Hannah Short rejoins JUMP! after spending much of her past year on ‘SeaMester’ in the Caribbean. This summer, Hannah will work as a Facilitator on the Americans Promoting Study Abroad Summer Scholars Program.
As I enter the final phase of my gap year—returning to Beijing to rejoin the JUMP! Team—I cannot help but reflect on how much JUMP! has shaped my life these past few months. While my time with JUMP! has been relatively short, I have learned tools and adopted approaches that have stayed with me. JUMP! is not a short-term program, but rather a way of life, and I see the evidence every day.
In January, after I left Beijing, I began a program called SeaMester—an incredibly challenging semester living as crew on board a 112-foot sailboat. It involved sailing for days on end, scuba diving, and taking in the beautiful sights of the Caribbean. I had been looking forward to the semester for over a year. Prior to starting the trip I wrote out a vision statement for myself to clarify what I wanted to accomplish. It ended up sounding a little like this: ‘SeaMester was an extraordinary experience where I made very close friends. I took every opportunity I was presented with, and lived life to the fullest. I worked hard in my academics and received very good grades. Being at sea also gave me time to think about what I want in the future, and what is important to me.’ Writing a vision statement allowed me to keep a clear idea of what the trip was about, and helped me make decisions. Writing a vision statement is even more powerful than goal setting, because it incorporates an actual vision of what you want. My SeaMester vision turned into an amazing reality—though not without a few bumps along the way!
As I mentioned above, the trip was quite difficult. In part, this stemmed from the physical requirements of the program. As crew, we had to maintain presence on deck at all times to man the sails and drive the boat. We had a complex watch system that split responsibilities, but this meant that our sleeping schedules were disrupted often, leading to sleep deprivation. On top of this we had other duties, such as homework, daily jobs (cooking, cleaning etc.) and generally maintaining our sanity. Oftentimes, especially when being woken up for sailing watch at 2 am for the early morning shift, I would slip into a bad mood, and feel negatively towards the trip. The prisoner, vacationer, change-maker (PVC) model is one of my favorite JUMP! tools, and particularly applicable to my feelings at those times. That model helped me maintain perspective. Obviously, there are appropriate times to be a prisoner, but sailing around the Caribbean was definitely not one of them. As a result of using PVC, I stayed positive during most of the trip, and was able to enjoy it even more.
The three months I spent at sea were a living, breathing example of Tuckman’s model of group development. At first, the boat was a completely alien environment where I was required to live in very close quarters with, and work alongside, 28 strangers. The first few weeks we were ‘forming’ as a team, getting to know one another and building friendships. Once the novelty of being on the trip wore off and work got serious, niceties faded into ‘storming’. The crew was made up of young adults, and tensions often ran high between certain members. In such a communal environment, everybody’s efforts affected everybody else, and led to many criticisms. By the end of the trip 3 members of our crew left because it did not suit them. Luckily, in the second half of the trip we found a balance as a team and got into the routine of getting jobs done, and we entered the ‘norming’ phase. By the last few weeks of the trip, we were definitely performing. The final week we competed in the Antigua Classics Regatta, a sailing race for classic-style yachts like our vessel, the Argo. The Regatta pitted us sailing against other yachts with professional crews. By this point, our crew had mastered our sailing technique, and it was just a question of performing our duties when required. We worked together so well that we ended up beating one of the professional crews! I’m proud of our teamwork and what we achieved, and it was with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes that I said goodbye to the crew and vessel I had come to know and love.
SeaMester was an incredible experience that will stay with me always, and the knowledge I gained at JUMP! significantly enhanced my time on SeaMester. I’m already in the process of writing my vision statement for this summer, and I’m extremely excited for my next adventure: being a part of the upcoming APSA program!