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.)