How Semester at Sea Sparked The Deaf Dream
I posted on social media about Semester at Sea today (it is 10 years to the day that we began our voyage in 2012). It was on Semester at Sea (SAS) that the Lord prompted me to start The Deaf Dream organization (despite being a history major with no experience in business). I am so grateful for each experience that led to this miracle!
#10yearsago my life changed as a result of @SemesteratSea. Thanks to two scholarships after years of applying (one from @BYU and the other from @UVA) I was able to take part in this miraculous study abroad program. Semester at Sea gave me the tools to start @TheDeafDream organization (which, incidentally will be sponsoring our 17th Deaf Dreamer college student this month!)
#10yearsago Kara and I set off on the adventure of a lifetime on #semesteratsea!! As we first departed from the #Bahamas, we were totally GIDDY! :D So grateful for the scholarships I received from #byu and ISE to make this happen!! Semester at Sea is the reason why I founded www.thedeafdream.org and it continues to influence my life daily. Such a miracle voyage!!
#10yearsago...I arrived at #Dominica on the #mvexplorer for my first port on #semesteratsea ! Kayaked a mountain river down to the ocean, visited remote villages, and went whale watching. Such a beautiful country with warm people!
#10yearsago...from Manaus, my friends and I went on a river boat for a few days even further up the #AmazonRiver (complete with hammocks) to swim with pink river dolphins, visit villages, catch alligators, visit a SOS village, and wait out a crazy rainstorm. I remember riding around on a little shanty with the glass-like water, the most clear, starry sky ever, and the glow of alligator eyes and fireflies. Simply magical! It was one of those trips that I'm so glad I did but also made me so grateful for A/C and mosquito nets!!
#10yearsago...we arrived in Ghana 🇬🇭. I had the incredible opportunity to visit a Deaf school, attend the #LDStemple in Accra, spend time with children at an #sosvillage for rescued child slaves, meet a man who was the 4th member of the Church in Ghana, and even see Elder Holland! And now, 10 years later, #TheDeafDream has sponsored the first female Deaf college student, Victoria, who is now a Deaf teacher at a Deaf school and (currently sponsoring another first female Deaf college student in Ghana, Jennifer)! I am in awe of the miracles that have happened...
#10yearsago...our ship arrived in #SouthAfrica 🇿🇦 where I had some of the most incredible experiences of my life: working on #HabitatforHumanity, going on an elephant-back safari, and hiking Lion's Head above Cape Town. But the highlight was meeting Deaf dreamers at a #Deaf school and having one of the most influential conversations of my life (bottom right hand photo). The students were asking how they could start their own #DeafPresidentNow movement in South Africa. Little did we know years later, the fake interpreter at #NelsonMandela's funeral would spark their own massive #Deafrights movement! A once-in-a-lifetime conversation in Cape Town significantly impacted my decision to start #TheDeafDream a few months later.
#10yearsago...We were delayed getting to #Mauritius due to stormy weather and large waves off of the coast of Africa. However, my friend group and I maxed our short time on shore and made wonderful memories on the pristine beaches!
#10yearsago...I went to the land of extremes: INDIA. I met a Deaf artist, soaked in the beauty of the #TajMahal, and struggled when seeing extreme wealth and poverty daily. Semester at Sea gave me time to ponder why we're here on this planet, what good we all can/should do, and why it's critical that we trust there is a Father in Heaven who knows when every sparrow falls. One of the most difficult places I've ever been to but I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world (and it was definitely good prep for the harsh experiences of Tibet that would follow).
#10yearsago...My health was so poor after India that I decided to stay on the ship in #Singapore and miss visiting a Deaf school there (one of the hardest decisions of my life!). However, after lots of sleep I thought I was up to a stroll in the port. I stepped into a restaurant on the dock and I 'just happened' to run into two Deaf men in the cafe. It was truly miraculous; to only have about 30 minutes worth of energy to get off the ship and 'happen' to meet Deaf Singaporeans. Isn't that amazing!?
#10yearsago...my friends and I went to the wonderful LDS branch in #HoChiMinhCity, #Vietnam. We met the most amazing members (dear friends of mine to this day) I was inspired by my time with #Egbok, a nonprofit started by a SAS alumna (which inspired me to found my own nonprofit organization). One of the highlights of my time in Vietnam was meeting Khiem, a #Deaf man, who would later become @TheDeafDream's first scholarship recipient! Kara and I also got to visit the Cu Chi tunnels where Viet Cong soldiers lived during the Vietnam War. I fell in love with Vietnam and haven't been able to stay away since! :)
#10yearsago...I arrived at my number one travel dream: Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It was a total dream come true! While everyone else was outside waiting for the sunrise, I was inside the ruins - almost completely by myself - and 'having a moment' :') In high school I searched online to find a study abroad program that included Cambodia and that is how I 'accidently' stumbled onto Semester at Sea. That led to years of dreaming, hoping, and applying for scholarships. I am forever grateful for this miracle voyage and the profound and permanent impact it has had on my life!
