we looked around, glanced at our watches and decided it was probably time to head back up—we still had over 200 miles to drive before our stop for the night in scenic Needles, CA and the road was calling our names. So, up we went.

The hike down was easy-peasy, but the hike up, well, it. was. hot. Chris quickly ditched his shirt, and I just as quickly regretted having brought my stupid, heavy digital camera along (call me Annie Leibovitz, guys, but only if she comes with a camera caddy who carries all of her equipment for her). Cheeks blazing red, we strode along, and in a competitive push, passed a group of German tourists and an elderly French couple with walking sticks in one sweep, before collapsing in a heap on the side of the trail.

The Europeans quickly re-passed us.

Yet, after a few moments, or perhaps more than a few, we dusted ourselves off, took a final sip of water, and climbed back up.

The trail winded far more than I recalled it doing as we’d walked down, let’s put it that way. Finally, mercifully, at last I began to recognize some arches and vistas from our descending photo-shoot from what seemed like so long before (It had really only been about 90 minutes). We paused a moment to “take in the view” (ahem, for a breather) but were brought out of our reverie by voices behind us. Was that Italian? Without looking back, we quickly scrambled up the rest of the way to the edge of the canyon before enjoying a lazy, air-conditioned shuttle bus ride back to the car.

~ Megan~

Part 1 – Road Trip West

Part 2 – Wigwam Motel

Part 4 – The Wildfire


See also:

In Defense of the Family Road Trip



Run for the Czech Republic. Run for Yourself. Run for Free Beer.

As I stepped off the plane in Prague, Czech Republic my buddy Max tapped my shoulder and pointed to a big billboard in the airport terminal. “RUN FOR THE CZECH REPUBLIC. RUN FOR YOURSELF. RUN FOR FREE BEER” it read in all capital letters. “We have to do that!” Max said with a smile on his face.

The advertisement was for a half marathon only three days away and it conveniently overlapped with our schedule in Prague. Why not? I thought to myself. If Max, a tubby baseball player from New York City feels confident about this, I can definitely run a half marathon. “What do you think that means when it says ‘run for free beer’?” Max asked. I shrugged in equal confusion. Having never run any more than 5-6 miles, I excitedly agreed, unaware of what we were getting ourselves into.

The following morning after leaving our hostel we ventured into downtown Prague and walked into the blow-up tent to register for the race. With the translation help of a kind Czech teenager we were able to sign up for the race smoothly. We left the tent with a t-shirt, a timer to strap around our ankles, and a number to pin onto our shirts. “Nice we’re actually going to do this!” I said to Max enthusiastically. The next two days we continued with our plans as scheduled, which included touring the magnificent cathedrals, walking down old cobbled streets, and eating kurtos kalacs (a wonderfully delicious Czech pastry).  The night before the race, I ate a big plate of pasta fettuccine as instructed by a friend who advised feasting on carbohydrates.

It was a cold morning in Prague when we woke up, so I wore a long-sleeved shirt and shorts for the run. We meandered over to the start of the race after a light breakfast and congregated by the changing room (which was in fact just a large outdoor tent with some drapes over the side). It was before the race had even begun; yet the stench of body odor could have suffocated a small child. I could not believe the smells of so many men could produce something so pungent. The “bathroom” was a line of urinals in broad daylight offering no privacy. We walked across the street passing one of Prague’s most famous landmarks, the Charles Bridge, and waited for the race to begin. A group of five men (based on our stereotypes, we could only assume were Kenyan) jogged in the middle of the street and the dense crowd parted for them just how I imagined Moses’ parting of the Red Sea.

There was an announcement that the race was starting momentarily and that everyone should get ready behind the start line. Max and I nervously looked at each other secretly hoping the other would flake out to give us an excuse not to actually follow through with this crazy idea. Neither of us wanted to bail so we did our stretches out and took off in a jog once the whistle was blown. Max pushed ahead of me within 5 minutes, and it was the last time I saw him for the whole race. Giant balloons were pinned to the jerseys of trained professionals each running at different time intervals for the benefit of the runners.

