Setting Sail Second Semester

LP Senior to Finish High School Sailing Abroad
Alexia Pena-Mendoza (LP ‘24, right) and her sister Ana (LP ‘26, left) at the ages of 15 and 13, respectively, overlooking the pyramis in Xochilcaco, Morelos in Mexico.
Alexia Pena-Mendoza (LP ‘24, right) and her sister Ana (LP ‘26, left) at the ages of 15 and 13, respectively, overlooking the pyramis in Xochilcaco, Morelos in Mexico.
Alexia Pena-Mendoza

Senior year is known as the climax of one’s high school career or even young adult life. It entails the important decision of figuring out what you want to do with your life, whether that be attending a college, university, trade school, studying abroad, or joining the military. Some may even say it is the beginning of pursuing one’s dream. One student in particular has decided to take a different path and pursue her lifelong dream by continuing her studies not just abroad, but out to sea.
Alexia Peña (LP ‘24) will finish her high school career traveling the world for 4 months by sailboat across the Caribbean, Atlantic, and around Europe.
“I have lived in 6 different cities, 2 countries, and over 10 houses, plus attended around 8 different schools. Living this way allowed me to see the world differently and experience different things. It has opened my mind and changed the way I perceive the world,” Alexia said.

Alexia Pena-Mendoza, LP ’24

Originally from Mexico City, Alexia encountered a few health complications at birth that thankfully she overcame. These complications, a rare blood disease and lymphoma, didn’t bring her down and instead helped her become stronger and more resilient to better navigate through her journeys in life.
“When Alexia told me she wanted to finish high school on a ship, I thought it was a crazy idea, but I knew she would achieve it,” Jas Mendoza, Alexia’s mom said. “Once she sets her mind to something she will do anything to accomplish it.”
Roughly 2 years later, she and her family began a series of moves that would ultimately fuel her love for travel. Up until today, Alexia has moved from Cancun, Mexico (located on the Yucatan Peninsula.); to Miami, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; and back to Mexico in a city named Aguascalientes.
Although she experienced adversity like the divorce of her parents, through each “move” Alexia remained optimistic and held onto her lifelong dream of traveling the world. She also learned much just by realizing the differences in societies and cultures of each region.
“Knowing that someone is on the other side of the world living a completely different life to mine is something that interested me,” Alexia said.
These moves were mainly due to her parents’ work, but they sparked her passion to experience each part of the world, and granted her the opportunity to make memories with her sister and parents.
Before junior year, Alexia made her last move, for now, to Roselle, making friends and memories on the Lake Park cheer team, but also preparing herself for her long awaited trip at sea.
“I was just looking online for a program to study abroad and stumbled upon Class Afloat,” Alexia said.
Her saying of “life is life” gives her a reminder that life is not perfect and is full of ups and downs, most of which we can’t control. This allows her to be more open to change and new experiences, especially the one in which she is about to embark.
Class Afloat is a course where students in grades 11-12, university, or taking a gap year can complete academic semesters of various classes. The program has been around for 40 years. The ship Alexia will be boarding is a German ship named the Alexander-Humboldt. She will take off in January 2024 from Bridgetown, Barbados and continue for four months.
You may be wondering how and what will a person learn on a boat? The answer: very similar to that of a regular classroom. With a school of about 42 students, 62 with crew included, each class is divided into about 5 students. Each student is placed in a dorm with 3 other students and bunk beds for sleeping. Students come from all over the world such as South Africa, Germany, Canada, U.S, Mexico, and Brazil.
Classes consist of regular subjects such as global geography and history, physics, biology, mathematics, calculus, political science, French, and English. Some of the more unique classes consist of maritime studies (learning how to sail), ocean chemistry, anthropology, and canadian history.
On this ship, students also learn vital living skills and understand the importance of keeping responsibility. Students are expected to cook, clean, do laundry, and learn the importance of working together. Each student is part of a night watch which consists of 6 people that switches every night. The night watches are in charge of keeping the ship in order through assigned specific duties whether it is cleaning, cooking, etc. Within those four months of travel, stops are made in Spain, France, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, and a surprise trip along the planned route (possibly the U.K this trip), a tradition that each voyage participates in. Half of the course takes place in a classroom environment, while the other half is hands-on in the port of each city. The longest passage for the ship is 20 days at sea at one time, otherwise the ship stops from port to port.
Alexia mostly looks forward to “Getting to meet new people from around the world, and the opportunity to sail.”
After her trip, Alexia plans to take a gap year to do what she does best: explore. She plans to go backpacking in Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as work for a sailing company and volunteer in Africa.
After this gap year Alexia plans to attend Leiden University in the Netherlands to major in international studies.

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