Permission to Come Aboard!

rockyatsea.jpgFor most faculty and students, vacation time is over and the semester is underway. Not so for Rocky Rohwedder, professor of environmental studies and planning. His vacation--and his semester--have just begun.

Rohwedder has set sail with the Semester at Sea program, and for the third time in four years he finds himself aboard the MV EXPLORER, a 590-foot former cruise ship, embarking on the adventure of a lifetime with more than 600 students from around the globe. Accompanying him on the journey are his wife, Shawn, and his young son, Ryder.

Semester at Sea, a study abroad program founded in 1963, is academically sponsored by the University of Virginia and boasts nearly 50,000 alumni from more than one thousand universities around the globe.

The current voyage began August 30, when the MV EXPLORER cast off from Halifax, Nova Scotia en route to Spain. Rohwedder describes the first night at sea as a rather sleepless one, while the ship traversed mid-Atlantic storms and eight-meter waves.

"Imagine your body being compressed down four inches into the mattress, and then, as if drawn back by heavenly forces, you lift up and seem to float in space momentarily, only to return to a compressed state once again," he writes on his blog.

During the 108-day voyage, the MV EXPLORER and her passengers will travel to Spain, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Singapore, Vietnam, China, Japan, Hawaii, and finally, to San Diego in mid-December.

While circumnavigating the globe, Rohwedder will teach interdisciplinary, field-focused courses on energy and sustainable communities, connecting course material to all the places on the itinerary. Next week, he will be leading a field trip in Spain to a solar and wind energy farm.

"Along the way I will be continuing my research and writing on ecological handprints, exploring the methods and models that humanity can use to provide basic human needs while lowering our ecological footprints," he says.

Also sailing aboard the MV EXPLORER is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African activist and recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize. Rohwedder and Tutu have travelled together during a previous Semester at Sea voyage, during which the Archbishop developed a special bond with the ship's youngest passenger--young Ryder Rohwedder, to whom he became an honorary grandfather figure.

Upon boarding the ship for the current voyage, the Archbishop reportedly said that "all was great and he was especially glad to be reconnected with Ryder."

"Ha! If that kid only knew!" laughs Rohwedder.

To read more about Rohwedder and his Semester at Sea, visit his blog, which will be updated regularly throughout the voyage.

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