Before Class Afloat, I had never left the United States of America.

After only travelling to five states, one of which I live in, I left everything I knew in New York to embark on a journey that changed my life. During this 9-month adventure, I have been to twenty new places, including two places outside of the CAF itinerary during the mid-year break and a surprise port.

I got the chance to attend this program because of one man; Chris Trow. Chris is sponsoring me for the full tuition of two semesters. How do you thank someone who has done that for you? That question has stumped me since the beginning.

I was born and raised in Schenectady, New York and, for a very long time, I thought that was all the world had to offer to me. I did not have enough money to travel, but that did not stop my desire to see more of the world. As a kid, I started to tell my mom that I wanted to go to Africa. I was too young, maybe 4 or 5 years old, to even know that Africa was not a country, but I was somehow old enough to already begin to feed my addiction towards the idea of travelling. As I grew older, I began to doubt my chances of going to such a place.

Little did I know, with time and some hard work in high school, I would be given the opportunity of a lifetime. After I was packed and ready for the next nine months of my life, I headed off to Amsterdam with Chris.

The most memorable night of my life was our Sahara Desert slumber party. The crew rode dromedary (kind of like camels, but with one hump) to a campsite in the middle of nowhere. As we sat on a sand dune and watched the sunset, I thought about my younger self who wanted, more than anything, to travel to Africa. I did not know what to expect, but our night in the Sahara Desert was more than I could have ever dreamed of.

class afloat scholarship winner

Dressed for an adventure in the Sahara Desert

To end the night, we sat around the fire and played instruments, sang, and danced our hearts out. It was about three in the morning when the fire burned out and we decided to go back up the tallest sand dune and look at the stars. For half an hour, I stared at the stars that shown brighter and with more clarity than I could ever previously imagined. It somehow even beat the view of the stars in the middle of the ocean, which still continues to amaze me every night when I look up to a cloudless sky. As my eyes began to close as it neared four in the morning, I walked down the sand dune and slept outside under the stars in the middle of our tents. That night will never leave my memory and I am extremely grateful for the conversations I had and the songs I sang with the friends I have made here.

Of course, most days on Class Afloat are not as relaxing as that night in the Sahara Desert. There are endless amounts of maintenance to be done, pages of homework to write, and hours of night watch to stay awake through. There is one simple way to get through any jobs or times that may seem tedious; think about where you are. All I have to do is think, “Yeah, sure I am rust busting this spot on the ship for the third time, but I am doing it in the middle of the ocean while sailing on a tall-ship.”

When I tell myself this, I begin thinking about how I got here, how lucky I am, and why I would rather be doing this than sitting in a lecture hall at a normal college and suddenly I feel more motivated. Sometimes, however, this is harder to say to myself when I am struggling with something like homesickness. The last thing you want to tell yourself when you are missing your family is that you are in the middle of the ocean. I had never gone over three weeks without seeing my mom and now I had to be at sea for a month without being able to contact them at all. However, you can always get through your homesickness when you look around and see the family you made on the ship.

Laying in the grass in Tristan de Cuhna The first day seeing my sisters (and best friends) in Cape Town after about 5 months away from family

From the moment we all met each other, we have lived with each other. We do not know what it is like to know each other and live without one another. That is probably the scariest thought about leaving; the uncertainty of what to expect without my new family sleeping in one big room. Instead, we will be scattered around the world with texting, calling, and video chatting being our only way of efficiently communicating. As I write this, we have eighteen days left until we arrive in Lunenburg. I plan to make this time the most it can be. I want to get through final exams, spend time with my friends, have DMCs (deep meaningful conversations) on the bowsprit, and live it up until it is over.

As my Marine Biology, Sociology, and Psychology teacher, Asta, once said, “we are breathing the cleanest air the world has to offer for nine months.” I think about this and just how beautiful life is. As I was on helm today, I stared out into the ocean, took a deep breath of the fresh air, and thought about how to say goodbye. Sadly, that is very close and I do not know how I will ever say goodbye to everything I have here. Maybe the only way to truly say goodbye is to take that last breath of the freshest air in the world and thank the individuals around you for giving you the time of your life.

Thank you to the teachers, Jen F, John, and Asta, who deal with me in class when I am too tired to function.

Thank you Watch 6, the winners of Watch Wars and the reason getting up at 4 in the morning is not too terrible.

Thank you to all of my friends I have made here who make me feel like I am worth more than I had ever thought.

Thank you to the Medical Officer this semester, Chris, who has helped me through some tough times I was going through.

Thank you Chris Trow for being the reason I am here on this wonderful, crazy adventure with the best people from around the world.

And thank you to the Gulden Leeuw for being my home away from home.

Class Afloat has treated us well and I am excited for the next group of students to see what this program has to offer.