All About Worlds and living in them

The world is a beautiful place which never fails to amaze me. I am lucky enough to have covered about fifteen percent of it at a decent age of twenty-four. The better part is that I got to stay for long durations in three different countries. Growing up in New Delhi, India and then moving for higher studies to the US and living there for 5 years and eventually moving to Zambia, where I have been staying since the last 1.5 years. Talking to my friends about it made me feel like sharing my living experiences in these so-called First World, Second World and Third World countries. I am not really sure if Second World is the right term for India from an economic point of view but yes it’s a developing nation faster than Zambia. Some readers might feel that I’m being biased on certain points however, remember that everyone’s experience is different and this is just a comparison of casual observations that I gathered during my stay. Also, the price comparison is not absolute numbers but according to income level in the countries and other basic factors.

Daily Shenanigans

  • Morning Experience

Definitely, the US and Africa had far quieter mornings than waking up in India to the noise of cars honking and mom screaming to get my ass up from the bed. I prefer quieter mornings now since those make me feel fresher but nevertheless, I do miss those noisy mornings. In terms of a morning showers, US had a 24-hour hot shower, meanwhile in India I had to turn on my hot water before my shower and in Zambia I have to turn it on a night before since 6-10 am there is an electricity cutoff. So if you are forgetful like me then cold showers become a habit which according to science is good. My shower caddy consisted of 10 different shampoos and products in the US compared to a 3-4 in India and maybe just a couple of things in Zambia (and no it’s not because I became filthy). 

  • Daily Commute

In terms of commuting to places I had to be on working days, US and Zambia have much better roads to drive on and reach places. As most of you know traffic in Delhi sucks and is horrible. Zambia had nice highways but of course, not like 6 lanes in California and people do not follow the rules here. Good coverage and unlimited internet imply that I can listen to pretty much anything in India and US but for Zambia, Spotify premium is a necessity, although there is internet 4G LTE coverage but it’s too expensive. So I rather save my songs as I have a habit of listening to my new favorites on repeat and burn them out quickly. 

  • Work Schedule

Working timings in Zambia and California are typical 8 hours a day but in India, it can go unto 9-10 hours a day. But in the US and Zambia, the feeling of calling it home came usually after a couple of months in terms of getting in the routine and realizing that it is just not a vacation but I am actually going to be living here for god knows how many years. The perks of an organised cabinet by my mom for me at home was priceless because now I have forgotten what that feels like after moving out. Living out of a suitcase was a new thing for me.

  • Grocery Shopping

For my grocery shopping, in the US it was in a decently sized Trader Joe’s or a giant like Walmart where even the cereal counter had 100 different options along with a bunch of organic options and dietary options in pretty much all the items. In comparison to India where they have a decent range of options in a tightly squeezed grocery stores or shops where you pretty much ask the shopkeeper to give you the one from the limited brands you know or they advertise about. Zambia has decent sized grocery stores too and did have a similar experience in terms of the shopping in the US but not at all close in terms of the range of options in the US and very limited dietary options. But both California and Lusaka grocery stores charge you for your plastic bags. I heard that they are trying to implement in India soon too. HELL YEA, SAVE EARTH fellas. Just a little geeky about recycling so I would also want to touch base on how my trash bags have much more plastic content compared to the US.

  • Electricity

Electricity is omnipresent in the US and hardly goes off but India and Zambia can experience the problem of load-shedding. Especially small countries like Zambia can be affected much more easily if they don’t get enough rains for a couple of consecutive years. A Smartphone is still a big thing in Zambia and network plans are expensive in the US too whereas India wins the race with the cheapest network plans which everyone can afford along with a wide range of cheap smartphones.

Every other week I will compare my experiences on different topics. Feel free to comment about any topics that you might want me to cover and talk more about.

Croatia and Greece

Our arrival in Italy was exciting, it being our first port. Every SAS student was not just happy to step on land and away from the sea sickness but extremely excited to use some “free wifi” to tell family and friends back home about what a beautiful ship we have, and how we are all settling into a new lifestyle. In the middle of our trip, an email from semester at sea pops on our screens saying we are not travelling to Turkey anymore due to some problems regarding the ISIS attacks. The Shipboard Community decided to go to Croatia instead of Turkey. Most of us were disappointed because it was just our second port and nobody was ready for surprises like there. We got back on the ship with absolutely no idea what we were planning to do in our next port.

