Starting a New Chapter


“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” –Tony Robbins

I landed into Boston, Massachusetts early yesterday morning and in a matter of few hours, I was at the SEA Education Association campus with a small suitcase in hand, and a Bruegger’s bagel in the other. There was no going back.

My name is Rachel Soudakoff, and I’m proud to be the very first Deaf student studying abroad under SEA Semester. I’m currently in Woods Hole, Massachusetts for six weeks, prepping for the great journey that I will embark, come February. I, along with 39 other shipmates, will sail over 2,000 miles from Auckland all the way to Christchurch, New Zealand (with a few port stops in between).

How the hell did I get here? I wondered when I heard all about the details pertaining to our voyage during a workshop hosted earlier today at 08:30. After briefly catching a glimpse of an ad of SEA at an international festival hosted at my home campus, Rochester Institute of Technology, I thought it was too good to be true. After all, what can beat studying abroad in New Zealand, on a fucking SAILBOAT?!

Indeed, I proved myself wrong, and here I am, living the dream. After a brief introduction of all students, faculty, and of course, my dear ASL interpreters, the program was already underway! When my Maritime History & Culture (MHC) professor made his appearance in front of the room to introduce the class to the wildlife, ecological, and cultural aspects of New Zealand, he took the time to discuss the wide range of climates in New Zealand. As he explained, from the sub-tropical weather in the North Island to the sub-polar winds in the South Island, we will encounter numerous exotic animals and various temperatures. At the end, he hinted to the class to name the popular bird located in Antartica, and after a few silent moments, I signed out loud, “…Penguins…?” The professor, excitedly and impulsively responding to the sound of the voice coming from right next to him, pointed at the interpreter and yelled, “Correct!!” The interpreter corrected him, explaining that it was me who had answered, and that he was simply voicing for me. Sure enough, the professor’s face became as red as a lobster. I’m sure everyone in the room learned a thing or two by the end of the workshop.


Instead of sitting in the classroom all day, Class S-264 (those who will be embarking on the sailboat named Robert C. Seamans in New Zealand), set off to explore the outskirts of where our campus is located, Woods Hole. As a result of the few inches of snowfall that arrived last night, the small town looked extra pristine, and I was itching to use my brand new GoPro 4.

First things first, we checked out the local library, got our own library cards, and learned all about the abundant resources available for our upcoming research projects. After that, we all went outside and walked towards the port while the professor for our Conservation & Management (CM) class told us about some famous historical events that occurred on the very patches of snow we were standing on.

We learned that the small town of Woods Hole was created as a result of, surprisingly, climate change! The water washed away, revealing a pile of gravel, which eventually paved a path for the formation of the town of Woods Hole in 1930. Moreover, we also learned that the Knorr, which was docked right front of us, was the very ship that Robert Ballard was sailing on while he discovered the Titanic!

After standing outside in the freezing cold, listening to our professor talk about guano (bird poop), which impressively made its way to becoming the highlight of the legislation during the late 1800’s, Class S-264 eagerly set off for the delicious local bakery, Pie In the Sky.

After downing a cup of Chai Latte and a blueberry muffin, we were all ready to hit the road back to our campus for a nap!

Till tomorrow….







9 thoughts on “Starting a New Chapter

  1. Rachel Shayna,
    I’m extremely proud of you, sweetie, as you embark on another challenging journey in your life. You sure are the type of person that likes to dream big and every great journey begins with a dream.
    I love you lots,
    P.S. I will be sure to read your blog every night before I go to bed 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachel,
    We have not met but I am friends with your Dad and Alla. I wish you all the best in your new journey and look forward to following you like a student reading a journal about an inspiring , enthusiastic young lady working toward her future endeavors.

    Debbie Shahady

    Liked by 1 person

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