After the first few miles I started to get thirsty and saw an upcoming table with a plethora of cups, and I decided it was a good time to hydrate myself. As I approached the table, I scanned all of the cups and noticed they were each filled with a dark brown liquid that was foaming at the top. There is no way this is beer. I thought to myself. I took a sip to quench my thirst and sure enough, it was beer. Is this what it meant when the billboard said “RUN FOR FREE BEER?” Do Czechs actually like beer so much that they drink it during a half marathon? I gulped down the cup, laughing to myself as I kept running. Maybe a particular beer company is sponsoring this table? I didn’t have time to reflect for too long so I kept moving, eager for the next table to give a liquid that could actually hydrate me. Another few miles went by and a new table appeared off in the distance. As I got closer I noticed that once again all the cups were filled with the same brown liquid! Eager to drink something, I gulped down another beer. This happened three more times during the race, as each table continued to hand out beer to the runners, despite my constant hopes for a cool cup of H20.

As the race came to a close, amazed by my ability to have kept up with the red balloon runner indicating the 2-hour half marathon, I counted the number of beers I drank. It was five. In two hours, I drank five beers, all in an effort to guzzle any liquid, and truthfully to optimize on the free beer that was advertised so widely (despite that it likely slowed down my race).  When I eventually met up with Max at the end, we avoided the changing room for fear of what monstrous odor would be coming out of it after the race. We made sure to get our free 30-second massages from two chubby middle-aged Czech women who slapped our legs around (one on each leg) and we laughed at the hilarity of the day. I mocked Max for finishing thirty minutes after me, but in truth we felt accomplished for our victories. When we woke up the next morning, unable to bend our legs, go up stairs, or walk long distances, we were no longer laughing at the hilarity of the previous day.  The joke was on us. The real laughter came three days later when we could freely move again, without keeling over in leg pain.


This story was submitted by Eli Zach Terris.  Eli is currently a graduating senior at Brandeis University in Boston.   He tells EY: “Since I love writing stories, running (and coincidentally am in need of new running shoes!)  I decided to give it a go.  It was fun to relive these stories while writing them.”  This Czech Republic Running Story is one of two stories that Eli submitted.  Czech back – oops – we mean check back to see where else Eli has been.


How I Chose My College – Or How It Chose Me

I loved college. I really loved it.  Don’t get me wrong, it never was easy, and there were some tough parts—calculus, two semesters as a sophomore in a freshman dorm, Minnesota weather—but the four years I spent earning a BA were terrific.

I didn’t always think they would be; in fact, for most of high-school I didn’t want to go to college.   

During fall 2003 my senior classmates were feeling the pressure and frantically completing applications. Not me though—I wasn’t in a hurry and besides, I wasn’t sure about this school business. I would’ve rather become a fireman or joined the army, or become a jeweler, things that shouldn’t require much additional class time.

These revelations did not please my father, a teacher, who’d spent the better part of 20 years, and considerable money, ensuring my sisters and I received the best possible education. Nor would this information have thrilled my private high school’s administrators, who prided themselves on a near perfect record of sending graduates to college.

In a latent effort to make him and myself feel better, I applied to a few schools, mostly places I’d heard of nearby. One evening as the application deadline drew close, my dad handed me a brochure embossed with fall leaves—a rarity in evergreen California. The school was called Macalester.

“You’ll like this place,” he said. “They march to the beat of a different drummer.”

I read the brochure silently.

“It’s off the beaten track,” he said.

Not one for mixing metaphors, my dad was clearly excited. In this instance ‘off the beaten track’ meant the Midwest, but his enthusiasm convinced me to include the school in the common application.

By the time acceptances and rejections began arriving, I’d come up with a unique plan; I would join Americorps and go to the East Coast, where I’d be close to my college-bound girlfriend. As a concession, I’d accept and defer admission to one college. If I changed my mind about school, at least I’d kept my options opened.  

