A group of Harvard-Westlake students, accompanied by chaplain Fr. J. Young, are testing the waters of the Semester at Sea program, which is opening up to high school students. The group is part of an inaugural two-week Panama Canal cruise over winter break. Usually, students would spend an entire semester at sea. The group left on Wednesday, Dec. 15.
Chloe Lister ’12 and Vivien Mao ’12 are two of the Harvard-Westlake students who are trying out a two-week version of the Semester at Sea, which is going to be opened to high school students for the first time. They are blogging for the Chronicle about their trip.
Wednesday, Dec. 15
At school at 6:45 a.m. on a Wednesday, it’s pretty hard for it to register that it’s the first day of winter break. Subsequent car rides to San Diego don’t help much either.
I only started to realize the type of trip this was going to be during the bus ride to Ensenada, Mexico. Between a rejuvenating power nap and David Fincher’s “Fight Club,” I missed most of the actual crossing of the United States-Mexico border. After my movie was over, I glanced out the window of our bus and started to actually see what was around us.
On the left of the bus were rocky hills, the only signals of human interaction being the road we were on, the graffiti that adorned several rocks, and the occasional billboard advertising a “gentlemen’s club.” On the right was a high-class pueblo-style housing development, complete with palm trees swaying in the breeze.
The only thing separating the two completely different landscapes was a ten-foot tall fence.
Now I know the US-Mexico border fence is a controversial issue, but it wasn’t the political or environmental implications that influenced me.
To me, that fence signified my departure from just about everything that I’m comfortable with: my friends, family, and basically my entire California lifestyle.
I can count the number of days I’ve been out of the country prior to this trip on my fingers, and the only other time I’ve been in Mexico was when I was 5 and stayed at a resort, so seeing the “real” Mexico – broken down houses, poorly paved streets – was different, to say the least.
In the days leading up to when we departed, I was regularly asked what I was looking forward to most about this voyage, and I think I’ve figured out my answer: I want to be impacted by what I see and do, just like I was by the border of those two countries on the drive to port. Whether that impact is positive, negative, spurs me to make a difference or not doesn’t matter to me nearly as much; I want a life experience that will change my exceptionally sheltered self, and whatever happens, I’m ready.