Working on Semester at Sea: A Day in the Field Office

So many of you have asked, “what is the Field Office and what is it exactly that you do on the ship?” There is no cut-and-dry answer to this as our days are different and our tasks varied, so I figured I would give you a peek into a day at sea.

8am.* Wake up. Throw on the same outfit I’ve worn five times already on the voyage. (I’m going to need to shop in some of the countries, as I’m quickly becoming bored of my limited wardrobe.) Bleary-eyed, I trudge the 100 feet from our room to the dining room to fix my oatmeal and coffee and take it with me to eat it in my office.

8:15am. Still bleary-eyed, I trudge the 100 feet back past my room and then another 100 feet to my office. The great thing about living, working and eating on the same floor is that it really cuts down your commute time! Plus, the Field Office has some of the best digs on the ship. We have oceanfront views and a pretty roomy space—closed off from society so we’re not bombarded with questions all day long from the students—for getting our work done.

Reading and answering student, faculty and tour operator questions take up the next half hour or so. I love being in an office environment again (and having Josh and Paula to talk to on a regular basis) where people come in and out all day to say hi and ask questions; after four years of working from home, it definitely makes the day go by faster.

9:25am. Global Studies class. Everyone on the ship is supposed to attend this on either A day or B day. Sometimes we make it, but if we’re particularly busy, it’s broadcast over the ship and so we’ll watch it on TV from our office.

10am. Office hours time! We open up the Field Office desk from 10am to noon and 3 to 5pm daily to answer questions on Semester at Sea-sponsored trips, help participants sign up (and sometimes cancel) trips, check out guidebooks, give advice on independent travel and answer pretty much every inquiry under the sun. (“How long does the bullet train in Japan take?” is currently the frontrunner for most-frequently asked question.)

Luckily, we have four awesome work study students—two of whom work a two-hour period in the morning, two who help us out in the afternoon—so those times when it gets particularly crazy and there are 25 people waiting in line to talk to Paula and me, they step up to the plate and answer all the questions that they can.

12pm. Lunch time. If it’s a pretty day, we’ll eat on the back deck and try to sneak a few minutes of sun before returning indoors.

1pm. Back to the office after lunch. Check my personal email for the first time all day. I always wondered who these people were who would claim “I don’t have time to check my email all day long at work!” And now I know.

Tweet if I can get the bandwidth (which often I can’t). Text my mom for an Ella update (she’s been reliable at sending pictures). Then back to 100-something odd chores.

3pm. More office hours. More answering questions. More going hoarse from talking so much. Sometimes, we have hectic afternoons like Alternate Day, where we’re camped at the desk from 8am to 4pm facilitating sign-ups and looking up students’ statements, but weeks like this after our first port, it’s much quieter.

5pm. Paula and I head upstairs for a talk with the Lifelong Learners (those above college age who are sailing on the ship, as well) on independent travel. I like the LLLs as there’s always a lot of participation when we interact with them and we definitely get a warm welcoming.

5:45pm. Dinner time! Sure, that’s four hours earlier than I’m used to eating back home, but I’m also usually way hungrier come 5pm than I’m used to—which often translates to return trips to the buffet, as well.

Dinner usually corresponds with sunset, and the formal dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows that reflect that orange and yellow light quite brilliantly.

6:30pm. Back to the office for a bit of firming up manifests, creating rooming lists, confirming lecturers for FDPs (faculty-directed practica) and other list-like tasks (my favorites!) that didn’t get completed throughout the day.

8pm. Commence evening activities. This can be anything from an Explorers seminar on the architecture in Ghana to a cultural or logistical pre-port (we have one of each before every stop) to a lecture from a notable guest on board the ship (like this week’s VIP, Adam Braun of Pencils of Promise). Sometimes the Field Office is in charge of the program; other times, we get to sit back and watch like all the other civilians.

9:30pm. I’m finally able to see some of my friends on board the ship who don’t work in the Field Office. The faculty and staff have a dedicated lounge at the bow of the ship with great views over the ocean—oh, and adult beverages. It’s where a vast majority of the socialization takes place.

11pm. Back to our cabin for Internetting, chilling out with SVV and occasionally watching a movie. They play a handful of movies on a loop over the ship’s A/V system that are semi-applicable to where we’re visiting—lately, Casablanca, Planet Earth and Blood Diamond have been airing—and change them out after every country.

Midnight. Bed time. I used to have trouble falling asleep back in San Francisco, but the exhaustion paired with the gentle (and sometimes not-so) rocking nature of the ship makes for easy snoozing. The time zone is changing again, which means another hour of lost sleep. I sort of envy those Spring 2011 voyagers who did the reverse route and were constantly gaining hours!

(*Technically, we’re supposed to use military time on the ship, but this is still something that confuses me more than it helps clarify things, so I still use regular time in my head.)

 

COMMENTS
  • September 7, 2011

    Wow, that is a CRAZY busy day. I can’t believe you fall in bed at midnight and can still operate at 8am. Go you! Sounds like a busy, crazy blast!

    • September 7, 2011
      Kristin

      Haha and here I was thinking, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten eight-hour sleep periods in my life! It seems so long to me, and yet I am so tired all the time, too!

      • September 7, 2011

        I guess technically I go to bed at midnight to one and start my day at 7am, but I’m not going, going, going from 8am to 11pm like you are!

  • September 7, 2011

    please keep sharing your experiences–this is all so interesting!!

    (and dang, you work hard!)

    • September 7, 2011
      Kristin

      Thanks, Natalie! I look forward to going through your site and bookmarking/recreating all the delicious things you make when I’m back on land at Christmas =)

  • September 7, 2011

    Sounds intense but fun! So.. how long does the bullet train in Japan take?