A trip to the mailbox revealed a flaw in my designs. Despite an aloof approach I hadn’t expected many rejections, but my applications to most colleges and to Americorps were denied. I did, however, get into a few places, including Macalester, which pleased my dad immensely. And, the more I learned about the school, the more appealing it sounded. A college with a reputation for internationalism sounded nice; I’d never been to Minnesota before, and of course I liked that I got in.

That didn’t mean I was ready for college, and I did defer admission, choosing to travel around Europe for some time. This journey turned out to be its own great and eye-opening experience, and when I came back to the states, I volunteered at a mentoring organization in New York City, living in a Brooklyn YMCA where I played a lot of basketball and read a lot of books in my free time.

Time ran its course, and when I returned home that summer, I was looking forward to school. I’d learned so much from working in an office, travelling through 13 countries, and plotting a path largely by myself, but I’d also realized I wasn’t 100 percent prepared to spend the rest of my life outside a campus. 

From friends who had not taken a “gap year” I’d heard that college was a place where you could live on your own, make mistakes surrounded by people who wanted to help you, and prepare for whatever next step you wanted to take. That sounded really appealing. When fall arrived, I was not simply ready, I was excited to get to school.

I’m always a little embarrassed telling this story, but I’m undeniably grateful that a brochure turned up in my mailbox. Macalester was a great fit for me. Could I have found a better one through careful research and planning? I don’t know. But I do know from subsequent visits to various colleges and conversations with undergraduate friends that America is blessed with lots of great schools. If you are prepared to seek out opportunities, regardless of where you wind up, you’ll find something, and probably many things, to love about college.

I also know that for me, perhaps most importantly, waiting was something I needed to do in order to appreciate the opportunities to come at Macalester. Today I count them among my life’s great experiences.




Life After Graduation

For recent college grads it’s widely believed that finding a job is hard work—economic crisis or not— but the world is vast, and if you’re open to traveling, it’s possible to find your niche in some pretty unexpected places. That’s how I ended up in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, writing about the nation of Genghis Khan winning its first two Olympic gold medals.

As an aspiring journalist, I’d long imagined reporting from abroad for the New York Times or the Washington Post, and admittedly working for a Mongolian-owned English-language newspaper hadn’t crossed my mind. But in a way, my first true post-collegiate occupation was a dream job: I was writing about sports, I was exploring an unfamiliar city and country, and I was learning about a culture I’d only read about in books.

Who says anthropology majors don’t have excellent prospects?

Plus, your search for opportunity doesn’t necessarily require a ticket to the other side of the world; the U.S., once dubbed the land of opportunity, still has plenty to offer. For a friend of mine, graduating with a psychology degree from a good Minnesota college and subsequently learning he was not needed or wanted at Target (a company with Twin Cities roots I might add) inspired him to chase his passion for film out in California.

After sending out a wave of resumes, he finally got the call he wanted and just finished working on the set of Iron Man 2. And, despite the long hours, he managed to find time to train for and run the San Francisco marathon—his first—finishing first in his age group. Not too shabby for a guy rejected by a company that employs 350,000 people.

So what does it take to make life after college an engaging push for fulfillment instead of a brutal attack on your self esteem?

First and most importantly, it really helps to pursue a job in a field that you love or that really interests you. There’s certainly no guarantee a job offer will immediately appear, but if you know the goal you’re after is worth achieving, it will make the hard work you put in seem all the more rewarding. Remember, being turned down from the job you know will probably hate the first day you start, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Second, just because things look bleak in one place, doesn’t mean the sun isn’t shining somewhere. Sometimes, getting forced out of your comfort zone is the best thing that can happen to you.

Lastly, small steps can get you where you want to go. My friend isn’t the next Martin Scorsese (yet), and I haven’t had my first article published in the Times, (yet), but we both had the opportunity to work in the fields that excite us, and as a recent college grad, what more can you ask for?

So if you can’t find your dreams at home, think creatively and don’t be afraid to look at the wide world around. Opportunities are out there, even in some of the least likely places.