MOUNT VERNON — From January to May, Mount Vernon High School alumnus Matthew Orsborn sailed the seven seas on the MV Explorer.
A former cruise ship, Explorer has been converted into a floating university complete with classrooms, theater, library, computer labs and cafeterias. Orsborn, an international affairs major at Marshall University, was aboard to experience Semester at Sea, a study abroad program through the University of Virginia.
“Traveling was great and truly eye-opening,” Orsborn said. “On our voyage we visited the following countries: Mexico, back to the U.S. to Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, and Brazil. On board the ship, I took classes such as, ‘Anthropology: Peoples of Africa,’ ‘Pakistan: Global War on Terror,’ global studies, and a British Empire history class. There were wide varieties of classes. When we were off the ship we were ‘tourists’ but never really thought of ourselves as that. We knew so much about these countries because of Global Studies, which everyone had to take. It informed us of things going on currently in the countries — leaders, politics, everything really. The class really helped us feel like we were going ‘home’ when we stepped off the ship into another country.”
Acclimating to life at sea had its challenges at first.
“We encountered storms a lot in the beginning of the voyage,” said Orsborn. “From Mexico to Hawaii, and from Hawaii to Japan, we hit storms that rocked our ship a lot — waves that were around 15 feet high.”
Although seeing exotic places and scenery was exciting, Orsborn said meeting people in the various places he visited was one of the best parts of the trip, in spite of language differences.
“Communicating with people around the world was one of the most challenging things,” he said. “In Japan, not many people would speak English because they are very shy. That was the most difficult place to communicate. But around the world, you can communicate with people and you don’t always have to be speaking English. You could talk with a smile, a frown, a wave, a laugh. So sometimes it would be hard to communicate and other times it was easy.”
Vietnam and South Africa are tied for Orsborn’s favorite designation.
“Both places were incredibly beautiful and different,” he elaborated. “The people in both countries really make it easy for me to call both places my favorite. I met great people in every country — people who would buy us a drink or a meal just to get to know us.”
Visiting spectacular destinations is a journey on its own. For Orsborn, sometimes it was the timing and spacing that brought the trip to life.