Raisa Alstodt ’16

During the Spring 2015 semester, I took a leap and did the Semester at Sea study abroad program. I’m so blessed to have had this opportunity and unbelievably grateful for the people I met and the things I got to experience. I saw 12 countries spanning Asia, Africa, and Europe in under four months while traveling on a ship. And while my bucket list now has lots of things crossed off, it has only grown longer. This program has gotten me even more excited to travel the world and experience all there is out there. While on the trip, I kept a blog, and what follows is one of my entries.

Ubuntu is a term I learned on the ship back in January on the way to South Africa.

I’ve come to realize that life is a constant obstacle course. Many things can change in very little time. People come and go. A word that meant nothing to you six months ago could now mean everything to you. Change and growth can occur. The shock is when you look back and actually notice all of this. South Africa was this shock for me.

ubuntu-tattooHow did a word foreign to me just four months ago come to mean so much? It’s a short word, though with a multitude of meaning. It’s a philosophy. It’s a way of life even.

The word is defined as an African philosophy roughly translated to “human kindness.” It literally means human-ness, often translated as “humanity toward others.” Even used in a more philosophical sense, meaning “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connect all of humanity.” Another definition: “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu says a person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened by what others have, believing that we belong to a greater whole. It’s the essence of being human. Those who have ubuntu are known for their generosity.

In short, it’s about human kindness, about respect. Some define it as community. Some would even say it’s humanity; it’s the belief that all are equal. Some would add religion. Some see it as humankind seeing no color. Peace for all people. Acceptance of all. Understanding for all. It’s having virtue. Kindness for all. Goodness. It’s what Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu asked the people of South Africa to believe in, yet it’s all over Africa. In Kenya, they have the word, too, just said differently. This word just keeps growing on me and gaining value in my life.

Each person I’ve met has defined it just a tad bit differently. To everyone it means the same things, just reworded in personal words. To me it’s humanity, love, and so much more. It’s a philosophy to love and be loved. It’s God’s work fostered in a word. It’s hope for people.

On the ship, they’ve asked us to think about it in our travel. To me it seemed as though they were asking me to adopt the philosophy in my travel, and so I’ve tried. To me it became a travel philosophy and so much more. In return, I made it a permanent addition to my life.

For more images from Saint Leo’s international trips, visit spirit.saintleo.edu/travel.

Samantha Brooks ’16

To be honest, I am not sure there are enough adjectives in the English language to describe the experience I had in Greece. The hardest part I have found is having to readjust to reality. When I signed up for this trip, I was excited; when I left for this trip, I was nervous; and when I returned from this trip, I was changed. How could I not be?

I dipped my feet in springs on Mount Olympus, I climbed the steps to the Parthenon, and actually stood in front of the tomb of Phillip II (father of Alexander the Great). These are moments I will never forget.

Preschool Kindergarten Building in Greece
If all that was not enough, as an elementary education major, I found it was a tremendous opportunity to not only visit and observe several schools, but also to actually integrate myself into their classrooms.

“Not many American teachers can say they traveled to Greece and taught in a classroom for a day. It will make me a better teacher.”

— Samantha Brooks ’16

The following observations were made during my short visit. The people of Greece are loud and vibrant. Every conversation, from child to adult, seems animated. The food is beyond fantastic, with my favorite being tzatziki, a sauce or dip used on gyros. Greek salads don’t actually contain lettuce, and fried cheese with honey is without a doubt the best dessert ever. I swear feta cheese and wine are necessary for it to be considered a real Greek dinner.

Everywhere you look, there is a piece of history. It seems as if every building, walkway, or ruin has an extravagant story behind it. Parking is insane. You will undoubtedly see many people double-parked everywhere. We were told that car owners will place their phone numbers on the windshield, and you need only call, and they will come and move their cars. If you receive a T-shirt for surviving a taxi ride in New York City, then you should receive a gold medal for surviving a taxi ride in Greece. Think Grand Theft Auto meets NASCAR.

I take away from this trip an overabundance of pictures, unforgettable memories, and lasting personal connections. I will never forget the people I met in Greece, nor the kindness and hospitality they showed to me and my fellow travelers.

I know that I am forever changed, not only by the culture but also by the friends with whom I have shared this once-in-a-lifetime journey. I will forever hold them dear.

For more images from Saint Leo’s international trips, visit spirit.saintleo.edu/travel.