Come September, most Schenectady High School graduates will be jumping into college. But Megan Griesemer will be setting sail on a four-continent, nine-month journey.
Foregoing the traditional start to college life, Griesemer will be joining around 60 other students from across the globe in the Canadian-based Class Afloat program.
Departing from the Netherlands aboard a 230-foot tall ship with 130-foot masts, the program sails from port to port, with stops in Europe, Africa, South America and North America. They will land in Spain, Morocco, Senegal, Brazil, South Africa and island countries dotted across the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’ve been here in Schenectady since I was born,” she said. “I’ve never been outside of the Northeast, so going to Africa will be insane and pretty awesome.”
Her hair shines with shades of blue — the color of the ocean. “That’s what everyone says,” she said.
HANDS ON DECK
While at sea, students will be expected to run the boat, trimming the sails, cleaning the deck and more. They sleep in tight quarters — 10 to a dorm — and make do with short showers.
Griesemer, who has already been accepted at SUNY Potsdam and hopes to start as a sophomore after she returns from the world cruise, will take classes in marine biology and astronomy while on the ship.
“I’m taking those classes on the boat, so you get to see what you are learning,” she said. “You will actually see the stars.”
But Griesemer’s journey would not be possible without the help of Chris Trow, of Glenville, who is sponsoring Griesemer and a Ballston Spa graduate for the program.
Trow, whose son participated in the program after he graduated from Niskayuna High School in 2013, said the program opens students to a much bigger world than what they have grown up with.
“When you haven’t traveled before and you go to a city in Spain or Morocco, and you see the hustle and bustle and local culture, it certain is life changing in terms of your view of the world,” Trow said. “You lose your fear of the world and fear of travel.”
Trow has committed to funding trips for students who would otherwise be unable to afford it ever since his son died in a motorcycle accident just months after returning from his voyage in 2014.
He has already sponsored three students in the program, which costs over $40,000 for a full year. And he recently established a nonprofit — Class Afloat Foundation USA — intended to support even more trips.
As she lies in bed or wanders the halls in her final days of school, Griesemer said she can’t help but envision herself on a boat surrounded by nothing but miles and miles of open sea — a frightening thought for someone who has only ever traveled as far as the Isle of Shoals off the coast of Maine.
“I’ve definitely thought about it, and it’s definitely scary,” she said. “If I don’t think about it, it won’t be too scary; and when it’s actually happening, it will be too amazing to be scary.”
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