Ahoy! Whittier College Students Share What Life Was Like on the High Seas

September 22, 2023

High Seas Fellows with Call of Sea CrewFeel the wind in your hair, smell the briny water, and become attuned to the sway of the ship. 

Nautical recreation may not be at the top of one’s mind when thinking about Whittier College, but that isn’t stopping scholars from exploring the open water. The inaugural Fellowship on the High Seas set sail this summer to give students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience travel on a traditional wooden sailing ship.

The fellowship was a one-week sea voyage that launched out of Sausalito in the San Francisco Bay and traveled down to Monterey, educating students about the Northern California coastal ecosystem from Aug. 2-7. Along with their more conventional studies, the three fellows learned about the intricacies of operating a sailing ship, including keeping watch, cooking meals for the crew, understanding the weather patterns, reading coordinates and more.

Golden Gate BridgeInspired by alum Gill Terry Causey’s book, “Let the Wind Carry Me: How Curiosity Can Open Doors of Perception and Learning,” the fellowship was created in partnership with the organization Call of the Sea. Whittier College Fellowships Coordinator Elizabeth Sanchez said the program was a great way for students to escape their comfort zone.

“It’s an opportunity to step back from your busy lives and really be present to see the world from a different perspective,” Sanchez said. “And that's something I think is very, very rewarding.”

Following the adventure, fellows incorporate what they gained from the trip into a project of their own design. Because the fellowship is open to any Whittier majors, students had free reign to combine the maritime aspects into their passion of choice.

Third-year student Adriana Cox-Gonzalez, double majoring in environmental science and biology, is writing a research report about the sustainability of sailboats compared to cargo ships.

“I had zero experience being on a sailboat, or really boats in general before this trip,” Cox-Gonzalez said. “I was very worried about being seasick before the trip, but it turned out to be not too bad.”

Fourth-year business administration student Geraldine Serna had also never sailed before. She decided to focus her project on ecotourism and Call of the Sea.

“My research is seeking to understand the underlying principles, impacts, challenges, and potential for fostering a balanced coexistence between tourism and the environment,” Serna said. “Lessons learned can guide the future development of ecological awareness and socially responsible travel experience.”

Sanchez, a Whittier alum herself, is already looking forward to next year’s trip and the opportunity to enrich a new group of fellows. She’s thrilled to carry on the tradition of providing an excellent education similar to what she received as a student.

“My favorite part of my role is seeing our students increase that love for learning,” Sanchez said. “There's a joy and a pride in being able to put forth independent work, come up with a project, and see it to fruition.”

Visit Fellowships on the High Seas for more information and to apply.