#10yearsago...I had the opportunity to go to the #HongKong #temple grounds. The majority of the grounds/gardens are found under the temple at the base! I am grateful that even with my time in HK so very limited due to my upcoming trip to Beijing and Tibet, I was still able to travel to such an important location in my #religion.
#10yearsago...I had the privilege to go to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Great Wall in #China. We were warned to not talk about 3 things while in China: Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen Square. T-square was especially significant to me as it was the location of the 1989 peaceful protest for democracy that resulted in the massacre of hundreds, possibly thousands, of students. My mind went to one of the most incredible books I have ever read: Wild Swans 📚 I also could not get over how HUGE the forbidden city is and imagined how easy it was for the ancient aristocrats to have such power over the emperors who rarely (if ever) were permitted to leave the walls. Incredible! Oh and I was freezing so I found the warmest hat I could find before we flew out to Tibet. 😄
#10yearsago...I went to Tibet and had the most impactful - albeit nerve wracking - travel experience of my life. Because of how politically sensitive things are in that country, I will only share a few of my experiences. (Please contact me personally for more info about what it is really like in Tibet under Chinese occupation.) My group of fellow students and I arrived in April. We expected a busy airport, busy roads, busy downtown - after all Lhasa is a city of ~400,000 people, right? Yet it was like a ghost town when we arrived. Soldiers followed us everywhere. We were not allowed to go anywhere without them "for our protection" (yeah, right). We felt the oppression before we saw it - the tension in the air was palatable and we quickly realized that freedom of speech or privacy was non-existent. We saw the beauty of the sacred lake, the Potala Palace (managed by soldiers) and the devotion of the peaceful Tibetan-Buddism followers. We also ate yak for what seemed like every meal of our stay, met wonderful people, acquired crazy high altitude migraines and got pictures on a yak. :) I pray for Tibet regularly, praying for the day when they'll truly be free, when monasteries will no longer be destroyed and monks imprisoned, when believers are not forced to denounce the Dalai Lama, and when brave Tibetans no longer feel they must self-immolate to get the worlds attention to the atrocities committed there by the Chinese government. (Hundreds of thousands of deaths since 1959.) I want to share more but hope you'll subscribe to Students for a Free Tibet, the organization I joined immediately upon my return. Cannot wait for the day when I can return and the people are free! Thank you Semester at Sea for this once-in-a-lifetime experience! #freeTibet
P.S. I hear things are better now than they were 10 years ago, but while it's more seemingly 'peaceful', it is not more free.
#10yearsago...I went to #Japan 🇯🇵 and was able to stay with my old college roommate and her family. (Go EAC!) I absolutely loved visiting the temples and shrines, attending a Bunraku puppet performance, going out on the town with friends, spending time at the sobering #Hiroshima memorial, and soaking in the beautiful cherry blossoms. (The #cherryblossoms only bloom for about 1 week and we just happened to be there during that week. Absolutely breathtaking experience!)
Photos from our ship life onboard:
1. Enjoying a sunset onboard.
2. The TV in our room that showed us where we were at any given time during the voyage.
3. Sitting on 5th deck at meal time.
4. One of the crew onboard.
5. Thunderstorm over the Amazon.
6. Our room
7. Embarkation day
8. My SAS roommate, Kara, and I :)
The amazing people I associated with onboard became my SAS family. To this day, I say thank you prayers that we came together onboard and supported each other in the highs and lows of travel. These passionate people were determined to leave SAS as better people and do their part to improve the world...and 10 years later, I see how each have done this in their own circle of influence! Thank you to each of you for being my SAS siblings. <3
After over a week at sea post #Japan, we then went to Hilo, Hawaii, and then sailed to San Diego. Completing our Around-the-World voyage, one of the most incredible experiences of my life, was a bitter-sweet moment but it was so wonderful to see my family again!
Thanks to this experience (and God's ever-guiding hand), I was able to start The Deaf Dream and later work as an ASL travel liaison for two years. I hope to work for SAS one day and help the next generation of students find ways to make a difference! My heart is so full of gratitude today!