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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.


The sun begins to lower in the sky. The bright, hot light turns golden, and we take to the sea. Bare feet running across the sand, hair trailing in the golden wind, bodies plunging into the waves. Waves that reflect the sky’s light like an artist’s nuanced interpretation of a classic scene.

When the sun dips low, our world changes color–to hues of pinks, purples, reds. It feels as if we are swimming in a palette of fiery watercolors, their shades not yet mixed.

I look around to my friends and see the sunset reflected in their eyes. In this moment, I am here, and that’s all I know. In this moment, we are united. Joy in our hearts, salt in our hair, smiles on our faces.

Once below the waves, I welcome the silence of the sea. It is a sanctuary I’ve always been comforted by. Here, I take a moment to center myself, to feel the push and pull of the tides, to feel the sand between my toes, and to listen to the sounds of the waves. Then I rise out of the water and am met with the sun’s spectacular goodbye.

Following the setting of the sun, stars appear one by one in the darkness of the night. The milky way crests, Orion’s belt shines, shooting stars arc. I find myself immobilized by the sky’s beauty and might.


Being in Indonesia with no distractions or technology to tear me from the present, I’ve been able to notice what surrounds me–moments and sights I’ve either taken for granted or never before noticed. It’s as if, without the constant vacuum of the digital world, my senses are sharpened. Honed. The world just seems brighter, colors richer, smells stronger. Part of the awe I feel for the world I see here comes from realizing that I never truly saw my world back home.

Here, I see. My world is filled with moments that make my heart sing, that rob me of words–moments when I have to catch my breath. Gazing at the fiery sundown sky, at the night’s sparkling stars, I am reminded of my relative smallness in this world and universe. I am reminded of what matters to me, and what doesn’t.

Here, I have discovered a new understanding of my place in this world and how I want to exist. I want this feeling to stay with me, long after I’ve returned home. In times of stress, of pain, times when I’ve lost sight of myself–I want to remember the sunset, the waves, the stars. But I also want to remember to look up, to look around, and to feel the beauty that surrounds me– no matter where I am.