Saturday, September 14, 2013


Before we knew it, we were at our first port of St. Petersburg, Russia! The night before we docked, I found out about a wonderful opportunity. Local university students were hoping to practice their English with American students as they showed us their city. Of course I wanted a piece of this! 

Off the ship in Russia!
After a bit of a wait to get off the ship (I think things will get ironed out as we progress) we headed to a bookstore on Nevsky Prospekt. Nevsky could be thought of as the main street of SPB with shops, cafes and people wishing to sell you canal tours. There are many canals throughout the city and it’s been said it’s the best way to see the city. Anyway, a group of Semester at Sea students and myself wanted to get a bite to eat (and seize free wifi opportunities!!!) before we met the girls. Somehow, we happened upon an Asian cuisine restaurant. Whoops, so much for authentic Russian cuisine. However, we were too hungry to leave and the appeal of free wifi was far too high. Although we were given English menus, our waiter did not speak English so that presented a bit of a challenge. I am not asking everyone we encounter to speak English, since we are the ones entering their country, just marveling at the obstacles we face along the way. I got a teeny tiny bowl of fried rice that was amazing and scarfed down in minutes. Interesting note about the bathrooms there – the bathroom was kind of like a closet and the toilets faced each other so I suppose there was room for you and a friend in there. I opted to go solo.

Time to meet the university girls! Well, I was blown away at their impressive English abilities! They were really cool because we got to ask them about their Russian lives just as much as they wanted to ask us about our lives in America. It’s interesting because they said they take American culture classes at school. I brought photo albums of my life in America to show. They thought it was really cool and said they wanted to visit the top of the Statue of Liberty. When I gave them an NJ or NY postcard, it was quite the tough decision as to which one to choose! They helped us out throughout the day though, as they thwarted ticket vendors who were trying to sell us tourists whatever.

Pictured with some of our local guides :) If my memory serves me correctly, the building in the background was a governmental building.
Some of the sights we saw in Russia were the Winter Palace, Church of the Spilled Blood, Peterhof Gardens and the Summer Palace, and Swan Lake, the Russian ballet, not to mention the thousands upon thousands of fabrege eggs and matryoshka (stacking) dolls!

Russian Orthodox Churches are famous for their onion dome structure and they were pretty impressive. There was a church very close to the ship that we went inside and it was incredibly ornate! I could not concentrate if I went to church there haha The domes used to be real gold but it has since been scraped off and replaced with gold painting.

Church of the Spilled Blood - dedicated to the czars who passed. Beautiful!
The Peterhof Gardens are a short “hydrofoil” boat ride from land and definitely worth seeing. It was the summer home of a czar and would be more than ok if it was my year-round home! Tons of fountains and gold statues adorn the perfectly manicured lawns. We did not have much time to spend at the gardens but they were great to see for the time we had.

The beautiful Peterhof Gardens!
Here are some friends from the ship. We are from Michigan, Hawaii, DC and Virginia.
Lastly, was the Russian shopping. I knew I could not leave without my own stacking doll. I have one at home but I knew I could not leave without purchasing my own. Well, this proved to be much harder than I thought! There were thousands of styles, all so beautiful. They had traditional styles, they had artistic ones with geometric designs, Christmas ones, public figures, gah! I decided on a smaller one because the smallest one in that collection is about half the size of a fingernail and it was too cute to pass up. Another thing, Russian currency is the ruble. 1 Ruble is about $30 USD. So to spend over 1000 Rubles a day was not uncommon, just hard to fathom/crazy to imagine how much money you are carrying on you for one day (though it’s just about $30 USD)!

A small slice of all of the dolls!
It was pretty cool when some of the Russians saw my last name and I tried to explain how my grandpa was from here. I wonder if Karpovich is a popular name there, something like Smith or Jones in America.

My debut at the ballet. HA just kidding.... :)

Next stop, Germany! See you in a couple days. Peace!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ahoy Mates!


Well, we have been on the ship for just about three weeks now and learning some sea lingo. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

-floor = deck
-aft = back of the ship
-forward = front of the ship
-left side = port side
-right side = starboard
-everything’s in military time
-it’s a ship, not a boat
-my room is a cabin

I’m sure the list will continue to grow!

We have had a couple of rocky nights the past couple of nights as we sailed through the Baltic Sea but nothing crazy. Thankfully, I have not gotten seasick, the motion just plays with my head a little. Sea Band brand Ginger Gum has been amazing. Literally take a piece and within the minute I feel better.

*Trying* to keep it clean! :)
My home away from home for the next 4 months

My room is pleasantly bigger than I expected. It has just the right amount of storage and I have been keeping my stuff in ship shape. We have a beautiful ocean view (well of course not on the days we are in port) and can see several ships passing us throughout the day. Some of them have been really close! Like, we’ve got the whole ocean, why do we need to get so close?! But oh well, I wave to them nonetheless, usually not getting anything back. 

