Category Archives: Sight Seeing

Summer at Sea

By Greg Lennon

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4 minute read]

Each summer, members of the US Navy ROTC program are required to participate in summer training.  The nature of this training depends on the class standing of the student, or “midshipman” as we’re ranked in the Navy.  Last summer, I spent a month in San Diego with my peers learning the ins and outs of the Navy as an ROTC member.  This summer, I would get a more hands on experience: living on a ship for over six weeks.

I was assigned to be living and working on the USS Shoup, a Destroyer that would be operating out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for the summer.  Our orders were to first embark on a week-long period at sea called PACDRAGON where we would be doing joint Naval exercises with the Japanese and Korean Navies.  Then, we would enjoy two weeks in port at Pearl Harbor before returning to sea for 24 days for the international exercise known as Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC.

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

Joining me on the ship were five other midshipmen from universities across the country, including one of my classmates from USC.  While on the ship, we were assigned “running mates,” crewmembers who we would shadow to get an immersive experience in regard to ship life.  My running mate was a technician for the ship’s radar systems, an unbelievably demanding job.  Because my running mate had such a technical job, I was free to roam the ship for much of the day (usually after finishing a morning’s hard work).  Every day on the ship starts at 6:00 AM, with a morning wake up call song played over the ship’s intercom.  After an early breakfast, each division on board the ship holds its daily meeting, followed by mandated cleaning.  Since I had no real responsibilities onboard, I was released after cleaning to work out, unless my running mate had other plans for me.  Afterward, the ship’s crew convenes for lunch, and then back to work.  Every day at sea holds something different; each day we would partake in a different exercise, whether it be testing weapons systems, meeting up with members of foreign navies, or refueling at sea.  After dinner, we were released to our living spaces to relax for the evening.  Most of our nights on board were spent rewatching movies, playing cards, or getting extra sleep before the next day’s early start.

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Summer in Cancún, Mexico

By Jasmine Espindola

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

One of the most memorable places I have ever traveled to was Cancún, Mexico. It is really upsetting that many people only talk about the more negative aspects of traveling in Mexico and completely overlook the beautiful and amazing places it has to offer.  Cancún is a touristic city in the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico known for its beaches, but it has so much more to offer than conventional tourist destinations, including a vibrant culture and amazing food.

Photo by Gerson Repreza on Unsplash

I took this trip the summer after high school and it was the first time I’d ever been on a plane. I was nervous, but upon landing I was amazed at the beautiful landscape and scenery in front of me. After we checked into our hotel we walked out to the beach and I couldn’t believe the color of the water. It was all different shades of blue and surprisingly warm, which was different from the usually cold Pacific Ocean water I was used to.

We eventually went on a cruise to an island off the coast called “Isla Mujeres” which was amazing. The middle of the ocean looked like a pool because you could see the ocean floor and all of the fish and marine life. It was definitely a unique experience to be able to jump into the middle of the ocean near the reefs and have a ton of fish swimming around your legs without the fear of sharks approaching since the water was so clear.

Photo by Mario La Pergola on Unsplash

After a few days exploring the different beaches, we decided to take a trip to Yucatán, a neighboring state to Quintana Roo, to visit the Mayan temples of Chichén Itzá. On our way there we stopped at a cenote. A cenote is (as defined by dictionary.com ), a “deep natural well or sinkhole, especially in Central America, formed by the collapse of surface limestone that exposes groundwater underneath, and sometimes used by the ancient Mayans for sacrificial offerings.” I hadn’t ever even heard of these rock formations, but apparently, they are all over Central America and southern Mexico, especially prevalent on the Yucatán peninsula. The rock and cave formations were jaw-dropping and it was fascinating to learn about all the things they found there during the excavations from the Mayan Period.

After a quick dip in the water, we were on our way again to the famous Chichén Itzá. Chichén Itzá is one of the 7 wonders of the world and was built by the Mayans around 600AD, a time where they didn’t even have wheels. It was one of the most amazing experiences being next to this wonder and having a small view into the past. I also got to see the place where they would put the decapitated heads of their enemies in the first century AD and their place of recreation. The Mayan ruins are one of the most beautiful things I have seen to this day.

Photo by Carlos Nakazato on Unsplash
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My First Time Flying Alone

By Jonah Weingarten

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Throughout my life, I have traveled all around the world. I have been to Israel, Spain (twice), the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Costa Rica, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Mexico. Soon, I will also be going to Canada for the first time. Although I love traveling, there are some things about the traveling experience that haven’t always been easy for me: I used to struggle with traveling alone.

The first time I ever traveled alone was when I went to Costa Rica the summer after my freshman year of high school. I remember it clearly-it was 3:00 in the morning and I had just woken up. I was so excited to go abroad alone for the first time, but at the same time I was really scared. My flight was not until 8:30, but the program told us to arrive 4 hours before because of customs and traveling to South America. Since LAX was decently close to us, we left at 4 o’clock. The roads were completely empty and I already knew we could have left later. When we got to the airport, my mom parked and walked me to security. Since this was my first time flying alone, I was not quite sure what to do. I followed my mom to the bag check and we checked my bag and got my boarding pass. After that we headed to security where we said our goodbyes.

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

The TSA line went pretty quickly and after 20 minutes I was sitting at my gate, listening to music and reading my book to pass the time. After what seemed like a full day we started to board and then just like that we took off to Houston for our connecting flight to Costa Rica. After 3 or so hours we touched down in Houston, and I met up with the rest of the group for our Costa Rica flight. Because it was such a short layover, it seemed like we got to Costa Rica in no time. I sent my mom a text as soon as we landed to let her know I had arrived. We landed in San Jose and stayed the night. The next day, we boarded a bus that took us on a 2-hour drive to the mountains where we were staying with our host families. The town was called Turrialba.

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