Coming Home

Our last two pre-port meeting before arriving in the Port of Seattle were curious experience. The first pre-port meeting was presented by the mental health counselors from the Student Life Office. They walked participants through the culture shock of returning home. It seemed funny at the time, but we all knew we would miss the friends and environment we grew to know as home for the 100 days of the voyage. Upon returning home, I indeed was confronted with many of the situations described that night in pre-port Š replete with friends and family asking what to them seemed like the most simple question Š but what in the end were the most difficult to answer: what was your favorite port? Why? Would you do it again?

What is your favorite port? And why? I canıt answer these questions. These are too vague. Itıs like asking a parent ³which is your favorite child and why?² I liked each of the ports to some degree and for very different reasons. Itıs unfair to ask anyone to determine which country they liked best of all.

The last pre-port meeting was by far the most moving experience and will stay with me for many reasons. It was our pre-port preparation for entering the United States. While the student who produced the event took a humorous approach to our re-entry into American culture, I doubt that they anticipated the emotional response from the participants that night.

As was the pattern for all the pre-port meetings, the students presented information about the culture and traditions of the country we were about to enter. They poked some fun at things we all missed from home, like drinkable water during the health segment and the disposition of people during the safety segment. But the most emotional moment of the night was when the students introduced the countryıs national anthem Š a common element to so many of the previous pre-port meetings. When one of the student presenters stood to sing the national anthem, everyone stood and we all sang that song we learned as children. We sang leaning on our neighbors, holding one anotherıs hands, letting tears well up and drop from our eyes.

Then the meeting ended and we retreated to pack our belongings Š the ones we brought with us the first day along with the ones we collected along the way. We congregated with our new families and friends to prepare for the Port of Seattle and our journeys back to the places we called home. With new eyes, we prepared to say good-bye to the ship that was our home and good morning to the world.

In the end, the easiest question to answer: Would I do it again? In a minute.

References: This teaching and research experience was made possible by a one-semester sabbatical from Elizabethtown College. Some information used to document this page came from Semester at Sea program literature distributed by the field office during the voyage.

This page was created by Tamara L. Gillis, Ed.D. July, 2001. Copyright 2001.

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