On my way to Zumba the other night, there were double rainbows in the ocean, so cool! And of course, I did not have my camera. Of all the times!

Scrub a dub
Dry Time

Laundry is fun. On select days at sea, we have the opportunity to get our laundry done (for a fee of course) and it has definitely made me appreciate the free laundry services at HPU. Instead, I just wash my clothes in the sink with some laundry soap which is not bad at all. They just awkwardly get placed around the room for the next couple of days to dry out!

Ah, the food. How could we forget that? I have been pleasantly surprised by ship food. Their vegetarian options outnumber the meat dishes and there is always something to have. No, it’s definitely not filling food but we’re making it work. I have tried things I would have never at home. I had brussel sprouts the other day and have had a few different types of soup (mom, can you believe that). A nice touch is the 2200 snacktime. Every night at 10 PM, sandwiches and desserts are put out to hold us through the night. J

I am definitely a lot busier than I imagined myself being. While class does not actually take up a lot of time, the assignments (and READING, READING, READING) do. But hey, that’s what I’m here for, right?

I’m setting a few goals for myself this semester. What goals do you have for yourself that you’d like to see met? It doesn’t have to be something that is done only at the beginning of a new year. I would like to talk to someone new each day on this voyage and I’m happy to say that so far, I have done so! It’s really cool because I am literally surrounded by people from all over the world and I have the chance to meet some of them.  J

A typical view during breakfast

Getting some reading done on deck!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Welcome!! добро пожаловать! Willkommen! Accueil! Fáilte roimh! Boas-vindas! Bienvenido! These are some of the languages I will be experiencing as I sail the Atlantic! Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and welcome – I’m excited for our adventures we’ll be sharing together.

First of all, let me explain what I will be doing these next couple of months (because I am not on a cruise nor vacation!). I am on a ship with about 700 students from all over the world to live, study and take college courses. It’s phenomenal meeting so many people from many walks of life. I am taking a full course load with classes accredited by the University of Virginia, with professors from all around the USA. I am enrolled in music (global music), business ethics (global business ethics), art (mixed media visual journal) and sociology classes (race and ethnic relations). Classes will operate on an A/B schedule so we’ll have classes the day we’re at sea only, not in port. While in port, this is our time to explore and experience the lives of the people in the countries we’re visiting.

Speaking of ports, I guess we could say my first port was London, United Kingdom. I met up with some other girls from Semester at Sea to spend several days in London. This was my first time experiencing jet lag as I have never flown internationally. It didn’t help that I didn’t sleep on the plane…how could I when they were serving us meals and my excitement level was so high?! The craziest thing about the flight was that an hour or so after taking off from NYC, the sun would already be rising!

Our route on the plane - we flew over the Titanic sight!!
Luggage that weighs more than me!
While in London, it was very hot!! I heard it was the hottest summer on record. We did have one day of rain, but that is to be expected over there J We managed to see many of the iconic sights such as the double-decker buses, cool telephone booths (and they still had payphones in them!), Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and Big Ben. However one of my favorite things I did was I was there (Mom, this one’s for you) is wandering over to the local supermarket. It was funny because when I visited the world foods section, they had an American section! It looked like a very condensed version of an American convenience store and they even had grits! I couldn’t believe it.

Posing with one of the guards
Some of my observations in London circled around the size of objects. How was everything so small?? Or on the flip side, is everything in America so big? Hotel rooms, cars and meal portions were some of the things that came to mind. Somehow, I survived off of toast and jam every morning for breakfast.

Big Ben right in front of us after we got off the underground!
Buckingham Palace
Next stop was to Southampton where we would board the ship. I had full intentions of sleeping on the bus but adrenaline and new friends got the best of me and I found myself talking the whole time. It was funny while we were pulling up to the pier because we kept seeing ships and getting so excited that that one was ours. However, the MV Explorer was the little one in the back, much smaller than the vacation liners today that usually hold 4,000+ passengers.

Lion King cab!!! <3
This was awesome - a man blowing giant bubbles in Picadilly Circus
Hello, London!
The outside of  Westminster Abbey - it was so detailed
GRITS in British supermarket hahah you're never far from home!
Just trying to hold up the Tower Bridge

Embarkation was super easy and I could not believe how quickly we were processed. Kudos to the pier workers and all who had worked to streamline this process; we were on the ship in no time! While on line, I stood behind someone from the Bahamas and met some from Kazakhstan – so cool.

Well, that leaves us with boarding the ship! I am most looking forward to visiting Ghana. If there were no limitations, where in the world would you like to visit?

Stay tuned for my take on ship life & an update from Russia!

xoxo, Erin