And as we entered the beautiful country of Croatia, we were surprised to see its beauty giving us a pleasant feeling of happiness. It was a really good surprise to spend our time in the pebbles of beaches. It would definitely not beaut the idea of the Turkish cuisine and hamam bath, but the country was stunning and picture perfect. We landed in Dubrovnik, a beautiful city that became a part of Croatia in late 90s. The first day I had my field lab and we went around the city walls followed by a guest lecturer in the University of Dubrovnik. It was my first field lab, which turned out to be really good. The guest lecture talked about Croatia and his views of Croatia on joining European Union. Croatia is a small and a beautiful country, which recently became a part of European Union. Second day in Dubrovnik was all about water sports and adventure. We went for kayaking and cliff diving. This was first time for both of those activities and it was simply amazing. We tried the specialty of Croatia, the Octopus salad, and ate fancy meals. Ticking off those things out of my bucket list, I thanked SAS for making each of these experiences count.

The third day I went to the city of Split that is north of Dubrovnik and visited the beautiful waterfalls in KRKA on the following day. The last day we came back to Dubrovnik and went to visit the GAME OF THRONES site. Yes, it was real. The Walk of Shame, Joffrey’s marriage and all the Kings landing was set up inside the city walls in Croatia. Being a hardcore GOT fan, I simply loved this tour and it was the highlight of Croatia.

Walls Of Dubrovnik- GOT site
Walls Of Dubrovnik- GOT site

And here again it feels amazing sitting on the deck in the bright sun and writing my experiences of this beautiful journey. I feel lucky to be a part of this beautiful journey, for not everybody gets a chance to have a moment like this. The crystal blue water and the endless ocean is a beauty. Soon we will be out of the Greek waters and will make our way to our next port Spain.

The experience in Greece was different to what I was expecting. We just had two days between Greece and Croatia, and all I could learn about Greece was it financial crisis and the rising debt of the country. Being an Economics student and taking two of the high-level economics classes on ship, the Greek Financial crisis was the major topic for me. We had an Inter-port professor from an American University of Greece on board from Croatia to Greece, who talked to us about how Greeks are living their life, their culture, food and details about how to deal with the sensitivity of the crisis in their country being a tourist. In my class, he discussed the problem of Greece and weather they should leave the European Union or not? The unemployment level is currently around 25% and the stores are empty with no work. On top of that there are refugees from Syria and other part of Africa who are trying to enter into EU through Greece. There is so much going on which made me more excited to reach Greece sooner.

So, this is the beauty of Semester at Sea! You are taught about the current issues in the country you are about to visit which makes an hour of class feel shorter with the ever rising curiosity to learn more, making it even more interesting to step out of the ship into the world of practicality.

The first day in Greece we went to the Acropolis and around the city of Athens. Acropolis had a beautiful view from its top and you could see the whole city of Athens. The second day I took an early morning flight to an island called Santorini, which I always dreamed of going. I was so excited to go over there and see the white and blue architecture as shown in the Google images. Yes it is thousand times more beautiful than the images. We went to a sunset point in Oia, which had the breathtaking view of the sunset. Look for it in the image below. I felt so happy for just having to see so much around the world in such a short span of my life. Thanks to my family and friends who supported me and made this possible.

