Students prepare to sail on the high seas
Bermudian students Alexa Manuel and James Patterson considered heading straight to university after high school.
A Class Afloat programme changed their minds.
The two 18-year-olds will embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they board a 500-ton tall ship in Amsterdam on Monday.
Over the next nine months they'll get to visit more than 20 ports of call on four continents, including Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. When they're not on land exploring or volunteering, they will take part in university courses and learn to sail the high seas.
James admits it has been on his radar to sign up for Class Afloat over the past two years.
“I first found out about the programme in 2013 when they were travelling and had a stop off in Bermuda,” he explained. “They went around to a bunch of high schools over that trip and did a whole presentation at my school [Saltus Grammar School].
“I became interested after that point.”
The teenager brought it to his dad's attention even though it still seemed a little “far-fetched”.
“I wasn't even sure if it would be possible,” James said. “But the second time I brought it up my dad sat me down and looked into it.
“I told him about my plans to raise money and that I wanted to do it as a gap year. Once we looked at all the details we had a serious talk.”
James said his parents liked that the programme was more structured than a traditional gap year.
He also helped them trim back on some of the costs by working at Makin Waves during the past few summers.
Alexa, a recent BHS graduate, said the programme appealed to her partly because it allowed her more time to decide which university degree to pursue.
“Right now I'm not really sure what will happen after this year or what I'll study so I'm using this year to explore my options,” she said. “I'm really leaning towards going into film and cinematography, so this will be a good opportunity for me to build a portfolio for that. My plan is to do a lot of filming while I'm travelling to see if that's the right field for me.
“I've deferred my acceptance into Mount Allison Univeristy until next year, so that's there as a back-up.”
The duo are actually longtime family friends, but say they had no idea the other was going until after they were both accepted.
Now they will get to experience destinations in Morocco, Canary Islands, Brazil and South Africa together.
“The travel component is actually what immediately grabbed my attention because I love to travel and experience different cultures,” Alexa said. “I've been to Thailand, France, Costa Rica, London and obviously parts of Canada and the US.
“I had a lot of oportunities through my school and actually went to Chiang Mai in Thailand and Peru with them. My parents also like to travel.”
Cape Town is one of the places they are both excited about seeing in December.
James went on a safari in Tanzania with his family at age ten. He said the experienece was a “pretty incredible” one and whet his appetite to go back.
“I'm also excited for Buenos Aires [in Argentina] and other South American countries,” he said.
“I've always wanted to go there. For me I'm not so interested in going to Europe and visiting a dozen museums, I'm far more drawn to exotic places. I'd rather go zip-lining and go on adventures like that.”
The trip won't all be fun and games for the youngsters.
One of their tasks will be standing watch over the ship for four hours each day. In between that they also have chores, regular classes and studying to fit in.
James anticipates his biggest challenge will be adjusting to the food on board; Alexa's will be homesickness.
Their biggest advice to other teens about to finish high school? Stay open-minded as to what your life will look like.
“I was always set on going straight to university after high school and never thought about taking a year out to do this until I looked into the opportunities,” Alexa said.
“So my advice would be just to look at all the options and see if maybe anything different or unique catches your eye.”