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The best 10 days of my life!

  • Name: Linda Pinewski Johnson
  • Destination: Zwijndrecht, Belgium
  • When: Year, 1968-69
  • Hometown: Anoka, Minnesota
  • Organization: AFS


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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    Hi AFSer,I was on that ship the same year and I think at the end of July on my way to the USA,mine were also the BEST TEN DAYS IN MY LIFE,and also the wonderful year I spent with my American Family in Kansas CIty,and my School.This experience changed my life,I still go to visit my family evrery two years.I love USA.And I thank mine was the last trip on the ship,my sister went a year later and they flought.

    • Thanks for the comment, Esther! If you would like to share your stories about your exchange to Kansas City, I’d love to hear them!

  • esther

    I was looking for some of the foreign exchange students in the Kansas CIty area that year,1968-69.I keep in touch with my friends in the USA but I would like to find more.
    AFS did such a wonderful job.
    1969 was a very special year,I was in New york when man reached the moon and President Richard Nixon talked to us,maybe 1000 in the White House¡¡How about that¡¡

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