Beautiful sunset in Santorini Greece
Beautiful sunset in Santorini Greece

Embarkation Day and Life at Sea

Beautiful sunset
   Beautiful sunset view from the World Odyssey

Day 1 at the World Odyssey on September 13, 2015 was one day I was waiting for almost 6 months. Nobody ever told me how calm the shipboard faculty were expecting us all to be. I did not have breakfast in my excitement to see the ship, and left straight for the Hilton hotel terminal 4 from where a bus picked us up to take us to the Southampton to embark on the beautiful World Odyssey. It took me almost two hours to get to the port. At the port they introduced a new rule where we had to separate out all the liquids from our suitcases or bags and put them into our hand carry or backpacks which were going to enter with us, while the rest was going straight into our rooms. After almost 3 hours since I left from Greater London where I was staying, I started starving for I had not eaten a bite since I woke up. I entered the terminal (immigration) where I saw a long line waiting to get into the security. I moved along the line for half an hour till I reached the first counter. They did not have me on the records to board in London, since all the internationals were boarding the ship on September 14 in the port of Le Havre, France. This served as my lucky opportunity where a crew member escorted me through the long line waiting for the security check. I got into the security check and the man then took me straight to the stairs of the ship. If I had gone through the usual, it would have definitely been an hour longer. As we climbed up the staircase, I felt so real! It was like my dream coming to life. It was finally the WORLD ODYSSEY, the big beauty that I was boarding. We entered straight into deck 5, where the faculty gave me an option to eat before I stand into a long line again to check into my cabin. The food was laid on deck 6 in the Berlin Restaurant. It was salads, pasta, soups, water, iced tea, and HONEY CAKE. It felt so good to see how we shall be served for the next four months. The honey cake was there because it was the day of embarkation for the ship as well as the beginning of a new Jewish year, where the tradition is to have a piece of apple dipped in honey for a sweet beginning and a beautiful journey ahead. I talked to so many wonderful people at lunch and yes everybody was excited as much as I was. It was now time to get into a long line to check in. After an hour and a half, I was finally assigned my cabin. At this point I was so tired that I wanted to rush to my cabin and get straight on my bed. I entered my lovely cabin on deck 5 that was perfection for me. The ship was supposed to leave at 2000 hours (we followed the London time), but it left earlier than the time scheduled because the captain of the ship saw a storm coming in the sea on the route from which we were traveling. The time was changed to 1700 hours, and we all gathered on the deck to wave off London and begin our beautiful SAS journey. As we began sailing and reached the middle of the ocean, an announcement was made for the orientation in the kaisersaal. We all gathered in the big hall where there were speeches by the faculty and dean, and we were introduced to the journey we chose. After a while, the ship began rocking and rolling with the big waves of the sea. The captain announced that the decks will be closed and everyone must walk holding the railings of the staircase. It caused a lot of seasickness among all the students. Everyone was extremely tired and definitely not ready for the huge waves. The waves were helpful in putting everybody to a good sleep at the end of the orientation. The first day was definitely unusual but adventurous which makes me kind of excited to see what the trip is going to be like. I am all set for my journey now!

Dining room
                           Dining room

After 2 rough days in sea everybody was kind of low and seasick. But once the decks were open after 2 days everybody came alive and in the next 30 minutes everybody was out on the deck for the bright sun. In the evening we saw the beautiful sunset followed by the delicious dinner. The classes are really interesting but distracting too. One of my classes is in a room where you can see the sea through the window. I saw dolphins once and yes that was a complete distraction but that is the beauty of this program. Talking about classes, yes we get a lot of readings to do as class meetings are less and professors expect us to read before class. The projects we are getting for this semester are really interesting and will something to do in each port. For my International Economics class I got a project for which I have to deal with the prices of certain goods in each country and then compare the prices in the end. I will keep talking about my life at sea as it goes on.

Outside deck
                       Outside deck

London, UK

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                   The London Eye

I stepped into the beautiful United Kingdom for the first time in my life. It was an amazing feeling to travel all by myself without my family and friends; with bags all packed and shoe laces tight, I was off to see the world. I took a direct flight from New Delhi, India to London. My flight was 8 hour long, but was pretty good in general. After a smooth landing, I tried to find a way to get to the Greater London where I was staying (airbnb). My Internet took ages to connect and I really felt lost when I could barely understand the directions people were giving me. I went to the information desk, asked them all kinds of weird questions and bought myself an oyster card to use public transportation. I got a regular card, but my advice for anybody willing to visit London for a couple of days would be to get a 7 day pass. It is much cheaper if you spend 37 pounds on the 7-day pass, than to recharge it almost 4 times for 10 pounds each within my 5 day stay in the city. It is a massive place and this can be a tip on saving money if you want to travel quicker and cheaper with buses, tubes (underground metro) or the overground metro.