    • September 7, 2011
      Kristin

      Haha, I STILL don’t know the answer to that question! I think it’s around three hours from Kobe (where we’re docking) to Tokyo (where many people are going). Technically, we’re not the ship’s “travel agents,” so we’re there to provide resources as opposed to do bookings and cater to every person’s every need 😉

      • September 7, 2011
        Heather

        Hey! I’m a fellow Tennessean and former SASer and I just stumbled on your blog!

        I took the bullet train from Kobe to Tokyo in 2008 and it took us close to 3.5 hours. =)

        • September 9, 2011
          Kristin

          That’s amazing! Do you live in TN now? We’re moving to Nashville in the spring and have been flaunting our UT hats proudly on the M/V Explorer =)

          • September 10, 2011
            Heather

            I live in Nashville! Way to rep UT!

  • September 7, 2011
    kara

    So, what is SVV doing during your workday? Thanks for the thorough description!

    • September 7, 2011
      Kristin

      Oh, we’re going to get to that soon—he will be posting all about his day-to-day shipboard life, which includes among other things, ping-pong matches, visits to the gym and more 😉

  • September 7, 2011

    “closed on from society” – do you mean closed off? Just sayin’.

    It sounds like fun, and panic, and you work with some lovely people.

    Safe travels.

    • September 7, 2011
      Kristin

      Yes! That is what I meant =)

      (Sporadic Internet will likely = more typos than usual. Sorry in advance!)

  • September 7, 2011

    Umm… Can I be a LLL? Please?

    • September 7, 2011
      Kristin

      Yes! And you can bring your whole family, too, which is the beauty of it =)

  • September 7, 2011
    Katie S.

    Sounds hectic but fun!! Thanks for sharing with us =)

  • September 7, 2011

    That’s a lot of long days! But still sounds like a great job.

  • September 7, 2011
    Briel K.

    I don’t know why I enjoy day in the life posts so much but I do! 🙂 Now we need one from SVV’s perspective!

    • September 7, 2011
      Kristin

      That is totally coming in a couple of weeks!

  • September 7, 2011

    Wow, that’s a very full day. Hopefully you get a day off now and then.

  • September 7, 2011
    Ellen

    I wish I also could write a nice long blog about my day, but it’s just not that interesting. You go girl! Keep the updates coming! Ellen

    • September 8, 2011
      Kristin

      You are silly–I’m sure your day-to-day life in the 90210 zip is fascinating! Particularly days when you run into You Know Who… =)

  • September 7, 2011

    And silly me thought you were just sitting in a deck chair drinking mai tais all day!

    Thanks for sharing your day with us. Sounds like you’re crazy busy but it also sounds like you’re having crazy fun!

    (Though I couldn’t help but notice that there’s no mention of showering in there. What’s that all about, hmm?)

    • September 8, 2011
      Kristin

      I think you might have gotten my husband and me confused in that assumption 😉

      (Showering…er…let’s just say I’m trying to be environmentally friendly. HA.)

  • September 7, 2011
    Ris

    This is awesome–thanks for sharing! I’m excited to read what SVV has been up to while you’re hard at work!

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      Spoiler alert: He spends a lot of time on the 7th deck. Doing what, I won’t say…for now… =)

  • September 8, 2011

    Wow, this sounds like a crazy and fun job. Being exhausted can have its rewards (sleeping like a baby!). I went on a cruise a few years ago and the first days make me want to vomit so bad I wailed for a helicopter, so I truly envy those who can be on it long-term. My boyfriend’s an engineer and is constantly ragging on me for not completely understanding military time as well, sometimes I get so confused too!

    • September 8, 2011
      Kristin

      I get severely seasick as well, so this whole living-on-a-ship-for-four-months bit is going to be a huge test! So far, so good. I brought bottles of ginger tablets, several packs of Bonine and Dramamine, and finally got the prescription patches that go behind your ear. The waters have been pretty calm thus far, but I fear for our Pacific crossing in November!

  • September 10, 2011

    That sounds very fun and interesting but also hugely tiring – you have seriously packed days! The part about sunset dinners and fun faculty lounge/bar socializing sounds like a nice way to wind down though.

    • September 11, 2011
      Kristin

      We have been lucky in that it has been warm every single day since we left Boston in mid-August. I seriously thought it would be cold in the open Atlantic, but nope–sunbathing weather every day!

  • September 11, 2011

    Love breakdowns like these. What’s the Global Studies class about (well, other than global studies, lol) and do you participate the entire semester?

    • September 11, 2011
      Kristin

      I’ve only been once (oops!), but I think it’s a combo of history, geography, cultural context, religion, etc. about the next port we’re visiting. The students are broken up into two groups, so every one of them has to go to Global Studies on either A day or B day. It’s required of all of them.

  • September 12, 2011

    Wow that’s a tough schedule! No time other than at night with SVV???

  • September 12, 2011

    Whoa that is a long day lady!

  • September 12, 2011

    very informative post that did indeed answer a lot of my questions about what you are up to out there. It sounds fascinating. I want to go as a LL and would love for my daughter(s) to go some day as students!

  • September 12, 2011

    Good lord that is an insane day. I would love to do something like this but I couldn’t imagine being that involved with people ALL THE TIME. How often does the time change?

  • September 13, 2011

    As much as I like to think I’m a rock… I actually get semi-sea sick.

  • September 14, 2011

    Long days, but this looks like a heckuva lot of fun!

  • September 19, 2011

    Very cool! I know several people who did SAS, but I always wondered what it was like to work on-board, so it was fun to see an insider view! I am jealous that sleeping has become so easy 🙂 Can’t wait to keep following your journey!

  • September 20, 2011

    That is a full day!

  • September 22, 2011

    You look so happy!

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