Semester at Sea- Armchair Travel With Us Through Europe This Summer

by Karen on June 26, 2014

in Behind the Scenes, Education, Museum Issues, Travel and Tourism

Summer is a great time to make memorable travel plans. We are excited to introduce guest blogger, college student and travel enthusiast, Imara Renaud-Krutulis, to you. Imara is spending her Summer exploring Europe and will be sharing her many adventures with us. I had the honor of talking with Imara about her coming travels.
Journey to Semester at Sea Summer 2014
Meet Imara who will be sharing her European adventures with us this Summer.

Karen: Imara, tell us what takes you to Europe this Summer.

Imara: I’m doing an amazing semester abroad on a program called Semester at Sea.

Karen: What attracted you to Semester at Sea? Can you explain how it works and what classes you are taking?

Imara: Well it starts with my love of reading. I first learned about the concept (and program) through reading Young Adult novels about high school students going abroad and finding something out about themselves through having these amazing experiences that they never knew before. I thought it was the coolest thing, and I still do! It’s a bit strange to think that I’m actually doing what I read, and later researched to see if it was real, from when I was younger. I even forgot about it for a bit until I saw a little poster in my college’s (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) mail room!
Semester at Sea Summer 2014- Sunset on the deck of The Explorer
Sunset on the deck of The Explorer, Semester at Sea

Essentially the person who’s interested in going on Semester at Sea will go onto the program’s website, check out what voyage they are interested in, and enroll in classes. (For a summer semester they recommend only taking three classes, one of which is a Comparitve Lens class. I’m taking Travel Writing, Northern European Literature and Film, and Sustainable Communities), and then apply for that semester over the internet if they still want to continue. If they do, it requires an essay (I wrote mine on how I want to write about my travels as a possible career, and how this summer abroad would help me with that goal), and just about any information on you that you can think of- that a school would want from potential students, of course.

Karen: What countries will you be visiting in your travels?

Imara: By the end of the summer I’ll have been to 10 countries. The voyage that I’m on had embarkation in Southampton, England and from there we’re going to Portugal, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Finland, and Poland.

Semester at Sea Summer 2014 voyage Map
Imara will be visiting 10 countries during her Semester at Sea Summer 2014 voyage.

Karen: Have you been to Europe before? If so, what countries have you visited?

Imara: Yes, I have. I went when I was in high school. My school’s French and German classes were told about a trip for spring break (which eventually just turned into a week in the summer due to that whole Icelandic volcano errupting) to France, Germany, and Austria. I was doing pretty well in my French class and wanted to explore the world, so I asked my dad if it would be alright. Luckily for me he said yes!

Karen: Are there any countries and/or cultural sites you are most excited about seeing? Why?

Imara: I was really excited to go to England since I have an obsession with Harry Potter. I spent a week in London before starting my Semester at Sea program. I think Ireland, Sweden, and Russia are the other countries I’m really exctied to see, even though I’ll be turning 19 the first day we get to Finland.

For Ireland I’m just really excited to see the country side, the cliffs, and the musicians busking. The culture there is just so rich with history, and the music so enchanting no matter what style you listen to.

One of my favorite bands from Ireland got “discovered” from busking (street performing) about while Anthony Bourdain was filming one of his shows (I can’t remember if it was No Reservations or the one about layovers). I was hoping to see them, but they’ll be in England at a music festival. Instead I’ll be doing a “(SAS Exclusive) field program” where I will get to see the cliffs of Moher, visit (and stay the night) in Ennis, see Yvonne Casey perform and discuss music with us, and then go to Galaway the next day and experience some busking.

In Sweden I’m going to be doing a field program where I’ll be looking at ancient Rune Stones and trying to decode them. I’m pretty excited about that one, and one of my friends who is studying Norse is very, very excited for the outing.

For Russia my Northern European Literature and Film class will be taking a “field lab” that will be taking us to places that we will have read about in Crime and Punishment. We’ll also be seeing different houses of Russian authors, and a grave yard that is the final resting place of many other authors.

Karen: What are you most hoping to gain from your travel experiences this Summer?

Imara: It won’t be just a week in three countries having no free time to explore the cities for myself. It’s two and a half months abroad. I’m hoping to have a better understanding of the world around me. I’ll be able to explore more of the cities, stop and sit down and (if there’s a local who speaks a bit of English) have interesting conversations that I wasn’t able to do before. When I went to Europe in high school it was very structured with little to no down time. So, while I got to have a short conversation with a French waiter talking in Franglais, I want something maybe just a bit more in depth than “is my English good?”

I just really want to come back from this summer knowing something more about myself (in some way, as most people have life changing experiences while abroad) and what’s out there. I want to be more knowledgable about the world and the places I will see. I want to be able to smell and taste the Pasteis de Nata for myself, not just see it on tumblr at two in the morning wishing I knew what it really is like.
Portuguese Desserts- try the Pasteis de Nata
Pasteis de Nata are a must-try when visiting Portugal.

(Spoiler Alert: Pasteis de Nata are delicious. It’s like this flan custard, but better, on a flakey croissant-like bread with cinnamon on top. It’s just a really good Portuguese pastry. Get it.)

Imara will be talking to us next about her experiences in London and Portugal.

Planning a trip to Europe? ShopforMuseums.com is an online shopping portal where you can do your everyday shopping with major online retailers and have a percentage of your purchase amount donated to a U.S. museum or organization of your choice for FREE. Book your airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and train tickets using our Travel Planning section. Plus shop for your favorite brands of Travel Gear while doing good at the same time. Thanks in advance for supporting our museum partners!

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