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National Flag of Belgium

The best 10 days of my life!


I was on the last ship to ever sail to Europe, the SS Waterman, and we left July 20th, 1968.

We had 10 days on the ship – 900 students – everyone was going home to their different countries except 26 of us.  Twenty three went to Belgium and three went to Finland.  It was the last ship to take anybody home and we had the whole world represented on that ship, kids from all the European countries.


The SS Waterman (aka the AFS Party Boat)

The SS Waterman (aka the AFS Party Boat)



I fell in love with a boy from India on the very first day I met him.  He was leaving the US after having been there for a year.  We spent ten days and fell madly in love with each other, and we wrote for five years.  He went on to marry some Indian actress and I married my husband.

I had my 18th birthday on the ship and that was fun.  All day long the boys, especially from France, were kissing me.

We had lessons on the ship–in the mornings we had two hours of Dutch, we had to learn Flemish and about Belgium, we had classes, and some free time in the evening.  We learned how to eat the European way—how difficult that was at first and how awkward!  They had movies and dancing and organized games and all kinds of activities on the ship for 10 days.

The world was represented on that ship!

Star-crossed lovers — the movie Titanic

Not quite the SS Waterman…Image via Wikipedia

At the time I as so curious, I loved meeting people with different experiences, I wrote everything down.  We said goodbye to the kids from India and Pakistan—they had to get off a day early—standing on top of the ship and waving goodbye to my new love.

This was like the movie, Titanic.  We kept motioning to each other I love you, and we sailed off and I couldn’t see him anymore.

When we flew back at the end of the year, I was so disappointed that they took the boat experience out of the AFS experience.

That in itself was one of the best ten days of my life!

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Flag of Finland

I heaved into the North Atlantic


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I kind of drank too much when I came back to the States.

They put us on a cruise ship from Helsinki to Copenhagen.  You leave out on a Friday and arrive at the dock Sunday morning.  So and it’s really kind of a party barge, and we didn’t have state rooms.

They have up on the upper deck retractable ceilings, and at night they would just pull those shut and you just kind of grab one of these wrestling mats and grab a blanket and a pillow.  I can remember that when you got American dollars, they’ll serve you.

So I thought I would try to have one of every kind of drink I could think of, and that didn’t sit too well.

I ended up heaving it all into the North Atlantic.

But oh boy, you know, the school of higher education.  That was a good trip.

I think one of the things about Finnish people is they’re a very private people. They really don’t share their views and their opinions and their emotions that readily.  You know the thing, too, is my Finnish mother, she cried when I left, and to this day I’ve got a picture there at the dock.  I thought that was probably the sweetest thing was somebody crying cause she was gonna miss me. She came to like me a lot, I guess.


Ken Young Leaving Finland

Ken Young Leaving Finland


I think I was ready to come home.

Yeah, I was ready to come home because, you know, it’s kind of like vacation.  I was ready to get back to my routine, because most of our lives we spend working and even as a kid we spent a fair amount of our time in our routine with our school and with our family, and to go over there and do that was awesome.  Two months was good.  I’m always amazed that kids can go over there on a full year’s program.

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