The beautiful Bridge
                   The beautiful Bridge

London is one of its kinds. The place defines the “Royalty” perfectly. I saw everybody dressed well at all times and in all places. From little babies to older people, men dressed in suits and boots and women in dresses, heels, stockings and coat/jacket for the cold. Their makeup was always done perfectly, and not even one person I saw was different. It was only visitors in London who could be recognised by a distance. The place is very expensive so I followed a strict budget for my lavish stay. I visited all the interesting tourist attraction on day 2 and 3. I went around the popular and most happening  Oxford Street and Bond Street on day 3. I tried talking to people to know if I was missing out anything major. Day 4 was a Friday so I decided to hang out with a couple of friends from SAS in a club in Leicester square which turned out to be really cool. Day 5 I went to Richmond and walked around the river Thames to have a nice Lunch and coffee with a nice view. The food in London was amazing. I had all different types of cuisine on all 5 days and made the most out of the city. I cannot remember one single thing that I missed out, and yet maintained my budget of 300 pounds for 5 days. 

My experience in London was amazing. I was keeping myself entertained all the time. The people are really nice to talk to, but not as friendly as you might expect them to be. The transportation drivers were quite rude, but the natives around in the bus would always help you if you ask them. I was drooling over the British accent and kept wanting to talk to more people for all kind of little stuff.

Sorry for the less pictures but I lost my phone which had all the good pictures. I would talk more about my life at the sea in my upcoming post. Also, the story behind my lost Iphone.

Before Embarkation

On September 13, 2015 I will be boarding the World Odyssey along with other 750 students approximately. I plan on maintaining this blog on a regular basis and in this first post, let me give you a brief introduction about how my journey is going to be at Semester At Sea (SAS).

SAS is a study abroad program, which gives one an amazing opportunity to circumnavigate the globe in 100 days while visiting 13 cities in 11 different countries. The level of excitement for this is unparalled. I won’t make you too jealous by revealing all the amazing things out here as this is only the begining. Stay tuned to know how I am dealing with my inner crisis of focusing on studies while staring at the endless sea. As for now, let the journey begin!

Let me start off by briefly telling you about my travel plan. I have created an itinerary that gives basic details about my most awaited trip of life.

Itinerary

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 8.41.14 PM

The most important part of my journey was to come up with a feasible idea for being the Presidential Scholar. Thankfully, I was selected and was awarded the prestigious Presidential Scholarship that covers all my expenses such as tuition and living expenses. I know this is beyond awesome especially when I got to know that I was one of the only two students who where awarded this prestigious scholarship.

So what we needed to do was to create an action plan that we will be executing during this voyage. Hold now till I reveal more cards to you. For now, I can only tell that I will be surely talking about my action plan in the upcoming blog.

Insight into my curriculum

I will be taking up 12 credit hours during this semester. Being an economics major I am taking two economics classes, one business class and one global lens (elective) class. These are as follows.

SEMS 106- Development Economics

SEMS 104- Consumer Behavior

SEMS 107- International Economics

ANTH 503- Introduction to Anthropology

The way these classes work is different. We will only be having classes on the days when we are travelling from one country to another. But when we are in a port we don’t have any classes. So, we will have A day and B day. No weekends and no weekdays. I have two of my classes on A day and another two classes on B day.

Contact Information While on Sea

The best way to reach out to me is to email me on nikhil.bansal.fa15@semesteratsea.org.

SAS gives us free and unlimited access to this email. The Internet access is very limited and it’s really expensive to buy Internet on board.

I know this seems like a dream and yes it is. You surely want to know how I ended up having this once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. So, here’s my story.

From a student to a Presidential Scholar

The most important part of my journey was to come up with a feasible idea for being the Presidential Scholar. Thankfully, I was selected and was awarded the prestigious Presidential Scholarship that covers all my expenses such as tuition and living expenses. I know this is beyond awesome especially when I got to know that I was one of the only two students who where awarded this prestigious scholarship.

So what we needed to do was to create an action plan that we will be executing during this voyage. Hold now till I reveal more cards to you. For now, I can only tell that I will be surely talking about my action plan in the upcoming blog.

IMG_4362
A quick look at my new college campus