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Around the world aboard a study ship

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`DO not do chin-ups on shower curtain rod'' was one of the many special rules for our 100-day, around-the-world sea voyage. Another admonished not to use the netting over the swimming pool for a trampoline. This was Semester at Sea, an educational experience during which 67 oldsters (``seasoned travelers,'' they liked to call us) lived in close quarters with 365 college undergraduates, 74 faculty, staff, and families, and a couple of hundred Taiwanese crew. Half the time we were at sea taking classes and the other half ashore visiting the places we had studied. And though some found the courses a little easier than those on their home campuses, most applied themselves with some diligence, despite a general lack of privacy on board.

Between departure from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in late January and arrival in Seattle in early May, the sparkling white SS Universe, an 18,100-ton passenger vessel owned by the C. Y. Tung Corporation of Taiwan, would come to be ``the great white mother'' to us, as one of the deans, Richard Stevens of the University of Colorado, put it.

``There is no other program in the world like this,'' he told a general meeting of students the second day at sea. ``This should be the best semester of your entire life,'' said Mr. Stevens, who was taking the trip for the fourth time.

When the late Mr. Tung initiated the idea of Semester at Sea, he had wanted to sponsor an international study ship that would attract students from many countries. He had originally acquired the huge HMS Queen Elizabeth for a floating campus, but when she burned and sank on the day of her rededication in 1971, the SS Universe was substituted. Originally sponsored by Chapman College in Orange, Calif., and later by the University of Colorado, the twice-a-year program is now run by the University of Pittsburgh.

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